The legendary motorcycle rally that began as a race in the sand
The annual Daytona Beach Bike Week is a great many things to a great many people. From a wide variety of races, to biker parties day and night up and down Main Street, to scenic rides along the beach or through the lush Florida interior, many motorcycle riders consider Daytona Bike Week as the official kick-off of riding season. Hundreds of thousands make the “pilgrimage” from across the continent and even from around the world to experience the spectacle and join in the festivities.
The rough and rowdy racing that birthed Daytona Beach Bike Week.
The Rally That Started As A Race
The rally started life January 24, 1937 as a motorcycle race on the sands of Daytona Beach, called the Daytona 200. Spanning a 3.2 mile course loop over the beaches and across what little paved roads there were at the time, The very first race was won by Californian Ed Kretz on an Indian motorcycle, with an average speed of 73.34 mph. The race and accompanying festivities was suspended from 1942-47 due to the Second World War, then cut short in 2020 for the Covid epidemic, but for everything else Daytona Bike Week has become over the years, at its heart the grand affair is still about racing. The world-renown Daytona 200 still stands as the centerpiece of the 10-day moto festival, this year managed by MotoAmerica, with the Daytona Supercross and American Flat Track Volusia Half-Mile races all a large part of the action that is Bike Week.
Daytona Bike Week is still about racing. Photos by MotoAmerica, Supercross, and AFT.
Largest Motorcycle Rally In The World?
Approximately 500,000 riders make their way from the four corners of the globe to the early March 10-day event in Florida, and the promoters contend the rally with all its venues and offerings is the “World’s Largest Motorcycle Event”. Whether Daytona or Sturgis is America’s (and maybe the world’s) largest and most popular biker rally is the stuff of debate over a late night beer, but one thing is certain- with all of its races, regional rides, concerts, parties, vendors, brand demos, and biker vibe, Daytona Bike Week heralds the end of the winter doldrums in the States, and ushers in the new riding season with a bang.
The thrill of Main Street, Bike Week 2021. Photo by ABC News.
The (Mostly) Family-Friendly Biker Event
While there still are plenty of PG and R-rated shenanigans to be found throughout the 10 days of Bike Week, the event has become much more family-friendly over the years, and the violence and lawlessness that the non-riding media have so often relished focusing on over the decades is virtually nonexistent. There is so much to safely see and do in Daytona, DeLeon Springs and the surrounding region that many riders bring their entire families down to enjoy the rally’s events drenched in abundant Florida sunshine and warmth.
Into the night. Photo by ClickOrlando.
All Kinds of Motorcycles, All Kinds of Riders
Several of the Road Dirt crew have made the pilgrimage to Daytona Bike Week over the years, from Phil testing and demoing Harley-Davidson’s and Indian’s latest offerings, Ryan helping pit crew Daytona 200 bikes and riders, and Joshua just immersing himself in the atmosphere of moto thunder and exhaust that permeate central Florida during the rally. It’s truly an early spring spectacle that every rider needs to experience at least once if not regularly in their biker years. All walks of life, all kinds of bikes, from all over North America and around the world, with so much to see and do, Daytona Bike Week is truly among the greatest motorcycling events on the planet.
Phil sampling an Indian Challenger during the 2020 Bike Week.
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