The 75th annual Daytona Bike Week, one of the USA’s “big two” bike shows attracting around 0.5m visitors each, is held during March and this year Red Torpedo will be retailing leisure wear for bike fanatics and petrol heads alongside our good friends at Ace Café USA.
It’s not the first time Red Torpedo has visited the States – we’ve been at the Barber Festival in Birmingham Alabama for the last two years and the AIMExpo Show in Orlando Florida but this will be our first time at Daytona Bike Week.
The Daytona festival with its huge variety of bike shows, events and entertainment includes everything from free concerts, street festivals and bike marts to bike blessings, bikini contests and coleslaw wrestling. Being the “Land of the Free,” there truly is something for everyone.
However, amongst this cornucopia of all that’s weird and wonderful in motorcycling culture, Daytona Bike Week’s origins are firmly rooted in racing with the week culminating in the world famous Daytona 200 races held at the Daytona International Speedway. In addition, the Monster Energy AMA Supercross - the only SX round in Florida, takes place on March 5 and the following week (March 10 & 11) will see the AMA Pro Flat Track ‘keeping it sideways’ on the oval at Daytona’s turns one and two.
Daytona Bike Week effectively came into being with the running of the very first Daytona 200 in January 1937. In those days, the race took place on a combined beach and road course of just over 3 miles located south of Daytona Beach and it continued there until 1941. Things were put on hold for the next 5 years as a result of America’s involvement in WW2 until racing was reinstated in February 1947. The following year a new combined beach / road course was introduced due to beachside developments but eventually, the race was moved to the Daytona International Speedway in 1961 – where it has been held since.
In the early 1990s there were around 50 motorcycle rallies in USA but there are approximately 10 times that number today. Although the crowd size for Daytona and the Sturgis Rally (Dakota) is estimated at 500,000 per event, it’s difficult to accurately estimate as neither is ticketed. The typical Daytona visitor to Bike Week is 45 years plus and will be astride Milwaukee built metal in the form of a Harley Davidson. As with the annual Sturgis Rally in Dakota, US metal appears to account for about 90% of the bikes at Bike Week. Bobbers, Baggers, Cruisers and Choppers comprise the mainstay of the endless processions of bikes cruising along Main Street – and lined up perpendicular to both sidewalks - with the occasional nod in the direction of some customized Japanese in-line fours – but they’re very much in the minority.
One of the things that an event of this scale offers visitors is the number of different bike shows that run on most days. The shows are centered around Volusia County Fairgrounds and for 2016 includes ‘Rat’ Bike, Metric Cruiser, Shovel Head, Chopper, Antique and Trike / 3 Wheeler shows. There’s also one Euro / British show listed. Several bike marts are held offering a huge array of parts and accessories – one of them claimed to be the largest parts collection in the USA. There’s a swap meet at Daytona Flea Market and also a “hard to find vintage parts and accessories” show.
The Bike Week marketplace out towards the Speedway itself features a huge range of traders including most of the major motorcycle manufacturers (particularly the US triumvirate of North American muscle - Harley Davidson, Victory and Indian all of whom offer demo rides. Red Torpedo and Ace Café USA will also be located in this area so if you’re wandering around be sure to swing by. If you want to take in a lot of what there is to see, you’ll be covering some serious ground - so make sure that you’re wearing some comfortable trainers!
A popular pass time for visitors heading to Daytona Bike Week seems to be “people watching” so if you want to have a serious “hit” of this, head for Main Street. While the festivities have become more geographically widely spread out over the years, Main Street remains the core of the event and in the evenings becomes a seething mass of humanity with more than its fair share of extroverts and exhibitionists. You may even catch the “grizzly bear” suited rider cruising the breeze on his Harley or Spiderman and Superman having a quiet blast on their baggers - all blending “quietly” into the background. If you’re really lucky, you might spy “toilet bike” – or “burger bike” out for a spin. If you want to source some alternative entertainment you could head for the Mad Max costume or wet tee shirt contest, drop in on Miss Swimsuit USA, head on down to the Hotdog Eating Contest or take in the (world famous) Coleslaw Wrestling. On the eating front you can visit an “all you can eat” establishment and get your bike cleaned at the Baywash Bikini Bike Wash. Yee ha!!!
Daytona Bike Week runs from 4th – 13th March and Red Torpedo will be trading in the main International Speedway area alongside their friends at Ace Café USA.
If you're heading along, we're in Vintage Row just past the Harley Stand. Come and say hello!