The biker nation took a needed break from bad weather and worse headlines, taking a few days to enjoy the safe calm, frolicking fun and balmy temps of the 17th Annual Arizona Bike Week. The event has evolved into one of America’s finest motorcycle rallies, safe from hooligans and overzealous municipal revenuers (lawmen), and designed to maximize the goodtime bang for the buck.
While most of us were still stuck in the cold, merciless grip of a stubborn winter, enduring record late-season snowfall, frigid temps, ice storms, hundred-year floods and maybe some pestilence and intermittent meteor showers, countless weather-beaten but brave souls motored in from unfriendly climes and parts less preferred. Overcoming abominable challenges of weather and road, enthusiasts rode right into the warm, soft bosom of Bike Week, arriving with renewed joy and much jubilation.
ABW kicks off with five days of pre-rally parties, contests, giveaways, and charity rides, then tops it off with the Cyclefest, ABW’s official opening day, held in Scottsdale’s mammoth equestrian venue, WestWorld.
Custom bikes and beautiful women are always a winning combination, and there are plenty of both at ABW.
This has grown into a premier event, rivaling older and - at least for now - larger events in measures of fun, safety, live music, vendors, activities and even a positive law enforcement attitude. It outdistances all major rallies in scenic rides, charity runs, and perhaps most importantly, in its upbeat vibe.
“Everybody is just here to have a good time,” said Lisa Cyr, marketing and media director for ABW, “We have a lot of security and bag checkpoint at the gate, but traditionally Bike Week has always been a safe and secure event; it’s really all about the fun.”
Site security echoed Cyr’s sentiments. “This is my first year here. But having worked rodeos, NASCAR and other big-crowd events, I can easily say this is the most well-behaved and cleanest group I’ve seen. This is a little bit of surprise,” said one security guard who preferred to remain anonymous, “because I thought it would be all these big, bad bikers all pumped and primed and ready to mix it up, but there was none of that. Makes my job easy.”
Starting in the biker town of Cave Creek, a kind of party sister to Cyclefest some 20 miles to the southeast, we scooted from one music, vendor and bike show place to the next, winding our way to the main event. Riding into the Valley of the Sun from the colder, wetter, meaner outer-lands feels like taking a soft sweeper into a happy biker paradise, a land of milk and beer, ideal temperatures, soft breezes, otherworldly scenery and nearly clothes-less hot bodies with provocative tattoos. After passing through the Cyclefest gates, we could soon see that fun feeling is contagious.
Ten full days of stunning signature rides in and around Scottsdale, the greater Phoenix metro area, and up to the biker haven of Cave Creek; Miss Arizona Bike Week; barbecues, Western cookouts, best bike builds; bike games; factory demo rides, bikini washes; vendors to outfit all things bike and biker; and at least two kinds of death-defying, gravity-denying, impossible stunt shows are followed by nights of ABW’s famed concert series and other activities best suited for cover of darkness.
Spend the day on a beautifully scenic ride and then finish things off with a world-class concert. There's something for everyone curing Arizona Bike Week.
Also featured is the best of Christie’s Cabaret gentlemen club’s World Famous Saturday Night Contest; naughtier bike games and other biker-appropriate evening shenanigans; a tribute to esteemed master builder Donnie Smith; custom bike and bagger shows, and other fun found in most corners of town. Headliners such as Tonic, The Doobie Brothers, Blues Traveler and Third Eye Blind rounded out the wildly popular music bill, which featured almost non-stop live performances day and night.
The Pre-Rally Days, held this year April 6-10, are free except for donations to the various good-cause rides. During the five days of Cyclefest, charity ride participation is also good for admission, including ABW’s evening concert series. These rides all offered a number of amenities, such as breakfast, lunch, prizes, T-shirts or pins.
No fewer than 12 charity rides, galloping through a surprisingly bohemian metro area, raised tens of thousands of dollars, according to officials. Organizations for MDA, autism, various cancers, children’s health and education, families of law enforcement, breast awareness, the Special Olympics, the Children's Care Hospital and the Humane Society, among others, presented a true sense of what bikers are about. Sons of Anarchy stars Ryan Hurst (“Opie”) and Mark Boone Junior (“Bobby”) led the concluding Child Empowerment Ride, later signing autographs for fans who lined up two by two or more through almost the entire width of Cyclefest.
Four major self-guided and mapped rides headed off, as the local Apache and Navajo might say, in the direction of the four winds. The stunning day trips ranged from 235 to 367 miles, riding into the heart of Arizona's breathtaking Martian landscapes and long-dead volcanic ranges, exploring ghost towns, skirting Indian ruins, visiting red rock wonderlands, cool desert rivers and lakes, and slicing through hundreds of millions of years of geologic time. If you know how to look, remnants of shallow oceans that invaded and retreated over eons of deep time are evident, depositing the sand and mud that later formed the colorful stone sentinels towering above what were once Jurassic sea beds.
Prices are reasonable and kids under 12 get in free, making Arizona Bike Week a fun event for the whole family.
Cyclefest admission cost $45 for a five-day pass, or $20 Wednesday and Thursday; $25 Friday and Saturday, and $15 Sunday. Children 12 and under were free. All tickets, included the evening headliner concert series, providing a lot of bang for the rally buck.
While all makes and models of bike and biker are welcome, like any motorcycle rally there isn’t a lot to entertain children. A fair number of baby carriages and kids in tow, however, were seen moseying around, especially Sunday afternoon. This is probably more a reflection of how secure the event is, and how safe and comfortable moms and dads feel bringing their young children through the gate to behold the leather and tat-clad spectacle.
This also appeared true of single women, showing up day and night alone, in pairs or packs and dressed in Scottsdale finery, posh leathers or swanky saloon fashion. Once almost the exclusive domain of savage and crazed men, motorcycle rallies have seen a steady influx of women riding or walking in, adding balance and clean faces and nice smelling hair to what used to be a grizzly gathering.
Attendance and vendor numbers were up slightly over last year, according to Cyr. More than 70,000 participants and 208 official vendors made it to the party. “The weather was gorgeous, there was more field entertainment than ever, and the event went on flawlessly and seamlessly. Despite stereotypes and what people mistake bikers to be, it’s a very peaceful event; everyone is here just to have a good time. It’s a ridiculous amount of work to put this together,” added Cyr, “but seeing so many people have a good time makes it all worthwhile.”
Arizona Bike Week will reconvene next year, Friday, March 28, with the traditional Pre-Rally Days; Cyclefest open its gates Wednesday, April 2, running through April 6. Ticket prices have not yet been set but are not expected to vary much.
For more information, call 480-644-8191or visit www.azbikeweek.com