Myrtle Beach Bike Week Attempts a Comeback

May 11, 2011
Bryan Harley
Bryan Harley
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Our resident road warrior has earned his stripes covering the rally circuit, from riding the Black Hills of Sturgis to cruising Main Street in Daytona Beach. Whether it's chopped, bobbed, or bored, metric to 'Merican, he rides 'em all.

Each mid-May  Myrtle Beach is awash in an ocean of bikes.
At one time, Myrtle Beach Bike Week attracted around a half-million people to the Grand Strand. Then the city of Myrtle Beach enacted a bunch of laws aimed at deterring bikers from attending the rally. Since then, the South Carolina Supreme Court has struck down Myrtle Beach’s helmet law and the rest of the Strand is hoping bikers will return.
Adding high-class to this models 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 saying goes “Time heals all wounds.” This adage will be tested by motorcyclists as they decide whether or not to return to Myrtle Beach Bike Week (MBBW). Once the motorcycle rally’s magnitude ranked up there with the likes of Daytona Beach Bike Week and Laconia for East Coast-based events. Then the Myrtle Beach City Council and town mayor John Rhodes enacted city-wide laws aimed at motorcyclists in 2009 which resulted in many bikers boycotting the rally altogether. Bad part is, many business owners who suffered the repercussions had no say in the matter. But according to sources, the decision makers and powers that be in Myrtle Beach are dominated by senior citizens who don’t rely on the income events like Myrtle Beach Bike Week bring to the area. So for the last couple of years, many businesses who relied on the influx of income bikers brought have suffered.

But this year will be the first rally since the South Carolina Supreme Court struck down the city of Myrtle Beach’s controversial helmet ordinance, ruling it invalid on the grounds that it is superseded by the state’s no-helmet law. According to Sonny Copeland, owner of Myrtle Beach Bike Week, LLC, reservations are up this year and hotels in the county are selling out. Of course, hotels and resorts are advertising with the disclaimer that they are out of city limits and the thrust of the action has spread out to the 60 miles of beaches outside of Myrtle Beach to Murrells Inlet, Garden City, North Myrtle Beach and the rest of Horry County. A Carolina poll suggests that three-quarters of the people support the return of the rally. When proposed with the question “Bike Week starts Friday in Myrtle Beach. How do you feel about bikers on the Grand Strand?” 74% of people polled replied “Welcome them with open arms,” 11% said they “Do not care if they visit or not” while 15% stated they “Like to watch them leave.”

One area that’s still getting the short end of the stick during MBBW is vendors. Copeland claims that so far it’s looking like a lot more people are coming this year in comparison to 2010 but there are still less vendors than before. This is because Horry County wants $900 for a permit for seven days, not counting fees for rental space. Limits have been set on the total number of vendor permits, too. This has resulted in a lot of sellers setting up inside bars and other establishments which can minimize exposure. But during trying times, adaptation is necessary in order to survive.

And despite the efforts of a small minority in the city of Myrtle Beach, the citizens of South Carolina are busy preparing for Myrtle Beach Bike Week 2011. It is the 71st meeting of the annual spring rally and a full slate of entertainment,

We know why this man is smiling. Russell of  Speedvisions Build or Bust fame.
Myrtle Beach Bike Week used to attract top custom builders like Exile Cycles’ Russell Mitchell. Organizers of the event are hoping to restore the event’s reputation after its recent bout of bad publicity.

bike shows, poker runs and other rides are planned for this year’s event. A Myrtle Beach Bike Week Welcome Center is set up at Cooter’s Backyard Bar & Grill in Murrells Inlet. Cooter’s is stepping up to be an active promoter of the rally, offering drink specials, free breakfasts from May 16-21 and by organizing several “Freedom Ride Tours.” The original Suck Bang Blow (SBB) in Murrells Inlet should be hopping with the Wall of Death, burnout pits and stunt riders all on its activity schedule. Tribute band Judas Priestess will do their best Rob Halford and Priest impersonations at Suck Bang Blow Friday-Sunday, May 13-15 at SBB as well. Michael Ballard & Angie from the Full Throttle Saloon will have their rig set up at Myrtle Beach Harley-Davidson while the Flaunt girls will be performing at North Myrtle Beach H-D. Barefoot Landing is said to have 40 vendors already, so the rally is shaping up.

“We’re going to be a riding rally. People are going to come here to ride,” Copeland added.

Will bikers dismiss the acts of a few and return to the rally? Striking down Myrtle Beach’s helmet law will help cleanse salt poured in open wounds. Of course, Myrtle Beach still has its noise ordinance in place which states noise levels should not “exceed 92 decibels when measured 20 inches from the exhaust pipe at a 45-degree angle while the engine is idling.” This city-enacted legislation is being contested in a lawsuit on the grounds that similar to the helmet law, it is also pre-empted by state law and is therefore unconstitutional. And motorcyclists don’t even need to enter the city of Myrtle Beach. They can take the 31 Bypass from Hwy 544, connect to US 22 and exit off near North Myrtle Beach at the Pro Bass Shop, bypassing Myrtle Beach entirely. So will time really heal all wounds? There’s a bunch of business owners along the Grand Stand that are counting on it.