By Nita Le
- Daytona Bike Week is biker paradise, draped in a veil of fantasy. It takes place annually, during the first full week of March. It is the perfect excuse for frost bitten riders like me to shelve their scarves and ear muffs, for soaking up some of that Florida sunshine. It is much more than just another bike rally or race day. The warm climate, local beaches and surrounding palm trees make it the perfect vacation destination for moto-enthusiasts. Here, acclimated local motorcyclists choose to shed allot more than cold weather apparel. Bare skin riding appears to be Daytonian fashion. Add this to the Florida State no-helmet law, and back come my north-country shivers. I compare it to bungee jumping over asphalt, instead of water.
Spotting Bike Week goers, on my journey down from New York, was easy.
They first appeared on the New Jersey Turnpike, caravanning in trailers, flatbed trucks, RVs and SUVs. Occasionally there was the solo rider braving the brisk weather and dreaming of Southern Carolina green trees.
Approaching the final miles to the spectacle, the Speedway’s mammoth exterior rises like a medieval castle’s wall, hiding well the vastness of the inner racetrack. Once inside, you feel the outside world vanish. Black asphalt, multi-colored bleachers and a blue sky canopy set the stage.
Crowd attendance this year seemed right up to snuff, yet the vendor tent area was a different story. Comparing it to previous years, where white tent tops housed extensive assortments of gear and accessories, sprawling across nearly half the staging grounds, this year’s layout was more like a basic strip mall. I know I will certainly appreciate it when the credit card bills arrive!
In spite of the normal crowd, there were noticeably more vacancy signs than usual. After years of being price gouged, bikers this year seemed more prone to flock elsewhere for accommodations - more toward the outskirts of the Daytona region. Many regulars are grabbing time-share type condos, as opposed to the expensive hotels of Daytona, which not only hike up the prices three-fold and more, but require a one-week minimum stay.
This year the Orlando crowd had a bonus reward. The Orlando Museum of Art, www.omart.com is currently featuring the Art of the Motorcycle exhibit. Located in Winter Garden, it is a quick exit stop between Daytona and Orlando. It is well worth the visit.
One of the biggest novelties at an event like Daytona Bike Week is the ability to test ride bikes supplied by the manufacturers. Most home dealers will not provide test rides to potential customers for a number of reasons. During Bike Week, big brand manufacturers and some smaller companies offer demos, led by experienced riders. Squadrons of demo rides can be seen coming and going daily, but you will have to be an early riser to sign up for the daily rides. Rides vary in length and average 35 minutes. So if it is long distance riding that you are looking for, we suggest you B.Y.O.B. There are some fabulous back roads to explore and you can even obtain permits that allow you to park your trailers and tow-rig motor homes directly on the infield of the track.
The racing attractions at the Speedway are a total adrenaline rush. The smell of race fuel, oil and rubber scorching at phantom speeds will bug your eyeballs and flair the nostrils! Numerous races are scheduled at Daytona Speedway, including a Supercross event on Friday evening. For an additional evening thrill, don’t forget the AMA National Flat Track races, located just outside of town at the Municipal Stadium.
Hitting the Beach on the last day before heading home was the best way to end the gala. Sifting toes in the sand while watching the bikes on Sunday rolling along the surf, was icing on the cake to the long dreamy days of Daytona.
Returning to frigid homelands, this week of cabin fever relief is a major boost to the passionate rider’s psyche, ringing the internal seasonal alarm clock for removing battery chargers, putting air in the tires and opening our garage doors... into another beautiful season of riding bliss!