There’s a strong argument that VW started the camper van craze, way back with its Westfalia pop-up campers on the original Microbus. Camper vans are all the rage now (I live in one myself), yet you can’t get VW’s version in North America, despite being named the California. Why?
The Drive did some digging and found out. The entire article is worth a read, but in summary, it comes down to a few factors.
Entering the North American camper van market would require VW to enter the North American van market. While their Transporter is common elsewhere in the world, it’s never been sold here. It would cost millions to go through the safety and emissions certification process just to be able to offer it. Although the 25% “chicken tax” on imported commercial vehicles may be a factor as well, there are easy ways around that. Just ask Mercedes how they sell the Sprinter here. The California accounts for only a small fraction of all Transporters sold, and it simply wouldn’t be worth it just for that.
Still, RV and camper van sales have boomed during COVID-19. Especially in 2020, there simply wasn’t anything else to do, because everything was closed. Wouldn’t it be worth it for VW to cash in on that? Actually, no. Even if they were already perfectly positioned to start selling the California when demand for camper vans surged, it’s likely only a short-term bubble. We’re not out of the COVID-19 woods yet as variants keep spreading around, but society has decided it’s over anyway and reopened just about everything. As life returns to normal, and other forms of travel and entertainment take over again, the demand for RVs and camper vans will likely plummet. Value and prices will probably drop like crazy, taking all the profitability out of it.
Another factor is the overall economy. It’s already been on shaky ground during the pandemic, despite government relief efforts. If the bottom drops out, not only will people not be able to afford RVs and camper vans, they’ll have to sell the ones they have just to make ends meet. The end result is the same: prices plummet, and there’s no profit.
So as much as we’d like to see the return of the iconic VW-branded camper van, it’s not going to happen. From a business perspective, it makes perfect sense why.
You’re not going to see Ford Mustang Mach-E police cars in your rear view mirror next week. But in the future, you could.
The Michigan State Police have pretty much established the standard when it comes to testing cars for police use. They put cars through grueling acceleration, top speed, braking, high-speed pursuit, and emergency response handling tests. This is where the Dodge Intrepid’s brakes were found to be not up to the task, catching fire in the process. The Ford Mustang Mach-E, though, passed all these tests with flying colors — the first electric car ever to do so.
It didn’t even have a cop motor, cop suspension, cop shocks… Ford submitted a bone stock example for testing. The only modification was stickers (which, arguably, do add horsepower). We won’t know exactly how the Mustang Mach-E stacks up against traditional police cars like the Ford Explorer, Dodge Charger, etc. until later this fall, when the Michigan State Police will publish test results for all cars they’ve tested during the past year.
According to Motor1.com, Ford does not currently intend to build a police version of the Mustang Mach-E. Seeing how well the regular version did in these tests establishes a baseline for its performance. I expect that when the full test results come out, Ford will see in what areas other cars beat them, then design improvements that will address those shortcomings.
Electric cars, in general, make a ton of sense when it comes to police use. Most of the time they sit around, idling, wasting gas. Electric cars, by their nature, don’t do that. They also have a massive battery, which is necessary to run all the lights, computers, radios, and other emergency equipment. Additionally, when it comes time for hot pursuit of them Duke boys, there’s nothing quite like the acceleration of an electric car. Tesla’s made it famous, but all electric motors generate maximum torque from zero RPM, making them quicker off the line than any fossil fuel car can be.
It’s an intriguing concept. The only issue is with departments that keep their cars on the road 24/7, rotating multiple officers through them as they go on and off their shifts. That doesn’t leave any time to recharge.
“Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades,” the saying goes. BMW has taken that expression to a whole new level. According to The Drive, BMW took a fuel cell powered X5 and tested the structural integrity of its hydrogen tank protection by blowing up a grenade under it. Seriously.
It’s only slightly less crazy than it sounds. There was no actual hydrogen in the tank when they tested it, so if the tank was pierced, there would be no earth-shattering kaboom. But still, that’s pretty extreme measures.
The best part is the tank survived, completely intact, because the armor did its job.
At IMS Outdoors I had the opportunity to try out a wide variety of motorcycles. (So do you, and you should.) My current ride is a 2005 Kawasaki KLR650, and although I’m not in the market right now, I was particularly interested in trying out as many other comparable bikes as I could. Here’s what I discovered.
This is, by no means, a complete list of everything on the market right now. Some manufacturers didn’t attend IMS, among them BMW, which leaves an enormous hole in this comparison and analysis. I didn’t get to try every bike in this category that was present at IMS. And, importantly, I didn’t get to try any of them out in the dirt, which of course is an important aspect of any bike in this category. This is simply my personal experience with the bikes I had the opportunity to try out for myself on a simple street ride.
Naturally, as a current KLR rider, I was most interested in the brand new version of this bike after a three-year absence. I already wrote a full comparison to my current KLR. Among dual-sports in general, the KLR occupies an excellent place. It can handle any reasonable street conditions, and it’s pretty capable when you leave the pavement as well. It’s a good all-arounder, and an excellent place to begin your dual-sport journey unless or until you decide you want something more on- or off-road oriented.
The new KLR’s biggest competition? The vast used KLR market. I like the new one, but it’s only slightly nicer than mine which cost 1/3 the price. Amongst other new bikes, its $6,699 starting price is extremely reasonable. Most of them also give you a tachometer, which the new KLR, surprisingly, does not.
Harley-Davidson Pan America
There’s a lot of buzz about this bike, a vast departure from Harley-Davidson’s traditional cruisers and baggers. I was thrilled to see it at IMS Outdoors, and have the opportunity to see for myself if it really is all that or not.
When it comes to big adventure bikes, this Harley is the real deal. The Revolution Max engine is powerful and fast. If it’s any slower than the smaller Sportster S, I couldn’t notice it. Put it into sport mode, though, and it scoots right along. (It’s a bit of a dog in rain mode, but that’s on purpose.) The riding position is upright, comfortable, and exactly what you’d expect and want on an adventure bike. Standing up while you ride is easy and comfortable. The only quirk is that the kickstand is mounted much farther forward than you’d think — unless you’re coming from a Harley cruiser or bagger.
I talked about the Pan America with Bret Tkacs, and he pointed out a major potential shortcoming. The radiator runs across the entire width of the bike, and has absolutely no protection from rocks, mud, or anything else your front wheel will kick up when you’re going down a dirt road. Additionally, what appears to be a voltage regulator has only a thin plastic cover to protect it from a similar fate. Of course, Harley being Harley, there are probably a bunch of accessories already available to address this issue, because Harley owners love to bolt stuff onto their bikes.
From what I experienced, I’d say the Pan America is best for people mainly interested in street riding, but who also want to hit the dirt occasionally. This is the real deal, not a poser, but best for someone not wanting to get too serious or technical about their dirt riding. Of course, there’s also the question of whether you want to spend about the same for an untested Harley as you would for the tried and true BMW R 1250 GS.
Yamaha Tenere 700
I didn’t come to IMS Outdoors to find my next motorcycle, but I think I have anyway. The Tenere 700 is absolutely everything I love about my KLR, plus absolutely everything I wish it was. In no way should the T700 and KLR be considered competitors to each other. The Yamaha costs over $3,000 more, and it shows in how it rides.
Yamaha’s MT-07 is an excellent naked sport bike, but it’s physically too small for me to be comfortable on. The T700 uses the same engine, and it works perfectly for this bike. While I don’t enjoy riding my KLR long distances to get to good dirt riding, I would have no issues whatsoever doing it on the T700. Then, when I got there, the T700 would be at least as capable in the dirt, probably more. It physically fits me well, and though it has great ground clearance, my seating position is actually a little bit lower than my KLR, so I can just about flat-foot it.
As with the new KLR, I can’t justify spending several times more money than I already spent on my current bike to justify the upgrade. Besides, a bike this nice would deserve an enclosed trailer, or at least a garage to live in. But for me, personally, the Yamaha Tenere 700 is my Goldilocks bike. It’s perfect for me.
Suzuki V-Strom 650
There are many who compare the KLR650 and the Suzuki DL650, a.k.a. the V-Strom 650, a.k.a. the “Wee-Strom” as compared to its previously 1000, and now 1050 cc big brother. After all, both are 650 cc single-cylinder motorcycles that claim both on- and off-road cred. The bike I rode had huge side boxes that simply screamed “adventure bike.”
The ride, however, was probably the most road-friendly bike of the bunch I rode. Where my KLR feels like an adventure tractor, the V-Strom actually felt a bit sporty — certainly not compared to something like a Ninja 650, but within the dual-sport category, I think this is one of the most road-friendly motorcycles there is, and one of the most comfortable for me.
If I was sticking mostly to paved and dirt roads, with the occasional trail or unmaintained road thrown in for fun, the V-Strom would most likely be my pick. I have friends who swear by these bikes, and I completely understand why now.
There are those who criticize the KLR650 for never evolving. There are also those who praise it for exactly the same reason. That second group will also be fans of Suzuki’s direct competitor, the DR650. That goes double now that the KLR’s design has moved into the 21st century, while the DR650 remains the same. That means it’s still a single-cylinder, carbureted, simple motorcycle that can tackle anything you can throw at it.
I may criticize the KLR’s tachometer deletion, but the DR650 never had one. That’s how basic of a bike this is. It’s physically smaller than the KLR — both the new model as well as my personal first-generation bike. Unlike my KLR, I can flat-foot the DR650. It feels lighter, but that’s probably because it’s slightly smaller than the KLR. It’s also the least refined of any of the bikes here.
If your primary interest is dirt riding, the DR650 is for you. It’s basically a big dirt bike that’s legal for the street, the opposite of the V-Strom 650. That’s probably why Suzuki offers both.
Royal Enfield Himalayan
This is one I’ve been wanting to get my hands on since it came out. It comes from India, and by its name it purports to be ready to handle the Himalayan mountains. Is it?
The riding experience feels basically like a less powerful version of my KLR. That’s because it has only a 411cc engine instead of my 650. While I noticed the lack of power, it still had plenty for everything I needed to do on this demo ride. From experience, it would’ve struggled on the Cherohala Skyway, where I had to wring my KLR pretty hard to get up some of those hills, especially two-up.
Other than that, it was quite comfortable and familiar, even though I’d never ridden any Royal Enfield before. The instrument panel was basic, but complete. It includes a speedometer, tachometer, and fuel gauge, as well as a compass. Are you listening, Kawasaki? It can be done!
My main concerns with using the Himalayan for serious off-road adventures is parts availability. While Royal Enfield is making a big push into the US, their network still isn’t nearly as big as the big four Japanese brands, BMW, or even KTM. If I break something in the middle of nowhere, I just need to find the nearest Kawasaki dealer, and I’m all set. The nearest Royal Enfield dealer may be hundreds of miles away, and the aftermarket is tiny in comparison.
Triumph Tiger 850 Sport
While the Tiger 900 and 1200 have been around for a while, the 850 Sport is a new addition at the bottom of the Tiger lineup. It’s distinct from its brothers in that it has a three-cylinder engine, not a twin borrowed from the Bonneville and its numerous variants. I’m a sucker for a triple.
The Tiger 850 Sport is… nice. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it. There is also absolutely nothing that stands out in my mind about it, either. It’s a good solid motorcycle, but there was nothing about it that played with my emotions, either. That was very much not the case for the Street Triple R I rode immediately afterward, which I immediately wanted to take to the track and wring out.
I’ve ridden both the 900 and 850 Sport. Unfortunately, despite the very different engine, I can’t tell a great deal of difference between them in the riding experience. Maybe it just comes down to how many cylinders you want.
I have no complaints at all about the Tiger 850 Sport. It’s a great bike. For me, though, I’d take the Tenere 700 all day long.
Kawasaki already makes the H2, a motorcycle with a supercharger. Motorcycle.com has put some patent and trademark application pieces together that strongly indicate that an electric supercharger is currently under development.
Previously, electric superchargers have been a joke. I’ve seen devices that are basically 12-volt fans, running off the starter battery, spliced into a car’s intake system and allegedly cramming more air into the engine. The actual performance benefits of these systems is either none, or negligible.
But the way Kawasaki is going about it, this might actually work. The electric supercharger would run off the much larger battery of a hybrid motorcycle. These are far more powerful than a regular starter battery. In short bursts, they could supply enough power for an electric supercharger to actually be effective. While the old electric superchargers were built and sold by no-name snake-oil companies, Kawasaki is a reputable business. They wouldn’t be doing it if it didn’t work.
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups advertise themselves as “two great tastes that taste great together.” After rumors flying basically since the Bronco itself was confirmed, Ford has officially confirmed that the Bronco will be getting the Raptor treatment next year. Jalopnik and The Drive have more.
It makes sense. Ford has sold countless examples of the more road-oriented Bronco Sport based on the off-road panache of the actual Bronco. No doubt some consumers actually believe they’re buying the Bronco even though the Sport fits their needs much better. Now, Ford can double down on the Bronco’s off-road prowess by building an even more capable version and slapping the Raptor label on it. The F-150 Raptor is an excellent off-road vehicle, and I have no doubt that the Bronco version will be as well. I’m sure the Bronco Raptor will help sell even more Bronco Sports.
I’m not calling out Ford by saying this, or even criticizing them. I have no doubt that the Bronco Raptor will be every bit as good an off-road vehicle as the F-150 Raptor, and the perfect halo car (truck?) for the Bronco brand. It’s good business, and excellent marketing. Who can blame them?
Nancy Reagan couldn’t have said it better herself. In response to the European Parliament Committee on Transport and Tourism’s request to implement mandatory motorcycle inspections, three organizations in as many countries have spoken out loudly against them.
RideApart has the full story, but basically, the argument is that technical issues represent only a tiny percentage of the causes of motorcycle accidents. By far the biggest factor is rider error and/or ignoring traffic and safety laws that are already on the books. The effort and expense of cracking down on inspections should instead be applied to rider training for a much greater benefit. I completely agree.
One of the major attractions of the new IMS Outdoors format is the ability to actually take a demo ride on the motorcycles you’re interested in, not just sit on them like the old indoor show. During the first three events, around 14,000 demo rides took place. That number doesn’t even include how many there would have been by now if the New York show hadn’t been canceled.
“Transitioning to an experience-forward event series has been very well-received by both our attendee and exhibitor community, a model everyone is excited to continue,” said Tracy Harris, Senior Vice President of Progressive IMS Outdoors in a press release. “This new and improved layout mirrors the Powersports lifestyle by providing a fun environment for enthusiasts to reconnect after so many months apart and demo product of interest, from on and off-road, four-wheels, to the latest e-bikes on the market.”
Although this is the number of rides, not the number of people taking them — many, like myself, took multiple demo rides — it’s still most impressive that IMS Outdoors provides this opportunity. Previously I’ve only been able to get on four different Harleys at a dealer, or four Kawasakis at one of their regular demos. The opportunity to make the most of the day and bounce between brands at will is something you don’t normally get elsewhere.
Despite the increased competition for attention, the manufacturers also enjoy the new format.
“Progressive IMS Outdoors has been a great opportunity for Kawasaki to showcase our exciting Side by Side line-up to the IMS fan base and the motorcycle industry,” said Kawasaki’s Chris Brull, Vice President of Marketing and Racing. “The Kawasaki demo experience is equal parts educational and exciting, especially for first-time riders. In addition to our complete line-up of motorcycles, including Ninja®, Versys®, Vulcan®, and Z motorcycles, we are thrilled to offer attendees the chance to ride our new Teryx KRX®1000 side x side line-up through a unique off-road course and tackle any obstacle with ease.”
“Progressive IMS Outdoors has proved to be a major success for Indian Motorcycle,” said Taylor Young, experiential marketing manager, Indian Motorcycles. “We’ve been thrilled with the exposure to new and existing riders, as well as our family of Indian Motorcycle owners who’ve been coming out to support. We look forward to the remaining markets on the Tour.”
“We do not have plans to return to the indoor event series,” says IMS Senior VP Harris. “Our mission is to support the industry’s growth, connect enthusiasts with the brands they love, and provide an experience that is so much more than simply looking at new models—and the Summer months allow for this level of engagement. With so many smiling faces in Northern California, Chicago, and Pennsylvania, we could not be more excited to share that Progressive IMS Outdoors is here to stay.”
Despite not having built a single production truck yet, Ford has already announced a production increase to 80,000 F-150 Lightning electric pickup trucks annually. Ford will invest another $250 million across three Michigan plants involved with F-150 Lightning production, and hire 450 more workers to build them. The Drive has more details.
It may seem a bit bold, even cocky, to make such an investment before the truck has even hit the road. But considering that Ford has received 150,000 reservations for the Lightning, I think it’s a pretty safe bet.
In the beginning, the International Motorcycle Show was a series of traditional indoor events. Manufacturers and other vendors could show off their wares to the public. The public, in turn, got the opportunity to see all these bikes in person without the pressure of a salesperson, as well as the chance to see many different brands of bikes under one roof.
COVID-19 changed all that. 2020 was canceled, the entire year, and IMS was no exception. Rather than simply give up and wait for next year, though, IMS reinvented itself into IMS Outdoors. As the name implies, it is now an outdoor event, as the fresh outside air vastly reduces the chances of infection. Much of it is similar to the old indoor show. The vendors are still there, as well as presentations, and the highly popular Discover the Ride program, which gives people who have never touched a motorcycle before a taste of what it’s like to ride.
For those of us who already ride, the biggest difference besides the open air is the manufacturer booths. Rather than static displays that enable you to sit on a ride variety of motorcycles as in the past, IMS Outdoors brings a whole lot of demo fleets together in the same place at the same time. Now, instead of waiting for Kawasaki or Indian to come to your area once a year, you can actually ride a lot of bikes from different manufacturers all at the same time. This is the most profound difference between the old IMS and the new IMS Outdoors.
I spent the entire weekend at IMS Outdoors Pennsylvania, which took place at the Carlisle Fairgrounds best known for its car shows. IMS Outdoors only took up a small fraction of the available space, but it packed a great deal of goodness into it. Here’s what I learned about how to get the absolute most out of your visit to any IMS Outdoors show.
Ride All the Things
I can’t recommend highly enough the opportunity to try out so many motorcycles at the same time on the open road. I don’t know of any other opportunity like this out there. Even professional motorcycle journalists don’t get the chance to try a Harley-Davidson CVO Road Glide and an Indian Challenger back-to-back. I did exactly that (there’s an article about that coming). Yes, I had media credentials, but that didn’t matter. These opportunities are available to anyone, including you.
To avail yourself of this opportunity, bring your riding gear with you. More than likely, you’ll be riding your own bike to the show, which makes it easy to show up fully equipped. If not, make sure you bring a helmet, long sleeves, long pants, gloves, and boots that go over your ankle. Regardless of what you normally wear, this is what every manufacturer requires for their demo rides. If it means you have to gear up more than you usually do, so be it. You’ll also need a motorcycle license, of course. Kawasaki will also have you blow a .00 on a breathalyzer test before they put you on their bikes or in a side-by-side. This is their standard operating procedure for all of their demo rides, not just for IMS Outdoors.
Different brands handle demo rides in different ways. The Japanese Big Four, for example, as well as Royal Enfield and Zero, take you on organized group rides. You sign up for a particular bike at a particular time, and ride in formation along a prearranged route while escorted by a lead and a tail rider. They make sure you all stay together, stay safe, and avoid any shenanigans. Others — namely Harley-Davidson, Indian, and Triumph — will collect your information, then set you loose on your own. You’re still required to follow a specific route, but there’s no escort, so you’re free to experience the bike on your own terms. Anyone who’s ever done a test ride at a Harley dealership will already be familiar with this format.
To maximize how much time you have to ride, I recommend going to the Big Four, Royal Enfield, and/or Zero first, and scheduling your demo rides throughout the day. If you’re there all weekend, you can only sign up for that day’s rides, so decide that you’re going to do Honda and Suzuki one day, for instance, then Yamaha and Kawasaki the next. Once you have these times locked into your schedule, visit Harley, Indian, and Triumph in between your scheduled rides to fill the time with their more freeform demos. Harley, in particular, will want to put you on as many bikes as they possibly can. Don’t worry, their demo fleet has many examples of the Pan America and Sportster S. There was often still a wait to get on one, but it wasn’t long, so you’ll definitely get to try them if you want to.
Need Gear? Visit Cycle Gear
Back in the main vendor area, IMS has always had numerous vendors showing off their wares. These range from local dealers and motorcycle clubs to large companies like Cycle Gear. Much to my surprise, Cycle Gear actually set up a small store right there at IMS Outdoors. Helmets, gloves, boots, jackets, pants — it was all there. I needed a new pair of gloves anyway, and just hadn’t gotten around to ordering some online. Instead, an extremely helpful salesperson helped me try on a whole bunch of different gloves, and I bought a pair that fit me well. I was thankful to have my new gloves for the numerous demo rides I’d take throughout the rest of the weekend.
You don’t even need to bring wads of cash with you. Cycle Gear took my card with no difficulty whatsoever. It wasn’t so much a vendor booth as it was a small temporary store under the tent.
Check Out the Presentations
If you’re so inclined, you can even learn a thing or two while you’re there. As a KLR rider (and yes, I did try out the new KLR), I spent a bit of time in the Adventure Out! area. I enjoyed the opportunity to meet Bret Tkacs, who I’ve been following on YouTube since long before I started riding dirt. He gave two great presentations. One was all about his standardized system for rating different types of terrain, as well as your own ability as a rider. A trail that’s easy for an experienced rider may be quite difficult for a novice. With this system, you can both call a particular trail a “3” and know what that means for your ability level.
His other presentation demonstrated a variety of ways to pick up a dropped motorcycle beyond the traditional way. This was of particular interest to me, because as a relatively inexperienced dirt rider, I’ve had to pick my bike up a lot. With my KLR, I have about two traditional lifts in me a day before I’m exhausted. Now I have a few more tricks up my sleeve to use so I don’t wear myself out so much.
Different shows have different speakers lined up. The website tells you who will be where. Check it out.
Non-Riders: Check Out “Discover the Ride” and “Ride With Us”
IMS’s popular Discover the Ride program easily made the transition from indoors to outdoors. People who have never even touched a motorcycle before have the opportunity to start with a bicycle, something most people already know how to ride, and work their way up to a detuned Zero motorcycle on a closed course. I already know how to ride, but I experienced this for myself in New York a few years ago, and absolutely loved it.
New for IMS Outdoors is the Ride With Us program. By the end of Discover the Ride, you’re doing laps on an electric motorcycle programmed to be no faster than the bicycle you start on. Ride With Us builds on that experience and puts you on a real gas-powered motorcycle on a closed course. MSF RiderCoaches take what you learned in Discover the Ride, then teach you clutch control and how to actually operate a traditional bike. Don’t worry, they’ll put you on something small like a Honda Grom, not a Suzuki Hayabusa. This is no substitute for a proper MSF Basic RiderCourse, but it’s an excellent way to bridge the gap between it and Discover the Ride. After completing both of these, you’ll be a step or two ahead of your classmates in the Basic RiderCourse.
If You Can, Spend the Weekend
With everything going on, it’s impossible to see it all in a single day. I haven’t even touched on the IMS Vintage motorcycle display. The J&P Cycles Ultimate Builder Custom Bike Show now has all of the bikes under one tent, rather than spread out across the entire show like in the past. Personally, I like this format much better, because it makes it easier to pick your favorite and write it in for a prize.
Kawasaki brought not only their motorcycle demo fleet, but also their side-by-sides for demos on an off-road course (making good use of the extra space that Carlisle Fairgrounds had to offer). I’d never driven a side-by-side before, but they put me in a Teryx KRX 1000 and had me driving over obstacles I couldn’t have tackled on my KLR. The gear requirements are similar to the motorcycle demos, but they have loaner gear available. This is something else fun to do with any non-rider friends or family you might bring to the show.
While I got to try all of the motorcycles I was most interested in, I didn’t come anywhere near being able to try every single model available. You won’t either. But if you’re a new rider who isn’t quite sure what type of bike you’re interested in getting, you can try every type of bike you can imagine to figure out whether you want a sportbike, dual-sport, cruiser, or something else entirely.
A three-day ticket is only a few dollars more than a one-day ticket (actual price depends on the show). Unless you live far way, there’s no reason not to get the three-day ticket and go in and out all weekend. If you do live far away, consider getting a hotel room or campsite in the area and spending the weekend anyway. This is a unique opportunity in the motorcycle world unlike anything else I’ve ever seen, even for journalists like me. There’s even more to see than I’ve described here. Seriously, if IMS Outdoors is coming anywhere near your part of the world, you owe it to yourself as a rider, or a wanna-be rider, to check it out for yourself.