Thursday, November 22, 2012

What Makes a Good Biker Rally?


Old skoolers have a different view of a motorcycle rally.  Used to be that camping at a rally was a way of life and biker games, music, and parties were the mainstay of the gathering.   We would gather in some remote farm field or pasture and have at it.  We were pretty much left alone by law enforcement, and as long as idiots didn't cause trouble outside the rally grounds we were left to live large for a weekend.  While the partying remains one of the mainstays of the rally, selling shit has now become the primary function of too many of these gatherings, especially the larger ones.  But too, overkill by overwhelming police presence has also been a big contributor to the downfall of many a rally.

A couple of months ago I attended the rally in Cottonwood, AZ.  My first time there.  I was shocked at how few bikers (maybe 300 bikes) attended the event.  I learned from local vendors and other bikers that the rally used to be a big success (5000 bikers) until last year when some genius decided to have the cops come down hard on the bikers, with lots of arrests for various reasons.  So this year hardly anyone showed up.  Cottonwood City Council, how's that working for ya?

Unfortunately, it was the local businesses that took the big hit.  Motels had low occupancy rates, restuarants weren't very busy, and local bars were virtually empty of bikers. Yeah, how's that working for ya now?

And then there's the Arizona Bike Week event held annually at Westworld in Scottsdale, Arizona as an example of another growing problem with modern rallies.  It has turned into nothing but a large mall of vendors, all working hard to sell you their version of the best biker t-shirt.  And, with the increase in entrance fee to ridiculous amounts (last year it was $40!!!), many of us have simply turned away vowing never to visit again.  The alternative is to pay the $40, getting charged so I can go into the place to buy shit.  Yeah, right!

And to make matters worse, there's the vendors that sell non-biker related stuff. I remember seeing a guy at the Vegas Bikefest selling custom designed watches, studded with jewels and glitter with no connection to riding or the biker. Can't remember the last time I wore one of them while riding. My wife did like them, however.

Bikers love gatherings of like-minded folk.  We are connected by the lure of the ride, and we enjoy each others company.  We admire each other's bikes.  We enjoy good music, and we are always ready for a wet t shirt contest.  So when there's a rally and we can make it, we all look forward to the gathering, hoping for a congenial time.  But of late, I've found that rallies have turned into just giant sales events.  Now, I realize that we all like a t-shirt as a momento to our visit, but enough is enough.  I swear that every other vendor sells t-shirts!

Sturgis, the best of the rallies, may be the last of the real opportunities to keep the flavor of the old skool rally, but only because saloons and bars, along with well equipped campgrounds, many of them isolated from the town, allow pretty much anything to a point, without harrassment of vendors or the police. Sturgis gets it (mostly); don't bite the hand that feeds you.

Mind you, I still want my t-shirt, but I'd rather go without one than lose the flavor of the true biker rally.  Somebody, please start a new biker rally in the vein of old-skool.  Then again, does the modern era biker like it the way it is now?

What do you think?

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