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2010 Daytona Bike Week Report
A sea of black leather descends on Daytona
If you’d been born to gypsies and grew up in a carnival – and also happened to like motorcycles – you might have felt right at home at the 69th annual Daytona Bike Week.
As the traditional opening to the spring riding season, this year’s event was staged from Feb. 26 to Mar. 7, and again lived up to its billing as a freewheeling street party, a virtual circus and a place to pose and/or gawk all rolled up in one. The moto-culture spectacle went forth pretty much full-steam-ahead, despite temperatures ranging much of the time from the high-30s to mid-50s with a few brief afternoon periods up to the low-70s.
The official excuse, er, reason for the pilgrimage of riders from all over the U.S., and many other countries besides, was the 69th annual Daytona 200 motorcycle races, along with the Supercross races on the final Saturday.
And while the grandstands at the Daytona International Speedway were lightly sprinkled with road race spectators willing to sit in the cool weather (more attended the Supercross), the majority of people frolicking in the streets of Daytona did not let the races stop them from having their own form of a good time.
Perhaps it was the pent-up energy from being stuck in far worse weather in most of the country all winter long that had riders trolling through the central business district like a parade comprised of willing volunteers.
Perhaps it was the usual expectations of such a mob that after spending the time, money and effort to get there, they felt obliged to celebrate for celebration’s sake – for 10 days straight.
Whatever the reason for why the moto culture is what it is, and does what it does, around town could be seen every genre of rider slowly filing along Main Street, Beach Street, and other boulevards, at times at a walking pace. In keeping with the extroverted theme, many would blip the throttles of their barely muffled big Twins, or occasionally emit high-intensity shrieks from their Japanese two-wheel rocketships.
Also to be seen was every other form of motorcycle or trike imaginable. You name it; it was there.
The backdrop for the pose-fest was a sea of black-leather-wearing people and others walking around the shops, meandering on the sidewalks, hanging out in the open-air bars, or moseying through the vendor displays.
And of course, the crowd was also punctuated by the requisite assortment of scantily-clad women – some selling beer, liquor, T-shirts, or just walking around as they showed off their own sporting assets. To the eyes of this heterosexual, red-blooded male, many of them looked equally “built for speed” and competed in their own right against the fast company of the two-wheeled variety.
Indeed, a fair number of women fulfilled their roles admirably by seeming utterly unselfconscious, and they appeared more than willing to offer strategically-revealed glimpses of their (usually) well-proportioned flesh.
What’s not to like, right? This is Daytona Bike Week – with all its hype and stereotype that nevertheless beckons the congregation of the moto faithful to keep coming back for more.
But actually this year’s attendance was reportedly a bit down from years past, although no official stats are available, and it was pretty hard to tell while standing in the middle of it all.
Likewise, there were fewer incidents reported by the Daytona Beach Police Department – which nevertheless was well represented to at least channel the thronging riders mixed in with automotive traffic through the packed streets.
And while this was a cultural display, like so much else in “culture,” it was also very much an economic event.
Some communities have farming, others have manufacturing, while others still may profit from high tech industry or finance. Daytona Beach’s cash cow happens to be big league motorsports and all that comes with it.
According to Kevin M. Killian, senior VP, and Bike Week manager for the Daytona Beach Chamber of Commerce, the entire event is speculated to bring in something like $300 million to the local economy, although the last time they commissioned an objective economic impact study was 2001.
Really, with all the under-the-table transactions taking place, hard numbers are anyone’s guess. Either way, the otherwise quiet small town again tolerated a great degree of quasi-madness from out-of-towners who came with their wallets to help perpetuate the town’s motorsports history.
And actually, for all the alleged “rebels” and “outlaws” and their ilk cruising on potent machines, and seemingly demonstrating an equally potent degree of attitude, the amount of self restraint was remarkable.
For example, Pete and I only witnessed one rider on a sportbike pull one somewhat discrete, short wheelie on a side street. While no doubt there were other stunts at other times, the number of riders itching to let loose all the power at their wrists must have been considerably more.
One Daytona Beach cop doing crosswalk-directing duty on Main Street Thursday night said it was a more law-abiding year than others. He said the amount of drunk and disorderly citations, traffic violations, and other crime was pretty low at that juncture, and speculated it was because of a chilling affect caused by the fairly un-springlike spring weather.
Even so, by Sunday, Mar. 7, there had been four motorcyclist traffic deaths reported in Volusia County, including one in the City of Daytona Beach, according to the Daytona Beach News Journal. Although such news is never welcome, the grim toll was less than the seven deaths last year, and the record 16 deaths in 2006.
According to Jimmie Flynt, public information officer for the Daytona Beach Police Department, the official word is it might have been a slower year for crime, though the final stats were not in and subject to change. Tentative numbers in Daytona Beach for the 10-day period included 419 arrests, 1004 citations, and 14 stolen motorcycles. Daytona Beach has around 250 full-time officers for the nominal population of about 65-70,000, and Flynt said many more of these officers than usual were on the job during Bike Week to help keep things in check.
It could also be speculated that the somewhat lighter load on law enforcement and emergency services personnel might have been a fringe benefit from 2010’s lower turnout.
In turn, the lower attendance might have been further caused by the cooler weather, including still-frigid and inclement conditions in other parts of the country. According to another source at the chamber of commerce, at least a few visitors reported difficulty even getting to Florida from northern states.
And an additional damper, of course, likely came from the over-reported and underwhelming economy. At least one representative from a large OEM confirmed this by saying the company’s high-tech display under its big red tent in the speedway parking lot saw a significant decline in floor traffic compared to last year.
But despite a calmer time this year, it is believed next year’s 70th Bike Week will be a special bash to look forward to, as will this year’s now officially begun riding season.
Be sure to check out our photo gallery for highlights from the event where excessiveness is the least amount expected, and where looking somewhat crazy is considered normal – at least on the surface, and all in the name of good fun.