Progressive International Motorcycle Shows are not just for committed gearheads anymore. For the first time, the exhibition is featuring activities for people who are merely motorcycle-curious.
Perhaps the coolest new activity of the event’s 2018-19 tour, which hits D.C. this weekend, is the opportunity to ride a real, electric motorcycle on an indoor track, says Tracy Harris, senior vice president of the events.
“The look on people’s faces when they realize, ‘Yeah, I can do this’ has been amazing,” she says.
You’re not allowed to go over 11 mph on the small track, but it’s still pretty exciting for new riders, Harris says. “If you’re interested in trying it out, be sure to wear long pants and flat shoes,” she adds. Thusly attired, you can also try the wheelie machine or sit on a (non-moving) Ducati or Harley-Davidson motorcycle and feel the rumble of the engine as you shift through the gears. You have to be 18 or older to try these activities, or 17 with parental permission. Everyone else, down to age 2, can pedal around an electric-assist bicycle styled to look like a motorcycle.
If you’re a committed motorcycle enthusiast, you may want to skip the “Discover the Ride” zone and head right to the showcase of the major manufacturers’ 2019 models. There’s also a gallery of vintage motorcycles, and an exhibit of custom motorcycles — vehicles that have been tarted up or even built from scratch by their owners. “They are like works of art on two wheels,” Harris says.
One other thing that makes the show interesting, Harris says, is that motorcycling is a moving target. “Technology is always evolving, and consumer tastes change over time,” she says. Here are two bikes on display at the show that represent the industry’s past and, perhaps, its future.
1936 Indian Four
When Bob Tyson of New Windsor, Md., bought this motorcycle from a collector in Pennsylvania, “it was bent, broken, busted and rusted,” he says. “If I had told my wife that I’d paid money for it, she would’ve divorced me.” It took the now-retired engineer 20 years to get the bike back to like-new condition, a project that included straightening the frame and rebuilding the engine. “That something this old can still keep right up with all the other traffic on the highway is just amazing to me,” he says.
1. The Seat Though it may look primitive, this leather saddle on a spring is surprisingly comfortable, Tyson says. The only downside? “It was made for one person. A lot of those motorcycles back in the ’30s and ’20s weren’t made to carry passengers.”
2. The Paint Job Because Indian Motorcycle was owned by industrialist E. Paul du Pont in the 1930s, buyers could select from a variety of colorful automotive paints made by the DuPont chemical company. For his restoration, Tyson chose a combination of Buckingham Grey and Purple Blue. “Those colors were newly offered in 1936, so that’s why I wanted them,” says Tyson, who also opted for hand-painted gold pinstriping.
3. The Engine The 35-horsepower, four-cylinder engine propels this motorcycle to speeds of up to 90 mph. Also, it’s upside-down, with the carburetor low on the engine and the exhaust manifold near the top, which was thought to help it run more efficiently. “The public did not like the cluttered look of the engine, so sales were poor,” Tyson says. As a result, Indian Motorcycle made only about 300 of these bikes, of which a dozen or so are still around, Tyson says.
2019 Zero DSR
Able to accelerate from zero to 60 mph in less than four seconds, the 2019 Zero DSR (starting at $16,495) has convinced many traditionalists to give electric motorcycles a second look, says aptly named Zero Motorcycles spokesman Dan Quick. “Whether you ride Harleys or crotch rockets, one thing every thrill-seeker can appreciate is speed,” Quick says.
1. The battery When fully charged, the lithium-ion battery will keep this motorcycle humming for 163 miles in the city or 78 miles on the highway.
2. The motor The air-cooled, 70-horsepower electric motor allows you to quickly reach questionably legal speeds, up to 102 mph, with no shifting. It’s also whisper-quiet, which your neighbors will appreciate.
3. The ‘gas tank’ Freed up from its usual job, this area serves as a storage bin — great for carrying the bike’s charger, a cellphone and other odds and ends. Or you can put an extra battery in there, for more range.
4. The app Of course there’s an app. With this one, you can toggle between “sport” and “eco” mode, or customize how quickly the bike accelerates and adjust other functions.