At first look, a temporary bike city fronting the Atlantic Ocean might seem a familiar concept. One wonders if the only differences between MB and DB are the mid-May date and that few hundred miles of flat, swampy coast, that separate the two towns. The events share too many bikes, too few streets, lots of sand and miles of hotels crammed up against each other. Oh yeah, and for both towns, it’s where the boys are. So, turn your head too quickly and you might think you’re in the wrong town. But there’s a difference of attitude between the events. And this difference isn’t my invention or even my brilliant observation. It was pointed out to me by numerous bikers and venders.
Bike Week at MB, with its estimated 300,000 visitors in attendance, is maybe what Daytona once planned to be, prior to straying haywire somewhere in adolescence. MB is spread out and the cruising is cruising, not a cursing crawling. And MB still has room to grow. And because the event is in May, the northern bikers aren’t wearing an angry leer with shoulders crunched up around the ears from the cold early-March they just fled and know they need to return to. Sunday. To Trenton, to Queens, to Binghamton and Scranton. And since it’s in May, the official it’s-not-winter-anymore month, the Myrtle Beach Bike Week is an event that many attendees actually ride bikes to. It’s a place to go and a place to be.
But at the Myrtle Beach Bike Week I saw many things I’d never seen at a bike event before; scary things, strange omens and new worlds.
There was much pollution. I don’t mean the stinky cloud of semi-charred hydro-carbons churned out by badly-tuned V-twins (although yeah, there was plenty of that), I mean the pollution of badly dressed neo-bikers. It was like geeks at the prom. It was like The Beave meets the Marlboro Man. Everyone was having a toke but few were inhaling. Hey buddy, I think your chaps are on backwards.
The biker rally, once a stain on the fabric of society, has now transformed into a family event complete with activities for kids.
Baby boomers think they’re aging well. Just ask ’em. There were leather-clad adults pushing strollers everywhere. There were preteens sitting on every displayed bike. The streets were littered with scrunched “don’t sit on the bike” placards. I think I saw your grandmother there. She was eating kettle corn while buying a new patch for her vest. She’s the terror of Atlantic Boulevard, even though her Hog has three wheels.
The fates have spoken. Bikes are now mainstream, and neither you nor I can stop it.
Many Myrtle natives were joining in the fun, having become bikers early in the afternoon of Bike Week’s third day, getting past some of the weeks darker moments which included a total of five reported fatalities and an increase in police calls. Day one they were frightened out of habit. Day two they dared each other to go where the bikers go. On day three, after lunch balanced the blood-sugar, they were ready to party. Dad was rockin’ to Steppenwolf.
But there they were, in their sweat pants or slacks and sandals, thinking that watching a full season of Biker Build Off had transformed them. This is easier than learning French. Yes, there they were, hungrily buying up OCC T-shirts and stickers. And wow, those bikes look just like toys. A fire engine, a jet fighter, a cop cycle, and Spiderman’s bike. If they do a Bull Dozer bike there’ll be one for each of Village People. I wanna be a macho man.
Roland Sands had a few of his eclectic creations on display. Expect to see a feature here on this one very soon
A mom asked where she could find the West Coast Choppers tent. Her teenage son was pissing himself. She might have been wet too. Russell from Exiles Cycles looked to be going blind signing body parts, and I’m not talking fenders. Mostly bumpers and differentials, if you follow me. It was, like, only three days ago that chopper riders were criminals. Now they’re rock stars. TV stars, riding a wave of public hunger. I had to wonder if one day bikers won’t “jump the shark” and once again we’ll be outside, talking about the old days when we were pie. Am I mixing metaphors?
By now, most seasoned bikers have gotten used to the weekend warriors. And a third of those warriors have ridden for so many weekends they’ve accidentally become true enthusiasts. Seasoned bikers. Yeah, we respect you. The newest hot biker poser is the weekend warriorette. You can pick her out of the crowd by how hard she’s working to look bad. Biker bad. Sexy bad. Her primary fashion trend is a cross between Native American slut and Cat Woman ho: feathers, rawhide, and tight leather. On some, this does have its attractions but…did I say rawhide? Arf!
In many ways, MB was like Sunday at Disneyland; family friendly, lots of shiny things to look at, and all neatly contained in a themed hamlet: Bikerville; it having wandered off from between Tomorrow Land and Frontier Town. Goofy’s got five tats and a chopper. I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me but sometimes events can be too damn friendly. There wasn’t a knifing on any day, at any bar, at anytime of night. Where has all the hate gone that built this country of ours?
It got chromed. It got an option for 9 shows a year for three years.
At MB, biker booths were set up at numerous places spread out along 15-miles of coast. You could do biker stuff, on a bike, in biker clothing, the way bikers do it. Or you could avoid biker overload and do human things, on a bike, the way you want to do it. That was the difference from Daytona that most mentioned to me. Down at that Florida beach, you can’t get away from the intense, grab-you-by-the-Brando- epaulets, and buy this non-DOT helmet right now, barkers. MB is more like, I think I’ll get some fish. And for dinner it’s donuts and bear claws. Let’s ride. When it’s dark, bowling.
Adding high-class to this model’s ploy was a man with a can begging for donations from anyone taking a picture of her. So we took a picture of the guy who was having his picture taken with her.
The vender areas at MB have little of the carnival mimicry and are actually run by enthusiasts selling quality biker products. There were venders selling every biker need from tricked-out custom choppers, to apparel, to black-market stickers of Calvin and Hobbs, sold to raise money for a charity, she said. Is that how it’s done now, someone’s creation is used without license or permission to raise money? I asked. She spun on her heels and lost herself in the crowd.
And H-D’s were everywhere. Almost too everywhere. With so many custom choppers being built by so many shops and bought buy so many riders, having nothing more than a Hog with Screaming Eagle accessories is beginning to look low rent. Milwaukee needs some sharper spice. Or a TV show.
The word on the MB boulevard was, this is the event of the East Coast. It’s fun, it’s relaxed, it’s not too hot or too cold, although it can be too rainy. But that passes. And best of all, there are still plenty hotel rooms. Sure, prices are in-season peak, but unlike Daytona, you don’t feel the rape of a supply-and-demand economy running out of control.
And there are lots of donut shops.
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