2013 Arizona Bike Week Report
Signals Rites of Biker Spring
While most of America was still clenched 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 into Arizona from unfriendly climes. Overcoming abominable challenges of weather and road, enthusiasts rode right into the balmy, soft bosom of the 17th annual Arizona Bike Week, arriving with warmed bones, renewed vigor, and much joy and jubilation.
Under the careful direction and tireless work of principle organizers Lisa Cyr and Brad Bennett, ABW has grown into one of the nation’s premier rallies, rivaling older and, at least for now, bigger events in measures of fun, safety, live music, vendors, activities, and positive law-enforcement attitude while outdistancing all major rallies in scenic rides, charity events and, most importantly, that intangible good-time vibe.
Riding into the Valley of the Sun from the colder, wetter, meaner outer-lands feels like taking a soft sweeper into a sunny and calm biker paradise, a land of milk and beer, ideal temperatures, soft breezes, otherworldly scenery and nearly clothes-less hot bodies with provocative tattoos. 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.
The list of things to do is almost endless: Miss Arizona Bike Week; scores of stunning signature rides in and around Scottsdale, the greater Phoenix metro area and up to the biker-town of Cave Creek; barbecues and Western cookouts; bike games; factory demo rides, bikini bike 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 concert series and other activities best suited for cover of darkness.
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 popular music bill, which featured almost non-stop live performances day and night.
The Pre-Rally Days, held this year from April 6 to 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. 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 miles to 367 miles, riding into the heart of Arizona's breathtaking Martian landscapes and ancient 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.
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. However, a fair number of baby carriages and kids in tow 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. Motorcycle rallies, once almost the exclusive domain of savage and crazed men, have seen an 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. And, for your viewing pleasure, visit our AZ Bike Week Babe Gallery.
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,” Cyr commented. “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, 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, visit the Arizona Bike Week website.
Like a marching army, motorcyclists ride on their stomachs. It’s incredulous to us that event reviews seldom, if ever, offer restaurant or accommodation reviews. Considering the average event goer is 35 to 58, professional and college educated, they tend to want more to munch than a hunk of roast beast and a patch of dirt to sleep on, not that there’s anything wrong with a quick bite and a dirty nap.
Where to Stay
Best Western Plus Sundial (Scottsdale)
First off, the location can't be beat. Nightlife, restaurants and shopping are short walks away. The swanky MINT Restaurant/Ultra Lounge is across the street, so you can tuck in the chopper in the hotel's well-lit parking area and hoof it over to view the sexy Scottsdale eye candy. If that's not your thing, numerous options are in close proximity, like nearby Shotgun Betty’s, which has more of a biker dive bar vibe, and is as divey as downtown Scottsdale gets.
It may be hard to tear yourself away from your room, though. We loved ours. It was tidy and sleek, and quickly became our comfortable home during Bike Week. We appreciated the easy to use high-speed Internet, and such delicious hotel amenities as the heated outdoor pool and hot tub. Complimentary continental breakfast, including Starbuck's coffee, is self-served in the lobby each morning.
Best Western partners with Harley in a Ride Rewards/Rider Friendly program. Reduced room rates, a loyalty plan, a free wipe-down motorcycle towel and access to a washing station upon check-in. Many Best Westerns offer additional benefits, such as complimentary bottled water and lip balm. HOG members receive additional benefits, including an automatic upgrade to Platinum status and 15 percent bonus points, according to a spokeswoman.
Beckett’s is an urbane hot spot opened in 2010 by Chef Justin Beckett. The eatery, lauded generously in the press, combines attentive service, fresh ingredients with a nod to local farmers and sustainability, innovation in creative dishes, memorable house-made signature libations, and an ambiance that is comfortable yet chic.
Beckett’s location is convenient because it’s just minutes down the road from famed bike shop, Paul Yaffe Originals. An afternoon of motor oil and sexy baggers can easily segue into an evening with the gussied up Beckett's Original Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Roasted Red Pepper Tomato Soup ($9). Mmmm, pancetta and cheese takes me to my happy place like a new, half-price leather jacket.
Bryan's Black Mountain Barbecue
Even fanatic “foodies” will rejoice over this slice of barbecue heaven. Formal culinary training by sauce and meat master Bryan Dooley takes this fare to an exalted level at this stylish yet affordable eatery. Vegan and carnivores alike will salivate at the staples on the daily menu and luscious seasonal choices. Sandwiches, combo plates, by the pound offerings, desserts, and accompaniments such as cowboy beans, baked potato salad, and awesome fries round out the menu.
Bryan's offers indoor and patio dining, and bikers will appreciate the venue's closeness to the Cave Creek hub for Bike Week. Order at the counter from the amiable staff and pick a comfy booth, loosen your belt, and grab a wet-nap—it's on!
Bryan's Black Mountain Barbecue
Tonto Bar and Grill at Casa Mañana
The stunning surroundings are rivaled only by the exquisite cuisine. This restaurant hugs the golf course with its tiered patio, replete with sculptural fire features and southwestern hacienda feel. I highly suggest giving the website a look-see; it is entirely tantalizing. The photography, blog, menus and more speak to the quality and care of preparation of the upscale fare and cocktails.
We sampled a broad swathe of the menu, from the not-to-be-missed Tortilla-Crusted Crab Cakes through a tasty compressed salad, barbecued salmon, steak cooked to perfection, and a Lemon-Lime Sour Cream Meringue Pie. Tonto’s custom entree salads are fresh and eclectic, featuring such items as distinctive cheeses, sun-dried fruit, and candied pecans.
Sandwiches, burgers, pasta, fish, meat, and vegetarian options are represented. All-natural meats and sustainable seafood punctuate a pro-Arizona menu. Thought and care go into cultivating on-property seasonal ingredients for Tonto's signature dishes or finding exceptional sources elsewhere.
Tonto Bar and Grill at Casa Mañana
TEXAZ, established in 1985, is hallowed ground for Chicken Fried Steak. A $12.95 tab gets you two gravy slathered, hearty slabs of the flavorful meaty goodness, with choice of potatoes, salad or cole slaw, and bread and butter. The Freidy's Filet, a beautiful steak for $21.95, accompanied by sides, was also a winning choice. Both were spot on. Next time, I am going to try the popular Catfish, which was paraded by our booth frequently and left us hungry for more. Texaz hosts a Sunday Brunch and offers a full bar. Adding to the charm, beer is served from quaint, small glasses. It is a venue definitely worth a return visit.
Citizen Public House
CPH is a short stroll away from the Best Western hotel in Old Town Scottsdale, a first floor restaurant/bar with a tucked away auxiliary open-when-we-feel-like-it speakeasy upstairs. The Polynesian-influenced exhibition bar is the focal point of the Old Town Scottsdale venue. Booze guru Richie Moe is the dandy mixologist at the helm. Moe is well versed in the ingredients, processes, and trade secrets of the liquor serving business, and his craftsmanship is the saveur savior on this establishment.
The primary bar offers Citizen Social (Happy Hour) half-price draft beer, glass wine, and bar snacks from 3pm – 6pm daily. The ambiance is casual sophistication – linen table clothes, stark walls dotted with family photos. Patio dining is also offered. Cheers!
Citizen Public House
Chilleen's on 17
Just freshened up by a “Bar Rescue” reality show makeover, this exceptional roadhouse caters to families, locals, and wayward travelers. Off-the-grid bikers to their TV reality show counterparts frequent the joint, partaking in the sawdust country decor and hearty food. The Chill-en Chips (homemade with a side of green chili dip $5.05) are crave-worthy. The Top Sirloin Steak ($10.95) and Deep Fried Jumbo Shrimp ($19.95) dinners with sides were substantial, fresh, and cooked to our liking.
Chilleen's is known for their BBQ and have just upgraded with a smoker. Firewater Punch, a moonshine-y elixir, is sure to please those with a designated driver, and non-alcoholic choices are abundant for the rest. Patios, bar, billiard area, and stage lend themselves to kick-up-your-heels fun, and the friendly staff can regale tales of bar mayhem.
Chilleen's on 17