In Defense of Motorcycle Shows

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Kickstands & Kevlar is a blog hosted by Overland Expo’s own Motorcycle Community Ambassador, Eva Rupert.

Follow Eva @augusteva.

A couple weeks ago, I spent a beautiful SoCal autumn weekend inside, under a sunless ceiling of ruthless fluorescent lights (bear with me, I’m just being dramatic to set the scene). I was pushing the limits of my extroversion to the max and attending the IMS, Progressive’s International Motorcycle Show for 48 hours of pure Powersports Industry immersion. I was sauntering around with a herd of camera-snapping press folks, chatting about upcoming rides, oohing and ahhing about engine displacement upgrades, and taking notes on the two-wheel offerings coming down the production line for 2020. We meandered from one unveiling to the next, each motorcycle maker brandishing their newest and shiniest offerings for the upcoming year.

Prior to attending the event, I was poking around on the online forums and IMS social media teasings to familiarize myself with the upcoming big reveals (so I could be well armed to write a blog post, of course). However, one conversation caught my eye that had nothing to do with industry inner workings. I saw it repeatedly in the comments and threads: “I’m not going to that event; I’m going riding… Why would you go hang around a convention center when you could spend a beautiful weekend riding with your friends.”

 I started to rethink my decision about how to spend the weekend. The golden autumn had come to the Southwestern US, and with it, the most perfectly cool mornings, brilliantly warm middays, and the sort of sunshine that makes every ride feel like you’re ripping through the centerfold image of your favorite motorcycle magazine.

What was I thinking? Hanging around some event hall was bound to be a total waste of a glorious weekend. Had I made a mistake? I could have easily taken this weekend off. I could have caught up on all the happenings on ADVrider (probably with much more ease and brevity than spending days of circling the convention center floors). I could have just dropped in for press day and then scooted out on a stretch of SoCal BDR or peeled away early to take the winding ride home through Idyllwild and Joshua Tree. Why had I committed to flying to LA, sans motorbike, just to hang around in this awful concrete convention center when I could have been out for a long weekend ride?

Standing in line for my pass on Friday morning, the dissenting online commenters echoed in my head. As I made my way up the line of frantically texting bloggers to the press check-in table, every step was dragging me further away from the beautiful blue sky and the miles of perfect riding that lay just beyond the exterior doors. “This is going to be a really lame weekend… all motorcycles look the same… the industry is dull and stagnant… I’m not going to have anything to write about anyhow… I’ll sneak away at lunchtime… maybe I won’t even come back tomorrow…”.

Finally, with my lanyard dangling around my neck and my happy hour ticket tucked into my pocket, I pushed through the hall doors… and every ounce of dissenting self talk and social media snarkiness vaporized instantly.


There, before me, was a most glorious array of glistening, beautiful machines. Big manufacturers showing off their best and brightest. Sponsors working to outdo themselves. Cool little boutique brands with mini-displays, perfectly at home amidst the grandiose exhibits of the manufacturing giants. Unique tour groups touting their international offerings. Clever gear makers with innovative designs and fresh ideas. Displays of vintage bikes reminding us of where we’ve come from. Motorcycles, motorcycles… and more motorcycles.

And then I remembered, this is why we go to motorcycle shows.

Because I’m not just in a room full of people, I’m in a room full of people who love motorcycles, dream about motorcycles, build motorcycles, and, most importantly, ride motorcycles. I’m here because we love these perfect, horsepower-producing, freedom-encouraging, machines. I’m here because this industry is essential and it is our responsibility to keep the passion for riding fueled (with high octane, obviously).

 I spent the day amongst a more diverse group of riders than I ever typically roll with. Chopper guys, sport bikers, industry reps, moto newbies, pros, kids, grandmas, innovators, consumers, adventurers. It’s a crowd of people who are rarely all in the same room together. We ride, generally, with the people who share our style, be it on dirt bikes or street cruisers or some other category within the motosphere. But that’s what’s so cool about this show, though it might mean something different to each of us, we all ride motorcycles.

So as I’m wrapping up the day, standing amidst a sea of gearheads, sipping my happy hour chardonnay, the online naysayers are long forgotten. I’ve got this little smile on my face— it’s that same smile I catch myself wearing inside my helmet, winding through the autumn desert. I’ve got that feeling that everything is right with the world and that sometimes motorcycles are all that matter. It’s a good feeling, between the camaraderie and technology, feeling like I’m a part of a really awesome industry and I’m already looking forward to another event like this… but not next weekend because I’ll be going out for a ride.

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