The vibe at a motorcycle rally is like nothing else. Hanging with other proud bike enthusiasts for a weekend - or week - dedicated to riding (and, of course, partying, concerts and food) is an experience to remember. Not all rallies are built the same, however, so here are some details on the events I recommend checking out.
This year, the ROT takes place in mid-June in Austin, TX, and marks the 25th anniversary of this event. It’s the largest biker rally (among those requiring attendees to buy tickets) and attracts visitors from all 50 states.
The high point of the rally is definitely the downtown Parade and Party held on Friday. The City of Austin closes off 54 square blocks for the event, which ends with a party shared with tens of thousands of others (200,000+), held under the lights of Congress Avenue, a quirky shop and restaurant district.
The event’s site promises that “There’s something for everyone,” and I couldn’t agree more.
Attractions include a “Daughters of Custom” build-off, where father/daughter teams square off against each other to build the best custom machine; AMA Supermoto; flat track racing; freestyle motocrossers and Installation Alley (featuring motorcycle installation and service vendors); Micro Championship Wrestling; and a bike show.
Proving just how well-rounded this rally is, concert-wise, ROT doesn’t disappoint: Rally attendees have been entertained by top stars including ZZ Top, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Joan Jett, and Willie Nelson.
On August 14, 1938, nine riders participated in a race for a small group of onlookers. Back then, the gathering was called the Black Hills Classic. Now, it’s known as the legendary Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
Over 500,000 people rumble into the rally on a yearly basis. Bikes literally overtake the normally quiet Black Hills of South Dakota (adjacent to some of the best rides in America and landmarks like Mount Rushmore and Custer State Park).
Sturgis is a veritable jackpot for riders. In 2019, Sturgis will include a ride to raise awareness and money for the fight against human trafficking; a mayor’s ride; a women’s-only ride; a trail ride; and chances to ride with a local guide. And if you need to stretch your legs for a moment, you could participate in the 5-km fun run (or walk) for charity.
Sturgis isn’t just for riders: Concert enthusiasts and street food fans are also part of the pack. Past concerts have been performed by Disturbed, Keith Urban, and Styx, and over 100 food vendors cater to the attendees.
Get ready to join the throngs (the last time they counted in 2005, the amount of participants numbered around 500,000) of bike aficionados and speed addicts because this Bike Week was built for speed. The main event of the week is the Daytona 200 motorcycle race, but other speed events include the Daytona Supercross plus a variety of road racing events.
Daytona Beach Bike Week, held each spring, is located at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, which lies on Florida’s Atlantic coast (60 miles northeast of Orlando). Beyond the race-type activities, the Bike Week also includes a vintage and custom bike show, technical seminars, and even fashion shows. Free BBQ’s go on throughout the week for hungry motorcycle devotees.
While the draw to this rally is mainly the races, participants typically ride ‘round the area, hitting St. Augustine, the Kennedy Space Center, and Orlando.
Rolling Thunder was created after the Vietnam War with a noble mission in mind. The founders resolved to spread the word that many American Prisoners of War or those Missing in Action had been left behind in Vietnam and other wars, too. They want to amend this past and also protect future veterans from encountering the same fate. They also aim to help veterans in general.
So, from the beginning in 1988, Rolling Thunder was a protest run, where riders demanded that the government be held responsible for its treatment of POWs/MIAs. The creators named the event Rolling Thunder because they thought the arrival of riders on the Memorial Bridge would make a thunderous noise. 2500 riders joined the cause for that first run on Memorial Day Weekend. Now, that thunder roars more deeply, as the numbers have grown to over one million (including riders and the crowds).
On the day of the run, motorcyclists from across the country (and world) first gather at the Pentagon parking lots, then roll through the Mall area on a planned route. Afterwards, participants head to West Potomac Park to pay tribute to fallen soldiers. Musical tributes and speakers wrap up the day.
Note: According to the Rolling Thunder DC site, 86,532 veterans are still unaccounted for.
This year, MountainFest spans four days in July in Morgantown, WV. This festival was born in 2005, so it’s definitely one of the new kids on the block among the likes of the storied Sturgis and Daytona Bike Week. Still, it manages to pull in a crowd of 50,000. Proceeds from the event go to the non-profit Mylan Park (a recreational and educational complex whose users include veterans and people with disabilities).
Some say that the concerts - a good mix of country and rock bands - are the true highlights of this event, but this could change as the years roll by. Starting in 2019, the rally organizers will provide rally participants with ride guides so riders can take the trips themselves, along with the scheduled rides they also offer. This festival is the perfect opportunity to explore the countryside, a vast sea of mountains, boulders and green forests.
As you can imagine, each of these events has a distinct flavor, with one thing in common: They all offer a chance to mingle with those who share our lifestyle. If you’re a regular attendee at one of these events, feel free to throw out your advice for readers who are considering one of these events!
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