Road Trip: 2012 Daytona Bike Week

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DSC00855This year’s Daytona Bike Week was pushed to the second week of March instead of the usual first week of the month. Why? Primarily because of the start of the NASCAR season and its use of the Daytona Motor Speedway for the Daytona 500. There needs to be a short period of time for any town to clean up and prep for the next major event to move in. But in delaying the start of Bike Week, it caused the annual event to overlap spring break, another big draw for the Gold Coast. No one’s quite sure why, but this year’s Bike Week seemed to be more low key. Traffic jams didn’t seem quite as long, restaurant wait times were shorter, and vendors weren’t overrun with souvenir hounds. Except for the folks saying “It’s down, it’s down from last year,” Bike Week 2012 was quite pleasant for those that did attend.

Even so, there’s DSC00907still so much to do, and so little time. My ride south from New England was a pleasure and done completely without heated gear. I departed Connecticut in 60 F temps and saw 78 on the dashboard gauge of my Victory Cross Country Tour before I even hit the halfway mark of my first day on the road. My initial goal for the ride was a stop at Gainesville Dragway to check out some NHRA professional racing. After spending a day there and catching up with old friends, I meandered across Florida through the Ocala National Forest. I didn’t see a drop of rain until I entered Daytona Beach proper. But it was just a brief shower, and I set up for the week in Ormond Beach. The first Sunday of Bike Week was a washout, not so much with rain, but with windy, foggy, and overcast conditions that prevented the RoadBike and American Iron team from shooting any pictures. That was just as well, as I needed to duck into a walk-in clinic because of a pop-up sinus infection. The mild winter meant this was my first exposure to pollen, and my sinuses were objecting! Once on a regimen of antibiotics, I was back in action for scouting customs and shooting bikes. We even did a tech story while at Bike Week; check out page 88 to see the trick Heli Bars we installed on my Victory for the ride home. Sunday night’s washout muddied the AMA Supercross race, so I watched from a comfy chair at The Black Sheep Pub and Eating House on State Road A1A in Ormond Beach. It’s our new favorite hangout in Daytona and featured British/Irish fare and plenty of big screen TVs to watch the motorcycle mayhem in the mud.

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The middle of the week brought warmer temps and the Harley-Davidson Ride-In Show sponsored by American Iron Magazine. Now, before you start moaning about Harleys in RoadBike, I needed to attend to show support for our sister pubs American Iron and Motorcycle Bagger. Those guys were the presenting sponsors and were on hand to select some feature bikes. Beach Street was closed for a block, and traffic was diverted around the neighborhood. It was a heck of a show right in front of the old Harley dealership, and plenty of vintage and custom bikes to ogle. Part of that relaxed Bike Week look was on display just up a few blocks from the bike show. It seems that several of the buildings on the west side of Beach Street were condemned over the past year, and many spots where vendors used to ply their wares were blocked off by construction fencing. But word has it that DSC00889by next year, that whole area will be revitalized. I’m looking forward to it. Check out photos from the 2013 Daytona Bike Week event now on RoadBikeMag.com!

Thursday, I rode up US Route 1 to the Willies Tropical Tattoo Old School show. And even though it’s sponsored by a rival magazine, I just dig the bobbers and rat bikes that show up here every year. A few street rods were on hand, too, for the car guys. On Thursday night, my pendulum swung to high tech, and I attended a press conference presented by Motus to unveil its details for pricing, manufacturing, and distribution of the new American V4 sport-tourers, the Motus MST and MST-R. It’s not a pipe dream; these bikes are for real: the engines are real, the dealer network is real, and they’re really taking deposits. Watch for Motus bikes touring the roads of America this fall.

Friday was all about the Victory Owner’s Ride led by none other than R. Lee “Gunny” Ermey. Gunny was looking sharp on his new custom-painted Cross Country. About 200 Victory riders showed up for the ride that ended at, and took over, the Blue Grotto Restaurant off Beach Street. One final hurrah to Bike Week was, after a seven-year hiatus, the return of the Community Appreciation Parade through town, ending at the speedway. Unfortunately, I couldn’t take in any of the AMA road racing, as I saw a break in the weather along the East Coast and made a beeline for the highway. Another Bike Week in the books, albeit a somewhat laid-back one. RB

Story and Photos by Steve Lita

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