The International Motorcycling Show is making its annual stop in Long Beach this weekend, December 7 to 9, and more than 500 bikes and 20 manufacturers will be showing the latest, greatest or most unique things on two, or three, wheels. The show attracts a large cross-section of people, from those that just like to look, to serious riders, or those that use bikes every day or just weekends at the track. Celebrities from all media attend, and it is completely family-friendly.
America has a love/hate relationship with motorcycles and motorcycling. Those that love it, love it; then there are those that call them "donor cycles" or think they are just death waiting to happen. It's those attitudes that are hard to overcome; they're institutionalized in some circles.
What about that attitude? Actors Arnold Vosloo (The Mummy, The Mummy Returns, GI Joe: Rise of the Cobra) and Gunner Wright (Losers, GI Joe: Rise of the Cobra, J Edgar) were both on hand for the media tour of the show.
"It is true that motorcycling can be a dangerous endeavor," Vosloo began, "but it is the most wonderful thing you can do. It's hard to describe. The best analogy about motorcycling I've heard is that if you are driving a car, it's like watching a movie, if you're riding a motorcycle, it's like starring in a movie. There's a certain feeling you get that is indescribable."
"That's so true," Wright added. "You feel much more like you are participating in the experience on a bike."
Vosloo is quite happy with his Suzuki Bandit while Wright rides a KTM 690 Enduro.
"As long as it's got two wheels and a full tank of gas, you can't go wrong," the duo added.
The slow economy and rising oil prices are reflected at the show in value pricing, newer, less expensive models and models that exceed 70mpg.
"These are very much bike for the times, they are very affordable to buy and operate and they get phenomenal fuel economy," said Ty van Hooydonk from the Motorcycle Industry Council, which hosted the media at a breakfast at Roscoe's Chicken and Waffle in Long Beach, Calif., and then showed off the new bikes to the press. "The Honda NC700x gets up to 70 mpg, some people reporting over 80. And this is the year of the happy medium, bikes that are between 300-500cc, great starter bikes."
As for the continually piquing interest in the United States about motorcycles, van Hooydonk continued, "Folks in America are getting in tune with what is happening around the rest of the world. It's a smaller world thanks to social media and TV and folks in this country are getting more adventurous about a lot of things, motorcycles included."
While riding a motorcycle can be a life-changing experience, so can selling motorcycle insurance. Progressive is a major sponsor, and while the commercials with Flo have been one of the most successful ad campaigns of any company, there's a new character in town, The Messenger, played by John Jenkinson. Jenkinson was on hand as rider himself, and also, to man the Progressive "Rest Stop" booth.
"I did a commercial with Flo called 'Riding with Flo' and I met Brian, one of the writers of the spots on the set, and he and his partner Jim are great and they ended up writing me in to the ads," he recalled when asked how he got in to these iconic TV spots. Many may think that that kind of visibility brings great wealth, and while it can, for the most part, it's Hollywood as usual.
"You'd be surprise what actors get paid, so I'm not rolling in the dough yet," he laughed. "But this has been a life-changing, huge blessing for me. I, for the first time, don't have to worry about paying rent, when's the next gig coming around. It's nice to now have time to do things now, like a short sci-fi film this weekend and I am getting more opportunities."
When asked if he's worried about the popularity of the commercials actually working against him for other jobs, he has a strategy. This handsomely bearded gentleman will simply change his look. "Facial hair is a tactic I can use to change my look so I'm not so identified. And, my character, The Messenger, he's a mysterious character, a John the Baptist-type messenger, moving from town to town with a positive message. I like that idea, bringing good news from town to town."
As as for getting around, these days, he's riding in style. "I ride a K-1300 GT BMW, and I have to thank Progressive for helping me afford that!" he laughed.
The show has something for every rider, whether entry level or experienced pro. Dee Dee Taft is with the IMS and has seen the show grow and grow each year in the various cities.
"It's a great show this year with more North American debuts than we've ever had," Taft explained. "KTM, Ducati, Royal Enfield are all debuting or featuring bikes for the first time. And all types of bikes, there's such diversity. Everybody is taking note of the American economy, bikes are value priced, and they are squeezing more and more mileage out of all of them. There's a better energy at the shows," she continued. "More bikes, more than 500 on display and it's reflected by record attendance each year. A for us, we are here for three days, then we are off to Seattle and will make it across the country to the East Coast to New York and then the South."
Standouts at the show include the Ducati Hypermotard, a beautifully engineered new line of power, style and comfort bikes. Zero Motorcycles, which has introduced a line of electric motorcycles capable of going more than 140 miles per charge, generated quite an amount of buzz, with newer models that now look like any of the very stylish street bikes, but without the use of fossil fuel to power them. There's custom motorcycles, gear and every accessory known to mankind for a motorcycle available at the show.
Photos by Karel
The show runs through Sunday with tickets being $15 for adults and $6 for kids. Tickets can be purchased online or at the door.
Karel does not own a car, instead opting for the Aprlia Mana 850 and Piaggio MP3 250 for about town. To listen to Karel daily download the app . To watch Karel daily on Ustream go the The Karel Show and be sure to follow him on Twitter @thekarelshow