This past weekend’s Progressive International Motorcycle Show at Cleveland’s I-X Center proved to be a little smaller than the previous year, but offered attendees a couple new vendors and a wide range of OEM displays. Here are some of my highlights from this past weekend’s exhibition:
(1) Dunlop: The most exciting story I was able to cover at the show is the upcoming release of Dunlop’s new Roadsmart III sport-touring tire. According to Dunlop’s representative at the show, the new Roadsmart III has been several years in the making. While the tire’s construction and rubber compounds are reported to have not changed dramatically, the Roadsmart III features an upgraded sidewall construction and a radically new tread design. The Roadsmart III will also feature the same dual-compound rear tire design introduced in the original Roadsmart tire.
Dunlop’s stated goal at the beginning of the Roadsmart III’s development was to design a tire that would outperform the Michelin Pilot Road 4s, which Dunlop considers its strongest sport-touring competition. Internal testing by Dunlop showed that the Roadsmart III is on par with the Pilot Road 4 for comfort and dry weather performance, and substantially stronger in wet weather grip and cornering. Inadvertently, Dunlop retained the same independent testing firm that Michelin uses to test the new Roadsmart III’s longevity. That testing demonstrated that the Roadsmart III front and rear tires outlasted the Michelin Pilot Road 4s by several thousand miles.
Oddly, Dunlop is one of the few companies that does not have a GT-spec sport-touring tire for heavier sport-touring motorcycles like my FJR1300. If I can get a hold of a set, it will be interesting to see how well the front tires perform. Every other tire I have run on the front of my FJR has cupped early on despite running 40-42 psi.
(2) Kawasaki Versys 300: I was really excited to see the newest addition to the Kawasaki Versys lineup. This new model features the same 296cc, liquid-cooled, twin-cylinder motor as the immensely popular Kawasaki Ninja 300, along with a slightly longer wheelbase than its sporty cousin. The Versys 300 also features a 19-inch front wheel and dual sport tire sizes, and a super light 385.9-lb. wet weight.
Sitting on the bike, I was impressed by its light weight and spacious ergonomics. While the engine size yells beginner bike, new riders under six feet tall may want to try sitting on one before pulling the trigger on buying one. Unlike its sporty cousin that has a new rider-friendly 30.9-inch seat height, the new Versys 300 features a taller 32.1-inch seat height. An inch or so may not sound like a lot. However, to put my point in perspective, I am 6’2, and I was barely able to get both feel flat on the ground. There was barely any room between the seat and my nether region when I tried standing above the bike. While I did not have a chance to test ride it, I wonder how the power delivery will be from a sporty, high-revving twin compared to a single-cylinder engine. A side-by-side comparison between the new Versys 300 and BMW’s upcoming G310GS model is likely coming to a fine motorcycle magazine in the near future.
Overall, I was impressed by the little dual sport ninjette. For the experienced off-road rider who is new to road riding, this may be the perfect bike for getting to the trails, riding the trails, and then riding home. Just be aware that it is a new rider’s bike in every department but the seat height.
(3) Indian: While I am not much of a cruiser guy, I have been truly impressed with the job Polaris has done since it re-introduced a mass-produced Indian lineup in 2014. The motorcycling community seems to agree. There was a constant crowd around the Indian display both Friday and Saturday. I tired sitting on a Scout, and I have to say it was very comfortable and commanding. I am not a fan of forward controls (just a personal preference), but if I were going to a cruiser, the Scout 60 would be near the top of my list.
(4) Condor Lift Products: Condor is a brand that the TWPH has had the pleasure of doing a product review for last year, and it was great to see them at the Progressive International Motorcycle Show. The TWPH had a chance to talk with Teffy Chamoun, the owner of Condor Lift Products, about the garage motorcycle dolly that Condor was demonstrating at the event. Chamoun also indicated that Condor is developing a new product that will help lift a motorcycle. We will release more details on Condor’s new product as it becomes available. All of us at the TWPH are looking forward to working with Condor more in the future.
(5) Kawasaki Z125: While the Honda Grom has been the staple of the truly introductory motorcycle market the last couple of years, Kawasaki is making a bold statement with the introduction of its Z125. The Z125’s lines and styling are much sharper than the Grom’s, although its seat is almost two inches taller than the Grom’s. New riders tend to values a bike’s looks before any other feature. It will be interesting to see how much of the Grom’s previously unchallenged market share the Z125 can claim, and if any other OEMs enter the 125cc road bike war.