While perhaps not as glitzy and full of exciting news as EICMA, the International Motorcycle Show at Long Beach provided an excellent opportunity to check out the latest and greatest from established marques and new up-and-comers. Here are my 10 best finds:
1. Nitron Shocks
What is it? Nitron is a UK-based design and manufacturing firm that specializes in high-end suspension systems. They have developed suspension solutions for Aston Martin, Ferrari, Porsche, BMW, and many others in both road-race and F1 contexts. They also have a product-line aimed at consumers that they have just recently begun to roll out in the United States.
Price: Ranges from $500 to a lot more. Depends on your needs and application.
Why I picked it: Nitron is aiming squarely at Ohlin’s corner on the aftermarket high-end suspension market, all while coming in at a more rider-friendly price point. All of their suspension solutions (shocks and fork cartridges) are customized for the specific needs of the rider so you are not relying on off-the-shelf shim stacks and spring-rates that may or may not work for your needs. I got to handle some of their shocks on the booth-table and the quality of the builds felt as good as anything I’ve seen. The best part, however, is that they’ve got some very talented people behind their push in the United States. Their USA Technical Director, Lenny Albin, has years of experience in suspension engineering including working for Ohlins and Racetech and as a AMA Pro Suspension tuner. Learn more at www.nitron-usa.com or visit Lenny at Miller Motorsports Park for a personal consultation.
2. The Beast
What is it? A thoroughly custom, rough and tumble, quirky yet practical, and completely unique BMW R1150GS adventure sidecar motorcycle that will make you a fresh shot of espresso and fill your tank with gas at the same time. Built by a French guy named Raphael.
Price: Not for sale.
Why I picked it: Where to start? First of all, there’s Rapheal, the designer and builder of this machine. He’s funny, personable and undeniably French. Then there’s the sidecar, which sports electronic ride-height adjustability, an 11-gallon auxiliary fuel tank with electronic pump and nozzle (making it the perfect ride support-bike), the lovely “steam punk” espresso machine built into a removable metal suitcase, automotive width tires on all four corners, and much more.
3. Butler Maps and Riding Social
What is it?: Physical road-maps designed, developed and produced for motorcyclists.
Price: $15 per regional map to $300 for the full set. Check out their site for the latest deals.
Why I picked it (them): The folks at Butler have nailed it. It’s rare to find such a close harmony between concept and execution when it comes to motorcycle products, but these maps deliver. They are highly legible, attractively produced, and provide the user with a wealth of relevant and interesting information including the best riding roads. They’ve also included smartphone connectivity via QR code for info on climate, places to tuck-in, sleep and drink, and other useful bits of info like elevation profiles, nearest motorcycle shops and more. To top it off, they are waterproof and tear-proof. Best of all, the information in the maps is backed by hands-on research conducted by the team at Butler. They ride the roads, stay at inns, eat at restaurants and build the maps based on first-hand experience. I spoke with Justin Bradshaw at the Butler Maps booth and in addition to expanding their map lineup, they’ll soon be releasing their own smartphone application, “Riding Social.” Based on some initial details that Justin shared with me, I can already tell that the same kind of thoughtful attention that went into the maps is also being applied. It is going to be something you’ll want to have.
4. Nuviz HUD
What is it? I covered Nuviz and their Heads-up-display (HUD) solution for motorcyclists in a recent article. Basically, it is an externally-mounted HUD display for your helmet that can show the rider everything from navigation directions and telemetry to race-related data and weather forecasts. It also has photo and video capture functionality as well.
Price: $499. Jump in on their Kickstarter campaign to score one for less.
Why I picked it: You truly get a feel for a company and its philosophy when you talk to their people in person. I had the opportunity to chat with Malte Laass, co-founder and CEO of Nuviz, for close to 45 minutes about their upcoming HUD accessory as well as their Ride:Cloud complimentary application. Malte is an imposing guy, standing about 6’5’’ and built strong, but he is very approachable and confident about their company and its mission. In addition to hardware (the HUD unit), they’ll be launching their own motorcycle software application called Ride:Cloud which seeks to enhance the riding experience for both HUD and non-HUD users alike by helping them plan, capture and share their rides with others. I’m hoping that they can team up with the folks at Butler Maps and integrate what they are doing with Riding:Social for the ultimate motorcycle application (*hint hint* *nudge* *wink* *shove*).
5. Makoto Endo
Who is he? Makoto is a talented artist with a penchant for classic motorcycles and splattering ink on large swaths of canvas.
Prices: $150-300 for prints, and $2000+ for originals and commissioned works.
Why I picked him: Let me just share a poem by Makoto printed on his info flyer:
Humans can be distinguished into two types. One rides a bike, the other does not.
The one who rides Doesn’t care how much it costs, Or about pain or injury.
I paint only for them.
That about sums up Makoto. A genuinely likeable and talented guy who happens to love to paint motorcycles and everything about them. Stumbling on his booth with him sprawled out on the floor and working was a breath of fresh air after many hours at the show.