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Encouraging Signs at the Long Beach IMS

Scores of riders, a wealth of new product highlight the SoCal bike show.



PHOTOS: Andrea Wilson, Ari Henning

Just as nature slowly restores itself after a cataclysmic event, our little corner of the motorsports landscape has green shoots inching up through the dark forest floor. Haven’t seen them? I have, most recently at the International Motorcycle Show that just rolled through Long Beach, CA. This was the fourth of 13 stops on the tour that wraps up in late February in Charlotte. In previous years, the normally sunny Southern California weather turned ugly for the early December shows. Some blamed low attendance on stormy skies and rain-averse riders.

Along with most of the Motorcyclist crew, I attended the press day on Friday afternoon and watched the general public enter as a steady stream when the show opened to them at 4 p.m. I returned on Sunday morning to witness the Long Beach Convention Center as packed as I’ve ever seen it. (At least since last year’s Imprinted Sportswear Show.) Vendors in small booths on the outskirts of the big manufacturer displays were often three-deep in customers. Bodies don’t necessarily mean sales, but they’re a good indicator of interest.

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In some ways, the IMS events are strange animals for the press. We didn’t see anything strictly new. Bikes like the 2013 BMW R1200GS and F800GT were shown at Intermot and EICMA this year, and news reports have been out for months. But this was the first time I’d seen both in the flesh. I’m happy to see BMW carefully refine the GS’s often-controversial styling. The ’13 bike is clearly a GS but seems a bit more of a piece, a bit less like a reconfigured swingset holding a boxer motor. That new water-cooled engine looks great, too, simultaneously beefy and compact. It’ll be interesting to see how quickly BMW can spool up and move that engine into the rest of the R-bike line.