Daytona Bike Week 2012 Review

March 21, 2012
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.

Daytona Bike Week 2012 had the foreshadowing of a bust. Weather was crappy, motorcycle accidents were claiming lives before the event even really started, and it remained to be seen how Spring Breakers would mingle with the biker brood. Then the sun came out. And so did the crowds. The rest of the week was splendidly warm, the weather was perfect for racing, and the fact that Bike Week stretched into St. Patty’s Day only heightened people’s spirits. Before it was all over, Daytona bar and hotel owners were happy after initial attendance projections are up from last year while vendors reportedly were a mixed bag.

Miss  AKA Miss Rats Mate 2012  was busy posing with bikes and greeting fans at the 40th Anniversary show.
Miss (that’s us!) aka Miss Rats Mate 2012, was busy posing with bikes and greeting fans at the 40th Anniversary Rat’s Hole Custom Bike Show.

And while spirits were high this year, fatalities were up. Eight motorcycle-related deaths were reported in Volusia and Flagler Counties during Bike Week 2012, while only three were reported in 2011. This year, there were three on the final Saturday alone. When you get so many riders concentrated in one area of varying riding skills, add in distracted drivers who are either texting or talking on their phones, old people who shouldn’t be driving, and riders whose reflexes are dulled by the effects of alcohol, you’ve got the recipe for disaster. We witnessed several close calls ourselves and saw both motorcyclists and car drivers at fault. It’d be nice to attend a big rally where nobody died, but at this juncture I think that’s just wishful thinking. It’s a shame that people come to motorcycle rallies for a good time when the opposite frequently occurs.

On a positive note, the Motorcycle Theft Prevention Task Force was busy, recovering 25 stolen motorcycles and making three arrests. That’s pretty good considering The Daytona Beach News –Journal reported that only 24 motorcycles were reported stolen in Volusia County. Don’t know how that math works out. Only thing I can figure is that maybe they recovered a motorcycle which was stolen elsewhere and brought to Bike Week.

One thing I can say with certainty is that we saw more women on the road than ever before. This was most evident at the Harley-Davidson Women’s MDA Ride when over 130 ladies fired up their bikes for a parade down Main Street and out to Destination Daytona. The event raised over $35,000 for the MDA and was an empowering afternoon for women motorcyclists. Elena Myers would later display her girl power when she flexed her muscles in the second SuperSport race and became the first woman racer to win a major event at Daytona. Not bad for an 18-year-old.

We were honored to receive a copy of Cris Sommer-Simmons new book, “The American Motorcycle Cannonball Coast-to-Coast Endurance Run.” We are lucky that such a monumental event has been captured by Cris’ pen and Michael Lichter’s photography. My wife hasn’t put the book down since I brought it home and Cris’ book has sparked the dream of such grand adventures in her. Cat Hammes, the RN also known as the “One Legged Blonde,” and Gina Woods of Open Road Radio took time out of their busy schedules to hold two sessions of Vicki Sanfelipo’s accident scene management course in Daytona. “A Crash Course for the Motorcyclist” teaches what to do at the scene of a motorcycle accident until help arrives, from securing the scene to assisting the injured. It’s the type of course all riders could benefit from. These are just a handful of women who are making their impact on motorcycling in a list that’s growing rapidly.

Heading into its fifth year  the Harley-Davidson MDA Womens Ride is going stronger than ever. Helmet  Check. Glasses  Check. Lets Ride!Elena Myers celebrated her second career victory with a win in the second SuperSport race.
(L) The posse of women riders at the fifth annual Harley MDA Women’s Ride was over 130 strong. (M) Helmet? Check. Glasses? Check. Let’s Ride! (R) Elena Myers made history by becoming the first woman racer to win a major event at Daytona after fighting her way to victory in the AMA SuperSport race on Saturday.

Another list that grew this year was the amount of custom bike shows, from the Boardwalk show to the Street Chopper Bike Show at the Chop Lot. Bikers were lining up early Thursday morning for Willie’s Tropical Tattoo Old School Chopper Show where Frisco tanks, jockey shifters, magnetos and Panheads are the norm. With Roadside Marty antagonizing the crowd behind the mic and guests like Dave Perewitz milling about the crowd, Willie once again hosted a killer street party. Harley-Davidson also took to the streets when it closed down a section of Beach Street for its annual Harley Ride-In Bike Show. Over 125 custom motorcycles stretched for almost two blocks, ranging from a 1966 CRTT H-D café racer to a crazy one-off Porkybilt custom with a single-sided fork. The venerable Willie G. and Bill Davidson presided over the trophy event on Wednesday, but by Friday Willie G. was announcing he’s stepping aside after a 49 year run of helping steer the Harley-Davidson ship. Fortunately, he’s still going to serve a role as H-D ambassador, so we’ll still see him around at rallies. We can attest after seeing him Bike Week that the 78-year-old Willie G. is still a rock star in the industry, getting mobbed by fans wherever he goes.

The amazing Peregro made this incredible portrait of Willie G. live on-stage during the Harley-Davidson Ride-In Custom Bike Show. Willie G. added his own touch down in the corner.
Harley-Davidson’s Willie G. helped the amazing Peregro paint this mural live on-stage during the Harley Ride-In Custom Bike Show. It was then auctioned off on-the-spot. The winning bidders will want to hold on to this collectible seeing as how Willie G. announced he is stepping down two days later, instantly increasing its price.

The Rat’s Hole was celebrating its 40th Anniversary and had a huge turnout of over 180 bikes. We’ve been going to the Rat’s Hole Daytona Beach show for some years now, but the level of competition in this year’s show was phenomenal. Good thing Head Judge Tony Mazzaro has over 20 years’ experience judging the show because choosing winners this year was a daunting task. Sic Chops out of Lake Havasu, Arizona, won the Café Racer Showdown for its “Rat Café” built mostly from recycled parts. Powered by an engine off a Virago 250, the little mill gets a boost from a turbo system. They cut up and contoured an old CB gas tank to fit the frame. The tail section is made from the original gas tank of the Virago while the front end features an inverted dirt bike fork. After building the café racer, Scott of Sic Chops said it has “changed his direction in custom builds” and mentioned how honored he was to have won the showdown.

The final round of the Ultimate Builder Custom Bike Show went down in the Ocean Center as the winners from the previous 11 rounds of the Ultimate Builder contest met at the beach for a battle royale. As Connor Macleod says, “There can be only one!” and that one was Jeremy Cupp of LC Fabrications who won the coveted FreeStyle Class for his beautiful interpretation of a Harley hillclimber. Cupp’s “Old Black” is based on a 1976 Harley XL with a Hillclimber chassis and a highly modified Harley 883 engine, including reversed heads, dual Amal carbs, and jackshafted dual chain drives. “Old Black” beat out 19 other competitors for the title of 2012 Grand National Champion, $6000 in cash and an invite to the AMD World Championship of Custom Bike Building in Sturgis this summer. Congratulations Jeremy on a stellar build.

Motorcycle USA also hosted a party with the Rat’s Hole crew Thursday night at Harley Crossings. Custom bike builder Roger Bourget showed up as special guest as did some of the bike builders from the show. The beer was cold and the music was rowdy as Willie & the Po’ Boys jammed down-home Southern rock onstage. Low key and laid back, people were scooping up the Motorcycle USA bottle openers as fast as our lovely spokesmodel could hand them out. The highlight of the night was the café racer bike race where teams of two had to take turns sprinting around orange cones pushing a bicycle with no pedals and a sprung fork. As they pushed, the bike flexed like crazy, making it difficult to maneuver. While one person ran, their partner had to slug a mug filled with draft beer. Of course the Rat’s Hole mugs held just over three beers each, so it was a chug to the finish. And even though the bike lost its handlebars after the first run, the contest went on as winners received a set of Avon tires and free beer to boot. Some good old-fashioned fun was had by those who attended and we hope to grow the party even bigger next year.

Doobie Brother Pat Simmons performed an acoustic set for the ladies participating in the Harley MDA Ride. The Full Throttle Saloons Michael Ballard and Angie met fans out at Destination Daytona. Jake and Elwood live! The Official Blues Brothers Revue entertains the crowd at Harleys party on Beach Street Wednesday night.
(L) Doobie Brother Pat Simmons performed an acoustic set for the ladies participating in the Harley MDA Ride. (M) The Full Throttle Saloon’s Michael Ballard and Angie met fans out at Destination Daytona. (R) Jake and Elwood live! The Official Blues Brothers Revue entertains the crowd at Harley’s party on Beach Street Wednesday night.

And though Daytona doesn’t have the reputation for music that Sturgis has, we were able to catch some great shows at Bike Week this year. Doobie Brother Pat Simmons did a solo acoustic set at Destination Daytona after the Harley Women’s MDA Ride. It was an intimate setting, a man, his guitar, and a patio full of friends as Simmons entertained with his melodic voice and skillful strumming. The crowd sang along to favorites like “Black Water” and “Without Love” as Pat tore it up on guitar. The following night, the spirit of Jake and Elwood Blues came to life during the Blues Brothers Review, the headliners for the Harley Owners Group annual Bike Week blowout. Every year, Harley-Davidson throws a big party for owners of its motorcycles, and the guys of the Blues Brothers Review had Dan Akroyd’s and John Belushi’s moves and mannerisms down to a tee, from Jake’s juking to Elwood blowing the harmonica. The fun would

The 40th Anniversary Rats Hole Custom Bike Show had a killer turnout of over 180 motorcycles.
The 40th Anniversary Rat’s Hole Custom Bike Show had a killer turnout of over 180 motorcycles.
Allstate ONE Project  Dave Perewitz  Rick Fairless and Arlen Ness
The power trio of Dave Perewitz, Rick Fairless and Arlen Ness all built custom motorcycles for Allstate Insurance’s ONE program. The bikes debuted at the Allstate booth out at the Speedway and will be on display as they tour the country at various motorcycle rallies.

continue as we hit up the free Jackyl show at Destination Daytona Saturday night. It was standing room only as Jesse James Dupree rocked the Coca-Cola Pavilion, running through a list of favorites like “When Will it Rain” and “Dirty Little Mind.” Of course, he brought out the chainsaw for the closer, “The Lumberjack” where he proceeded to reduce a wooden stool on stage to sawdust. Considering the amount of people the free show brought out to Destination Daytona on the final Saturday night of Bike Week when people usually flock to Main Street, it was a brilliant move by the Destination Daytona folks.

People were in an overly festive mood Saturday night because for the first time Bike Week ran into St. Patrick’s Day. The color green was everywhere, from the bar girls at Froggy’s with their green antennas to spiked green mullets strolling down Main Street. Kilts were worn freely and a huge St. Paddy’s day celebration was going on at Beach Street. Saturday also saw the return of the annual Bike Week Parade after a seven-year hiatus. It turned out to be a miniature version of year’s past as only about 300 bikers showed up for the Community Appreciation Parade that at one time attracted over 7000 riders. Still, those who attended were glad to see its return and have confidence it can once again return to its former glory.

We hit up the Speedway to check out the three motorcycles Arlen Ness, Rick Fairless and Dave Perewitz have built for Allstate Insurance. Fairless’ bike is in support of Allstate’s ONE program that encourages all drivers to look twice at intersections and when changing lanes because one time is never enough. Fairless built a bike he calls “Wilma” based on his “Pam” frame, Ness went back to his roots to build a digger-style motorcycle from the ‘70s while Perewitz built a bad-ass bagger. We got a chance to talk to all three men about the project which will be featuring at a later date. While we were at the Speedway, we came across a memorial at the spot where the Diamond Heads booth should be. The company based out of Las Vegas is well-known by just about every custom bike builder as their product has dressed up many a custom bike. Unfortunately, its founders, Keith and Amber Briton were involved in a motorcycle vs car accident on Wednesday, March 7, claiming the life of Amber. The memorial was raised in their absence, a sad testament to the inherent dangers of this lifestyle we all love so much. So Bike Week 2012 was a bit bitter sweet
We did enjoy some incredible weather, though, as we rode the Harley-Davidson Softail Slim, Seventy-Two, and Switchback in addition to cruising around on a V8 Chopper. The bikes entered in this year’s shows were incredible, the racing action fantastic, and the perceived conflicts between bikers and Spring Breakers never materialized. Bike Week 2012 left participants with a sense of optimism, a welcome change after the spiral the industry has been in the last couple of years. Let’s hope this optimism carries over into the new year.