- Two Days at the American International Motorcycle Expo
As many of our readers know from our social media pages, we spent two days in Columbus, Ohio, at the 2019 AimExpo on September 26th and 27th. Jim, Cameron, and I did our best to connect with the right folks to get our hands on the latest gear in the coming months and for next year, and we spent some time riding a few motorcycles.
Unfortunately, Jim’s two main objectives—the Harley LiveWire and 2020 Honda Africa Twin—weren’t available for demo rides, but we did get up-close looks at both of those bikes. We also spent some time chatting with AGV, Simpson, Cake, and even giggled like 12-year-olds at the name of the new four-wheeled machine called the Qooder. But let’s focus on the big stuff.
Here are the highlights of the show:
The 2020 Honda Africa Twin
Honda presented the new 2020 Africa Twin at the show. The company had two versions of the bike there, and both feature multiple updates. The bike has a new 1084cc parallel-twin engine that makes 101 hp and 77 lb-ft of torque.
The bike is a good looking machine, and Jim and I filmed a quick walkaround video of the motorcycle. Both the standard and the Adventure version of the bike can be had with a DCT. The price for the motorcycle starts at $14,399 for the standard and $17,199. The DCT will $800 to the price tag.
While we didn’t get to demo this bike, you can bet that Jim will be coming out with a review sometime in the near future.
The Harley LiveWire
The Harley LiveWire was there. It was my first chance to see the bike in the flesh. Jim had high hopes that they’d have at least one for demo rides, but those hopes were smashed as soon as we got there.
Harley had the Live Wire on a dyno and was letting folks jump on it and see how fast it could get up to 60 mph or so. Jim nabbed a video of the bike doing its thing. The bike looks great in the flesh and sounds powerful, but it also sounds like a beefy sewing machine or blender. It’d be a little different out on the road with the tire and wind noise.
Without getting the chance to actually ride the bike there’s little more to say. It’s a $30,000 electric bike that will do 0-60 mph in about three seconds and can run a maximum of 146 miles before needing to recharge. I’ve discussed the LiveWire considerably and will be interested to see how it sells. Too bad it wasn’t available for demo rides.
The 2020 Suzuki Katana
The 2020 Suzuki Katana was also at the show. This is another bike that we were unable to demo, but got to see up close and in person. The company brought along an original 1981 Katana and put the two bikes side by side. The resemblance is clear. The new Katana deserves its name, at least when you look at it.
We would have loved to be able to tell you if it earned that name out on the road, but unfortunately, we’ll have to wait a bit longer to get on the bike and give it a thorough review. The new katana features a 999cc liquid-cooled inline-four-cylinder engine that makes 150 hp. The bike is a throwback but with modern tech, and that’s okay by me. I can’t wait to get in the saddle of one of these bikes. It comes with a price tag of $13,499.
The Bikes We Rode
We did get to demo a few bikes. One that we didn’t demo that we wanted to was the Yamaha Niken. The Yamaha reps told Jim and I couldn’t film or take photos of the bike. This was odd because it was the media days at the show, and we thought they’d love some additional coverage of the bike. We thought that was the point of the media days. Yamaha saw it differently.
I don’t know if they had concerns about us or the bike. Jim and I were told we couldn’t film the ride or do a walkaround of the machine, so we decided there wasn’t much point in waiting around to ride it and went on our way to other manufacturers. At some point, one of us at webBikeWorld will get on a Niken and review it.
Despite the cold shoulder from Yamaha, we were able to do some fun demos. Here’s what we managed to pilot around Columbus.
Vanderhall Venice and Carmel
The first thing we rode (drove?) was the Vanderhall Venice and Carmel. I know these aren’t really motorcycles. They have three wheels and a steering wheel, but dang they’re fun.
The three-wheeled machines feature a 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 194 hp. The light curb weight of the vehicle along with the front-wheel-drive power moves this machine from 0-60 mph in just 4.5 seconds. It has a top speed of 138 mph.
The most impressive thing about the trike is its handling. The thing feels like it’s on rails. The steering is quick, precise, and well-weighted. The two big standouts for me were the sound of the engine and the brakes. The engine’s turbocharger whooshes and howls like some kind of pissed-off animal. The sound alone made me want to own one.
The brakes are probably the most impressive part of the whole thing. The vehicle can reach a stop from 60 mph in under 100 feet, according to Vanderhall. They’re the kind of brakes that will force all the blood in your head to your cheeks.
The Venice is the smaller of the two. I drove that version, and it retails for $29,950. Jim and Cameron were in the Carmel, which retails for $39,950. The Carmel is a slightly wider version with small doors. Both are open-top machines.
I know it’s not a fair comparison, but the entire time I was thinking would I rather own this or a Harley LiveWire if I had $30k to spend. Honestly, it’d be a hard choice. The Vanderhall was a lot of fun.
Royal Enfield Interceptor 650
The first real bike Jim and I rode was the Royal Enfield Interceptor 650. The Interceptor is a pretty basic machine with a standard riding position and an old-school vibe to it. The bike features an air-cooled 648cc engine that makes 47 hp.
The bike isn’t super fast, but it’s not meant to be. Jim and I hit the road with one of the Royal Enfield guys leading the way and did a loop around Columbus. I was pretty impressed with the Interceptor 650. It’s a good-looking, simple machine that goes for about $6,500. Jim and I will do a full-length review at a later date to go into detail about this bike.
KTM 390 Duke and 790 Adventure R
The last bikes that we got to demo were the 390 Duke and the 790 Adventure R. Jim, as you probably know if you’re a regular reader of webBikeWorld, owns a KTM 790, but he wanted to test out the Adventure R version of the bike. He posted some pictures to the Facebook page and said the following about the bike:
“The suspension is so much better overall on the R. Fully adjustable too. It handles any kind of bump more smoothly and it would be delicious off road. If the standard 790 feels like a dirtbike (and it does) then the R feels like a motocross racer from a suspension standpoint.” Jim will have a closer look at this bike sometime soon.
While Jim did his thing on the KTM, I hopped on the 390 Duke. I love small bikes, and I figured the 390 would be a pure joy. I found myself liking certain aspects like the suspension and the nimbleness of the bike, but I had some gripes about some of the other things about the bike, mainly that the digital instrument display sits too low and the short gearing keeps you too busy in city traffic. I’ll write up a full review of the bike at a later date and go into more detail.
The Cake Kalk OR and Kalk&
I spent some time chatting with the guys at Cake. The Kalk electric motorcycle they have is one of the more interesting bikes out there. It features a top speed over 50 mph and a range of about 60 miles depending on how you ride.
The Kalk OR is the off-road version and the Kalk& is the street-legal version. I had the chance to ride one of these bikes around a small indoor track. While I couldn’t totally exploit all that the bike has to offer, I can say it is a fun machine.
I’ll have a more detailed account of my experience with the vehicle at a later date along with plenty of photos and videos. One thing I’ll say right off the bat is that this bike appears to be of much higher quality than I originally thought. The fit-and-finish on them appears to be excellent, and while the bike isn’t the most attractive machine, it’s definitely better looking in person.
The Helmets and Gear
In terms of helmets and gear, we connected with several different gear companies from several different helmet companies such as Quinn helmets—the maker of a new safety-first smart helmet—to various brands that sell jackets, pants, gloves, and other riding gear like comm systems.
Unfortunately, some of the bigger brands like Shoei and HJC were not at the show this year. Rest assured we’ll be testing the latest products from these companies in the upcoming year.
We did our best to make connections with the brands that we thought you (our readers) would want to see. While there’s still plenty of 2019 left (I still should be able to get a couple of good months for riding out of this year), I think we’re in a good position to bring you coverage of all the 2020 gear you could hope to see. If you have anything you’d like to see future coverage of, definitely give us a shout. We want to review the gear that you want to know more about.
The 2019 AIMExpo was a success, and we look forward to stepping up our game even further next year. Below are various shots from our time at the show.
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