The Progressive International Motorcycle show once again visited Novi, Michigan in the middle of winter and thousands of bike and scooter-starved fans came out to take it all in. Here are a few things from the show that were extra noteworthy.
Crowds and Facility
Big crowds were reported on Friday and Saturday, but fell off a bit on Sunday as apparently some kind of a football game was on. On Saturday, all the attendees that I saw were having a blast. There were groups of friends, a lot of families and quite a few lone wolves checking out an almost endless collection of bikes and scooters including BMW, BRP/Can-Am, Ducati, Harley Davidson, Honda, Hyosung, Kawasaki, KTM, Star, Triumph and Yamaha. It was one of the best manufacturer turn-outs in recent years and the booths were packed with people. It seemed like everywhere one looked there was a beautiful bike, a stunning custom creation or something fun to do.
The Suburban Collection was in fine shape, despite a fairly large hotel being built on top of the new end of the facility. Sure, some parking was in the hinterlands, but it was well worth the walk in the snow to warm one's hands by all the hot metal.
Novi saw the first visit of the new BMW C 650 GT and C 600 Sport super scooters to the show. Although a lot has been written about these large, multipurpose scooters, one should do themselves a favor and actually go see them in person. The two scoots are very similar, and share a 647cc inline twin-cylinder, DOHC, liquid cooled, 4-valve per cylinder power plant offering 60hp at 7500 RPM and 49 lb/ft of torque at 6000 RPM.
The engine is not part of the single-sided swing arm like most scooters employ, offering instead a combination of a short CVT belt coupled with a direct drive transfer to a fully-enclosed, oil-bath mounted, final drive chain. Before you panic at the thought of a chain driving the rear wheel of a scooter, there are three stages of straightforward slack adjustment before the chain must be replaced due to natural stretching. One engineer said that although they have some higher mileage C scoots on the West coast where they were first introduced, they are noticing minimal wear on the chain, even after thousands of miles. He said that he would be surprised if chain replacement was necessary before 25 to 30 thousand miles, and even then, it's not something to worry about as it has been designed for easy replacement.
The scooter bodies are slightly different (with the Sport model more aggressive looking to my eye), and weight within 25 lbs. of each other. They both carry 4.2 gallons of fuel and BMW says that a 200 mile range can be expected. The GT offers a larger, traditional under seat stowage area while the sport offers the ingenious "Flexcase" bottom panel under the seat that can be lowered when the scoot is parked to increase storage (for a second helmet) and clipped in the up position when it's time to go. A thoughtful feature.
Despite all of the glossy details and sparkling riding reviews that you have read about the new BMW scooters, it's meeting them in person that starts the convincing. What some had perceived as "over the top" becomes second nature after even a cursory glance. The level of fit and finish and attention to detail on these scoot/motorcycles is stunning. The paint is uniform and very well done, with the matte finish blue on the Sport particularly fetching. Hop aboard (easy for me at 5'11", not so easy for some others standing in line to try one one), and you notice that the controls have a precision and smooth feel that easily tops every other scooter that you've tried. I preferred the slightly firmer seat on the Sport, but the GT seat was comfortable and more accommodating for riding long distances two-up. And yes, both scoots on display had the Premium package that includes a multiple setting heated rear seat to compliment the heated front part of the seat and the grips. One other difference was the the windscreen on the GT was electrically adjustable while the Sport made do with a three-position manually adjusted one.
Despite their similar specifications, the designs of the two scoots are very different in person, with the GT offering some additional storage at the expense of a slightly chunkier look. In addition to speaking with some very helpful BMW Motorrad USA techs, I spoke with Derek Aldrich of BMW Motorcycles of Southeast Michigan. He was happy to note that the first five "C" scooters that they got were purchased immediately, as in right off the truck. He told me that one Honda Goldwing rider went for an initially cautious test ride of their demo unit (a C650 GT), and a few minutes later came back at a good clip. He dismounted, tossed Derek the keys and asked "how much will you give me for her?" pointing to his Goldwing.
Of course, the BMW scooters (part of their new "Urban Mobility" line), aren't exactly cheap. The GT starts at $9990 and goes up to $10,595 with the "Premium package" (heated seat(s), grips and tire pressure monitoring system) that most of them coming to the U.S. are equipped with. The Sport is only slightly cheaper at $9590, $10,195 with the same premium package. Still, an argument can be made that they are priced exactly correctly, as their main competitors (Suzuki Bergman and Honda Silverwing) are priced within a thousand dollars or so.
Expect to hear more about the BMW C 600 Sport and C 650 GT in the coming months as we put them through the paces courtesy of BMW Motorcycles of Southeast Michigan.