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My Winter Motorcycle Fix
Written By: Chad Gillen
Harsh and long South Dakota winters can make me go through motorcycle withdrawal. The Progressive International Motorcycle Show helps feed my motorcycle soul during the off-season. This show is a roving consumer motorcycle show that makes seven stops in the USA. Usually the show in Minneapolis is on Super Bowl weekend. (My theory is the producers figure the Vikings will never be in the Super Bowl.) However, this year the Minneapolis show came early due to Super Bowl 52 being held in Minneapolis. Attractions at the show are motorcycle manufacturer exhibits, accessory and riding gear exhibits, DIY and riding seminars, stunt shows, a custom bike build off, a kid’s zone, and a motorcycle product marketplace.
For this year’s trip, I recruited three others to go with me. One new participant was my brother, the Colonel, AKA Un-Chad. The other two were usual suspects: Wrong Way Larry, and Fickle DRL. The trip up and back in one day makes it a long one, but my riding buddies and I always share motorcycle stories that make the time breeze by. You know, “kicking tires and telling lies.” One tale I love to hear is how Larry broke down in Missouri and got stranded in Ferguson during the Black Lives Matter protests. It took 32 hours on public transportation to get him back in Sioux Falls! We also joked about how we could buy Christmas presents for our bikes, wrap them up and label them “To: My Mistress” and throw them under the tree.
I was looking forward to seeing a lot of new 2018 motorcycles this year. But sadly, a lot of major manufacturers – like Ducati, KTM, Triumph and Yamaha – were not in Minneapolis. All but Triumph were at the other IMS shows, and they all had a lot of new 2018 models to show off; what a huge disappointment. Maybe it was because it was in December rather than February as in the past. I don’t know, but it left a very sour taste in my mouth.
The biggest draw of the show was the all-new Honda Goldwing. Honda had three different bikes on hand to show off the different trim levels that come in the new Goldwing line. Thoughtfully, they had two powered up so you could toggle through the electronic settings and applications, and see the TFT (Thin Film Transistor) LCD display. BMW was also smart enough to have some of their models powered up so you could see their new TFT display. Honda has more bells and whistles such as Apple CarPlay, but you still can’t beat the ease of use of the BMW Wonder Wheel on the left handgrip. Honda took the right step in narrowing and lightening the Goldwing, but the BMW K1600GTL is still lighter, shorter, and more powerful.
Kawasaki had two bikes that were crowd pleasers. First was the Z900RS, which is a bike that cues off the 1973 Z1 900. The teardrop tank and the Candytone brown/orange paint immediately takes you back to the 1970s. I swear I was wearing bell bottom jeans to match my new Larry Bird mustache when I threw a leg over it. Kawasaki has outdone the Honda CB1100 just like they outdid the CB750 in 1973. The next stunning bike they had was the 2018 supercharged H2 SX Sport-Tourer. A 197-hp bike with hard bags, active LED cornering lights, six-axis traction control, intelligent ABS, engine braking control, electronic cruise control and launch mode! If Sport Touring was really a sport, all the other manufacturers would demand Kawasaki be banned from competition.
One of the presenters at the show was Sioux Falls’ own Lisa Brouwer. She spoke on the Adventure Out! Stage about the trip she and Kris Hasse took in 2015 across the USA to commemorate Effie and Avis Hotchkiss. Effie and Avis were the first women to ride motorcycle across the USA in 1915. I wasn’t surprised by her great presentation, as public speaking is her business. Her documentary, “Inspired Tour The Movie,” available on YouTube. Also speaking at the show was Brian Klock of Klock Werks in Mitchell. He was on the Progressive main stage with Cory Ness. Brian talked about how when he was starting out in his career of custom bike building he was overly welcomed by Arlen Ness. Arlen cared about Brian’s work and took time for him. It all translates back to custom bike builders being motorcyclists underneath, and all motorcyclists look out for each other.
But believe it or not the one display that drew all of our attention at the end was one of the smallest, Royal Enfield. I really liked the new Continental GT 650 twin. My brother liked the Himalayn adventure bike. DRL and Larry liked the Classic 500 in military colors. It goes to show that small, simple bikes can really turn on a motorcyclist just as much, if not more than a big new high-tech expensive bike.
We finished off the trip with some Juicy Lucy burgers at the famous 5-8 club. While heading back to Sioux Falls, we shared our experiences and F.A.R.K.L.E.s (Fancy Accessory Really Kool Likely Expensive) that we bought. And we lamented about no Ducati models to look at, or having to look at any Ducati motorcycles.