Heads up kids. The Progressive IMS Outdoors circuit is about to kick off. This year, IMS Outdoors runs July – November, 2021 (check motorcycleshows.com for full schedule). After the normal 2020-2021 fall/winter show season didn’t run due to pandemic restrictions, we’ve got a new series of outdoors-based events allowing riders to check out new machines and products in person.
All of the events will have street demo rides, electric bicycle demos, the Ultimate Builder Custom Bike Show, vintage displays, as well as returning legacy attractions, Adventure Out! and Discover the Ride.
The events themselves can function as stops on a weekend’s riding trip, or family outings. Take a look at what you can expect at each show below; each stop has lots to do on-site and in the area.
Northern California: July 16-18 (Sonoma Raceway)
The Progressive IMS Outdoors circuit kicks off with a stop at Sonoma Raceway, a familiar location for many diehard West Coast motorheads. Far as we’ve heard, there’s no racing planned for the weekend. MotoAmerica’s only California stop is at Laguna Seca, the weekend before; the NHRA Nationals visit Sonoma the weekend after. If you’re riding in from out of state to catch IMS Outdoors, maybe you could work one of those events into the plan.
There’s plenty of good riding to be had around Sonoma, though, even if you can’t watch racing and don’t get on the track yourself. If you want a slow, scenic pace, you can get to IMS Outdoors at Sonoma by taking the legendary Highway 1 from either north or south of the area, then cutting inland. If you’re riding up from Los Angeles, the roads between LA and San Francisco could be the best in North America. Once you’re in Sonoma, you’re between the Mayacam and Sonoma mountain ranges, and mountain ranges always mean fun canyon carving in California. The demo rides in this area should be a real treat.
Off the bike, Sonoma is a historic town in a beautiful area. Take colonial Spanish history and architecture, mix in the rolling agricultural scenery of California’s Wine Country, and there’s lots to see both inside and outside city limits. Mission San Francisco Solano and Sonoma Plaza might be the most well-known historic landmarks; head to the Sonoma State Historical Park area, and you can get your fill of this sort of thing.
If you’re visiting from outside the area, remember you’re also on the edge of San Francisco, which comes with its own long history and distinct landmarks, but also a strong and unique moto culture.
Back at the track, the huge 1,600-acre facility even offers off-road trails and an RV campground, too, so you can enjoy a mini-getaway even if this venue is in your backyard. Yamaha Champions Riding School, the nation’s premier motorcycle training program, will be offering their ChampSchool and ChampStreet courses to IMS Outdoors – Northern California. Get your chance to ride the Sonoma Raceway track or you can choose to hone your street bike skills in the ChampStreet course. Registration and payment for these courses is through ChampSchool. A complimentary IMS ticket is included with your registration.
Chicago (Pingree, IL): August 20-22 (Goebberts Farm)
Welp, from twisties to the Windy City—no canyons here. This stop takes place at Goebberts Farm, about 45 miles out of Chicago’s downtown center. This is a good excuse a good excuse for a ride to check out the IMS Outdoors event. which is not far off Route 47. Route 47 is an OK ride that will take you over to the Rock River Run, a much more enjoyable moto-road.
String all that together, and you’ve got riding opportunities, and you can even turn this into a camping trip. There are still lots of houses and lots of people out here, but there are also several campgrounds, including the Paul Wolff Campground and Camp Tomo-Chi-Chi Knolls. These are part of the Kane County Forest Preserve District—head to KaneForest.com to find more details on the camping opportunities, and other outdoors activities you can get up to in the area.
It might sound funny to host the motorcycle show at a farm, but Goebberts is more than a barnyard. It’s an event destination northwest of Chicago, with plenty of parking space. Really, it’s a great chance to pack up your panniers and get a break from the city, when you add up the chance to visit Kane County’s natural space, enjoy the sights of riding through farmland, and also tuck in at some local eateries. You can take a look at Milk House Ice Cream, or Allen’s Corner Diner, or something else in the area—IMS recommends the nearby town of Elgin as a motorcycle destination, with motorcycle-friendly restaurants.
The farm has huge barns for exhibitors to show off their bikes, riding gear and other powersports products, and IMS says the area has opportunities to demo machines on-road, and off-road. That means you might be able to test-ride adventure bikes in their natural habitat. If you want to bring the kids along, the farm also offers a great opportunity to do that—Goebbels has been doing the pumpkin patch/farm market thing for almost 75 years. Don’t expect jack-o-lanterns in August, but there should be other stuff to take in.
Brooklyn, NY: September 3-5 (Brooklyn Army Terminal)
How do you host an outdoor motorcycle event in New York City? The Brooklyn Army Terminal is an ideal base of operations, thanks to the massive size of the property, as well as its easy accessibility in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park waterfont.
Two subway lines run to the Terminal, meaning visitors can access the event from all over the city. There’s also a ferry stop, for those coming in from Manhattan. Put those two entry points together, and out-of-town riders can reach the event with minimal difficulty, even if they don’t want to ride into the city, or aren’t able to. The Big Apple is easily accessible from surrounding cities via rail, so this location makes sense for motorcyclists in New Jersey, Hartford and so on. There’s no other IMS Outdoors in the northeast, so this is your chance to see what’s new for 2022.
With a 95-acre facility, there’s plenty of room at the Brooklyn Army Terminal for all exhibitors to show off their moto products, with massive warehouses and also plenty of open-air space.
Given the, uh, challenges of riding in New York City traffic, expect IMS Outdoors to come up with unique ideas for product demos here at the Brooklyn Army Terminal. Traditionally, New York’s IMS Manhattan show ran just before Christmas, not really riding season, so if they really do have test rides at the event, it’ll be an opportunity that wasn’t possible before.
Aside from IMS Outdoors, if you’re coming into Brooklyn from out of town, there’s no shortage of sights to see in New York City, obviously. The Statue of Liberty is easily visible from the Brooklyn Army Terminal, and if you hop back on the subway, there’s a massive city full of history and culture to take in. Or, you could take advantage of your bike’s ability to cut through urban traffic, instead of using public transport.
Carlisle, Pennsylvania: September 10-12 (Carlisle Fairgrounds)
Carlisle Fairgrounds is located roughly halfway between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, and also within easy striking distance of Baltimore and Washington, D.C.; it would be hard to find a better geographical location for a motorcycle event in the eastern U.S.
To make things even better, Pennsylvania is an excellent motorcycle destination on its own, with varied terrain. Even the secondary highways are often quite fun, and the backroads twisties are some of the best you’ll find in the east. The scenery is gorgeous, and there’s plenty of good food everywhere, especially when you’re in farm country.
For all those reasons, the Pennsylvania stop for the IMS Outdoors circuit should be a special treat. The Carlisle Fairgrounds hosted IMS shows years ago, and more recently, it’s become a go-to venue for car collector events. That means the facility staff know how to take care of showgoers, and hopefully, you should be able to expect decent food in the on-site restaurants. The facility spans 82 acres; with that much space, there should be no difficulty putting together demo rides on-site, and there’s lots of parking as well. The fairground roads are paved, and the lawns are manicured, so this should be a very civilized affair indeed.
If you’re riding in from out of town, there are several state forests in the area, usually an indicator of especially good riding. Harley-Davidson’s York factory is also nearby; check ahead, and you might be able to get a tour to see the Pan America adventure bike assembly line. On the other side of Clarke Lake, you can ride to Lancaster, which means lots and lots of good eating in Amish buffets and other restaurants. There are many camping opportunities in the area as well, and lots of attractions and activities for kids if you decide to make a family trip out of it. By mid-September, the muggy summer heat will hopefully be gone, so whether you’re packing up the family car or riding in, this could be an excellent weekend getaway.
Fort Worth, Texas: October 1-3 (Texas Motor Speedway)
Flat track fans should be familiar with Texas Motor Speedway; the American Flat Track Texas Half Mile runs there (along with NASCAR, IndyCar, and a whole other raft of car events). As such, you can expect the standard amenities of a big track: camping, lots of food, and lots of space for demos and displays.
If you want to go for a ride, it’ll take you a few minutes to get clear of the Dallas-Fort Worth urban sprawl, but once you do so, Texas is a highly underrated riding destination, especially if you’re coming into town from the muggy southeast. Head west of the city, and you can get into tumbleweed and oil derrick territory. America’s long desert highways start here, and stretch all the way to the Pacific coast. Grab a map, and aim for small towns like Post via back roads. With the ranch scenery out here, even the straight roads are fun. Settle into your seat and watch the tumbleweed.
Back at the Speedway, you can always turn the other direction and head into Dallas. The stereotypical tourist attraction here is Dealey Plaza, where JFK was assassinated. If you’re not into that, there’s an endless supply of fantastic eating (real Mexican restaurants, not those carbon-copy franchise joints). The city doesn’t embrace the bizarre like Austin does, but if you head to Deep Ellum, you’ll find an endless supply of live music, with history going back to Leadbelly and Robert Johnson. Weird street art and independent cafes and pubs complete this unique scene. It’s well worth the visit. There are plenty of classy museums in the area too (Frontiers of Flight museum, Meadows Museum, Dallas Museum of Art, Perot Museum of Nature and Science—who knew a cow town could be so classy?). The State Fair of Texas should be running in early October as well.
At that time of the year, you might be able to take in pro basketball, football or hockey, maybe even pro baseball if one of Dallas’s major league or minor league teams is doing well in the playoffs. If you’re really strapped for ideas to keep your kids busy for a day in the area, there’s always the Six Flags Over Texas amusement park, too.
Lebanon, Tennessee: October 8-10 (James E. Ward Agricultural Center)
Located 25 miles outside Nashville, the James E. Ward Agricultural Center has old-fashioned fairgrounds, with a constant schedule of rodeos, farm shows and so on. There’s plenty of room for everyone, and there’s even primitive camping on-site, as well as RV camping if you decide to take the Winnebago, not the Beemer.
Away from the fairgrounds, you can camp at Cedars of Lebanon State Park if you want to load up the panniers. At this point in the fall, it might be chilly, but you might also be running out of time to do a camping trip on the bike. Lebanon itself is a smaller town, but there’s some interesting stuff to do here too—plenty of good eateries, like Whitt’s Barbecue or Town Square Social. Check out the murals while you’re in town. Lebanon is a historic area, and you can always drop the family off at the Fiddlers Grove Historic Village, which is part of the same Agricultural Center complex that IMS Outdoors is running at. Or maybe at the Antique Mall, or one of the other many antique stores in the area? While they’re there, tell them to look for a metal milk crate, the ultimate KLR650 upgrade . . . we think.
If you’re looking to combine your IMS visit with some pleasure riding, then you’re really in for a treat. Push your range further westward, and you’re within spitting distance of the Tail of the Dragon and the rest of those great twisties in the southeast. You don’t have to go that far, though; there are many fun, hilly roads close to the showgrounds.
Make a loop of it; when you’re done the day’s riding, you can take in live country music back in Lebanon, or even head into Nashville itself. There’s certainly no shortage of music or prime eating opportunities there, if you’re from out of town and want to make a trip of it. The Nashville area is a reasonable riding distance for much of Tennessee and Kentucky, most of the South really, if you want to demo ride a whole bunch of different bikes from one location.
Lakeland, Florida: October 15-17 (Sun ‘n Fun Campus)
The Sun ‘n Fun Campus is best-known for aviation events; it’s based in Lakeland Linder International Airport after all, and even when there’s no airshow running, there are many aircraft around the facility as static displays. The Florida Air Museum is on-campus as well. There’s even a functional Boeing 727 on display, allowing students at the on-site Piedmont Aerospace Experience educational center to observe the effects of cockpit controls on the plane’s mechanical systems. Very cool indeed! There’s lots of hangar space and runway mileage on-site as well, which IMS Outdoors will no doubt take advantage of.
There’s more to the campus than airplanes, though. The 200-acre facility also offers year-round camping. You’re in Florida (between Tampa and Orlando), so the weather should be great for a ride-and-tent trip, even in October. If you live in those cities, it’s a great chance to get out of your condo/subdivision and put some mileage on your camping gear.
Also, note that IMS Outdoors runs roughly the same dates as Daytona’s Biketoberfest. If you’re from outside the area, this is a chance to do both events over the same weekend. Biketoberfest isn’t Bike Week, but it’s still a popular event, and you might be able to catch racing or other action up there after you’ve done the IMS event.
Or maybe that’s not your scene, and you’d just like to get some riding in. Florida roads are notoriously straight, but if you head over to The Sandbox sub-forum on ADVrider, you can pick inmates’ brains on the best roads or trails in the area. If you go off-road, be prepared to deal with sand, lots and lots of sand!
Since we’re talking about Florida here, there’s lots for the family to do, if they get tired of the bikes (and planes!) on the Sun ‘n Fun campus. Head off to one of the area’s many amusement parks, or beaches, or other tourist attractions. Between Tampa and Orlando, everyone should be able to find a way to keep busy and happy.
Conyers, Georgia: October 29-31 (Georgia International Horse Park)
Is Georgia the most underrrated riding destination in the US? Uh, maybe; Arkansas might also have claim to this title. Either way, there’s no disputing that this IMS show location, 25 miles east of Atlanta, puts you within striking distance of some of the best twisties in the east. As the crow flies, you’re not terribly far from the Tail of the Dragon, but it’ll take you at least three hours to get there, especially since you’ve got to cross Atlanta along the journey.
For good rides that are closer to the IMS Outdoors location, ADVrider’s Southeast sub-forum can help you out. Remember that you’re starting from the middle of the Atlanta Metropolitan Area. That means you’re going to ride through urban and suburban areas for a while before you get to great moto roads.
The event’s location, the Georgia International Horse Park, was obviously originally aimed at equestrian events (it played a key part when Atlanta hosted the Summer Olympics in 1996). Now, it’s branched off to many different shows and sporting competitions, even massive concerts, trail races and mountain bike racing. Does that mean we’ll see terrain suited for proper off-road adventure-riding demos? We hope so, but we haven’t seen that confirmed yet. Park officials have confirmed they’re building trails to demo side-by-sides, though, so hopefully bikes can get in on that action. With a 1,400-acre facility, there’s certainly no shortage of space to make it happen.
One other cool feature of the Horse Park: Some of Netflix’s Stranger Things was filmed here, so you can go exploring and see if you recognize any of the scenery from the series.
Although it’s in Atlanta’s orbit, the Horse Park is far enough removed from the city center that there’s green space, making room for things like golf courses and nature trails. Camping isn’t a big thing in the immediate area (although there are a few options), but there are several hotels nearby, if you’re looking to turn your trip into an overnight visit.
This Post was kindly sponsored by IMS Outdoors. Thank you IMS for supporting ADVrider.