Bike Shows–Where To Go

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BIG MARKETING IS commonly branded as a “motorcycle show,” but the industry uses that term very loosely. The International Motorcycle Show (IMS) began in 1982 and is currently hosted annually in seven major U.S. cities. Considering all the doom and gloom coming from mainstream media, I was pleasantly surprised by the immense turnout in Chicago this year. However, the event had no demo rides, thanks to the cold, snowy weather. The stunt show was sequestered in a tiny corner, surrounded by booths and hard to see. The customs were spread out, making voting difficult. Cross-referencing U.S. population centers with motorcycle registrations showed some questionable market selections for IMS. For instance, there’s only one show in California, which has twice as many registered bikes as any other state. Florida has the second most motorcyclists, but no show. Third most is Texas, with one show. Yet, Minnesota got a show— thank you, Polaris. IMS also doesn’t visit Georgia or North Carolina, with combined access to more than half a million warm-weather motorcyclists. The other big show is American International Motorcycle Expo (AIMExpo), created by the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC). It was originally held in Florida, then moved to Columbus, Ohio, and settles this year in Las Vegas—a hot spot, but not for motorcyclists. Does including foreign bikes make these American shows International?

A MIDSIZE ALTERNATIVE is Mama Tried (photo above) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, also in February. This up-and-coming rave party includes a bar meet with custom builders, hooligan racing in the NBA arena with after-party, weekend trade show with custom bikes and vendors, followed by live bands Saturday night and ice racing Sunday afternoon. This segmented experience left much to be desired, taking place close to and sponsored by Harley-Davidson. Parking was disorganized. There was a 30-minute outdoor line in the freezing cold, followed by confusion at the box office. Finding the custom bikes was like playing Where’s Waldo?, entailing a climb of four flights of stairs and wading through throngs of beer-swilling bikers. Vendors were strung along the side walls on different floors, with no apparent organization. The frisking and metal detectors at the door seemed irrelevant after spotting a vendor selling knives inside. A screening in the basement promoted some interesting titles, but was merely folding chairs in a bar with a projector filling one quarter of the screen. Mama didn’t Tried hard enough. Riders can find the same “underground marketing” vibe at the One Moto Show in Portland, Revival Cycles Handbuilt Show in Austin, Texas, or the Brooklyn Invitational in New York. To see actual motorcycles, go for the racing or visit on a Sunday morning.

THAT LEAVES RALLIES. Sturgis and Daytona are well-known for crowds and drunken debauchery. Harley’s big 115th shindig this year is rumored to have a more “block-party” and less “festival” vibe. For motorcyclists, there are saner events, like the BMWMOA, Wing Ding, and MCN’s perennial favorite, Americade (page 25), where we will be participating this year. It’s good to have options.