INTERVIEW: Why Overland Expo appeals to riders -- and dealers

Publish Date: 
Jul 20, 2014
By Bruce Steever

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Adventure motorcycling is growing fast, and in doing so, becoming a larger slice of the powersports pie. But people have been “motorcycle camping” as long as there have been motorcycles. In fact, motorized adventure -- on two wheels or four -- is the origin for nearly everything we drive or ride today.

As more people rediscover how much fun it can be to get lost in the wider world, opportunities have developed to reach out and connect with these potential customers. Overland Expo was created in 2009 to connect do-it-yourself adventure travelers with the training and products they’d need. As the adventure-touring motorcycle market has grown, its place at Overland Expo has grown to match, with brands such as Klim, Rev’It, Antigravity Batteries and Warn exhibiting and demonstrating their products. BMW’s adventure training school RawHyde Adventures shows up to demonstrate the various two-wheeled skills needed to take a 600-lb. motorcycle off the beaten path as well.

To learn more about what Overland Expo is, and how dealers can get involved, we talked with founder and director Roseann Hanson.

Dealernews: In short, what is Overland Expo?

Hanson: Overland Expo is an annual event that brings together overlanding enthusiasts from around the world with the rapidly growing overlanding industry that serves them, from OEM vehicles and bikes to camping gear, accessories, and services. Overland Expo West is held in Flagstaff, Ariz., in May and Overland Expo East is held in Asheville, N.C., in October.

It’s a three-day weekend designed to educate and inspire people to get out and explore their world. There are over 160 different classes, workshops, and roundtable programs for four-wheel-drive and adventure motorcycle enthusiasts; a large exhibitor exposition (over 150); and evening inspirational programs and music. The event in Flagstaff sells out of 500 full-weekend package tickets, and over 5,500 day pass visitors attend annually.

What defines overlanding?

Hanson: It’s not wheeling or about conquering obstacles with a vehicle; it’s about using four-wheel-drives or adventure motorcycles to explore and camp — whether 100 miles or 10,000 miles from home, on simple backroads or highly technical terrain. Overlanding is attracting adventurous young families, Baby Boomer retirees, and people of wide-ranging demographics.

Why should powersports dealers attend, or at least follow, Overland Expo?

Hanson: Overland Expo's attendees are not tire-kickers; they are serious enthusiasts and ‘do-ers’ who spend big on their favorite activities. Adventure motorcycles are a huge part of the show, with a robust adventure motorcycle village with thousands of attendees, and many of the four-wheel attendees also have motorcycles or are planning to purchase one soon.

Related: Why Overland Expo appealed to Rev'It

Many dealers are just starting to fully take advantage of the adventure market. How can Overland Expo help them expand sales in this segment?

Hanson: Overland Expo is all about getting people outfitted and trained, and a majority of our attendees are just starting out, so it's a big opportunity to get name brands out in front of excited consumers.

Many of the seminars sessions offered at Overland are geared towards end users; are there sessions that might more directly benefit dealers and other industry staff members?

Hanson: If a dealer is just getting into the adventure market, sending staff to the show will allow them to learn what it's all about. We used to offer dealer classes but found out most are too busy to attend. The most valuable aspect of the show for dealers and exhibitors is the networking among the industry. Not only are there other dealers who might be good partners but there are manufacturing agents and logistics reps for shipping, importing, etc. who attend. Sunday morning we purposely do not schedule classes and this is the time to network.

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