Ever wondered what it would be like to ride a motorcycle? To have the feeling of the wind truly flowing through your hair? While the wind was a bit too cold for formal motorcycle riding, we did the next best thing, and took a detour to Cleveland, Ohio recently to check out the 2020 Progressive International Motorcycle Show. Part of the broader International Motor Cycle Shows series, these shows are designed to not only appeal to long running motorcycle riders, but also new riders looking to enter the world of two wheeling for the first time. But can shows like this really help introduce new riders to this mode of transportation? We were eager to find out and embarked on a road trip in the Jaguar F-Pace SVR to see what it was all about.
Merchandise Merchandise Merchandise:
When you first enter the doors of the I-X Center, be prepared to experience the sheer size of the merchandise section. Featuring a wide range of vendors offering patches, parts, and assorted motorcycle gear, this area of the show is literally a bazaar containing everything you possibly need, and all the vendors we spoke to were very knowledgeable and were eager to help out in any way they could when it came to asking questions about certain items and even working out pricing in some cases. If your a veteran rider looking for some spare parts, or even a new rider looking to get a helmet, riding gear, or other items this part of the show is for you.
In addition to the sheer amount of merchandise on hand, some manufacturers also had their latest offerings on hand with Honda, Suzuki, Harley Davidson, and more all having various bikes on display. Our highlight though has to be the field wielded by Kawasaki, with the firm having a good chunk of their current model lineup on display. This included the track only Ninja H2R which was a popular photo subject, and combines a supercharged engine and track focused engineering to make this two wheeled assassin a potent force out on the track.
Discover The Ride:
A key reason why we made the 180 plus mile trek to Cleveland was because of the “Discover The Ride Program.” This initiative is designed to help bring new riders into the fold, especially those that have never ridden a motorcycle before. In our case, we have had some prior experience on three wheeled offerings, but never anything that had two wheels, thus making this author a prime candidate for this program. Unlike other programs that throw you figuratively to the wolves when it comes to learning, ‘Discover The Ride” instead chooses a more direct but gradual approach that helps work riders up to a formal motorcycle. The experience first hooks up riders with Yamaha power assisted bicycles. While this may seem like an unconventional move at first glance, our instructors from Total Control Training revealed that the Yamahas on hand would not only help sharpen up our balance, but also help get used to the electric assist of the motor. Yamaha has sold these bicycles in Japan since 1993, but has only begun to recently sell them here in the U.S.
This novel approach worked very well, and it was a lot of fun powering the Yamaha we rode down the straightaways of the indoor test track that Total Control Training provided. After a few minutes to get fitted into our riding gear, it was finally time to hop on the Zero Motorcycles that would serve as the ultimate test of the skills we learned. Zero is a relatively young company, but it has already made a name for itself for offering buyers a wide range of EV motorcycles. Our time was with the base FXS model which serves as the supermoto in Zero’s lineup. The FXS typically has a top speed of 84 mph, but for training purposes, our example was electronically limited to 12 mph which was sufficient enough to help us get used to its character. Unlike typical motorcycles, the FXS (and the rest of the Zero range) have no formal clutch, and getting going is as easy as turning the key, raising the kickstand, and applying liberal use of throttle to help get the FXS moving. Handling in the FXS is pretty straightforward, though the bike can easily go wide in turns if they are not scouted out in advance. We managed to adapt very quickly, and avoided hitting the barriers that lined the perimeter of the track (unlike other members of our group that seemed to have a magnetic link to the walls.)
This experience does have a noticeable effect, with the Zero now being firmly on our radar as a bike to formally kick start our motorcycling career. But Michigan buyers looking to own a Zero of their very own will have to be able to travel a great distance to get one, with the lone Zero dealer in our area being all the way in Catalonia, Michigan which is just outside of Grand Rapids in the western part of the state. FXS pricing starts at $8,995 before various incentives, with the higher spec ZF7.2 model boasting a higher $10,995 base price. The pricing ladder naturally goes up as you enter other members of the Zero model family, with the Zero SR-F serving as the figurative flagship offering. Opt for this model, and you are greeted with a $19,495 base price, which goes up to $23,795 with all the options ticked off.
At the end of the day, do shows like this help bring new riders into the fold? The answer is a firm yes. Not only is the community at these events very warm, friendly, and welcoming, but they are also every encouraging of you to try new things, with many of the Progressive representatives on hand happily answering questions as well as offering suggestions for activities that attendees could do to help enhance their show experience. We enjoyed our time at this event, and we look forward to attending again in the future to see what else is in store for motorcycle enthusiasts in the years to come.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.