NEW YORK An effulgent fusion of art and power was on display here Jan. 20 to 22 at the Cycle World International Motorcycle Show in New York. Nearly 80,000 were in attendance at the annual show, part of a 13-city national tour. Showcasing the jaw-dropping creativity pouring forth from biker shop rooms in a market buoyed by the custom cycle craze, there seemed something for everyone, with bikers enjoying a diversity of options in a sector growing, yet seeking even wider appeal.
International Motorcycle Show attendees inspect the 2006 BMW K1200 GT.
Motorcycles comprise a $14.6 billion market in the U.S. alone, with sales set to increase for the 13th consecutive year for 2005, according to the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC).
The trade group estimates that 1,116,000 new units (including scooters) sold last year, representing nearly a 5 percent increase over 2004 purchases,and a 57-percent boost over the 710,000 sold in 2000. Nearly 24 percent more bikes were sold in the four-year period between 2000 and 2004 than in the entire decade of the 1990s, according to MIC.
Well-heeled or professional riders are a growing market for bikemakers. According to the American Motorcycle Association, about 35 percent of bikers have either college degrees or have completed post-graduate study, and have an average household income of $91,500 per year. Greg Pappas of American IronHorse, describes his Ft. Worth, Texas-based shops average customer as guys in their mid-30s to mid-60s with good money and solid jobs.
Peter Maier, BMWs product planning manager for North America, led a walk-around of the companys new sport tourer, the 2006 K1200 GT. Expected at dealerships in May, the bike boasts a new 152-horsepower, liquid-cooled engine specifically tuned for vigorous traveling. Removable luggage cases, an electric adjustable windscreen and the ability to lower the handlebars means it can quickly refit to tackle shorter, performance-oriented runs, he said.
Sporting BMWs new Duolever front suspension and more torque -- 96 pound-feet -- over prior models, Maier said the bike is 40 pounds lighter than the old GT, but with 19 percent more available payload. The new K1200 GT is highly engineered technology aimed at the luxury segment, Maier said. The four-cylinders MSRP is $18,800.
Munich-based BMW also exhibited its Adventure R1200 GS ($16,600 MSRP), an endurance bike powered by an air-cooled 100-horsepower twin-cylinder boxer engine, expected at dealerships in April, and the R1200 S ($14,700 MSRP) -- a more powerful 122-horsepower boxer-based model which is 29 pounds lighter than its predecessor -- is expected in June.
Italian motorcycle manufacturer Ducati held the East Coast unveiling of its 2007 Monster S4Rs, a superbike aimed at the most experienced, performance-seeking riders, tuning the 130-horsepower, 998cc liquid-cooled Testastretta twin-cylinder engine with a shorter stroke to reduce average piston speed, which, Ducati says, enables better reliability at higher RPMs. The so-called street fighter bike will be available in the summer and list for $14,995.
Monsters are targeted at people who like the performance of sport bikes, but dont like the really hunched over riding position typical of some of these machines, said Vincent Chiaro, Ducatis public relations and event coordinator.
Demonstrating the rider position provided by a 2006 Ducati Monster S2R ($9,995 MSRP), which has similar seating as its more powerful sibling, Chiaro said Monsters will appeal to older guys who want a more upright position.
They may be transitioning out of a sport bike into something more comfortable, but still want a bike thats fun to ride, he said.
The S4R is considered a naked bike -- it lacks side coverings, or bodywork prone to scratching. The Monsters wide handlebars provide keen city handling, Chiaro added, enabling riders to flick through traffic easily.
Harleys 2006 Road Glide ($17,885 MSRP for color; $19,795 MSRP black), FXSTI Softail Standard ($14,780 MSRP with choice of color), and top-of-the -line Ultra Classic Electra Glide ($20,685 MSRP in two-tone color) received a lot of attention from couples and families, who were plentiful in attendance at the show, as did the 2006 Honda Gold Wing ($22,799 MSRP), which showed off a fully inflated air bag the worlds first for a manufactured bike which Honda has added to protect from frontal collisions.
But it was the custom bikes that magnetized many. A 66-year-old owner of an older model BMW K1200 GT from Ohio marveled at the amount of specially tailored bikes on display as well as the artistry of their designs. More than Ive ever seen, he said. Theyre just awesome to behold.
The infatuation the world is having right now with custom bike building comes from a full-blown onslaught of interest from the mainstream media and culture, said exhibitor Mo Murray of Big Twin Customs, citing what he calls a burgeoning custom lifestyle.
Cable television has made rock stars out of master builders like Jesse James of West Coast Choppers in Long Beach, Calif., who was first featured on the Discovery Channels Junkyard Wars and Monster Garage, and is credited with jumpstarting the phenomenon.
The Teutul family (Paul Sr., Paul Jr. and Mikey), stars of the Discoverys American Chopper and owners of Orange County Choppers in Montgomery, N.Y., exhibited their creations at the show including a spectacularly rendered model built in honor of the New York Fire Department.
The Big Twin Customs display devoted some booth space to its grassroots effort to promote custom builders who may lack recognition outside of their own locale. One of the most inspired entries in this category came from Nova Scotias Mike Roach, whose teal and sparkling Art Deco, double engine Toad L Package customized from an 87 Harley stopped everyone in their tracks, surprising even wizened road dogs.
Roach said the bike vibrates twice as bad as a Harley, which, depending on who you are, is a good thing, and said he wouldnt let go of his one-of-a-kind creation for less than $100,000. His decision to exhibit was last minute, inspired from a beer-drinking session among staff in the garage of Toads Cycle Works when a pal caught wind of the show while surfing the Internet.
Another bike maker seeking to tap into the outsize demand for custom-bike styling is Victory, which has aimed its efforts at manufacturing lower-cost, but attention-grabbing choppers that consumers can walk into dealerships and buy.
Victorys custom-looking bikes include the Vegas Jackpot signature series, made with the help of legendary designer Arlen Ness and his son Cory. Both run the largest Victory dealership in the world near their shop headquarters in Dublin, Calif.
Were taking all the design cues of custom bikes, bringing very smooth-flowing clean lines, big tires, big transmissions like the six-speed overdrive we added this year into highly stylized bikes for people who dont want to spend $65,000, said Derek Scott, Victorys marketing manager.
The Cory Ness version of the Jackpot costs $22,000, but Victory prices start just south of $13,500.
Meanwhile, Brooklyn, N.Y.-based City Cycles promoted fully automatic, retro-looking Auto-Glide bikes made by Ridley Motorcycles. In addition to basic black, Ridleys are available in more fashion-conscious hues, such as rose quartz.
People like to buy things for their girlfriends, said City Cycles rep Mark Youssef about the Ridleys appeal. Not to say men dont buy, Ive had quite a few men buy from me. But either they dont like to share [their bikes] with their ladies or they realize they live in the city and they dont get past third gear. Plus, these bikes are fuel efficient. Theyre getting 300 miles to the tank."