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.”
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.
The biggest issue with electric vehicles is the recharge time. Society is accustomed to stopping at a gas station, filling the tank in a few minutes, and driving another few hundred miles. Electric doesn’t work that way — yet. One way to bypass this issue is rather than wait for your batteries to recharge, simply drop your depleted battery into charger, install a freshly charged battery, and zoom off into the sunset. It’s all the speed and convenience of a gas station fill-up in an electric world.
Of course, one of the main issues with this is every manufacturer has a different battery design and standard — until now. Motorcyclist reports that Yamaha, Honda, KTM, and Piaggio have signed an agreement to form the Swappable Batteries Motorcycle Consortium, which will help and promote the establishment of common standards for vehicle batteries across corporate boundaries.
This is absolutely crucial if swappable batteries are to succeed. There are many different standards out there right now, both for charging as well as the batteries themselves. Seeing a few big companies jump on board with this idea is encouraging. Standardization to allow swappable batteries makes it easier for manufacturers to sell us on electric vehicles, because they become much easier and more practical to use. No more range anxiety. Just pull into a battery swap shop just like you use a gas station now, swap batteries, and keep going. At that point, it doesn’t matter if the batteries take a few hours to charge. They’ll just sit there, charge, and go right back into someone else’s vehicle afterward. It’ll work great, as long as the electrical infrastructure can handle it. (Are you listening, Texas?)
If you wanted to buy a 2021 motorcycle from Zero, you’re too late. They’re all sold out, according to Jalopnik. Zero is already hard at work on updating the electronics to make most 2022 models even better.
After I got to ride a Zero SR/F at IMS Outdoors, I understand the popularity. If you can get over the almost complete lack of sound from these bikes, they’re legitimately fun to ride, and FAST. Did I mention fast? On our demo ride our leader got us all onto a nice quiet straightaway real slow, then mashed the throttle and took off like a light cycle from Tron. Naturally, the rest of us did the same. There’s nothing like the instant power and torque from an electric motor.
I could definitely see myself owning an electric bike as a commuter or city bike. They’re perfect for squirting in and out of traffic, and use virtually no power at a stop. My thing, though, is getting out of the city, out into the middle of nowhere, for hours at a time. That’s where electric bikes in general, not specifically Zero, fall short. It comes down the same old problems: charging time, and places to charge them. I’m sure that situation will continue to improve as more and more electric vehicles hit the road.
The Sportster, as we know it, is dead. Long live the Sportster. (And it will live on in the form of the Iron 883, Iron 1200, Forty-Eight…) There’s a new Sportster in town: the Sportster S.
To say this bike is controversial would be like saying the ocean is a little damp. Some Harley owners already don’t consider the Sportster to be a “real” Harley, even though the model goes all the way back to 1957. Now, there are many who say the all-new Sportster S isn’t a real Sportster, let alone a real Harley.
Honestly, there’s some truth to that. It’s nothing like the outgoing Sportster except for its small size. Its Revolution Max 1250T engine is the same one in the much larger Pan America (more on that in our upcoming dual-sport roundup), and is by far the most modern engine to ever appear in a Sportster. “Modern” is the name of the Sportster S game, from its rectangular LED headlight to the oversized high-mount exhaust, which evokes the Indian FTR 1200 in my mind. The engine is closer to the one from the V-Rod than the Iron 1200. This is not your father’s Oldsmobile, or Sportster, for that matter.
“Real” or not, the important question is what is it like to ride? At IMS Outdoors, I got to find out. My pure chance riding partner, Paul, and I rode the same two bikes. One had the standard forward foot controls. The other had the optional center controls. Because I have longer legs than Paul, I started on the forward control bike.
I’ve ridden a few Sportster variant motorcycles in the past. The Sportster S is absolutely nothing like them. Forget the name, and don’t even think about trying to compare them. The Sportster S is more similar to the Kawasaki Vulcan S than any previous Sportster. The Vulcan S is a modern-looking cruiser wrapped around a sportbike engine, Kawi’s parallel-twin 650 from a whole bunch of their bikes. Similarly, Harley built the diminutive Sportster S around its new Revolution Max engine. It’s a big engine in a small frame, the classic muscle car formula.
And it goes. The Pan America is plenty quick in its own right, especially when you switch from street to sport mode. The controls on the Sportster S are identical, and the effect is even more pronounced. The standard forward control bike is a mini muscle cruiser. It has gobs of power and torque that propel the bike down the road even quicker than the Pan America, which itself is far from slow.
About halfway through the ride, though, my back started to ache from leaning so far forward to the handlebars. I try not to let such issues get in the way of evaluating a bike, particularly Harleys, because there’s such a wide variety of customizations you can make to place the handlebars where you want them. Still, though, I felt like my body was almost folded in half to operate the forward controls, and it was uncomfortable. I wanted to like the Sportster S, but I can’t ride it if it’s going to hurt me.
Knowing that there was a mid-control bike right next to me, at the end of our first demo ride I sat on the mid-control version. Immediately I knew this would transform the bike for me. I got back in line to try the mid-control Sportster S. The bike deserved another chance. Paul didn’t like the mid-controls, so he got back in line with me to try the forward control version I rode.
Moving the controls back completely transformed the bike for me. I wasn’t bent over or overextended to reach them. In fact, I had much better control over the bike. With the foot pegs under me, I could weight the pegs, lean off the side of the bike, and apply all kinds of riding techniques that I simply couldn’t do with forward controls. My long legs were surprisingly not cramped, despite not being stretched out in front of me. It was actually more comfortable. And because I could really lay into what few corners there were on Harley’s demo route, I felt like this version of the bike literally put the “sport” back into the Sportster. It’s no sport bike, or FTR 1200, to be sure. But it’s a fun small cruiser that isn’t afraid to go around corners. Bring them on.
Paul, on the other hand, enjoyed the forward controls more. He comes from an Electra Glide, which may explain his preference for forward controls. He’s more familiar with them, while I’m more familiar with mid-controls on my KLR and almost every other bike I’ve ever owned. That’s the beauty of a Harley-Davidson. You can customize it to your heart’s content. What works for him doesn’t work for me, and that’s perfectly okay. Harley has the parts to turn mine into the bike I want.
Who’s It For?
I do have to wonder, though, exactly who H-D is making this bike for. It’s absolutely, positively, not a Sportster in the classic sense of the name. It’s much closer to the canceled Bronx, which was going to be a streetfighter type of motorcycle. (At this point I understand why Harley canceled it. It’s too close in style, function, and performance to the Sportster S.) So they’re not going to get buyers who would’ve otherwise bought a Sportster.
With mid-controls, it’s actually a fun sporty bike, but it’s no match for a genuine sportbike. Even the Ninja 650 I rode with almost half the engine displacement would eat the Sportster S for breakfast in the corners, simply because the Sporster S is not a sportbike. If you want a sporty bike, you typically get either a sportbike or a naked sport, not a Vulcan S, and not a Sportster S. So who, exactly, is Harley’s target market here?
Maybe it’s me. As I get older, I find that I appreciate a comfortable cruiser more and more. But I also like to be able to get on it when the mood strikes me. The Sportster S would serve both purposes for me. It’s a cruiser that still lets you be a hooligan when the mood strikes you. Maybe that’s what Harley is going for here, a genuinely H-D take on the idea of a hooligan bike. Now that, I think, would have a target market.
I do hope there are enough people out there interested in a bike like this for it to be a sales success. Harley needs it. From what I saw at IMS Outdoors, the longest demo ride waits at the Harley booth were for the Pan America and the Sportster S, the most non-traditional Harleys there are. If some of those demo rides translate into sales, the Sportster S may become a common sight on the road — perhaps as common as the number of demo bikes I saw cruising up and down the out-and-back demo ride route this weekend.
Starting with the CB750, Honda redefined what a motorcycle should be. The other Japanese manufacturers followed Honda’s lead, resulting in the UJM, or “Universal Japanese Motorcycle.” This left its mark on the motorcycle industry, which has never been the same since.
Ultimate Motorcycling has a great article on the history of Honda’s inline-four bikes, starting with the iconic CB750. While my own 1981 model was no longer the barnstormer the original was, it was still a fun bike, and just what I needed at the time. Truth be told, I originally wanted the Magna parked next to it, but after seeing it was smashed down the left side, my eye moved to the CB750 Custom parked next to it. I have no regrets (though I still want a Magna someday).
The early days of motoring, back in the late 19th century, saw the introduction of speed limits. After all, people were operating their new fangled horseless carriages at ludicrous speeds, exceeding 10 mph in some cases!
Obviously things have changed since then — or have they? RFI reports the city of Paris, France, has just set a citywide speed limit of 30 km/h. That’s 19 mph, barely more than some of the speed limits of the 19th century. The goal, then as well as now, was to improve pedestrian safety, as well as cyclists. (Horses are kind of rare in the city these days.) It’s a growing trend across Europe, though, and elsewhere as well. Last week I stayed in Amesbury, Massachusetts, which just set a 25 mph limit across the entire town. By some strange coincidence, I saw numerous speed traps during my travels around town, on roads designed to safely handle speeds greater than 25.
Let’s remember how things used to be in Paris with this whirlwind tour from Rendezvous, where Claude Lelouch might have broken a speed limit or two himself during filming…
A brief Harley-Davidson press release makes the bold claim that the new Pan America adventure bike is “the #1 selling adventure touring motorcycle in North America.”
Unfortunately, H-D provides no actual sales numbers to back up this claim. While there’s a great deal of interest in the Pan America (and definitely include me in that category), without knowing how many Harley sold compared to the BMW R 1250 GS, the Honda Africa Twin, and all the other usual suspects in the big ADV bike world, and in what timeframe this occurred, such claims are little more than posturing.
Is H-D lying? No, I certainly don’t think so. I’ve started seeing Pan Americas on the road. People in motorcycle Facebook groups I’m on have been posting pictures of their new Pan Americas. They’re definitely selling. Additionally, as Canada Moto Guide points out, it’s entirely possible that the international chip shortage has left certain models built elsewhere in the world high and dry, while Harley doesn’t appear to have had any problems building theirs. I would say their claim is, as Mythbusters would describe it, “plausible.”
It’s also possible that they could be only counting sales on Tuesdays between June 28 and August 7, in Iowa, in counties whose names contain the letter C. Like Obi-Wan Kenobi, such claims can still be true, “from a certain point of view.”
Which is it? I don’t know, and I won’t speculate. I’m not getting down on Harley here. I genuinely want to see the Pan America succeed, not just because I’m an adventure bike rider myself, but also because H-D desperately needs to innovate or die. The Pan America is their best shot at breaking out of the mold they’ve created for themselves, as middle-age riders (like me) seem more interested in ADV bikes than cruisers these days.
I absolutely plan on booking a Pan America demo ride at IMS Outdoors. Stay tuned to read how that goes.
In the “There’s Absolutely No Way Anybody Could’ve Seen This Coming” department, RideApart tells us that shockingly, COVID-19 cases are rising rapidly after more than 500,000 people attended the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Talk about a super-spreader event.
We saw exactly the same thing happen last year. I even wrote about it. By our nature, bikers tend to take more risks than non-bikers. It’s just the way it is. But by now, we know what’s going to happen when 500,000 unmasked people who don’t take the pandemic seriously gather in one place. Even if you don’t believe the science (and you should), just look at what happened last year. Why would you think the same thing wouldn’t happen again this year? Sure, there’s a vaccine now, but many of these people are the same ones who refuse to get it, or don’t believe it’s effective or even real.
People like this are the reason why people like me always failed our group projects in school. Being the smart kid, I shouldered 90% of the work for the group. But because THAT ONE KID refuses to do their small part, ALL of us fail the project. That’s exactly what’s happening with COVID right now, and why infections are on the rise once again.