Wind on their faces, bugs in their teeth, and betting against inclement weather, motorcycle enthusiasts steer their trusty iron horses up, down, over, and across, America’s highways and byways. From sleek and stretched to resembling a small car on two wheels, or sometimes three, riders like to show off what they proudly straddle. Little touches like extra chrome, a custom seat and/or painted flames shooting down the sides of the gas tank are unique expressions of the individual owners.
The unaware can’t see past their visions of the notorious “Hells Angels” or the “Outlaws”. Though these gangs with tarnished reputations do still roam their turfs, there are far more motorcycle clubs whose sole purpose is riding in the company of like-minded friends. They are social organizations. Many of them strive to remove the stigma created by renegade gangs by doing good things for their communities. Others are simply informal groups of motorcycle enthusiasts who enjoy one another’s company.
Of course, the number of bike owners preferring to ride solo far outnumbers those associated with gangs or clubs. Perhaps riding is a way of escaping their hectic life or riding is not so much a passion as it is a hobby. Regardless of a person’s reasons for preferring two wheels to four, thousands of motorcycle riders enjoy meeting up at any number of the many bike-weeks/bike-rallies held across this great land.
Don’t fret if you don’t ride a motorcycle but still enjoy the culture and want to have a rip-roaring good time, these events are open to everyone. If you have an itching to attend one, here are some you should consider.
Bikes, Blues, and BBQ (BBB) – Fayetteville, Arkansas
Since the year 2000, this four-day rally has grown steadily into the largest non-profit family-friendly motorcycle event in the country. Over $2 million has been raised over the past 18 years, all of which has benefited the women, children, and underserved of the Northwest Arkansas community. As stated by the organizers of the event; “We pride ourselves in being a family-friendly event, inclusive of all members of the community and in no way condone or accept racism, white supremacy, bigotry, fascism, intolerance or hate speech”.
The rally centers only a couple of blocks from where most of the bars are located, and the entertainment is non-stop. In addition to the best live blues music found anywhere, there is a parade, a poker run, a bike giveaway, lots and lots of bbq, a BBB Babes contest, motorcycle stunt shows, a car show, and demos of new bikes and products from the manufacturers.
If you love to ride but for one reason or another don’t own a bike, not a problem. Rent one. If you’re a bit fearful of driving a car through the sea of motorcycles, transportation to and from the event is available so you can leave your vehicle at your hotel.
There are numerous accommodations available including camping, hotels, and private homes, but making reservations as far in advance as possible is recommended.
Daytona Bike Week – Daytona Beach, Florida
The granddaddy of them all. Ten full days of action-packed fun that’s been going on since 1937 when it was called the “Daytona 200”. Annually, over half a million visitors (and growing) from all points in America converge upon this ocean town, some towing their steeds on trailers, some riding them thousands of miles. The main event takes place in Daytona Beach but events run as far as Ormond Beach, 10 miles to the north.
Top named bands, most of them of the harder rock variety, can be found rattling the walls of every local pub in town as well as on outdoor stages. Popular bars such as Froggy’s Tavern, Broken Spoke Saloon, and Boot Hill Saloon are well known for bringing the best of the best bands, and if anyone enjoys the smell of burning rubber, all three of these joints hold burnout contests. Wet t-shirt and bikini contests pretty much prevail everywhere and the two items not on any establishments menu are ‘quiet’ or ‘laidback’.
Motorcycles of every brand and size are lined up and down Main Street as far as the eye can see. Vendors hawk their wares by hosting demonstrations all over town, and if racing is anyone’s thing, Daytona International Speedway hosts races of all types throughout the entire ten days. From asphalt racing to dirt tracks, lovers of the sport can see it all.
Since accommodations are not so easy to come by during Bike Week, many visitors who routinely make the annual pilgrimage book the following year’s reservation while they are still there. If you want to go to this it takes lots of advanced planning.
One more cool thing. The beach is only a couple of blocks from Main Street and the city allows driving on it, motorcycles included.
Sturgis Motorcycle Rally – Sturgis, South Dakota
Simply referred to as “Sturgis”, this hugely attended rally saw its humble beginnings in 1938 when the Jackpine Gypsies Motorcycle Club started hosted races. Initially, the races only attracted small crowds from the Black Hills, but as the events gained wider popularity the crowds began to grow. Today, Sturgis attracts hundreds of thousands to it’s one big annual blowout rally where things have been known to get a might bit crazy.
Venues compete for each other’s business by bringing the very best well-known rock music acts they can afford. Groups like Van Halen and ZZ-Top have shared their talents with the enthusiastic beer-chugging, shot-shooting, crowds.
Most of the attendees enjoy rides through the Black Hills to scenic sites like Mt. Rushmore, Devil’s Tower, the Badlands, and Crazy Horse Memorial. These scenic rides are rated as second-to-none. As a word of caution, riders under the age of 18 must wear a helmet and eye protection is required if a motorcycle is not equipped with a windscreen.
There are hotels in town and close by but a majority of visitors prefer to camp, and there are no shortages of places to pitch a tent. RV and camper sites with full hookups are scattered about, but as with the other rallies, reserve a spot way in advance.
Motorcycle rallies are a blast. There are large and small ones all over the U.S. so if this sounds like a fun way to spend a few days or a week, finding one close to you is as easy as a Google search.