2009 Las Vegas BikeFest Report
Bright lights & big bikes
Las Vegas BikeFest was declared a success by a spokeswoman for the organizer, Full Throttle Productions. The event celebrated its ninth annual edition by hosting some 30,000 enthusiasts who rolled into Sin City Oct. 1-4.
Motorcycle events large and small have not been immune from the ravages of the recession. Attendance nationwide has reportedly been down as leisure dollars continue to dwindle despite some stock market gains. The industry was shocked by the sudden cancellation of one of motorcycling’s most popular rallies, the Love Ride.
After 25 years, the Southern California fundraiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Assoc. has become the latest notable casualty of the economy. Founder Oliver Shokouh cited slumping ticket sales. “After event costs, no money would be left to help the kids, the sole reason for the Love Ride,” he said. The event was scheduled for Oct. 25.
Things were sunnier in Las Vegas. BikeFest matched 2008 participation totals, according to the spokeswoman. Organizers largely credit the venue. “We’re not hurting as much as other motorcycle rallies because it’s Las Vegas,” she said.
Aside from the well-planned rally itself, which was held primarily at the city’s Cashman Center and at the Sahara Casino Hotel, Las Vegas offers the shows, shopping, clubs, dining, bars, casino resorts and high-energy action expected of the self-proclaimed, “Entertainment Capital of the World.”
Some 210 vendors spearheaded BikeFest, offering the usual broad array of motorcycle everything, from leathers to T-shirts, jewelry, sunglasses, parts and accessories, insurance, bikes and even guns. Artistry in Iron, Master Builder’s Championship featured some 20 inventions that boggled the imagination and sometimes defied physics.
There was a roulette of competitions, including Bikini, Wet T-shirt, Miss and Mr. Las Vegas BikeFest, Hog Out (eating), Custom Bike Show, World’s Strongest Biker, as well as H-D and Can-Am demo rides, two poker runs, a Ride For Kids charity run, slot and poker tournaments, and, of course, live music from Molly Hatchet, the Guess Who, Randy Travis and others rounded out the event.
Admission to the Vendor Village cost $15 per for the weekend, which mostly gave you license to shop, view some of the contests and listen to local bands under the big refreshment tent. Headliners cost extra with varying prices and venues. Registration packages were also available, ranging from $35 to $55 pp.
For the most part, live music wasn’t much a part of BikeFest, even if the Official Program listed its concert series as the “great lineup of music and partying throughout Las Vegas.” There are always prominent bands playing in Vegas, however, which is part of the venue’s appeal. The biggest music disappointment was likely the last-minute cancellation of AC/DC, which was scheduled at the MGM Grand.
Some of the better parties were off the Cashman campus. Bars such as the nearby Hogs & Heifers (201 N 3rd St.) and Stoney’s at the north side of the Vegas Strip (9151 Las Vegas Blvd. S) are two of the more fun biker hangouts in Vegas. For more local flavor, try Dino’s (1516 Las Vegas Blvd S) and the Double Down Saloon (4640 Paradise Rd.), both throwbacks.
The History Channel’s new reality hit, Pawn Stars, which is set at the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop (713 Las Vegas Blvd S), was a fun stop. Enthusiasts Rick, the Old Man, Big Hoss and the side-kick, Chumlee, add character to an already colorful place. Just a few blocks down the Strip from BikeFest’s epicenter, it is kind of like the Antiques Road Show meets Orange County Choppers.
A special Shout Out goes to Jack Reynolds, a partner in WeRentMotorcycles.com, who provided us with not one but two motorcycles, the ultra-cool Travertson V-Rex Motorcycle.com tested here, and its polar opposite, a new Kawasaki Voyager. The V-Rod-powered V-Rex set fire to the Strip, outshining the burning neon and stopping traffic. I thought about entering it in the Custom Bike Show. The big blue Kawi bagger was its counterpoint, offering practical luxury and plenty of space for new T-shirts and evil looking jewelry.