Quick look: IMS 2011

ThruxtonFor three days every January, the International Motorcycle Show transforms the far west edge of Manhattan into its own world of leathers, tattoos, gear heads and a sea of chrome. It’s the fashion week of the motorcycling world; enthusiasts from tri-state area (and beyond) come out to ooh and ahh over the new models on the red carpet, and to rub elbows with the celebrities of the motorcycle world.

I had only a couple of hours a couple Saturdays ago to push my way through the crowds and glimpse what we’ll be seeing on the roads in 2011. Not all that caught my eye was brand new, some just got a nice little facelift from last year. Here are a few highlights…

In the Ducati arena, everyone was swooning over the new Diavel, undeniably good-looking but a little thick for my tastes; instead I drifted towards the more minimalistic Hypermotard that’s been in the Ducati line-up since 2007 and comes in both an 1100 and a 796 version. The red trellis framing brought focus to the nice geometry of the bike, and performance-wise Ducati calls the Hypermotard a mix between “manners and madness” – a descriptor perfect for my riding personality.

Over at Honda were a couple of custom collaborations with Cobra Engineering – the Honda-Cobra Tracker and the Honda-Cobra Scrambler – both build-ups of the Shadow RS750 that call back to a bygone era of street racing. The $30K tags set them well out of the range of most budgets, but the more accessible 2011 lineup of Shadows sat just a few feet away, and while nothing was radically different in their design, props to the Honda design team for consistently producing bikes that are clean, classic & pretty.

This show was the first time I’d been on a Triumph Bonneville, which my Brooklyn sensibilities had me set to love – instead I found that for someone who’s 5’9”, it’s very short. I switched to the new Thruxton – a true café racer with attitude. At a full three inches higher, it was a better fit, and the detail in kickback design was consistent down to the white-faced panel instrumentation. Another bystander described the Thruxton as “a brand new vintage bike”. If I were going for a new ride in 2011, this might be the one.

Tucked into the middle were the Russian Urals, the sidecar bikes that are still stopping every passer-by with their timeless and undisputable cool factor. And in 2011, they’re looking to-die-for cool; I had sudden visions of driving off into the sunset with the orange and silver Patrol, geared up in goggles, bomber jacket, scarf flapping behind in the wind. It’s old-timey character must be hitting a strong nostalgic nerve elsewhere too: the company is expecting a roaring 30% increase in sales in 2011.

Finally, the Harley arena. On a quick pass the only real standout design note was the proliferation of matte paint. But another look brought me to the Blackline, Harley’s newest bike that had the whole place buzzing (especially after Thursday’s no-holds-barred opener at Don Hills). And for good reason – it’s stunning, easily the most eye-catching Harley design I’ve seen. The company has lowered the seat and pared down the design (calling it “Lean as wire, hard as iron and dark as a tar road at midnight”) to appeal to a younger audience. When I saw that it’s approaching 700 pounds and being marketed with this video, it’s pretty clear which half of the younger audience this one is targeted towards. We’d love to see one of these in a more sensible size for ladies, Harley. (Just please don’t paint it pink.)

Courtesy of AllAboutBikes.com