Road Dirt Attends The IMS Outdoors Weekend In Conyers, Georgia
There are motorcycle industry conventions, motorcycle shows or every style and stripe, regional expos that feature local vendors and dealerships, and then there is the Progressive International Motorcycle Shows Outdoors. Simply stated, there is not another motorcycling showcase event on the planet quite like the IMS Outdoors.
Attendees can literally ride new motorcycles from participating brands all day, bike after bike, one after another, of every type they carry. Name for me another large scale motorcycle event where riders can enjoy that level of accessibility and experience. Nothing else comes to mind for me.
Demo bikes coming and going all day, all three days.
We attended the Atlanta show of the 2021 IMS Outdoors event, held this year at the Georgia International Horse Park in Conyers, site of the 1996 Olympic equestrian events. This is not an exposition, where riders can straddle a new bike then wonder what it feels like to ride. Nor is it some museum-style convention where enthusiasts can “look but do not touch” all the latest and greatest offerings by the big brands. The IMS Outdoors events are tactile, hands-on, visceral experiences with riders hopping on the motorcycle(s) of their choosing, then throttling off on preplanned multi-mile loops, actually riding what they are interested in. Did we mention all three days?
Lauren Lloyd, PR and Communications Director for the IMS Outdoors, remarked, “This is our first year being outdoors after 41 years, and the response has been great! Its so hands-on, so immersive, the brands and the fans have been very enthusiastic about our outdoor plan.” That’s almost poetic. And she’s right- we were able to move bike to bike, brand to brand, type to type (cruiser, sport, ADV, standard, etc.) and ride different motorcycles all three days of this. This is what a motorcycle expo should be, should always have been.
HUGE shoutout to this year’s participating brands- Harley-Davidson, Indian, Triumph, Royal Enfield, Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha, Kawasaki, and Zero Motorcycles. BMW, KTM and LiveWire were set up at other venues and dates, but didn’t bring their wares to the Atlanta show.
Phil sampled a Triumph 1200 Scrambler, a young gal rolling out on an Indian Scout, and me about to test a H-D Sportster S.
For decades, the IMS was an indoor, static convention, generally held in the winter to early spring months across the country, like so many other convention style events over the years. With the worldwide Covid crisis of 2020, as well as studies showing the decline in motorcycle riding over the past 15+ years, the IMS braintrust put their collective heads together, dreamed outside the box, and birthed the idea to move the show outside. In an attempt to rekindle a passion for riding, especially after Covid shut everything down and everyone in for so long, the IMS crew rescheduled their events for the summer and fall, sought outdoor venues, and pitched the idea to the major brands of bringing their demo fleets to these outdoor events, letting people ride their motorcycles out on open roads, in real riding situations. Moto brands and support industry brands jumped on the idea, and the IMS Outdoors was born.
The shift has paid off, with not only well-attended events across their schedule, but many new, potential and young riders joining in the action. What has been encouraging as well is the IMS vision to grow powersports participation in America again, by offering and promoting new rider acclimation initiatives like Strider All-Kids Ride, Discover The Ride, and Ride With Us. We talked with several attendees who completed the Discover the Ride experience, conducted on detuned electric Zero motorcycles, and some who did the Ride With Us course, done on small gas powered bikes, who told us how much they appreciated and enjoyed the experience.
Discover The Ride, Strider All Kids Bike Zone, and Ride With Us in the grass.
One young guy named Evan told me upon completing a Ride With Us session, “I’ve always thought motorcyclists were cool, but I’d never really considered riding motorcycles myself. When my friends encouraged me to come with them today and pushed me to try this, I was a little apprehensive. But I’m so glad I did. These coaches are encouraging, very informative, and made it fun to learn. I’m planning to take an MSF class next, so I can get my motorcycle license.” Welcome to the fold, Evan.
We talked with Robert Pandya, industry veteran and unofficial “America’s motorcycling ambassador” in our estimation, who remarked how important these new rider initiatives are to the sport, and the impetus behind the IMS Outdoors paradigm shift to a demo ride format. He told us, “That first feeling of the wind, being in control of this thing that moves you faster than your feet can, it’s such an addictive thing… ‘Discover The Ride’ isn’t training, not a replacement for the MSF course, but it’s managing that first experience so it’s a positive one, so people can get off the bike and feel successful at that level. That’s the basis of ‘Discover The Ride’, that we as an industry can make motorcycling more approachable.”
A Harley Pan America rolling out with Zero Motorcycles beyond, Mosko Moto’s impressive setup, and Royal Enfields returning from a loop.
The IMS Outdoors format is working, as riders were pouring into the venue all weekend, despite the threats of inclement weather Friday and Saturday. By Sunday, the skies cleared, the temps warmed, and the final day crowds were even bigger, and demo bikes were constantly cycling (pun intended) in and out of the park, all day. Phil and I were among them. Each day, after we completed interviews, shot plenty of photos and footage, we signed up and hopped on demos, riding to our hearts delight.
We met many of the support industry brands that were in attendance, such as National Cycle, Liqui-Moly, and Mosko Moto, an ADV gear and apparel company in White Salmon WA. Everyone had demo equipment that patrons could view on bikes, see and feel how they fit, and try for themselves. It doesn’t get any more hands-on than at an IMS weekend. We came away totally impressed and enthused.
Indians heading out on course, the main causeway with bikes coming and going, and two satisfied new riders at Ride With Us.
There’s one final stop on the IMS Outdoors tour this year, as the show concludes November 19-21 at the Orange County Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa, CA. For more info and to purchase tickets, click here:
*photos by Phil Gauthier, Rob Brooks
*Check out our video review of the weekend, without ever leaving this page: