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A DAY AT THE INTERNATIONAL MOTORCYCLE SHOW: Suzuki Rebounds, HRC Is Back, First Look At The 2010 Factory Honda CRF450, Will The Factory Team Go Away In 2011?

December 7, 2009
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ÿANOTHER DAY TO CELEBRATE MOTORCYCLES
THE 29THÿANNUAL CYCLE WORLD INTERNATIONAL MOTORCYCLE SHOW HAD A FEW SURPRISES
By: Zap

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The 12-stop Cycle World Show visits Southern California every year and finds its annual home at the beautiful setting that is the Long Beach Convention Center. Where the area was once most famous for the slightly seedy Long Beach Pike amusement park, it is now a fully gentrified, upscale retail area (the Pike long since torn down) with the nearby Fisherman’s Wharf and across the bay Queen Mary as new tourist venues.

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Lucky for all the motorcyclists who rode to the show, it was another typical SoCal winter day ? bright blue skies and temps in the low 70’s. One of the coolest parts of the show is watching enthusiastic members of the our two-wheeled tribe arrive on everything from straight-piped Harleys to KTM dual sport bikes. Motorcycles rule!
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Although the show definitely has a slant toward the street/custom bike market, all the major bike makers are in attendance, as well as variety of accessory companies. There are always a few dirt bike gems and personalities to keep things interesting.
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Of all the hoopla to cover, American Suzuki was easily the most enthusiastic and plain giddy as they used the media day to celebrate their huge year of racing success (six national titles). Given the overall state of the industry and the financial hit it’s taken in the last year, itÿseemed a bit awkward toÿhearÿSuzuki’s PR guyÿpractically gloat about how profitable the “All Roads Lead To Suzuki” company is when virtually everyone in attendance was aware that some level of that profitability has been the result of the severe employee cutbacks they’ve made recently. Sure, everyone is longing to see the motorcycle industryÿrebound as soon as possible,ÿbut we also feel the pain of so many friends and associatesÿwho are out of work.ÿ

Moving on,ÿSuzuki also used the show to officially announce their 2010 racing plans. In fact, none other than team manager Roger DeCoster took the stage to tell us about the 2010 motocross team (though it wasn’t much of a secret) and he also made sure to give thanks to the president of Suzuki (who was in attendance) for their ongoing support of the racing effort. As for the factory backed Rockstar/Makita motocross team, it will consist of 450 riders Ryan Dungey and Aussie newcomer Matt Moss (younger brother of 2009 rookie sensation Jake), and 250 rider Austin Stroupe, who was booted from the Monster/Pro Circuit squad. Long-time Suzuki road race partner Yoshimura will also now be in charge of the the motocross effort and their pipes will replace the Pro Circuit pipes used previously.
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Here’s some of what I saw during the media day festivities.

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Of all the factory Superbikes, KTM’s RC8 R has to be one of the most impressive to look at. This is the bike that won the German Superbike title this year and KTM is making a street-legal limited edition version of the 180 hp, 1195cc V-twin available. Wow! Interestingly, theÿwordÿin the aisles of the journos who just returned from the BMW intro in Portugalÿfor their new 1000cc sportbike was nothing less than glowing – more names in the game is always a good thing.
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KTM is bringing two versions of their street legal RC8 R club racer…my shot of the model with Akrapovic livery came out bad, but it was so cool looking I had to include a KTM shot. For more info, head toÿKTM.
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To tout the resurgence of the HRC brand, Honda was showing off a trick CRF250 that was decked out with a variety of HRC parts that will now be available in America…well, (reportedly after much discussion) except the white plastic. From pipes to white cases and a variety of small parts – HRC is back!
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Former AMA 250cc road race National Champion and current prolific custom bike designer Roland Sands teamed with Honda and Cycle World to produce this clean looking Honda CBR1100RR as an auction item for the Ride For Kids charity which has raised over half a million dollars in the last decade for the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation. Tickets for the raffle will be available at the International Motorcycle Shows and online at Ride For Kids.
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Remember when the body work of a leading off-road bike was made from fiberglass? This pristine 1968 Bultaco 360 El Bandito was a thing of nostalgic beauty.
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Yeah, he may look just like any other old guy with a lanyard, but this isÿMark Blackwell – America’s first 500cc National Champion and former motocross team manager for Suzuki and Husqvarna.
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In fact, here’s an awesome shot of Blackwall at speed aboard his factory Husky back in the day that was shot by old-time moto journo Charlie Morey. The shot, and many other classic MXÿphotos, are available at Charlie’s website – Click Here.
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Besides showing off the new EFI RM-250Z, Suzuki also used the Long Beach show to unveil their new RMX-450Z off-road bike. The carbon fork and frame guards are from Suzuki’s accessory catalog.
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One quick glance is all it takes for thisÿYamaha R1ÿto distinguish itself as something involving Valentino Rossi. Handpainted by his personal artist, the bike is a one-off creation which is being raffled off to benefit the Riders For Healthÿcharity, which was co-founded by Randy Mamola and remains a big part of current MotoGP culture.
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Another old guy # 2. This 1972 Daytona 200 winner Don Emde who became the first son of a former Daytona 200 winner to win theÿrace after his dadÿFloyd won on the beach in 1948 (aboardÿan Indian). Don was overseeing the charity effort of the Rossi bike which will benefit the Riders For Health organization.
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Besides their new 1200cc MultiStrada, Ducatiÿhad this nice looking 696 Monster with ABS on display alongside their two model 1100cc Monster line.ÿFor more info on the beautiful bikes from Bologna, Italy, head toÿDucati.ÿ
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There was no shortage of way over-the-top custom bikes at the show, so it was nice to see this old school version.
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A Yamaha street bike of much less stature, but probably more relevance to most of us is the sweet looking WR250X supermoto-inspiredÿstreet bike. With a claimed 71 mile per gallon fuel efficiency rating, the WRX looks like a great way to save on gas money for around town jaunts.
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Today, the Can-Am name is popular for their line of quads, watercraft and the amazingÿSyder three-wheeler, which now includes a towable trailer package.
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Just another historical sidenote…back in the mid-’70’s, this is what Can-Am was famous for. Jimmy Ellis was the by far the rider most closely associated with the Can-Am name, but at one time the brand was home to Gary & Dewayne Jones, Marty Tripes, Tony DiStefano, Donnie Hansen, Buck Murphy, Charlie Iott, Kenny Zahrt, Jim Holley and Rich Eierstedt.
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Here’s a replica of the original Craig Vetter sponsored Kawasaki KZ1000 that won the 1978 Superbike title with Reg Pridmore at the throttle.
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MXA MINI-VIEW: RED BULL HONDA’S GARY MARTINI

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If there was one person on the AMA motocross circuit who doesn’t fit the factory job they hold down, it would be Gary Martini. As of halfway through the 2009 season, Garyÿbecame theÿ”manager of a lot of stuff” ÿ- as in Eric Kehoe’s boss – and while it’s a job he is perfectlyÿqualified for, he just doesn’t seem like the type of person to hold such a role. In other words, Gary is not the uptight, corporate exec-type of guy you’d expect with his position.ÿFunny and laid back, Gary has been at Honda since 1982 and has seen plenty of racing in his day.ÿI ran into Gary as he was coordinating the floor plan for all the 2010 bikes at the show and asked him about all the latest news and rumors regarding the Red Bull motocross squad.
MXA: How is the 2010 season looking for you?
Gary:
Well, it’s still pretty grim out there, but we’re going racing. I look at next season as a re-building year. We’ve some new brought data acquisition resources in-house to take a more scientific side to bike development and to help our guys out as much as possible. I think we’ll also be working closer with the factory in Japan. We just sent Davi Milsaps down to Australia for the last Supercross race down there and hopefully that will help him be at speed when Anaheim rolls around. You might also see some of our guys running hydraulic clutches.
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MXA: Team Honda has been running pipes from Yoshimura for a few years now, but Yosh is now officially running the factory Suzuki team ? is there any conflict there?
Gary:
We looked at that pretty close and found that they could provide a clear delineation between the two companies. I think Yosh saw the potential in Honda pipe sales so they were happy to make it all work out for us.
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MXA: There’s been a rumor that 2010 willÿ be the last year for a factory Honda team and that for 2011 you guys will move to the satellite team structure.
Gary:
We have great partners with Factory Connection and Troy Lee, but as far as a factory team, I have seen or heard no indication of that whatsoever. None. Remember the rumor that Chad Reed was riding for us? Of course there was also the rumor a long time ago that I did all of Larry Brooks’ homework. In fact, I’d have to say that recently we’ve been getting good calls from some big companies normally associated with NASCAR who are looking for sponsorship opportunities in motocross. I think a lot of these guys areÿthinking aboutÿthe costs of car racing versus motorcycles and also realizing that not only are we a lot cheaper, but that we also have the target audience that they’re looking for.
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The factory Hondas have always been pretty plain in appearance. Still, given their history, the red machines have a certain intimidating, all-powerful mystique to them.

MXA: What’s up with the HRC graphics?
Gary:
We have the HRC-kitted bike on display and it’s both a brand and a brand association that I feel we need to promote. Remember when the HRC logo was the coolest thing at the races ? it represented the highest level of technology and performance, that’s what I want to bring back.
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MORE WILD STUFF


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Without a doubt the wildest bike at the show was the Confederate Fighter that ran a 155 mph at Bonnefille. The amount of intricate machine work is unbelieveable. For more info, head to Confederate.ÿ
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Following his introduction of the 2010 motocross team, I sat down with Roger DeCoster for an in-depth interview on a range of topics. Look for what Roger had to say on my next Mid-Week Report on Dec. 16.
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You just have to wonder ? how the heck do you steer the thing?
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For the schedule of upcoming shows, Click Here.
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THE RETURN OF HRC…..ÿ
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