In most parts of the country, the end of winter brings thoughts of warmer weather and a new riding season. Even for us West Coasters, the dawning of spring is a welcomed event, as it gets a lot colder here than we like to admit. As much as you may hear that it's always 80 degrees and never rains in SoCal, it's just not true.
At the beginning of each new calendar year, we can't wait to book our travel plans to the Sunshine State and the first big-time motorcycle extravaganza of the year: Daytona Bike Week. The week, actually lasting an official 10 days, brings out manufacturers and builders from around the globe as well as throngs of riders and spectators coming out of the winter/holiday/riding hibernation period. Due to its proximity, Daytona has a decidedly East Coast feel and clientele. If you left the Northeast or Midwest during the first week of March, you left behind lots of snow and ice.
Landing in Daytona under azure skies was a bonus; the 78-degree air temperature was divine. Much like going to Sturgis, Bike Week has grown well beyond Daytona city limits proper. Main Street is still a must, with bikes lined up in front of bars, restaurants and vendors for as far as the eye could see. Across the causeway bridge, Beach Street saw some action. The original Rossmeyer H-D dealership was packed as well as some bigger vendors such as Kryakyn, Dragonfly and the unveiling of Vinnie and Cody's new bike.
At the speedway, vendors were set up both around and within the track area. Crowds were steady for the top-notch manufacturers present as well as the AMA street and dirt races. Every major motorcycle manufacturer had their demo fleets available to ride; it's a great opportunity to test-ride and compare bikes of different sizes, flavors and countries of origin.
A growing force in the Daytona area is Bruce Rossmeyer's largest dealership up the road from Daytona in Ormond Beach. Destination Daytona, as it's called, is a mega complex of restaurants, bars, vendors and bike showrooms surrounded by open land. It's gotten so big, nonstop trams shuttle the steady stream of people in and out of the parking areas. Among the more impressive displays was the J&P Daytona store, where parts manufacturers themselves were on hand to answer any product questions. A highlight of the week was the charity Builder's Breakfast that included some of the most talented builders in the industry. Signed parts and memorabilia were auctioned off by MC Jay Allen of Broken Spoke fame. There was a definite theme to the week as the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum honored Arlen Ness during a star-studded breakfast.
For most of the week, the weather was ideal, warm and sunny. That turned to cold and rainy for most of Friday but did little to dampen the spirits of the Main Street revelers. Unfortunately, the Boardwalk and Rat's Hole bike shows were going on. Unofficial reports state that attendance may have been down from previous years. We're not certain if there are less overall bodies or just the spreading crowds. Either way, Daytona is always a blast and an event everyone should try and do at least once. B