2012 Arizona Bike Week Report

April 25, 2012
J.Joshua Placa
J. Joshua Placa
Contributing Editor|Articles|Articles RSS

J. Joshua Placa is the former editor of Cruising Rider magazine. He freelances for a number of moto publications and has contributed to national travel and adventure magazines, as well as major dailies. Whereabouts unknown, Placa is rumored to be holing up in a clapboard desert shack, chopper chained to his pet coyote, Stinky, and comfortably hiding from the Vatican.

Striking a pose with the Kawasaki Vaquero in front of the Smokehouse.
The magic was back this year for Arizona Bike Week 2012 as the sun came out, people were in the party mood, and the vibe overall was positive.

There was something missing from last year’s Arizona Bike Week. There was plenty of live music and vendors peddling most everything that would fit on a bike and its master, but something was askew. The same good-time feeling that had grown steadily over the years had stalled. In 2012 though, organizers rallied, fixed the problem, and returned ABW to prominence.

The issue didn’t include any of the usual suspects: bad weather, overzealous law enforcement, rival club rumbles; the event skidded on its ticket pricing.

According to ABW marketing and media coordinator, Lisa Cyr, last year’s pricing was designed to give people a break. “We offered only a five-day pass, which included entry to Cyclefest everyday and the nightly featured concert. The idea was to offer a better package for less, leaving attendees more money to join our trademark charity rides, which we thought would benefit everyone.”

The strategy backfired, turning away event goers and leaving vendors grumbling. “We realized too late that no one liked having their choices taken away,” added Cyr.

The event returned to a more conventional pricing package this year, offering a five-day pass, including headliner concerts for $45 per person, $20 for Wednesday and Thursday, $25 Friday and Saturday (a $5 bump over 2010) and $10 Sunday ($5 decrease). And just like that, the vibe was back in Scottsdale.

Harleys as far as the eye can see.
 Nearly 70,000 enthusiasts made it out to Arizona Bike Week this year, up from 52,000 in 2011.

Undaunted, vendors returned to Cyclefest in force, expanding beyond last year’s count. Demo fleets (Harley-Davidson, Can-Am, Kawasaki, Victory and Star Motorcycles) reported more activity than ever. There was the usual assortment of muscled men in tight T-shirts, saucy women in tighter tank tops, lots of live music, cold beverages, abundant rows of biker-wear, and pretty much everything else needed to get on and stay on the road. For any regular citizen who has to ask, this is why we come out to play on Biker Opening Day.

Rumors of a scooter Shangri-La flourishing somewhere in the Sonoran Desert have spread for years, but most of us who are still somewhat sane thought it just another wild tale told by gypsies and mad biker vagabonds. But enthusiasts of every ilk, make and model rolled in from surrounding states to what felt like motorcycle Mecca. It seems like every restaurant, motorcycle shop, saloon and strip club within a 200-mile radius conspired to turn Bike Week into an endless bash.

There is a palpable excitement that spins into town with ABW. The cosmopolitan, artsy city of Scottsdale, sometimes called “L.A. East” because of its prevalence of swanky clubs, upscale restaurants, art galleries, bounty of blonde hair dye and ponderous silicone bolt-ons, is suddenly charged with the roaring energy of thousands of bikes rumbling down street and boulevard, kindred spirits hell-bent for the next good time. There are plenty to be found.

The 16th edition of AWB enjoyed ideal weather and some 70,000 enthusiasts took advantage, up from 52,000 last year, according to event officials. The drive to bust loose from winter’s grip, shake off sticky money woes and enjoy the sunshine and good times had riders galloping in from California, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, the four corners of Arizona and points unknown.

A healthy crowd gathered to catch the show.
Tesla rocked the Handlebar Saloon.
Tesla rocked the Handlebar Saloon to an appreciative crowd.

Pre-rally days began March 23, warming things up with kick-off parties at various Harley-Davidson dealerships, custom shops, bars and eateries about town. Music festivals, Miss ABW preliminaries, breakfast socials, bike shows, poker runs, barbecues, and concerts were everywhere as Scottsdale, Cave Creek and the greater metro Phoenix area collectively turned into arguably the most biker friendly destination in the nation.

Bike Week officially launched March 28 when Cyclefest opened its gates at WestWorld in Scottsdale. Signature charity rides raising tens of thousands of dollars, scores of vendors, demo fleets, and seemingly non-stop live music pounding out from the rally’s grassy Handlebar Saloon were among the sights and sounds that have come to define this up-and-coming event. Fervent crowds poured into Cyclefest’s big tent for headliners Quiet Riot, Puddle of Mudd, REO Speed Wagon and Tesla, who appeared Wednesday through Saturday evening, respectively.

Highlights included the Hamster’s Dry Heat Charity Run to benefit the Children’s Care Hospital. Lled by master builder and local son, Paul Yaffe, the posse rode out to Greasewood Flats, a rootin’ tootin’ old west bar. Other popular benefit rides included the Chandler Harley MDA Charity Run, Buddy Stubbs H-D Riding for Kids Charity Run, and Arrowhead H-D’s Hogs for Heroes Ride for fallen law enforcement officers.
Most of Arizona is a biker’s paradise, especially in the early spring. As a free perk, organizers outlined four scenic day rides, ranging from 235 miles to 367 miles roundtrip, visiting old mining towns, river canyons, lakes, high desert, and the astonishing red rock wonderlands of the Sedona area.

If the desert wasn’t hot enough, the Miss ABW Finals were. So was the T-Bar Trail Ride, a wildly popular strip club run, and the World Famous Saturday Night Wet T-shirt Contest was guaranteed to raise your temperature. The People’s Choice Bike Show, Paul Yaffe Originals traditional Bike Week Bash, a silent auction, raffles, and sponsored bikes games rounded out the party.

Arizona Bike Week is expected to reconvene at the end of March next year, although dates and ticket pricing are yet to be determined.

All dressed up with too many places to go.
Somebody came dressed for the party!
Arizona Bike Week was fun for the whole family.
Family fun at 2012 Arizona Bike Fest.
Bikes werent the only things turning heads in Arizona.
Motorcycles weren’t the only thing turning heads
in Arizona.

For more information, call 480-644-8191or visit www.azbikeweek.com.

Where to Sleep
Hotel Indigo Scottsdale
4415 North Civic Center Plaza
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
480/941-9400 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            480/941-9400      end_of_the_skype_highlighting

Hip yet unpretentious, this is the best place to stay if you want to park your bike for the night and have almost infinite, within-walking-distance nightlife choices, from the super posh and exclusive to local dives, if anything in Scottsdale can really be described as a dive. We noticed a cluster of freshly shined bikes parked near the front door when we checked in. Management is most proactive in accommodating their guests’ parking needs, even when nearby nightclub patrons circle like sharks for spaces.

The hotel is tidy, but errant champagne corks and metallic confetti seemed to catch my eye at every turn. Although it has a business center, this struck us as a party hotel. Diehards were pounding bourbon shots at their 44fifteen Bar and Bistro on Sunday morning, and the place seems to be ground zero for the girl’s getaway weekend set.

The property’s website offers a shuttered sense of the whimsical décor, various packages and amenities such as swimming pool, fitness center and indoor/outdoor lounge. They are affiliated with off-site spa services, if you need a little help recovering. Biker camaraderie can be found at the nearby Shotgun Betty’s Rock and Roll Saloon on Stetson.

Sedona Real Inn and Suites
95 Arroyo Pinon Drive
Sedona, AZ 86336

This well-run, family-owned establishment is in the otherworldly town of Sedona, a stop on one of AWB’s recommended day rides. The property has just benefited from a number of renovations and upgrades, both to the breakfast area and much of the well-appointed, comfortable rooms. With its own red rock vista, a tranquil family and pet area has been recently created, replete with barbeque station, picnic benches, and pebbled paths if you happen to ride with your hound, as we saw a few enthusiasts did.

The parking is ample and well lit. If you trailer your ride, they can accommodate. The property features niceties, such as oversize pool, whirlpool, exercise facility, room service, complementary deluxe continental breakfast, and more. Also notable are the several dining and lounge choices nearby.