5 Ways The 2018 International Motorcycle Show Has Become More Interactive

Virtual reality, electric motorcycles, a wheelie machine, and Slingshot rides made this year’s Long Beach IMS more interactive than ever

Polaris Slingshot at the 2018 IMS Show
The author gets ready to get slung around in a Slingshot at the 2018 IMS Show.Bryan Harley

The Progressive International Motorcycle Shows (IMS) have always been an interactive experience, providing enthusiasts with their first chance to see, hike a leg over, and push buttons on the latest motorcycles on the market in North America. To add another level to the 2018 IMS experience, the Long Beach event featured several interactive displays, from virtual rides to literal wheelie opportunities. Upping the entertainment level is a savvy marketing move as it gets people talking and sharing the experience on social media and hopefully creates a buzz as the show makes its way around the country. Here's five ways the 2018 Long Beach version of the IMS show was more interactive (and fun!) than ever before.

New Rider Course with Zero Motorcycles
Discover the Ride’s New Rider Course with Zero MotorcyclesBryan Harley

Discover the Ride is one of the most exciting new programs added to this year’s circuit because it actively promotes the next generation of riders. While Discover the Ride included five different activities, its featured attraction is a New Rider Course that gives people who have never ridden before a chance to take a spin on a Zero electric motorcycle. A short track was set up inside the Long Beach Convention Center and potential new riders got a quick rundown of the basics, courtesy of instructors from the California Motorcyclist Safety Program. The Zero FXS motorcycles were modified to keep acceleration manageable while top speed was set at 12 mph. Yamaha brought out some of its power-assist electric bicycles as well, so riders could demonstrate they were capable of balancing a two-wheeler before moving up to the motorcycle. Every face I saw after the New Rider Course had a huge grin on it.

Kid Zone
Kid ZoneBryan Harley

Big kids weren’t the only ones having fun on electric bikes. There was also a Kid Zone presented by Allstate featuring Stacyc’s electric balance bikes. Similar to the New Rider Course, an indoor course was set up for the little ones to rip around on. It also gave many a chance to ride a two-wheeler for the very first time in a controlled environment. Stacyc had balance bikes with and without a speed-limited electric motor, depending on skill level, which was tested before they cut the kids loose. Another way Discover the Ride is fostering the next generation of riders!

XDL Wheelie ExperienceBryan Harley

Ever wanted to pop a wheelie on a motorcycle but didn’t want to risk the humility of failing in front of your friends and potentially a broken bone or two? The XDL Wheelie Experience provides the closest thing to the real deal without the risk of looping out. Once again, Zero motorcycles were used, this time with full power. The rear wheel of the motorcycle was strapped to a dyno drum, allowing it to spin in place when people twisted the throttle, while the front was tethered by a cable, but could still be lofted. Under the watchful eye of XDL’s Chris Tice and crew, the inquisitive and adventurous climbed aboard, gave the motor some revs, then whacked the throttle while pulling back on the bars. The whir of Zero’s electric motor reached a feverish pitch as many eschewed finding the balance point for keeping the throttle pinned. Tice said the Zero FXS electrics were a perfect fit for indoors because there’s no exhaust noise, no emissions, and they have a good torque curve. A crowd was constantly gathered around the XDL Wheelie Experience at the IMS, making it one of the surprise hits of the show.

Slingshot Joyride
Slingshot JoyrideBryan Harley

It wasn't difficult to find the Polaris Slingshot Joyrides at the IMS show. Simply follow the sound of squealing tires and look for clouds of spent rubber! Polaris enlisted the services of pro race car drivers like Tommy Boileau to take people out in Slingshot SLRs on a tight, figure-eight track outside the convention center for a wheel-spinning session of drifting and burnouts. The Joyride highlights some of the Slingshot's strong suits, particularly its punchy engine and ground-hugging suspension. Boileau drove it like he stole it, which made the Joyride even more exciting. Getting slung around in the Slingshot definitely made my IMS experience memorable.

Allstate VR Experience
Allstate VR Experience on Indian ScoutBryan Harley

While Polaris was offering literal joy rides, Allstate was taking IMS attendees for a virtual ride at its booth. To add a bit of realism to the experience, people climbed aboard an Indian Scout that Allstate strapped to a platform and actually used the motorcycle's handlebars to steer in the virtual world. An HTC Vive VR headset was then slipped over their eyes and the fun began as riders raced through narrow canyons and tunnels on their way to the finish line. Spectators could watch folks bump and swerve their way through the course thanks to a TV screen mounted on the wall in front of riders. Watching people try to navigate the virtual course was almost as fun as watching them reacclimate in the real world once they were done. It provided some with their first simulated experience on a motorcycle, giving them a sense of what it feels like to ride and hopefully encouraging them to take the next step and try a real one.

Progressive Flo’s Chop Shop
Progressive Flo’s Chop ShopBryan Harley

After pounding the pavement for hours, it was great to swing by Flo’s Chop Shop and take advantage of one of the massage chairs. You could get your beard trimmed or hair braided by one of their professional stylists there too. They were also doing tattoos at Flo’s Chop Shop, albeit of the airbrush variety. You could also try your luck (or skill) at pool in the Trick Shot Challenge. Make the shot, win Progressive swag. Massage chairs, beard trim, a pool table, free giveaways—all Progressive needed was a kegerator there, and bikers would never leave!

Flo’s Chop Shop
Chilling out at Flo’s Chop Shop. Make the shot and score some free goodies.Bryan Harley