No license? No problem! The IMS folks will show you the basics and let you try out motorcycling.

The International Motor Show is designed to appeal to a wide variety of people, riders and non-riders alike. Of course, it's entirely possible that non-riders could find themselves bored while their rider friends, boy/girlfriends, spouses, etc. nerd out on bikes and they're just left standing there. IMS is aware of this and has not only arranged some activities for non-riders to do, they involve getting the experience of riding a motorcycle for themselves.

Yamaha and Harley-Davidson each have a booth set up with a bike strapped down to a dyno. These aren't to measure horsepower or anything else for that matter. These rigs are designed to teach prospective riders how to manage a clutch and changing gears on a motorcycle in a consequence-free environment. They don't have to worry about riding the bikes, only learning how the gears work. Yamaha offers up an MT-07, which is a great starter bike, while Harley uses a cool looking bagger for people who want the Harley experience. In both cases, a trainer stands alongside the dyno with you and walks you through the process of running through the gears. It's second nature to us, but in an age where manual transmission cars are extremely rare, shifting can be a major stumbling block in learning to ride. One friend of mine almost quit motorcycles when he had trouble shifting and turning at an intersection at the same time. I got him over the hump by teaching him gears in a car, then adding the bike to the equation later. Harley and Yamaha's method is even better.

Zero Motorcycles New Rider Course At IMS

But what about actually riding a bike? Zero has that covered. It offers a new rider course inside the convention center itself. There's a simple oval track, and Zero motorcycles have been limited to a top speed of only 12 miles per hour. That's slower than a bicycle, so a new rider shouldn't get into much trouble. The electric bikes take shifting gears completely out of the equation, so all the rider has to think about is throttle, steering, and brakes. In this limited configuration, the Zeros are little more than electric bicycles, but they still provide the full experience of a real motorcycle. Without the limiter, these same bikes will do 70 mph.

In retrospect, I wish I'd brought my wife to the New York IMS with me. She's interested in riding and has ridden on the back with me many times. She hasn't quite gotten over the hump of trying one out for herself, though, despite me having a Suzuki Savage ready to go for her. These experiences, under the guidance of trainers far more qualified to teach than me, might have been just what she needed to get over that hump and start riding on her own. 

This is absolutely no substitute for the MSF Beginner RiderCourse. There is no way you can learn in these demonstrations the skills you'll need to survive on the road. That isn't the point. The point is to give non-riders a teaser of the riding experience. This way they'll be better able to determine if this is something they want to pursue or not. If they do, it sells more motorcycles. Maybe the would-be rider really liked how the MT-07 felt on the dyno and will buy one of their own as their first bike. Everyone wins.