TMW staff writers Eric and Carrie Leaverton hopped a flight to Dallas recently to cover the Progressive International Motorcycle Show! Despite every storefront in Dallas offering an $11 margarita, they managed to keep their wits about them and brought back plenty of great information about IMS 2020. The theme was “Riders Unite”, and it was an excellent show with lots to do. Read on!
IMS 2020 – Rider’s Unite!
Everywhere you go in the motorcycling industry right now, you’ll find one theme front and center. New rider outreach. Dallas IMS 2020 was no exception to this rule. There was the usual compliment of manufacturer booths, product demos and guest speakers, but this years show went beyond that standard fare. Whole swaths of the exhibit floor were devoted to “Discover the Ride”, an initiative by Progressive to make motorcycling accessible to newcomers. Now in it’s second year, “Discover the Ride” allows showgoers without motorcycle licenses to get on a bike and taste the thrill of two wheels.
Underlying that theme was another, more subtle thread woven throughout. The electric revolution. It makes sense, really. Electrics are easier to showcase indoors, primarily due to emissions but also noise. If you want to put hundreds of newcomers on motorcycles at an indoor venue, electrics are your friend. They were used with great effect and it all came together wonderfully.
STACYC Kids Zone at IMS 2020
It all starts at the STACYC Kids Zone, where small children can ride a STACYC eDrive bike around a padded, closed course. Recommended age and weight limits are 3 years old and 75 pounds, but everyone is assessed individually. Depending on their skill level, there’s also the option of riding with electric assist. This is a fun, approachable way to introduce children to powered bicycling, a natural starting point for motorcycles.
There were kids on the STACYC course every minute we were at the show, the activity never slowed down. Kids tore around the track just as fast as their parents would let them, while onlookers cheered them on. There may even have been bets placed. Of course I’m kidding.
New Rider Course at IMS 2020
For the older crowd looking for a first taste of powered riding, IMS 2020 offers the New Rider Course. This activity has a lot of contributors, and I’d be remiss not to mention them all. Cycle Gear is there, providing helmets, jackets, and gloves to all comers. Yamaha is present, supplying several models from their electric bicycle lineup. They hand off to Zero to provide true motorcycles, and all this under the watchful eye of instructors from the Lee Parks Total Control motorcycle school. The course is geared towards people with little to no experience with motorcycles at all, and is open to riders as young as 16 years old with parental permission. We let our 17 year old son participate at Dallas IMS 2020, and he had a great time.
It starts with the Yamaha bicycles. You put on a basic bicycling helmet and get a few minutes instruction about how the bikes work. Then you head out, pedals and all, onto the circular course. Two laps at low assist, two laps at a higher level of assist, and then a few laps at the next assist level. All this is done to prove you can balance on two wheels and negotiate two 180° left turns. Pass muster with all of that, and you’re off the races, my boy!
Take Zero FXS
Cycle Gear outfits you with equipment, and then you take to the course again. This time though, instead of bicycles, you’re on a Zero FXS that’s been electronically limited to 12mph. With anti-lock brakes, a clutchless automatic transmission and a 32.9″ seat height, the FXS is infinitely approachable. There’s really nothing to it, just twist and go. With no clutch or shift lever to figure out, balance really is the only prerequisite. In just a few minutes, riders with absolutely no experience whatsoever are circling the course at a reasonable pace. The Total Control instructors sound off with timely tips, mostly “turn your head!”. These people are riding motorcycles for the first time in their lives, with almost no instruction and minimal investment, literally just the price of their admission. Brilliant.
Onward and Upward
Moving forward from the New Rider’s Course, there’s still more to experience.
It’s no secret that shifting is one of the most intimidating factors for new riders, so they give you a chance to try it out. First you pick your weapon. On one side, a Harley-Davidson StreetRod 750. On the other, a Yamaha MT-07. Both bikes are bolted and strapped down, rear tire positioned on roller bearings. You climb on, fire up the bike, and accelerate through the gears as best you can. They ask you not to flirt with the redline, of course. The Harley-Davidson handler asks you to keep it under 55, while the guy running the Yamaha paddock says 60. It’s a lot of fun, and new riders get a chance to experiment with shifting without having to worry about anything else.
The Wheelie Machine
If all that’s a little too pedestrian for you, IMS 2020 will let you get your hooligan on, too. The Wheelie Machine.
You begin with a simulated wheelie to get the feel of it. The throttle and rear brake are wired to a hydraulic piston beneath the bike, calibrated to simulate a wheelie. Throttle to go up, brake to come back down, and dialed in to work best at the balance point. It’s harder than it sounds, and it really helps you get a feel for the technique before you do it on the live bike.
Once again, the humble Zero FXS provides the platform for the actual wheelie. An experienced stunt rider offers some instruction before cutting you loose, and continues to provide tips through a helmet communicator once you’re off and running. As in the other activities, the rear tire is bolted down solidly to a rolling deck. The front tire, though, is free to move. Physics being what physics is, you pin the throttle and the front tire comes up. Then it’s just a matter off finding the balance point and using the brake and throttle to hold the wheelie. This is just as much fun as it sounds, and I could have spent hours on the machine if they had let me. Instead you get about five or six minutes, enough time to try four or five times to keep the bike up.
Check out this video of Carrie riding the Wheelie Machine!
Goin’ Shoppin’ at IMS 2020!
After all that, of course, anyone would have the bug to buy a bike. Several primary manufacturers were present at the show, displaying hundreds of motorcycles. All the regulars were there, like Harley-Davidson, Honda and Kawasaki, as well as a couple of boutique brands like Husqvarna and MV Agusta. Friendly, knowledgeable sales staff and corporate representatives were on hand to answer questions and receive feedback. And nearly everyone was offering lucrative dealer coupons in exchange for a few survey questions and, of course, a phone number.
Not only did Harley-Davidson have multiple LiveWires in their exhibit, they were offering a paddock ride on one as well. Eric took the opportunity to rev one up, and the 0-80 performance is STUNNING. Watch below:
Of course, small and fast isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.
Live Action Stunt Shows!
In addition to all the rest of the happenings at the show, there was also a people’s choice custom bike contest. All over the exhibit floor, beautiful custom bikes were on display with registration numbers. Kiosks throughout the venue were set up for passer-by to log in and vote for their favorites.
And, to be sure, there were plenty of passer-by in attendance. This picture is from Saturday, January 4th.
Of course, no motorcycle expo is complete without a brilliant city hosting it. Dallas was very kind to us, and we had a lot of fun enjoying the charms of the city. We’re excited to go back in 2021!
*Our cover image show our Total Motorcycle staff writer Carrie Leaverton on The Wheelie Machine at the Stunt Show, go Carrie!
There’s still time to attend one of these great shows for the 2020 circuit! As of the time of this writing, shows are pending for the following locations and dates:
Denver, CO – January 17th – 19th
Cleveland, OH – January 24th – 26th
Minneapolis, MN – January 31st – February 2nd
Chicago, IL – February 7th – 9th
Visit www.motorcycleshows.com for more information!