This year’s Cleveland Progressive International Motorcycle Show delivered its usual charm to Northeastern Ohioans. While the show seemed a little smaller than previous years, it nevertheless allowed motorcycle enthusiasts to escape the reality of winter and load up on information about new bikes and products for the spring. The show featured its usual combination of OEM displays, vendors, seminars, a stunt riding show, and a custom bike show.
One of the biggest differences from this year’s show to previous years was the weather. The unseasonably warm weather allowed attendees to actually see the parking space lines, as well as not have to navigate a slippery, icy parking lot. While ice and snow were missing, so was a major OEM. Ducati had had a display at the Cleveland show for several years but were noticeably absent this year. The number of vendors appeared to have gone down slightly as well. Other noticeable absences included the Penton Owners Group and the Iron Pony (spare its Bell Helmet display).
The brands and vendors who did return to the show made the show enjoyable. It was great to see many of the same brand representatives returning to the show and taking the time to chat about new products and answer attendees’ questions. Here are my highlights from this year’s show:
Bridgestone T31 Sport Touring Tire
I stopped by the Bridgestone Tire display and had a long chat with sales rep Jim McDeavitt. In addition to discussing our mutual interest in MotoAmerica, Jim and I discussed the new Bridgestone T31 sport-touring tire. Jim explained that the T31 was not as radical of a redesign as the T30 had been, but still boasted improvements in compound and construction. Jim and I also discussed the possibility of the TWPH doing a product review on the new Bridgestone T31s later this year. Hopefully the TWPH will be able to provide our sport touring listeners with a full review of the T31s on my new-to-me 2008 Yamaha FJR1300.
The XSR700 is the retro variant of Yamaha’s FZ-07 mid-sized naked sport bike, and little brother of the FZ-09 derived XSR900. The bike boasts an attractive retro-modern appearance, and I particularly liked the bike’s neutral ergonomics. Yamaha designed the bike to be easily customizable and therefore attractive to professional bike builders and amateur enthusiasts alike. The combination of the XSR700’s new rider-friendly engine, comfortable ergonomics, and customization potential could attract more new riders to motorcycling than its more modern-looking competition. It will be interesting to see how this new model performs on the sales floor compared to the larger XSR900, the closely-related FZ-07, and other motorcycles in the popular mid-sized twin class.
Kawasaki’s release of the Ninja 300-derived Versys 300 last year was a game changer in the small motorcycle market. The model defied the convention that dual sport motorcycles had to remain firmly inside the single-cylinder heritage of most small-displacement off-road motorcycles. Suzuki appears to be following Kawasaki’s lead by developing its own small-twin ADV motorcycle. The V-Strom 250 on display boasted the same styling as its larger brethren, while sharing its 248cc, liquid-cooled parallel twin engine with Suzuki’s GSX250R and GW250. While the little Strom’s specifications are similar to the Kawasaki, the Suzuki appeared to be the better choice for new riders. The seat height on the Suzuki was noticeably lower than the Versys 300. The ergonomics also felt a little more street-oriented, and likely more comfortable for on-road riding. I have not seen any official notice as to whether the little Strom will make it American dealerships this year. If it does, Kawasaki may have some unexpected and strong competition in this emerging motorcycle category.
Long Haul Paul
Yamaha’s display at the show featured an appearance by “Long Haul” Paul Pelland. The TWPH first met Paul at the AMA’s Vintage Motorcycle Days in 2016, where he put on a seminar about long-distance motorcycle riding. The Yamaha Super Tenere-riding Pelland is using his love of motorcycling to raise awareness of multiple sclerosis, as well as raise money to help fund research on the autoimmune disease. Despite being afflicted by the illness, Paul has committed to riding one million miles with his condition. In an interview with the Two Wheel Power Hour, Paul stated that he rides every day, rode his current Yamaha Super Tenere to the show, and is 300,000 miles into his million-mile journey. Our interview with Paul can be heard this coming Tuesday (February 6, 2018) on the TWPH show on Youngstown, Ohio’s 570AM WKBN, as well as the iHeart Radio App. We wish Paul the best on his journey and look forward to checking with him in the near future. Follow Paul’s journey at http://www.longhaulpaul.com/, or on Facebook or YouTube.
Making its second-consecutive appearance at the Cleveland show, motorcycle storage and lift solutions company Condor was showing off its wide range of products. From its wheel chock that won the TWPH’s wheel chock shootout in 2016 to its motorcycle dolly and trailer/ramp unit, Condor’s products are known for being high quality and easy to use. The TWPH chatted with Condor’s founder and owner Teffy Chamoun, who gave us a sneak peek at an exciting new product Condor is developing to complement its existing product line. We cannot share more details yet, but we will bring you more information about Condor’s newest innovation as soon as it becomes available.