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 show previously known as the International Motorcycle Shows has had to transmogrify itself in the age of COVID. They’ve changed from the standard indoor show format to IMS Outdoors, an outdoor festival of all things on two wheels, adding demo rides and electric mobility to their existing Discover the Ride and Ride with Us programs for new riders. (RideApart has all the details.)
I’ve supported IMS in the past, and am happy to accept their invitation to join them at IMS Outdoors Pennsylvania, taking place at the Carlisle Fairgrounds on September 10-12. I’m looking forward to seeing what it’s all about, talking with people, trying some bikes I haven’t had the chance to ride before, and sharing all that with you. Watch for our coverage in mid-September!
After the last-minute cancellation of the New York International Auto Show, manufacturers who had planned to unveil new models there are starting to so it online instead. Lincoln has pulled the covers off the 2022 Navigator, Kia has shown us the 2022 Sorento plug-in hybrid, and Hyundai took the wrapper off the sporty 2022 Elantra N. All of these were supposed to be shown to the public for the first time at NYIAS.
Absent from these online reveals, at least so far, is the 2022 Subaru WRX. We were also supposed to see it in New York, but alas that is not to be.
It would’ve been a brilliant move to instead reveal it at last weekend’s Climb to the Clouds race up Mt. Washington, NH. Subaru is the title sponsor, and Travis Pastrana’s new record-breaking time already had all the media attention. It would’ve been the perfect setting, both logistically and philosophically, to see the new WRX for the first time. The Airslayer STI is arguably the ultimate evolution of the current car, probably the fastest one we’ll ever see. The next logical step is to begin with the next generation car, which could have appeared there as well.
I’m still looking forward to seeing it when it eventually does come out. As the past owner of a 2015 WRX, I want to see how they improved on what I had.
The ‘Rona continues to ruin everything. IMS Outdoors has announced the cancellation of their 2021 event in Brooklyn, New York.
“As a result of the state of New York’s recent decision to enforce proof of vaccination and rapid testing for public events of scale, we have made the difficult decision to cancel the New York event,” said IMS Outdoors in an Instagram post. “This is a choice that we firmly believe is in the best interest of our attendee and exhibit communities for both their safety and event experience.” IMS Outdoors will refund all tickets for the NYC event within 7-10 days.
“We remain confident that the other Progressive IMS Outdoors events on the 2021 schedule, each with less restrictive health and safety mandates, will continue as planned, including the Pennsylvania event happening September 10-12 at the Carlisle Fairgrounds.” IMS Outdoors encourages anyone who was planning to attend the NYC event to go to Pennsylvania instead.
While the COVID-19 safety concern is legitimate, I think that in addition to the delta variant running rampant, the real issue here is suddenly being required to implement the new safety protocols so close to the event. It’s a huge amount of extra work that no one had planned on. Additionally, no one wants to be the bouncer who has to throw an angry biker out of the show for not complying with these requirements. Just look at Sturgis to see how many bikers think little of COVID-19 safety precautions.
I take the pandemic seriously, but I don’t blame IMS Outdoors for canceling the NYC show at all. This isn’t about not wanting to comply. It’s about being put into an impossible situation at the last minute with no time to prepare properly.