Bike Week 2011
was graced with beautiful riding weather, a stark contrast to the chill that hung over last year’s event. Considering the upper East Coast has been getting hammered this winter teamed with the fact that it was the motorcycle rally’s 70th anniversary, you would have expected attendance at the event to be pushing capacity. But that was not the case. Though an estimated 400 – 450,000 people are nothing to sneeze at, it pales in comparison to the
turnout from just a few years back. At the majority of bike shows we attended, entries were down, the usual crush of traffic on the A1A around Main Street was tolerable and we didn’t have to sit in a traffic jam for an hour to get to Destination Daytona.
Still, the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce estimates that the event still pumped almost $300-400 million into the local economy. An official study of the economic impact of the rally hasn’t been conducted since the University of Central Florida did one back in 2001, so the figures are only an educated approximation, but it’s easy to recognize the financial importance of the rally to the local economy. Businesses which provided essentials like hotels, restaurants and bars fared well while avenues for discretionary spending like vendors took a hit. Economic studies are more challenging these days due to the rally’s expansion beyond Volusia into Brevard and Flagler Counties as well and it’s an expensive process, the major reason an official study hasn’t been done in ten years.
Over the course of the rally, three motorcycle-related fatalities were reported. Friday was marred by the deaths of two motorcyclists who were killed within a 12 hour span, one in Ormond Beach and the other near Astor. A pedestrian who was struck by a motorcycle in Port Orange was also killed. Though our condolences go out to the families of those who perished, the number of fatalities was much lower than the record-breaking year of 2006 when 12 people were killed during Bike Week.
Local law enforcement reports state that this year’s event for the most part was peaceful and relatively quiet. The majority of arrests were for DUI infractions. According to a report out of The Daytona Beach News-Journal
, the Volusia County Motorcycle Anti-Theft Task Force was busy, seizing 35 motorcycles between March 4 and the final Sunday, as well as one trailer. A dozen motorcycles were pilfered within the city limits of Daytona Beach. In hindsight, I realize I didn’t see the signs declaring the anti-theft task force and its ensemble of bait bikes were out in force like in past years.
Once again, motorcycle racing
took center stage at Bike Week. The Daytona 200 provided plenty of fodder for conversations around the water cooler between the red flags, tire shredding and last lap crashes. In the end, a Ducati
rider stood on the top step of the podium for the very first time as Jason DiSalvo celebrated the victory. Rockstar
Makita Suzuki’s Blake Young kicked off the 2011 AMA SuperBike season in perfect fashion with two hard-earned victories. LTD Yamaha’s David Gaviria and Tomas Puerta split the Motorcycle Superstore AMA SuperSport races, with the second race going down to the wire. But that paled in comparison to the dramatic finish of the AMA XR1200 race which saw the top three riders finish within 0.088 seconds of one another. RMR/Bruce Rossmeyer’s Kyle Wyman edged out teammate Chris Fillmore by 0.016 seconds while flat track racer Joe Kopp made his XR1200 class debut and used his drafting knowledge to stay in the hunt and grab the final podium position. AMA Supercross may have moved to the first weekend of Bike Week this year but it didn’t bother Monster Energy
Kawasaki’s Ryan Villipoto who powered his way to his fourth victory of the year. Meanwhile, Chris Borich looks primed to win his third GNCC title after picking up where he left off last year by winning the opening race of the Can-Am Grand National Cross Series at Westgate River Ranch. And on the limestone of Daytona’s quarter-mile flat track, Sammy Halbert dominated the season opener by winning both races and every Dash for Cash.
Motorcycle USA landed in Daytona Beach late Monday night for the 70th Anniversary of Bike Week and spent the next six days in a zombie-like state as we ran around like madmen, sleeping little and riding a lot as we hit up as many bike shows as possible, attended several industry parties, took in the nightlife on Main Street and even caught some racing out on the flat track.
Bartenders danced on bar tops and the party raged on at the Dog House on Main Street. Molly Hatchet would rock the house later that night.
Our week started with a trip to Destination Daytona
, the largest Harley-Davidson
dealership in the world, where we met some of the inspirational women in Edward Winterhalder’s latest book, Biker Chicz of North America. We spent some enlightening moments with Vicki Sanfelipo, aka “Spitfire,” who educated us about the program she founded called “A Crash Course for the Motorcyclist.” A former RN and avid cyclist, Sanfelipo has established a protocol for administering aid to victims of a motorcycle accident. Motorcyclists who have suffered trauma in an accident need to be dealt with differently than people who have been in a car crash. Sanfelipo addresses this issue systematically in her program. We also got a chance to talk to custom builder Brian Klock who demonstrated the resiliency of his hot-selling windscreens for Harley tourers. That night it was off to our first industry party at the Limpnickie Lot where we got to check out the cool craftsmanship coming out of small shops and garages from across the country. We walked in to a group of guys off to a corner of the lot working on the engine to a slick little bobber with a small tank suspended below a drilled-out frame and an old bicycle seat for a saddle. It was humorous to watch two Sturgis moguls, Rod Woodruff of the Buffalo Chip and Jay Allen of the Broken Spoke walk silently by one another as they almost bumped shoulders. We did get a chance to talk to our friend Lon Nordbye, sponsorship director for the Legendary Buffalo Chip, who says they have a huge celebration in store for Sturgis this year in honor of the Buffalo Chip’s 30th anniversary. If you haven’t started making your Sturgis plans yet, put a trip to the Chip on your calendar because the party this year is going to be, to quote Cypress Hill, “Insane in the Membrane.” The Limpnickie Lot gig was held at the Stone Edge Skate Park and several boarders were dropping into the wooden bowl, providing a fitting backdrop for a group that offers a fresh perspective on the rally experience.
During the course of the week, we took in a bike show or two. It started at Willie’s Tropical Tattoo Chopper Show
, a place where hot rods, rat bikes, bobbers and choppers feel right at home. Willie’s differs from any other show at Bike Week with its homey, throw-back vibe, from the bikes entered in the contest to the cast of characters in the crowd. Emcee Roadside Marty was his usual abrasive, entertaining self out front of the tattoo parlor while the .357 String Band jammed in the back. On the other end of the spectrum was the Ultimate Builder Custom Bike Competition
at the IMS in the Ocean Center. The Ultimate Builder competition was between the winners of the various IMS around the country and the bikes entered in the contest were high dollar motorcycles dolled up in expensive paint and shiny chrome. Of course, there was a place for retro scoots too, like Chris Richardson of LA Speed Shop’s ’47 Harley-Davidson FL with a replica Knucklehead engine. This bike has been kicking ass across the country, winning just about every show it has entered. Then it was off to our favorite Bike Week bike show, the Rat’s Hole
. Ted Smith and crew held a World Bike Showdown between custom builders representing four countries. Chopper Kulture’s Mario Kyprianides won the popular vote and the World Showdown title, while over 70 other custom bikes duked it out for trophies in 22 classes.
A trip to Bike Week wouldn’t be complete without a stumble or two down Main Street. We took in the Biker Fusion Party
at the Dog House, a benefit in honor of our troops. With custom builders Dave Perewitz and Paul Yaffe grabbing the microphones and working the crowd, the event and auction raised over $11K for Soldier’s Angels. A few soldiers in attendance at the show who have served our country bravely on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan got the honor of serving as judges in the hotly contested bikini contest. Main Street was filled with the smell of meats grilling and the sound of music spilling out of almost every venue, highlighted by old school Southern rockers Molly Hatchet at the Dog House, whose driving guitar riffs rocked the place despite the downpour that raged outside.
Bike Week is all about racing and our sister site, the Motorcycle Superstore
, stepped up big time as a AMA Flat Track sponsor, so we hit up the quarter-mile limestone track to check out the action Friday night. We got a chance to talk to Brad “Bullet” Baker in the pits before the race, a fresh-faced young rider who can manhandle a 450 flat tracker like nobody’s business. Baker would go out to claim a
Friday night we hit the quarter-mile for Flat Track action.
podium spot in the AMA Grand National Singles, but it was Slingin’ Sammy Halbert who cleaned house, winning both races of the weekend as well as the Dash for Cash. It was a bittersweet weekend for rider Chris Carr, who is on his farewell tour after racing professionally for the last 26 years. Carr got a huge ovation from the crowd as he was awarded a commemorative plaque in recognition of the great racing he has provided fans over the years in Daytona.
And our trip to Bike Week wouldn’t have been complete without doing a little riding. Wednesday we made a run down to the Kennedy Space Center
on the 2011 Star Stryker
. With its raked-out front end, custom-painted tank and low-slung saddle, Star’s factory custom chopper attracted a lot of attention cruising around Bike Week. The Kennedy Space Center was helping to promote Bike Week by giving bikers the opportunity to have their photo taken with their ride in front of the space shuttle Explorer display and offered a discounted admission .The Space Center has been at the center of American space exploration efforts and is full of history. Its tour includes a chance to see the Apollo 14 capsule and to stand beneath the largest, most powerful launch vehicle ever, the Saturn V rocket. The tour also included a bus ride around the launch pads as well as an IMAX film on the Hubble
Bulbs were flashing at the bikini contest held at the Biker Fusion/Soldiers' Angels benefit.
Telescope. Our visit coincided with the landing of the space shuttle Discovery and the opportunity to witness one of the last shuttle excursions in person was one of the highlights of our Bike Week experience.
We also got to take a leisurely spin on The Loop on board the 2012 Victory High-Ball where we rode through verdant groves of moss covered oaks and waterways where manatees live. The High-Ball blends the best of both worlds, combining throwback styling with the performance of Victory’s powerful Freedom 106 V-Twin. The Loop is a great way to escape the frenetic pace of Bike Week for an hour or two, with plenty of parks to pull out in for a picnic lunch. Check out our “Riding The Loop on the 2012 Victory High-Ball
” blog for all the details.
Bike Week 2011 is in the books and we’re still recovering from sleep deprivation, but we’re already looking forward to next year. And speaking of next year, Bike Week 2012 will take place a week later next year due to NASCAR pushing its opening race, the Daytona 500, back a week as well. It takes two weeks for Daytona International Speedway to convert the track from auto to motorcycle racing, resulting in the change of schedule. Get the full story in our “Bike Week 2012 Pushed Back a Week