Daytona Beach, Fla., Mar. 6–15—The stage and scaffolding extended well beyond the Full Moon Saloon property, blocking most of Olive Street where it intersected Main. Although the first weekend of Daytona Bike Week started off cold and drizzly, crowds started to gather early for the Victory Motorcycles party on Saturday at the Full Moon. Victory was to introduce its new Magnum X-1 that, with its mega-stereo system, was touted as the company’s loudest bike ever, and to celebrate, Godsmack would perform a free concert. The crowd spilled out into the street to the point that Main Street had to be closed to all vehicular traffic. Saturday night was all about the bagger, the sound and the party, and it set the stage well for the remainder of Bike Week.
Old haunts, new twists
On Sunday, climatic conditions began to improve considerably, with sunny skies and daytime temperatures in the 70’s and 80’s for the rest of the week. When I arrived at Daytona International Speedway early Sunday afternoon, the place was hot—and I don’t just mean the weather. Because of the ongoing construction between Turns 4 and 1 (the section of the track that runs along Route 92/International Speedway Boulevard), bike parking and vendors were jammed into two areas. Near Turn 1 were metric motorcycle manufacturers and associated demo rides plus a few vendors. And between Turn 4 and Midway Avenue was where Harley-Davidson and Indian had set up their display. At the Harley exhibit, Sons of Anarchy fans lined up waiting for opportunity for a brief meet ’n’ greet with Kim Coates, the actor who played Tig Trager on the hit show. And Willie G.’s 1983 Disc Glide prototype from his personal collection was on display; the one that he specially customized and rode to Bike Week in 1982 to promote the limited-edition 1983 FXDG. Willie G. will loan the FXDG to the Harley-Davidson Museum for a special exhibit later this year.
Indian Motorcycle had its new Indian Chief Dark Horse on display, and along with the live music, that scene was hopping too. Numerous other vendors were set up as well, and the whole area was packed ear to elbow, with riders parking wherever they could find a piece of pavement, grass or dirt. Next year the rally venue at the Speedway should be much improved and expanded, as construction efforts are scheduled to be completed by January 2016.
Back on Beach Street, vendors were lined up along Riverfront Park, and near the Main Street Bridge was “Custom Corner” where Godfather Baggers, Bling’s Cycles, Kendall Johnson Customs, Azzkikr Custom Baggers, Misfit Industries, Black Label Cycles and Dirty South Designs displayed their latest creations. Across the street were a number of motorcycle-related businesses, most of which maintain a year-round presence, including All Out Powersports, The Trike Shop, Brigit’s Customworks, Insane Cycles Custom Paint, Midwest Motorcycle bike rentals and service, Barney’s Leather, and the venerable Carl’s Speed Shop which has been in business over 45 years.
Also on Beach Street is the old Daytona Harley-Davidson store and museum where, just prior to Biketoberfest 2014, Indian Motorcycle Daytona Beach/Victory Daytona had opened its doors. But it wasn’t until this year’s Bike Week when the Indian/Victory dealer’s rally presence hit full stride, with a myriad of vendors on site, the Rat’s Hole crew setting up shop in the back lot and the Victory Stunt Team performing several times during the week.
North in Ormond Beach, Destination Daytona hosted scores of premier vendors outside the dealership as well as in and around the J&P Cycles store on the property. The Saints and Sinners pub featured live music outdoors, and there were bike shows and free concerts under the pavilion, including L.A. Guns on March 7 and Dokken on March 14. Additional vendors were set up across the lane, where American Motordrome trick riders performed inside the Wall of Death several times a day.
In a half-mile stretch along the US-1 corridor just south of Destination Daytona are a number of Bike Week hangouts such as the Iron Horse Saloon, the Hawg Pen, Smiley’s Tap, the Beaver Bar, Hang Dawg Saloon, and the Broken Spoke. Last year the Broken Spoke was shuttered, but new management has since taken over. With the return of Jay Allen as events emcee, the bar went all out with a full week of activities: organized rides, bike shows nearly every day of the week, biker games and free concerts featuring Warrant, Uncle Kracker and Hairball. And on Tuesday, Thunder Press South Editor Robert Filla and I joined editors of eight other motorcycle magazines to serve as judges at the Editors’ Choice Bike Show.
Cacklebery Campground in Samsula, just across the road from the infamous Cabbage Patch, expanded its Bike Week offerings this year. Fajita Mike from the Full Throttle Saloon along with the Full Throttle S’loonshine girls were on hand all week, a full lineup of bands played day and night, and there were games, a burnout pit and more. Strip Club Choppers and the Chop-In Block, a consortium of bike builders, were headquartered there as well. The Chop-In Block hosted an industry night on Thursday and among the featured activities was a “Biker Beard-Off” with proceeds to benefit the Aidan Jack Seeger Foundation, formed by his parents Elisa and Bobby after Aidan’s death from ALD at age 7. Then were motorized trike races and a dinner of Fajita Mike’s famous fajitas which were actually pretty good, all accompanied by the Southern rock sounds of Skinny Molly.
Back on Main Street was the usual cornucopia of chaos. Afternoons at Dirty Harry’s were always fun with wet T-shirt contests several times a day, while bands and beer-tub girls drew a constant stream of customers. We saw Kid ‘n’ Rock, a Kid Rock tribute band, play at Bad Boyz, and Michael Allman, son of the Allman Brothers’ Gregg Allman, made a surprise appearance on stage (he also played a few gigs at Cacklebery Campground). Count’s 77, with front man Danny Koker of Count’s Kustoms (and star of the TV show Counting Cars) also played a few gigs at Dirty Harry’s. And several nights we saw Jasmine Cain at the Full Moon Saloon, one of the venues she played during Bike Week.
All about the bikes
The inaugural running of the Daytona 200 motorcycle race with all the spectators it drew eventually morphed into the 10-day Bike Week as we know it today. Although the 200 is still held, along with an assortment of other motorcycle races, a new type of spectator “sport” has evolved—that of bike shows. Judged or non-judged, the bike shows taking place during Bike Week have become a major draw. This year, several new shows were added to the mix, such as Warren Lane’s first-ever True Grit, a pre-1970 gathering (no judging, no awards!) of vintage motorcycles held the first Sunday at Destination Daytona. Around 125 bikes showed up; pretty amazing for a first-time show. Bike owners rode their antiques into the pavilion and spent the afternoon checking out each other’s work and mingling with the crowds, answering questions about where they found that frame or how many bikes of that particular make and year still exist. Warren’s 1912 X8 has an interesting history; for starters, he found it stowed away in a trailer! It was nice to see Warren’s brother Billy Lane at the show with his boardtrack-style Crocker. Another bike that has a great story was Bill Dodge’s ’52 Panhead. This bike belonged to the late John Green of Easyriders Events. When John passed away, his wife acceded to his wishes and gave the bike to his friend Bill, who rebuilt the engine and completely customized the entire bike. The show was a great success, and we hope it becomes an annual event.
Another first-time show was the Iron Horse Saloon’s Antique Bike Show where some pretty interesting vintage bikes competed. Tom Black had a ’45 Knucklehead “E” model with sidecar; because it was wartime, only 1,430 Knucks (and only 282 model “E”s) were made that year and civilians couldn’t purchase any. Then there was Bob Peterson with his ’74 Shovelhead that had tons of chrome, more than a dozen extra running lights and specially-made exhaust known as Bronx Trumpets, a.k.a. Spanish Louie’s, back in the day.
On Wednesday was another inaugural event: the Perewitz Paint Show at Destination Daytona. The show was hosted by Dave and Jody Perewitz, and six professional painters judged more than 100 entries. There were lots of donated prizes awarded for Best Graphics, Best Use of Color, Best Pin Stripe, Best Airbrush, the Perewitz Pick and a few selections chosen by several sponsors. Best in Show was awarded to Ballistic Cycles, and the prizes included $500 cash, a set of Avon Tyres, a Vega helmet and a hand-painted bowling pin trophy created by Dave. The bike that caught my eye, though, was Best Artwork winner “Mouse” who built a ’48 Panhead painted by Billy Streeter. The bike illustrates Mouse’s life, including his ascent out of the hell of drug addiction. Congratulations, Mouse, on your 20 years clean and sober.
Willie’s Tropical Tattoo Old Time Chopper Show dominated the Thursday schedule, and on Friday about 115 bikes competed in the Boardwalk Bike Show. Another first-time happening, the Chop-A-Billy custom car and traditional chopper show, took place at Cacklebery Campground along with a pinup contest, rockabilly music and biker games.
The Rat’s Hole Ride-In Bike Show has been a Bike Week mainstay since 1972, and founder Karl “Big Daddy Rat” Smith’s son Ted, daughter-in-law Pam, and some of the grandkids have kept the show running. This year, Rat’s Hole moved to the Indian/Victory dealership on Beach Street and drew well over 100 bikes. Pam exclaimed, “This is great—just like the old days!” Admission was free to spectators who enjoyed music, a tattoo contest, and, of course, customs of every persuasion. Handmade trophies were awarded in 18 classes, and at the end of the day, Larry Moore won Best of Show with his stunning, handcrafted 1976 Shovelhead. The bike was just finished in January, and it’s already won multiple awards. Keep an eye on Larry and this spectacular custom; I’m sure you’ll see him win even more competitions in the future.
On a high note
This year brought a noticeable optimism among manufacturers and vendors as well as rallygoers. Industry parties, which seem to have disappeared over the past few years, are starting to make a comeback. Azzkikr Custom Baggers hosted a party at MG on the Halifax that was attended by builders who rode and displayed show-worthy customs, and Bill Dodge’s party at his North Beach Street shop could have been a bike show all its own.
Baggers, including those of the big-wheel variety, are still huge and their popularity warranted more than just bagger classes in bike shows. There was a Battle of the Baggers at the Cabbage Patch on Thursday, Destination Daytona hosted the Baddest Bagger competition on Friday, the first-ever Baggers on the Boardwalk show was held on Saturday, and on the same day, the Daytona Ultimate Bagger Show took place at Custom Corner on Beach Street.
Main Street crowds remained steady all week with not much of a lull during the usual mid-week “slow days.” And for the first time in some years, there were no Bike Week-related deaths, nor did any major incidents occur. However, attendance seemed somewhat lower than last year, which could be attributed to anything from the cold weather in—and difficult travel from—the Northeast to bikers saving their vacation days and dollars for the 75th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, or even next year’s 75th Daytona Bike Week. All in all, this year’s Bike Week was a pleasing combination of good weather, the continuing uptick in the motorcycle industry and, of course, the influx of cold weather-weary bikers looking for some fun in the sun.