With a press pass in hand, in addition to the show, I got the opportunity to have a little back and forth with the folks behind the scenes at the Progressive International Motorcycle Show. While in the past I’ve been mostly preoccupied with the hottest new bike at the show, I admit I’ve seen the exhibition evolve a bit each year, especially in the last two. While we, unfortunately, didn’t get the chance to shake hands and have a longer discussion, I did get the chance to exchange e-mails with Tracy Harris, Senior Vice President with Progressive International Motorcycle Shows. Below you’ll find the transcript from our short exchange, where Tracy, much more eloquently, expands on my comments about Discover the Ride, along with wider details about IMS.
(In case you missed it, you can also see my write-up on the rest of the show HERE)
Moto Adventurer: Besides manufacturers and new models, what’s new at the International Motorcycle Show for 2020?
Tracy Harris: This season the tour has stops in eight cities across the U.S., including Denver, a market we have not been in for years. As we continue to display the hottest gear and vehicles at each stop, this year we evolved our popular show attractions. Back for the second year, Discover the Ride is now a more complete program both at the shows and beyond, with increased guidance from our NewTo2 hosts and local riding schools. We also introduced new DIY workshops at the Vintage at IMS where attendees can learn from their local garage builders and experts how to restore and build custom bikes. Additionally, the SHIFT area at IMS is also expanding with great new moto lifestyle brands like Revzilla at the show.
MA: What has average attendance been like for IMS Cleveland the last few years?
TH: Across the tour, including Cleveland, we’re seeing minor shifts up and down annually in our attendance—but overall the attendance has remained consistent and reflects the state of the industry. While sales have been flat and baby boomers are slowly aging out of the market, there is a shift towards a new audience of younger riders.
MA: A lot of news articles have suggested that new bike sales are down, have you seen any correlation between these types of stories and attendance?
TH: The industry is in the midst of a demographic shift. As baby boomers are aging out, millennials and Gen X’ers are entering the market, many of whom are actually entering the industry through the secondary/used market. In fact, we saw a 25% increase of younger attendees (under the age of 35) in the past four years (2014/2015 through 2018/2019 tour) in addition to an increase in female riders.
MA: There’s been a lot of focus on attracting new riders to the sport as of late, what changes or features has IMS added in recent years (or this year) to help attract new riders?
TH: In addition to providing a platform for attendees to connect with their local riding community to share their passion for two-wheels, it is our mission to continue to grow the motorcycle community and ensure those interested in learning and becoming riders are given the opportunity and tools to do so. Last tour we launched “Discover the Ride,” a first of its kind program in the Powersports industry, specifically designed to introduce riding motorcycles to consumers of all ages through a New Rider Course, educational seminars within New To 2, The Kids Zone, and a dyno and Wheelie Experience. By the end of the season, more than 2,000 potential brand-new riders participated in the Discover the Ride course with more than 6,800 overall participants.
Following Discover the Ride’s successful implementation into the 2018/2019 IMS tour, this year we introduced an extension of the program dubbed “Next Steps.” Next Steps represents an evolution of the program by helping new riders get trained as part of their journey to becoming formally licensed. In alliance with the Academy of Motorcycle Operation (AMO) – an organization that provides quality motorcyclist training in a safe, positive learning environment – AMO has offered IMS-sponsored courses. As Discover the Ride helps riders identify that they want to ride, Next Steps takes the extra step of breaking down more barriers to entry by getting new riders formally licensed.
MA: I’m obviously a big adventure enthusiast, so I’m anxious to check out “Adventure Out!” this year. I also see “Shift” and the “Vintage Garage” sections listed at the show this year, how have these new features been received (Cleveland and elsewhere)?
TH: Motorcyclists are part of a tight-knit community with multiple lifestyle segments depending on what you’re passionate about. SHIFT has been met with a great response from our attendees that enjoy the new modern gear that fits their personal taste, tour-wide. Vintage is always a top-rated attraction at the show. This year, we gave Vintage a tune-up with the addition of restoration and DIY workshops. I highly recommend attendees check out the vintage bikes while at the show and speak to the preservers who are a wealth of knowledge!
MA: What’s your personal favorite part of the show?
TH: We launched IMS in 1982. In our 39th year, we are proud to be the nation’s largest consumer motorcycle tour providing motorcycle enthusiasts access to hundreds of the latest models from top manufacturers and premier aftermarket brands. In addition to being able to meet and build a relationship with local dealers, IMS is a special place for enthusiasts to connect with their local riding community and share their passion for two-wheels. In recent years, I personally love how the shows have evolved to become truly experiential. No matter your age or skill level, we have something at IMS that helps you grow as a rider and become part of a tight-knit community.
MA: Aside from weather and local vendors, what makes the Cleveland show different than say Chicago or Denver?
TH: The Cleveland riding community is one of the strongest. For most Cleveland attendees, IMS Cleveland serves as a reunion where friends meet and discuss their latest riding adventures—all the while getting to see the latest models from their favorite OEMs.
MA: Are there future plans or changes to the IMS that you can share with us?
TH: Every year we explore how to continue the evolution of IMS, and those discussions are guided by the on-site and post-show research and conversations we have with our exhibitors and attendees. Right now, the research is not finalized but rest assured, the IMS team strives to make the show better and more fun each year.
MA: Has there been any discussion about trying different locations for future shows, like Columbus or Cincinnati?
TH: There is a thriving and passionate community of motorcycle enthusiasts in every city we travel to and we’re always striving to reach as many people that love riding and the lifestyle of it as possible. Every year we work with our partners to determine the best markets for that year. We recognize there are passionate communities of motorcyclists across the country; we’re always looking for and considering new opportunities, such as our return to Denver this year.
What sets IMS apart from other motorcycle events?
Tracy: Compared to other events like rallies, IMS is a one-stop-shop for all a rider’s needs. From the latest helmets to stylish jackets, we have it all. Nearly half, 47% of our attendees make purchases at the shows, spending an average of $488. The most popular purchased items are riding gear and parts & accessories. Moreover, 44% of IMS attendees have reported that they are in-market to buy a new or used vehicle, and 75% of those say they plan to do so within the next 12 months.