When I received the invitation to attend the Victory Octane introduction in Daytona, I was pretty stoked since I hadn’t been to Bike Week in a couple of years. Even if you’re not a big rally person, every motorcyclist owes it to themselves to experience the annual gathering of the tribe(s) – if only for anthropological purposes.
Yes, the primary faction is the “biker” in all of its seemingly unwashed glory, but in reality, Bike Week is more than just an excuse for people who love motorcycles, beer, classic rock, black t-shirts, jiggly flesh, and open pipes (and not necessarily in that order) to gather in celebration of spring and the upcoming riding season. Daytona Bike Week allows participants to attend bike shows featuring machinery that costs more than the down payment on your average middle-class home; watch races on flat dirt, bumpy dirt, straight pavement, curved pavement (with banking!), and benches; scour swap meets every day in multiple locations; and witness an assortment of human oddities which range, if history proves to be an example, from coleslaw wrestling to motorcycle demolition derbies.
And then there’s the food. You can experience the breadth of culinary delights from high-brow to low-country – enough to bring your gastrointestinal system to its figurative knees while still putting a smile on your face.
To complicate things, Bike Week has expanded well beyond the Daytona Beach city limits into many of the surrounding towns. Now, it is even more difficult to take part in the whole event. This year I was only at Bike Week for a few days, instead of the entire week, so I missed whole swaths of the festivities – some not for the lack of trying and others out of an unusual modicum of good sense.
So, here they are, the Top 10 Things I Didn’t Do At Daytona Bike Week 2016.
10. Attend Any Races
For me, racing is what Daytona Bike Week is all about. I could happily go to Bike Week and do nothing but attend the various racing events and leave feeling that the week was a huge success. Unfortunately, I was in Daytona for work and not pleasure, and the boss-man said I had leave before most of the racing began. Actually, I could’ve attended the Supercross races, but I was scheduled to attend another event.
Whatever kind of racing you fancy (dirt, pavement, legal, or illicit), it’s happening at some point during Bike Week, but my all-time favorite event has to be the Daytona 200. This sprint race disguised as an endurance event is a sight to behold in person. Standing on the bottom of the banking watching the racers fly by high over your head, allowing you to see how the G-forces force them down on the tanks while fighting the turbulence from nearby bikes can’t be replicated on TV.
9. Eat Funnel Cake(s)
What’s not to love about funnel cake? You take batter and squeeze it from a baker’s funnel to boil in hot oil until it’s crispy. Then you cover it in powdered sugar or any number of sweet toppings. Funnel cake is American as deep fried Twinkies, but they’re made from scratch. Unfortunately, I didn’t see a single funnel cake vendor at any of the venues I visited. My taste buds are deeply saddened by this, but my belt line is probably better off.
8. Buy Obnoxious Patches Or Stickers
I still checked, but the sayings were essentially the same. The only real changes were the ones featuring the name of the GOP Presidential front runner, but I’m not going to give him any free media coverage here. The cable news media has that all wrapped up.
But I digress.
Almost every sticker or patch vendor has a crowd of browsing bikers – even more after the prime drinking hours have begun. So, I may be in the minority here.
7. See Any Boobs
While I saw tons of idiots vying for their place in this year’s Darwin Awards, there was a distinct lack of raised t-shirts and mammalian protuberances (thanks, Frank Zappa) displayed on Main Street. This is often a good thing. Believe me…
6. Find The Sportbike Scene
Maybe it was because I’m old… and was riding a cruiser… but whenever I approached a group of sportbike riders to find out where they congregated after dark, I was created with blank stares and a mumbled, “I don’t know.” I guess I look too much like The Man. Still, wherever a flock of sportbikes turn up at Daytona, shenanigans are sure to happen. I’m still looking for a scene like the glory days of the Hess station on International Speedway Blvd. where the look-at-me kids were hanging in the front and the drag racers were talking smack and making deals in the back. If you ever want to learn the fine art of trash talk, view the negotiations of an illegal drag race.
5. Ride Main Street At Night
Everyone should ride their bike down Main Street Daytona Beach at least once in their lives, but after that, it’s just like being caught in peak traffic on a Friday night – only louder. The real fun of Main Street is standing in one place and watching the parade go by. I don’t know which is more intriguing, the bikes or all the crazy people watching them.
4. Buy A 75th Anniversary T-Shirt
Bike Week t-shirts carry a few common themes: Harleys, eagles, women, alcohol, guns, and the rally number. I saw endless variations of those themes, but none struck my fancy. However, I’m puzzled about when bedazzling do-rags became a thing. And what does Marylin Monroe riding pillion behind Donald Drumpf have to do with the 75th Anniversary of Daytona Bike Week? I guess I just haven’t drunk the Kool-Aid…
Speaking of Kool-Aid, you can get it in an alcohol-infused gelatin form at most bars during Bike Week. Or you can have Jagermeister shots poured directly in your mouth by leggy blondes, brunettes, or redheads (sometimes on stilts) carrying bottles in convenient holsters on their hips. Of course, all the liquor advertisements stress drinking responsibly, which rings about as truthfully as insurance companies saying they exist to protect us. Let’s face it, Daytona Bike Week is an orgy of classic rock and excessive amounts of booze, with motorcycles as the presumptive reason for gathering together. This has always provoked more than a little cognitive dissonance for me, as intoxication and motorcycles frequently lead to very bad things…
2. Get A Tattoo/Piercing
What could be a better way to cap off several days’ worth of drinking and subjecting your nervous system to an abundance of open piped V-Twins and loud rock music of varying degrees of quality than getting a permanent modification to your body. Yep, an impulse tattoo might be just the right thing to wear home to show everyone where you’ve been for the past 10 days. Think nothing of that 12 hour stint in the saddle nursing your fresh Prince Albert.
Sadly, motorcycle rallies, especially a huge one like Bike Week, involve their share of accidents. Most accidents just damage pride, chrome, and easily healed body parts. Unfortunately, many of these accidents are alcohol and drug related, but not always. Just because you’re surrounded by your motorcycle brothers and sisters doesn’t mean you can let your guard down.
I witnessed one accident on Main Street where a rider showboating for the crowd in front of the Boot Hill Saloon clipped the front wheel of a bike that was trying to merge in with the traffic. The result was one Electra Glide on its side with a rather pissed couple lying next to it while the other bagger of H-D descent hurried away dragging the lid and expensive-looking speakers that were part of the saddlebag formerly attached to his bike. The irony of the guy who was trying to attract everyone’s attention getting the full focus of a very large, angry biker was not lost on any of the witnesses. The culprit did, however, return and man-up for his mistake.
I’m happy to report that, so far, fatal motorcycle accidents at 2016 Daytona Bike Week have been well below average.
Have fun, but be safe.