Every spring it sings songs of the Sirens to bikers, weaving a spell of white sandy beaches, warm weather, and the prospect of riding once again. Annually it’s a spring rite of passage for half a million moto-enthusiasts as it signifies the end of winter and the beginning of a new riding season. Daytona Beach Bike Week fuels the fire to ride, to give motorcycles a little much-needed TLC, to take off trickle chargers, top off fuel levels, check tire pressures, and prepare to hit the open road. And 2016 is a milestone year for Daytona Beach Bike Week as the Florida motorcycle rally celebrates its 75th anniversary with a full slate of racing, bike shows, concerts, Main Street mayhem and the always entertaining coleslaw wrestling at Sopotnick’s Cabbage Patch.
Of course, there would be no Daytona Beach if not for motorcycle racing. And racing is still at the core of Daytona Beach Bike Week, from the prestigious Daytona 200 to Supercross to the start of the AMA Pro Flat Track season. It all started January 24, 1937, when a handful of riders gathered on the sandy beaches south of town for the “Handlebar Derby.” The 3.2-mile track included a one-and-a-half sprint up the beach into a sandy, banked quarter-mile turn before blasting south on the paved, public road. Another banked turn built into a big sandy bank awaited riders as they circled back to the beach to do it all over again. Starting times were contingent on the tide. Californian rider Ed Kretz etched his name into the record books as the first winner of the Daytona 200, averaging 73.34 mph on his Indian motorcycle on his way to victory. And thus the rally was born.
The 75th running of the Daytona 200 is the premiere racing event of Daytona Beach Bike Week 2016.
The Daytona 200 has seen its share of changes over the course of its history. The race was canceled during the early 1940s due to World War II. Even though there was no “official” Bike Week during this time period, motorcyclist still got together in Daytona Beach. In 1948, development along the beach caused organizers to move the race further south toward Ponce Inlet. In 1961, the races moved from the beaches to its current home, Daytona International Speedway (DIS). Even at Daytona, the course has seen its share of reconfigurations. It’s also seen its share of epic races and racers, the likes of Kenny Roberts, Eddie Lawson, Wayne Rainey, Nicky Hayden, Kevin Schwantz, Scott Russell and Miguel Duhamel all gracing its podium.
Daytona International Speedway itself has been undergoing a major facelift over the past couple of years, the $400 million “Daytona Rising” project finally reaching completion. The frontstretch redevelopment project is multi-faceted. According to the DIS website, it includes “five expanded and redesigned entrances, or ‘injectors, that will lead fans to a series of escalators and elevators, transporting them to three different concourse levels. Each level features spacious social areas, or ‘neighborhoods,’ along the nearly mile-long frontstretch.” DIS will now feature 101,500 permanent, wider, more comfortable seats, twice as many restrooms, and three times as many concession stands. The updates include 60 luxury suites with track side views and a “completely revamped hospitality experience for corporate guests.”
The revamped Speedway is showing plenty of hospitality to the American motorcycle racing scene with an action-packed schedule for the 75th anniversary of Bike Week. It rips out of the gate with Monster Energy AMA Supercross Saturday, March 5, and doesn’t slow down until the 75th Daytona 200 Saturday, March 12. In between those cornerstones are Ricky Carmichael’s Amateur Supercross competition March 6-7, FLY Racing ATV Supercross March 8, and the first two races of the 2016 AMA Pro Flat Track season March 10-11.
Daytona International Speedway does much more than host races during the rally, though. Just about every major manufacturer sets up shop there with its full line-up of new motorcycles, giving enthusiasts a chance to check just about everything on the market at one place. The list includes Suzuki, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Indian, Polaris, Harley, Victory, Can-Am, all offering demo rides for people with a valid motorcycle’s license and DOT-approved helmet. At Daytona’s Midway, a long list of vendors and aftermarket companies set up shop with their latest wares. Inside of the Midway is a section called Thunder Alley that has a slew of food and beverage booths along with attractions like Hot Leathers’ fashion show. There’s so much to see and do at the Speedway, it’s worth setting a full day aside just to explore all it has to offer.
Willie G. is known to pop into the Harley-Davidson Ride-In Show to check out the scene.
Another place that could easily gobble up a day to take everything it offers in is Bruce Rossmeyer’s Destination Daytona. Yes, it’s one of the biggest Harley dealerships on the planet. But it’s also got its own mini-rally going on. A “Who’s Who” of vendors is spread around its grounds, it’s got its own bars, restaurants, and tattoo shop on-premise, along with an updated outdoor venue called “Jesters Live” where it will be hosting big name concerts throughout the week. The band list includes Buckcherry, Black Label Society, Creedence Clearwater Revisited, and Charlie Daniels. Saturday, March 5, Destination Daytona is presenting the Miss Swimsuit USA International Model Search at 6 p.m. Rossmeyer’s is home to several bike shows throughout the week, including the Perewitz Custom Paint Show on Wednesday, March 9. The day before it will be the endpoint of the 2016 Harley-Davidson MDA Women’s Ride. Bruce Rossmeyer’s has established itself as a Bike Week institution and is definitely worth a visit.
Though smaller in scale, Riverfront Park at the corner of Main and North Beach Street, is another popular Bike Week destination. Riverfront has a stellar lineup of talent slated for its Builders Row, including Azzkikr Custom Baggers, Misfit Industries, Ballistic Cycles, Blings Cycles, Thompson Cycles, Black Label Custom Baggers, and Kendall Johnson Customs. Michele Smith, the former hostess of the shows “American Thunder” and “Two Wheeled Thunder,” is reportedly making a guest appearance during the week. There’s everything from vendors to food trucks like Cousins Main Lobster to live entertainment courtesy of Ring of Fire, a Johnny Cash tribute band, and others. Across the street from the park is a huge Indian Motorcycle dealership. The entire arrangement is set against the backdrop of the Halifax River. While checking out the action at Riverfront, we’ve seen dolphins swimming in the river in a past visit, something you don’t see every day at a biker rally.
The Rat’s Hole Custom Bike Show is the largest and longest-running bike show in Daytona Beach.
Seeing how it’s an anniversary year, there will be no shortage of custom motorcycles in town. Luckily, there’s plenty of custom bike shows for everybody to showcase their rides at Daytona Beach Bike Week 2016. Heading into its 44th year, The Rat’s Hole Custom Bike Show is the largest and longest-running bike show in Daytona. Ted and Pam Smith are going big for the 75th, with seven shows on the calendar this year. The granddaddy of them all is the world famous Rat’s Hole Show Saturday, March 12, with special Daytona 75th Rat’s Hole trophies going to the winners in 18 classes. Throughout the week they’ve got two customer appreciation shows planned for both Indian and Victory. They’ll start the week with “Super Hero Day” where the Batman, Iron Man, and Captain America bikes will be unveiled along with the new Super Rat Trike. On Friday, March 11, The Rat’s Hole along with Boss Hoss will host a V-8 Parade around The Loop, the event serving as a fundraiser for Shriners Hospital for Children. All of the Rat’s Hole events will be held in a big tent at the Indian dealership across from Riverfront Park.
Another show we highly recommend is Willie’s Tropical Tattoo “Chopper Time.” Willie’s is always a party as bikes pack into the property as tight as you can get ‘em. This is an old school show filled with plenty of rat bikes, garage customs, vintage scoots and choppers. MC Roadside Marty is guaranteed to stir the pot, BBQ will be cooking out back, there’s usually a band or two, and cash and prizes for the winners in 20 classes. Willie’s “Chopper Time” will be held Thursday, March 10, from 12 to 4 p.m.
Other shows throughout the week include Harley-Davidson’s Editor’s Choice Bike Show Wednesday, March 9th, at the Broken Spoke Saloon on North US Highway 1. Sopotnick’s Cabbage Patch has a few shows planned, including a Battle of the Baggers and Bagger Sound-Off Competition on Thursday, March 10. We already mentioned Jody and Dave Perewitz’s Custom Paint Show at Destination Daytona, the venue hosting several other shows over the course of the week as well. Fastlane’s Campground over in Deland has a series of competitions scheduled throughout the week, too, starting with a Shovelhead Show Saturday, March 5, and ending with an Antique Bike Show the 12th. This list is by no means all-inclusive as there’s plenty of other shows on the docket throughout the week.
Speaking of Fastlane’s Campground, they’re doing a “Burning Bike” spin-off of the Burning Man Festival at the 2016 rally. Apparently they’ve constructed a giant wooden motorcycle sculpture and are giving people a chance to sign it and have their picture taken with it during the week. Friday night, March 11, is the night of the burn. Fastlane’s is holding a Madd Max-themed costume contest, a Miss Burning Bike Bikini Contest with $1000 cash up for grabs, and then they’re going to light that mutha on fire! Sounds like a party to us! Another place to go for good ol’ fashioned biker fun is Sopotnick’s Cabbage Patch. We mentioned the bike shows it’s holding, but the marquee event at the Cabbage Patch is the annual Coleslaw Wrestling matches Wednesday, March 9, and Saturday, March 12. With $2500 cash divided amongst the winners, it’s not just fun and games. These girls get serious once the proverbial slaw hits the mat. It’s a spectacle that has grown into a staple of Bike Week entertainment. We also recommend taking a spin out on N. US Highway 1, home to both the Iron Horse Saloon and the Broken Spoke. These bastions of biker revelry offer a bounty of fun, from burnout pits to Wall of Death shows to live music daily. Each is rife with biker ambience, from the wooden-planked platforms and walkways of the Iron Horse to motorcycles that dangle from trees like Christmas ornaments at the Spoke. The Broken Spoke Saloon says Jay Allen is returning to host the 75th anniversary Bike Week party, which will be interesting to see considering the two had an unceremonious parting of the ways a few years back.
Finally, there’s always the nightly mayhem on Main Street. It’s loud, rowdy, and raunchy. But that’s what makes it Main Street. Finding a corner to post up on and people watching can be a hoot. A constant procession of motorcycles fills the street, both cruising up and down and parked alongside. There’s plenty of popular drinking establishments to get your party on at Main, from Boot Hill Saloon at the top of the street to Dirty Harry’s and the Full Moon Saloon down closer to the A1A. Traffic around Main Street is always a bitch, so be prepared and be patient. It’s also something everyone needs to experience at least during their Bike Week visit, so put it on your itinerary.
Yup, Main Street at Bike Week can be a little wild. We wouldn’t want it any other way!
The 75th anniversary Daytona Beach Bike Week motorcycle rally runs from March 4-13, 2016. We kick off 2016 Bike Week at an event with our friends from Allstate Insurance the first weekend which we’ll fill everybody in on soon, then we’ll switch gears and start posting up photos and stories from the rally, so check in the first week of March to see what’s going down on at the first big biker blowout of the year, Daytona Beach Bike Week 2016.