IMS Makes It Easier To Learn To Ride With New To 2

New IMS initiative lowers barriers to new riders with comprehensive videos, shiftless bikes, and accessibility for all

IMSManny Pandya/Progressive Motorcycle Shows

You’ve seen the reports, right? Recent studies paint a rosy picture for the motorcycle industry. There are greater percentages of women owning bikes, a new study showing that motorcycle riding decreases stress, an uptick in households that have a bike in the garage—that’s all good, great, and excellent news, respectively. But a drumbeat of negativity can still be heard emanating from bean counters, who insist that motorcycle ridership continues to fall. Young millennials (adults born between 1990 and 2000), they say, are only two-thirds as likely to ride as boomers were at this point in their life, and some say student debt is a potential roadblock to motorcycle adoption, as more young adults have college degrees (which equals more debt).

The financial story is one angle, but there’s another roadblock: the barrier to learning. The industry doesn’t just need new buyers, it needs new riders, period. Hoping to, uh, ride to the rescue is the Progressive IMS show and its new Discover the Ride program, which looks to kick down obstacles for non-riders. And one of the components of Discover the Ride is the newly launched NewTo2 rider training program.

Ride Producer Robert Pandya
Discover the Ride Producer Robert Pandya says the new rider initiative is an “absolute success,” and the de-tuned electric Zeros are the perfect tool for non-rider training.Manny Pandya/Progressive Motorcycle Shows

We edited the press release for brevity, but here’s the crux:

The Progressive International Motorcycle Shows (IMS) has announced, an online platform within Discover the Ride dedicated to educating a new generation of riders. Discover the Ride, a forward-thinking initiative that is new to IMS this year, is designed to introduce riding to those interested in motorcycling. The initiative is comprised of five interactive activities including the New Rider Course in partnership with Zero Motorcycles and Yamaha Power Assist Bicycles, the Kid’s Zone presented by Allstate, XDL Wheelie Experience, Dyno Experience, and New To 2.

As a new series of online videos now available to consumers, includes live presentations at IMS, educating new riders about motorcycling. The videos and live presentations at the show guide riders through the different types of motorcycles to choose from, the gear needed, how to get started and tons of advice for the journey into motorcycling.

“It is amazing to introduce individuals to motorcycling who are interested in riding but don’t have any experience due to the barriers to entry for new riders,” said Tracy Harris, senior vice president, Powersports, UBM. “Discover the Ride provides the proper gear, proper training in a closed, safe course, and is proving to be a gateway for non-riders to get on two wheels and say, ‘This is fun, I can do this!’ ”

Across four stops on the IMS Tour (Long Beach, New York, Dallas, and Cleveland), 3,428 of participants enjoyed the five interactive riding zones; 26 percent of those were non-riders and 762 of those non-riders completed the New Rider Course. Participants started on Yamaha Power Assist bicycles then graduated to Zero motorcycles customized for new riders, with Total Control trainers looking on and offering guidance. Eighty-one percent of the non-riders are planning to start motorcycling, with 448 of them planning to learn within a year.

Of non-rider participants, 50 percent have been women, reinforcing the growing interest the industry and IMS alike have seen from the female demographic. Discover the Ride is also attractive to the younger generation; 62 percent of non-riders participating are under 35.

That’s a lot to digest, and with the DTR live program winding down at the Chicago IMS next week, we sat down to unpack those numbers with two insiders. Meredith Loza is Marketing Manager for the Progressive International Motorcycle Show, while longtime industry vet, PR guy, and Big Thinker Robert Pandya is a producer for the Discover the Ride feature at IMS. The initiative launched just this year and according to both, is enjoying great success.

What's the overall hope for this particular initiative? What's the endgame?

Meredith Loza: We debuted Discover the Ride and New To 2 at our first show of the tour in November. We believe that current motorcyclists are really the best ambassadors for the sport. So what we're doing is encouraging all our attendees who come out to the Progressive International Motorcycle shows to bring their friends and family who are prospective riders. Have them get on a motorcycle for the first time in a non-intimidating environment, on a Zero motorcycle that is speed-limited for them, and partner them up with an instructor. We have Total Control there on site and…really give them the confidence to take those next steps to becoming a motorcyclist. And so our goal is to just put more new riders on motorcycles…but we don't reach every market…so we also developed the page and that's a series of more than 20 videos for new riders. What To Expect When You Go Into The Dealership, Why It's Important To Start Out On A Small Motorcycle.… That we also cover at the shows.

New Rider Course
On the closed New Rider Course, participants can hop on a clutchless, detuned Zero electric motorcycle with instructors from Total Control offering advice.Manny Pandya/Progressive Motorcycle Shows

Is there additional Information available afterward as a follow-up for riders at the shows who are interested?

ML: Something we'll start when we conclude the tour is reaching back out to all those non-riders and steering them to the New Rider Course or listening to a New To 2 presentation…reaching back out and helping guide them through those next steps.

So you're gathering info from these folks at the shows?

ML: We are. We want to learn about who they are, what their age demographic is, what are their other interests… So that we can really identify more and more prospective riders as we continue this program and help them on their journey.

The show tour hasn't concluded yet, but do you have an idea of which demographic has so far expressed the most interest?

ML: Discover the Ride is open to all experience levels, right, so you can be an experienced motorcyclist and come check it out.… But it's definitely geared toward new riders. But everyone who signed up—of the non-riders—52 percent are female, which is very encouraging. And 62 percent of them are under 35. Also something that I find really encouraging is that 82 percent of the non-riders who have participated say they're planning to start.

IMS Discover the Ride program
Eighty-two percent of the non-riders who have participated in the IMS Discover the Ride program say they want to take the next step.Manny Pandya/Progressive Motorcycle Shows

And Robert Pandya says that’s where current riders can help give an extra nudge in that direction.

“We as an industry have not always welcomed newcomers. "The purpose of reviving the New To 2 series was to bring it a more modern rhythm. It’s not meant to entertain veteran riders—that veteran rider can turn around and say, ‘Hey, new rider guy, watch a bunch of these videos on and you can learn some of the basic stuff.’ ”

He also says the format is really newbie-friendly too, with the electric bikes proving to be a great fit for the job at hand:

“When you eliminate the complexity of riding—manipulating a clutch,… which way do you shift, what does this foot do—you get into what an electric motorcycle does…and how easily it can operate as a Step One training tool. You spend day one on a riding course actually learning to move.…”

Pandya’s been on the floor at every show, and we asked him how Discover the Ride has been received:

“This has been an absolute success. (Even if…) it’s like the end of the night, and the floor is getting dead… We always have people waiting to ride,” he says.

Is there any plan to keep this thing going elsewhere, say, in other markets?

Robert Pandya: There are talks about continuing this outside the IMS Show schedule in general. This is the most compelling and exportable part of the IMS Show. Discover the Ride is a really compelling thing. And a really amazing way to bring motorcycling to the masses.

Cleveland IMS
At the Cleveland IMS, this first-time rider got huge support from his biggest cheerleader—his son.Manny Pandya/Progressive Motorcycle Shows

More information on this weekend's Chicago IMS Show can be found here

For a better look at Discover the Ride, here’s a video overview: