I’ve been one lucky guy, and I’m sure not ashamed to admit that. Coming from a small Kentucky town and riding a trail bike around cattle pastures, I worked hard and caught enough lucky breaks to make it pretty far in the motorcycle industry. After stepping over to a slightly different industry, it’s fun to sit back and reflect on a few things that I couldn’t publicly say while consumers like you paid my bills.
When you work for most brands in the motorcycle industry, going to motorcycle events and rallies are part of the job. Like a bunch of carnies, we fan out each year from coast to coast, peddling our wares in parking lots and city parks in a feeble attempt to move the needle in sales and educate the most important consumers of all, those who actually ride. While your first trip to each rally is exciting, after a few laps around the sun you become quite jaded to it all. You lament the lack of food options around Sturgis without an hour long wait at the end of the day, you have to battle with accounting about the cost of hotels in Daytona or try to justify to management why 3 days in Birmingham at Barber Motorsports Park is worth it.
What can get lost in that is why rallies are important, for the industry as a whole and consumers as well. Industry workers see them as a week or two of 10 hours or longer days all while juggling your normal calls from dealers, customers and reps. Many of us would work the booth from 8am-6pm, get a bite to eat, then spend a few more hours on our laptops in our rooms working on reports or simply catching up on emails. What you consumers see are polo or “shop shirts”, a tent, maybe a semi, smiles and a few bad attempts at humor and entertainment. “We” saw it as exhaustive work. Without you rally goers however, there is no need for industry there. Right? You guys are paying the bills.
Over the last 20 years, rallies have boomed. Someone somewhere saw the dollar signs from legacy events like Daytona Bike Week and The Sturgis Rally and decided they needed one in their back yard too. They come in all shapes and sizes, from Panama City Beach to Laughlin Nevada, on the Atlantic coast for Del Marva to the sands of Las Vegas Bike Fest. I’ve spoken out about how you don’t “need” to attend these events and how true joy lies in just riding somewhere with a few friends over a weekend, but there is an opposite side of this too. I believe as a motorcyclist, you probably do need to see a lot of these events just once.
You see, sometimes it’s about more than just a ride. Maybe you’re a frequent flyer here at Direct Cycle Parts and have truly built a custom creation. These large bike rallies give you the opportunity to display your hard work, whether that’s parked on some “Main Street” or entered into one of the dozens of bike shows that pop up at each event. While a trophy or plaque usually retails for $10 or less, it’s the reward of knowing that your peers and industry experts appreciate your skills and dedication to your bike that matters. For an event like Daytona Beach, Bike Week unofficially opens the riding season. For the Northern folk, it’s a great way to escape the clutches of Old Man Winter, while Biketoberfest in October is a great bookend to a hopefully well-traveled riding season. Sturgis does have some insane riding; I’ll give it that. (Also, get up early in the morning if you want a mostly traffic and police free ride through the canyons!) but what organizers have done around Sturgis is turn it into as much of a music festival as it is a motorcycle event. I have seen so many amazing live shows all in one area, and it’s been every type of music. Jamey Johnson to Nelly, Snoop Dogg to Ozzy Osbourne. I even saw Weird Al Yankovic. Excellent show by the way!
Last week I was able to make a pit stop in Daytona for 2.5 days. Funny how even in a different industry, you can still shake hands “across the aisle.” It was my first trip there when work related to motorcycles wasn’t involved. I saw a lot of old friends that I haven’t seen in nearly a year and I got to truly enjoy moving around the area without being in a hurry or really having too much of an agenda. As much as I’ve preached over the years on “go out on a ride where there aren’t large crowds”, I’m now (slightly) recanting those words.
So shine up that motorcycle, buy those parts you’ve been wanting, take that weeks’ vacation and go to one of these motorcycle rallies. You’re going to have a great time, be able to buy the t-shirt, and have stories to tell for years to come. The industry depends on it. Please and thank you.