While many industries took a big hit because of the COVID 19 Pandemic, the motorcycle industry experienced something of a boom, with sales up just about across the board. Seems people being cooped up and unable to work had them dreaming of and buying bikes galore.
One part of motorcycling that did take a hit, though, was the annual cross-country tour of motorcycle shows formerly known as the Progressive International Motorcycle Tour.
“Our last show was in Chicago in February (of 2020) before anyone had even gotten a single vaccination,” said Robert Pendaya, who promotes the Discover the Ride event to bring new riders into the sport.
Indeed, like almost every large indoor event planned for 2020 and the beginning of 2021, the Progressive Tour was cancelled last year. But, like most things that came to pass that year, there was a silver lining.
“We were already planning to shift to an outdoor set of venues, because that’s where you want to ride, anyway, outdoors” Pendaya said.
So what had been a wintertime, indoor tour of shows inside large arenas, has switched to a series of nine outdoor shows held at interesting locations outside. Thus we present the 2021 Progressive IMS Outdoors, coming to a city near you very soon.
The first stop, going on right now this very weekend (July 16-18), is in the Sonoma Raceway paddock, just north of San Francisco. Not only will there be the usual collection of motorcycle manufacturers displaying their wares, but there will be numerous ways in which you can throw a leg over a motorcycle and ride.
You might be familiar with typical demos rides, and those will be available at the shows, too. I myself took a lovely 24-mile loop through the wine country around Sonoma Raceway on an all-electric Zero SR/S street bike, followed by a short, paved loop on the grounds of Sonoma Raceway on the just-released Zero FXE. More on those in a subsequent story. But you can ride any number of bikes from Suzuki, Yamaha, Harley, Husqvarna and whichever other moto manufacturers are on the tour stop you happen to attend.
To get new riders acquainted with the sport there is a program called “Discover The Ride.”
“Discover The Ride by IMS gives prospective riders of all ages the unique opportunity to ride for the first time in a safe and controlled environment,” read a statement from IMS. “Participants are invited to immerse themselves in the world of motorcycling through the Adult New Rider Course, Kids Zone, Wheelie Machine and more.”
Yes, there’s a Wheelie Machine. Sit on it, rev the engine and pop a real wheelie on a roller that, we are told, feels very much like the real thing.
For new riders there is also a chance to get on real, powered two-wheelers and do a few slow laps around a closed course with full riding gear.
“The New Rider Course is the only course in the market that allows non-licensed motorcyclists to experience, first-hand, the thrill of 2-wheels,” states IMS. “Participants will first enjoy and demonstrate balance and proficiency on Yamaha Power Assist electric bicycles and then move on to learning motorcycle riding basics from instructors, using a fleet of speed-limited electric Zero Motorcycles in a safe and controlled environment. Zero Motorcycles have no transmission and feature ABS as standard equipment.”
One of the main goals of the Progressive IMS Outdoors shows is and has always been to bring in younger riders.
“We’re the first rung on that ladder,” said Ryan McFarland, ceo and founder of Strider, maker of bicycles for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. “75% of kids won’t ride a bike this year, we’ve got to change that.”
So kids will be able to get on appropriately sized bikes in the Progressive IMS Outdoors Kids Zone. Strider is also participating in something called All Kids Bike Program as part of kindergartens across the country.
Everything is aimed at getting more people to discover the fun of two wheels, both powered and pedal, to address what Zero Motorcycle’s Dan Quick called “A new-ridership crisis.” The dearth of new riders is, as they might say in diplomatic circles, an existentialist threat to motorcycling. How can you do your part? Take a few buddies – or a few kids – to one stop on the nine-city Progressive IMS Outdoors tour. They might like it. You might like it. Try it, it’s fun!
Northern California Sonoma Raceway July 16-18
Chicago Aug. 20-22 Goebbert’s Farm, Pine Grove, IL
New York City Sept. 3-5, Brooklyn Army Terminal, Brooklyn, NY
Pennsylvania Sept. 10-12 Carlisle Fairgrounds Carlisle, PA
Texas Oct. 1-3 Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth, TX
Nashville Oct. 8-10 James E. Ward Agricultural Center Lebanon, PA
Central Florida Oct. 15-17 Sun N Fun Campus Lakeland, FL
Atlanta Oct. 29-31 Georgia Intl. Horse Park Conyers, GA
Southern California Nov. 19-21 TBA
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