Article By: Chris Callen
Photos By: Heather Callen
Originally Published In The March 2016 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
While the hunt goes on for what the industry will do to have an annual Motorcycle Expo, one group came up with an answer that may well be the solution we’re all looking for. For those of you that are not keyed into industry topics like this, it used to be that the Motorcycle Industry had one giant Expo each year that catered to all of motorcycling. Some years later the Cincinnati V-Twin Expo broke off from that and created a specialized Expo just for all things V-Twin. That went on for a good long while until the past five or six years of hard times in the industry saw shrinking participation in Cincinnati, the promoters of which decided to make a bad situation worse and in W an attempt to replace lost revenue put an ultimatum to the leading media outlets. That forced the media outlets to withdraw and basically left the V-Twin Expo a mere shell of its former self.
There have been several attempts to provide an alternative, and one in particular has peaked our interest. Unlike the V-Twin Expo that is held in February, the worst month of the year for this activity, they would hold this one in October and in sunny Florida vs. snowy Cincinnati. Of course the organization I’m talking about is the American International Motorcycle Expo, or the AIM Expo for short. I got a call earlier this year from Bob Kay who had signed on to take the AIM Expo into a new direction and with Bob’s passion, history and track record in the industry I was in. In addition to one of the best Expos when it comes to availability to the media through a world class media center, the AIM Expo would step it up this year by adding what they called “The Garage Party” on Saturday night. After the show on Saturday the media center was torn down and in its place the cultural center of all things cool, the Led Sled Trailer was put in its place. That section of the room was filled with Hot Rods and wicked customs, a rock-a-billy band played in the background as everyone just hung out like we were at any other chopper party we might attend in a year. It was a great meeting spot for young and old builders from the custom scene, but that wasn’t the only thing cool at AIM.
The show started on Friday with a full day of Media Only access to the more than 400 vendors. This was a great way to set the pace of a successful event in that it gave everyone the chance to get the industry business out of the way before opening the doors to the ravenous public on Saturday. With Biketoberfest going on right across the state in Daytona the public showed up in mass. The size and scope of the vendors was impressive. The big manufacturers were there and on hand with full regalia. While there might not have been all that much of the custom offerings there was an incredible increase from the previous year. Some of which were totally bad ass like the cats from TC Bros. who were showing their answer to outsourcing custom products. DEI was on hand and we got to check out their latest offering of pipe wrap with a stainless steel mesh covering (watch for our review of that in an upcoming issue). National Motorcycle Company who was launching their “Gentlemen’s Time Machine” a motorized bicycle type of 1800’s machine. Their tag line was “It’s amazing what you see at 35mph” and their lightweight board track styled bikes were incredible.
One thing that peeled our skulls back was Standard Motorcycle Company and their plans to open a motorcycle Co-op in Orlando. Just in its infancy while we visited the site, the plan these cats have is against convention and reminiscent of the Shed in Milwaukee. They plan on having a member based shop that will not only house the tools you need to come in and work on your projects but will also give paid members access to industry experts who will help with projects and some that will come in for special seminars on everything from fabrication to tooling. It’s a killer idea and we wait with baited breath to bring you more info on it as soon as they are read to release it. One of the main features for the custom world at the AIM Expo is the bike show itself. The winner of the Freestyle Class, Jeremy Cupp of LC Fabrications, took home the big prize and the right to represent America in the AMD World Championships in Cologne Germany. We caught up with Jeremy just after he was announced as the winner and man, just like he always does, he let his feet stay grounded and was nothing but gracious.
There is so much more about this show, the AMA Hall Of Fame Induction on Saturday night which included Alex Jorgensen, John Kocinski, Keith McCarty, John Parham, Rodney Smith and Richard Teerlink. Treerlink who was at the head of Harley employees taking back the company from AMF had an incredible story for me to hear firsthand but by the end of the night there wasn’t one member of the 2015 class that I wasn’t in awe of. They had an incredible outdoor area with test riding and exhibits, so many companies you hope to run into from parts manufacturers to tire companies like Metzler who were releasing their new Night Dragon tire from Pirelli. All in all I’d say this is the type of environment we can grow the industry from. This cannot happen however, without the support from the custom industry. Any of you cats that are looking to get noticed, to participate in the future of your industry need to check out getting a booth at this event next year. While it may not be the Expo that Cincinnati used to be it has a very real chance or replacing that show. Be sure to stay tuned to the AIMExpoUSA.com website and keep up to date on all their news at www. aimexpousa.com