The 40+ year motorcycle show closes its doors

I got the call while driving out to the Scull Shoals ADV/Dual Sport Ride, a call I’d been expecting but with different content and purpose. Leah with the International Motorcycle Shows Outdoors dialed me up, not to discuss details of our 2nd year partnership with them, but to inform me the shows were all abruptly being cancelled. “We’ve made the difficult decision to suspend all of the 2022 shows,” she informed me, “we just made the decision today.”

I was stunned. As my Millenial daughters might exclaim, “Wait, what??” I asked her, “What has happened, if I may ask?” Leah replied, “The unfortunate reality we’ve had to face is that many of the big industry players that we rely on to produce a strong series of shows either pulled out of this year’s tour, or chose to only exhibit in a few select markets. So, I’m afraid we’re forced to suspend the business for the foreseeable future.”

“With the international supply chain problems of the past couple of years,” Leah continued, “I think many of the manufacturers that in 2021 were able to bring large numbers of demo bikes to the shows, can’t get enough new inventory this year to make it worth their time and investment, so had pull out. We were shocked ourselves, when we realized we wouldn’t have the budget and couldn’t sustain what we had plans to produce this season. It broke our hearts to have to do this, but we saw no other choice.”

When I inquired as to whether she thought the IMS Outdoors events might return for 2023 or beyond, she of course couldn’t speculate. “We’d love to restart the shows at some point, but we just don’t see how right now. Hopefully down the road, we’ll be back in a position to revive them.”

I’ve long been a fan of the International Motorcycle Shows here in the States, beginning with their winter convention center events which made multiple stops around the country after each new year, until they cancelled their Atlanta stop about 10 years ago. But when we learned of the retooling that Informa Markets (the parent company) did with IMS Outdoors, moving to an open-air demo rides format across the summer-fall months for 2021, we at Road Dirt were absolutely enthralled with the idea. We so believed in their new outdoor format that we entered a partnership with them to help promote the concept and the shows, and attended a few ourselves.

The 2021 IMSD Outdoors festivals we felt struck all the right notes in the motorcycling community last year, after two years of pandemic hysteria, strict lockdowns across the country and world, commerce grinding to a halt, and all the resultant isolation people felt from each other and life around them. The IMS Outdoors threw the gates open to enjoy not merely admiring and straddling motorcycles in some enclosed convention center (fully masked, I might add), but throttling off into the wide open spaces on those bikes, interacting with brand reps about the bikes, and just enjoying a weekend on the roads or in the dirt sampling a variety of new motorcycles. What could be better than that?

And yet in our observations, some show stops did notably better than others. Attendance, as we understood, was very high in places like Southern California, yet the Atlanta show got a fair amount of rain and cooler temps, and attendance was not what they’d hoped for. That’s a risk with any outdoor event, obviously. Yet I still felt they were on to something special, going outdoors in the warm months and putting patrons on motorcycles, out on the roads and trails. “An idea whose time had come,” I once told Lauren with IMS. They all agreed, and the whole team at IMS Outdoors was filled with a palpable enthusiasm across 2021. “We all so enjoyed the shows last year,” Leah recounted, “we are very sad to have to pull the plug this year.”

The official IMS Outdoors press release noted, “The powersports industry is at a crossroads with where and how brands promote their products amidst the continued manufacturing and sourcing delays associated with the pandemic. These current hurdles that our brand partners are facing would have made it difficult for us to produce an IMS that would meet your, and our, expectations.”

Here’s hoping the conditions will improve over time, the industry will rebound, and these fantastic shows will one day return.

The Road Dirt Crew

2 Comments

  1. Peter

    Saddened to hear this. Was a great show over the years and well represented and attended; at least in Atlanta.

    Reply
    • Rob Brooks

      We had heard that the Atlanta show, and a few others, didn’t have the attendance they’d hoped for, but they understood that it was an entirely new format, during a different time of year, after a pandemic, so it might take a few years to really rebuild.
      Just shocked and saddened they pulled the trigger on it.

      Reply

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