The stage at the AIM Expo serves as a launching pad for big industry news. We were most excited about Yamaha announcing the XSR700 and SR400 would be joining the XSR900 in the U.S. lineup. The XSR700 will continue the tradition of the XS650 from the 70s and 80s, a favorite among garage customizers.
The SR400 could easily be mistaken for a bike from the 70s. Its 399-cc engine comes stock with a retro feel and a low price tag, setting the stage for a lot of customization. You can bet you'll see modified SRs all over bike blogs next year.
My favorite bike from the weekend wasn't exactly new, but the subtly improved Kawasaki Z900 One put a big smile on my face. The 948-cc engine had the smoothest delivery of any bike I rode. The riding position is slightly less aggressive than the Yamaha FZ-09 and the narrower frame made the bike feel more comfortable and manageable. My only mark against the Z900 would be the design—it looks a little too much like a transformer for my taste. The engine, transmission, breaks, and ergonomics were all superb for a bike that costs $8,799 with ABS. It'll cost you a little more than a comparable Yamaha FZ09, but I think you get a huge return on that investment.
Bell helmets showcased its Street line of racing helmets, which are chock-full of safety features like their flagship Flex system and Multi-Directional Impact Protection System (MIPS). MIPS has been around since 2016, but that tech is now in the mid-level helmets like the Star. In the higher-end Race Star and Pro Star helmets you will find the Flex system, which provides protection over a wide range of impact energy. It's not just about safety, of course—you want to look cool, too. So Bell has partnered with Roland Sands to design some striking new graphics and color designs.
The most high-tech helmet has to be SENA's. Rolling out at the beginning of the year, the Momentum series features integrated communications systems and a camera with the controls built right into the side of the helmet. There is also an integrated noise canceling device that allows you to hear important audio clues from your surroundings while eliminating helmet noise. Four microphones analyze the noise around you and deliver audio from surrounding cars and your engine RPM. However, all that tech comes with added weight and a fairly steep price point. The base model starts at $449, and the top end Momentum INC Pro costs $699.
My choice for best urban helmet has to go to Nexx X.G100. There weren't crazy changes to the X.G100 other than permanent windscreen as opposed to built in goggle-type screen. But for style points, I think the XG was the best-looking helmet on the floor. They claim the new windscreen reduces noise even further, making the XG one of the quietest helmets on the market.
Get Charged Up
Its good to see new players in the electric bike space, and one notable introduction I saw was the Tacita cruiser. Founder Pierpaolo Rigo is a former off-road racer with experience in the Dakkar rally. He's been on a quest to make a new electric bike since 2009, and his first introduction into the U.S. market will be heavily focused on a cruiser that will compete for the attention of Harley-Davidson riders.
BMW brought its new electric scooter, called the BMW C Evolution. The C will be available for sale in California next year and will go 99 miles on a charge with a top speed of 80 mph and a charging time of 9.5 hours on a 110v U.S outlet (or 4 hours on a 220v charger). Along with that impressive top speed and range you also get a reverse feature and spaceship styling. As it goes in electric vehicles all of that comes with a $13,750 price tag. I guess someone has to foot the bill for all the BMW innovation.
AIM is primarily a motorcycle show, but the industry is expanding to include way more than motorcycles. There was a ton of side-by-side vehicles on display this year, as well as the Polaris Slingshot. Cub Cadet announced the addition of the new Challenger 550 and 750 to its growing lineup of side-by-sides. The Challenger comes with a solid windshield a sealed roof and automotive-like details, making it a much more utility-oriented vehicle than a Polaris RZR.
My pick for weirdest ride from the show was the Yamaha WR450F fitted with a Camso DTS-129 snowbike kit. Being a huge fan of the Chrysler Sno-runner from back in the day, my heart skipped a beat seeing this monster on the floor. The Camso DTS-129 kit converts a Yamaha WR450F in to a snowbike by replacing the front wheel with a ski and the back wheel with a 129 inch tread, allowing you to ride your dirt bike all year long. And to be honest, isn't this so much more practical than riding a dirt bike in the ocean?