Daytona Bike Week 2011
Bruce and Sev’s Excellent Adventure
by Bruce Mike and Sev Pearman
I attended my first Daytona Bike Week this year. It was the 70th anniversary this year and while I’ve been to Sturgis a number of times and several Harley anniversaries, I had never gotten down to Daytona. My issue has always been having a bike to ride. Hauling bikes on a trailer or in a truck held no appeal for me, and the cost of renting a bike while there fell outside my comfort zone. I’m not opposed to renting a bike, but come on; this is Florida. The entire state is flat which results in mostly straight roads.
What got us there this year were our friends at Victory Motorcycles. They graciously offered us a couple of bikes to ride. Not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth, I immediately set about convincing Editor Pearman that we had to go. Sev is not big on these types of rallies but with no sign of a Minnesota spring in sight, the siren song of riding new machines was too tempting.
I get nervous when Editor Bruce physically calls me. Most times it means that I have to run out to Hooterville to solve some logistical problem for a story. I was doubly nervous when the phone rang in January, weeks away from our March issue.
“Pack your helmet.”
“We are going to Daytona for Bike Week”
I am the MMM resident curmudgeon. The only thing worse than a crowd to me is a crowded motorcycle event. If I am on a bike ride, I want to be able to actually ride it. I have been to my share of rallies and my mood improves proportionally to my distance from the crowds. I once led MMM’s Paul Berglund on a 60-mile detour just so we wouldn’t have to crawl through Branson, Missouri.
Bruce speaks fluent Sturgis and easily blends in at such gatherings. He promised he would act as trailblazer and do the planning and navigation. With his formidable skills, I knew we would find safe passage in the wasteland. In the end, the lure of riding shiny V-twins was too great and I grudgingly agreed.
I went to this rally with no expectations. This is not how I normally attend these events but I think my giddiness about four days of riding at this time of year allowed me to not give a rat’s ass about how fun or exciting Daytona Bike Week was going to be. This turned out to be the right approach. Due to my procrastination, lack of research and an overwhelming desire to travel on the cheap, our accommodations were 70 miles from Daytona. While this pretty much guaranteed at least 200-mile days (which we enjoyed very much) it also made for poor attendance to Bike Week events. Lesson learned.
We ended up staying in Kissimmee, home of Disney World. Kissimmee has a Las Vegas-meets-Jellystone Park vibe with an alligator/pirate motif on top. It is plopped onto Volusia County like a beached squid, its roads choked with rental mini-vans driven by frazzled families. Proceed with caution.
We stuck to our budget, trading proximity to the festivities for an extra two days of riding. Initially this was a logistical pain, as it made bike pickup on Wednesday a thrash.
No matter. Nothing could have stopped these two riding-deprived wretches from getting to Daytona International Speedway and picking up the machines.
The vibe at the Speedway is a mix of Motorcycle Supershow, tailgate party and Minnesota State Fair. The high banks of the 3.5-mile course tower over the parking lot. From the main drag, the Speedway resembles a football stadium. Vendor road trailers encircle the grounds. Most of the major manufacturers are present along with trucks from Dunlop and other race entities. Demo rides are available, but you’ll need to sign up early and be patient. Even on a rainy, mid-week afternoon, ride slots were full.
From its inception, both the Daytona 200 and Bike Week were all about American iron. Race legend Ed Kretz won the first race in 1937 on an Indian twin. Today, all manner of bikes and riders attend Bike Week but large-displacement V-twins still rule the roost. While Editor Bruce owns a couple of American V-twins, I am not a native cruiser rider. Before I left, I trimmed my winter beard into a righteous Hulk Hogan moustache. Between the ‘stache, my choice of black leather (over my default Aerostich) and the street cred of the 106 cu-in Victory machines, I was able to travel incognito.
Rent-a-car ditched, we returned to the Victory tent outside the Speedway. Forms were filled, gear was stashed and we headed out into cold, rainy traffic. Hey – we’re riding! Taking a tip from Greg P, we left Daytona and headed inland to avoid the coastal squalls. We laid down about 200-miles circling the Ocala National Forest, both bikes responding to our giddy throttle hands. This was a good move as the rain dried up in the first forty miles.
Bruce and I swapped bikes at each fuel stop. Both have their charms. The Cross Roads is the better tourer, with its spacious leather saddlebags and all-day seat. It feels and rides like a mile-eater. Our loaner came in a vivid, lustrous Crimson.
The stripped-down Kingpin 8-Ball is the better profiler. All Kingpins are long, low and lean and feature stylized fenders, machined alloy wheels, a bullet headlight and a cool LED taillight frenched into the rear fender. The 8-Ball version wears a stealthy blackout cloak. Our loaner sported an optional windshield and seat thoughtfully mounted by Victory. Despite the removable backrests for both passenger and rider, the seat wasn’t as comfortable as the stocker on the Cross Roads.
By the time you read this, the 2011 race results will be a matter of record. Jason DiSalvo took the checkers and gave Ducati their first Daytona victory. During WW-II, the AMA officially canceled the races for the war effort. Riders came to Daytona Beach anyway, seeking a mid-winter break. The city fathers embraced this “unofficial” party, giving birth to the current Bike Week.
If the Speedway is the center of the race action, Main Street is Ground Zero for the looky-loos. Riders and builders come from all over North America to see, be seen and show off their creation. The street is always packed. You could walk faster than traffic, if you could actually move on the sidewalk. I felt like an infidel in the temple.
At events like this I tend to be more of a voyeur than a participant. Which from what I could gather is what the participants are looking for. I don’t think I have ever been to a motorcycle rally where the need to be seen and remembered was so important. If trends start in Daytona, there are a bunch of them I want nothing to do with. LED lights everywhere. On the wheels, below your tank, under your motor, above your motor, around your motor and anywhere else you can stick them. It was like the circus had come to town. We saw a bike that appeared to have LED lighting embedded in the paint. While I found some of the applications interesting, it’s definitely not something you’ll ever find on any of my bikes. Sev followed behind me and scratched his head.
V-twins predominate at Daytona. H-D still leads the charge but you’ll see plenty of Victorys, metric cruisers and your H-D based customs. No one seemed to care what brand of bike you were on.
Trikes seem to be gaining both popularity and acceptance, split along age and gender lines. The over-40 crowd favors the traditional Wing/H-D conversions while younger riders have embraced the Can-Am Spyder (see MMM #105). We saw several 20-something ladies driving Spyders. Sev’s beloved sidecars are still around, but for three-wheelers, the trike is now king.
There were plenty of over-built, over-painted, over-lit and over-the-top Boss Hosses. And last but not least, the theme bikes. There was a dragon bike that caused me to laugh out loud. While I have very strong opinions about these things, they are just mine and you can take them or leave them. I will admit I do respect the amount of work and time put into all these bikes; they’re just not my thing. Sev hid behind me and averted his eyes.
One trend I did appreciate was the attention given to old school bobbers and choppers as well as high-engineered custom sport bikes. I see these bikes and I want to ride them. It appeared the days of the long bike custom are coming to an end.
The theme bikes confused me most. People spend thou$ands tarting-up their machines with paint murals and gimcracks. Standouts were the Wizard of Oz, Red Baron and the previously mentioned Dragon bike. We also saw at least two Jesus-themed rides. I stayed behind Bruce and grunted.
Traffic increases in direct proportion the closer you are to Main Street. After three hours of shuffling along the sidewalk bombarded by one loud-ass exhaust after another, I’d had enough. Bruce found me rocking in a fetal position near the Jägermeister trike (Yes, this actually exists.) He teleported us back to the Victorys and pointed us up the coast.
As we rode north, traffic continued to thin. By the time we got to Flagler Beach, we had the road to ourselves, the rangy Victorys willingly gobbling up the miles. Find a gear you like, add some throttle and send the prodigious torque of the 106 cu-in V-twin to the belt final drive. Both bikes have roomy, vibration-damping floorboards and conventional shift levers. While heel-toe shifters remain false idols to me, I have come to appreciate floorboards.
We spent the next four days riding around, checking out the numerous events. Cop bikes abound. Most common is the H-D FLHCOP. We also saw a few BMW RT-Ps and one super-stealthy, all-black Kawasaki Concours-14 with hidden strobe lights. The targeted rider wasn’t smiling. Short of pulling a riding wheelie or a smoky burnout, you are free to actually ride. Parking is more of a challenge. You need to pay attention. While the cops will turn a blind eye to speed, parking violations are handed out like religious tracts at a Jars of Clay concert.
The King Pin and Cross Roads provide by Victory were great bikes for riding in Florida. The Interstate was the only efficient way to get anywhere and these bikes are great highway bikes. Traffic moves pretty quick in Florida and these bikes loped along at 75-80 without even trying hard. These are not the first Victorys MMM has ridden and, as always, they did not disappoint. On our first day, we rode some backcountry roads that actually had some curves and the big bikes handled great. For as physically large as these bikes are, they don’t require any extra muscle to get around.
A couple of the Daytona hot spots we did check out were a gas station gathering of custom sport bikes and a Harley dealership that rivaled Mall of America. We were invited to the gas station through Sev’s ability to strike up conversations with total strangers. What we found there was a slice of the motorcycling community with an affinity for Suzuki Hayabusas with extended swing arms, lots of LED lights and funky paint. Again, all very interesting, but not my cup of tea. Bruce Rossmeyer Harley Davidson/Destination Daytona is a Harley dealership of the likes I’ve never seen. This place was two floors of new and used bikes and what seemed like an acre of clothes and accessories. There were vendor tents, live music stages and stand-alone stores for Küryakyn and J & P Cycles. The whole property was set up like an outdoor mall. We read on an award plaque in the store that these guys sold over 1,800 bikes in 2010. That’s almost six bikes per day. Wow. We happened to be there on the last day of Bike Week so it wasn’t too crowded, thankfully for us. Sev followed behind me and tried to look righteous.
Even though Bruce and I pulled long days, we quickly realized that we had experienced the barest minimun of Daytona Bike Week. There are *hundreds* of official events and the same number of unofficial events that run under the radar. Even if you aren’t a race fan, there is something for every rider. While I wouldn’t necessarily make the trip without a bike to ride, I can easily recommend Daytona Beach as a moto-destination.
If I were to visit Daytona Bike Week again, I would find accommodations closer to Daytona, spend more time at the track and make a stronger effort to check out more events. We did get to spend some time on the beach and hang out by the ocean, which was really nice. After all, if you’re going to leave Minnesota when there is three feet of snow on the ground, you should spend some time barefoot in the sand.
Wanna ride next year? We will send an MMM T-shirt to any reader who can prove s/he rode to Daytona and back from Minnesota in 2012. Legal mumbo-jumbo to follow.
Special thanks to Victory Motorcycles for the use of the Kingpin 8-Ball and Cross Roads. Both bikes were perfect for this assignment. These guys are riders and absolutely “get it.”
For add’l pix of our 2011 Daytona Adventure, go to the MMM Facebook page.