Many people answer the call of the open road each year with nearly 500,000 motorcycles being sold annually. Registrations for motorcycles grow each year as well. Currently, nearly 9,000 Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) courses operate year round.
With so many motorcycles on the road, it’s little wonder that motorcycle events and rallies have also been growing over the past twenty years. These events present opportunities for enthusiasts to gather and share their love of the machine and the culture around it.
Those looking to find a rally or event don’t have to look very far. These days nearly every state now has one in a given year, but for those looking for the best and most exciting rallies, the following list gives the highlights of the motorcycle enthusiast’s calendar.
Must See Motorcycle Events
Events go beyond mere gatherings of the like-minded. At these events, technology gets premiered and stories of the road are shared with other enthusiasts. With attendances in the hundreds of thousands, these events also represent major tourism dollars for the hosting communities.
Vendors and biker-themed foods have also become popular over the years. Unique craftsmen create custom bike builds and bike accessories. They travel between rallies making motorcycle events special and fostering a cottage industry of enthusiasts.
Much like other events sponsored by and primarily for an enthusiast audience, biker rallies create this type of vendor and supplier culture that would have a hard time existing otherwise.
Together, these events create and foster interest in riding and the philosophy of the open road.
1. Myrtle Beach Bike Week
Founded in 1940, the 78th annual bike week runs through the middle of May each year. The week features solo rides and organized journeys up the eastern coastline of South Carolina.
Racing events span the duration of the 8-9 day extended week that includes activities along with live music and custom motorcycle shows.
Different attractions have come and gone over the years but commonly they focus on wildlife, US military history and Civil War historic sights.
Though the Spring event is by far the biggest, the area also has a Fall rally promoting many similar events with a more autumnal change theme and less overall crowding.
Why You Need to Go
The view up the coast can’t be beaten. While other motorcycle events may feature better music, a longer history, or a few more races, Myrtle has the views. Whether a rider visits for the Spring rally or the Fall, they will see a lot of the coast as they travel north along the roads.
The climate, in either case, is also pleasant, not too warm or too cold. Other rallies go off in the mid-summer and might be further north, but heat is a thing that travels with the riding gear and the presence of thousands of bikes. So the early and late events of Myrtle Beach make for a more pleasant atmosphere overall.
The bike shows benefit from this as well, with early and late showings of products and designs, giving hints of great ideas for the Spring and the upcoming Fall season.
2. Republic of Texas Biker Rally
Younger than most of the rallies on this list, the Republic of Texas (ROT) Biker Rally reserves roughly 50 blocks of Austin each year. This year they will be offering the 22nd annual installment in June. The usual draw brings in 200,000 people.
The event proclaims a lot of musical acts as contributors to the event, given the musical history of Austin, TX. Custom bike shows, giveaways, and races also happen during the week.
In recent years, event attendees have been able to watch real-time bike building competitions. Different garages look to make custom bikes built around a theme and then raffle the finished creations off or present them as prizes.
Why You Need to Go
The Austin-based motorcycle event provides a more populated location than other rallies. The music scene has the pedigree and the home-field advantage over other venues.
Being set in downtown Austin, the event has some benefits for those looking to stay in more upscale accommodations. Food options and culture also factor in.
The unseen advantage of ROT comes from the ability of vendors to ship in product demos because of the centralized location. Gear and product sales and innovations also benefit from the mid-season timeline.
3. Daytona Bike Week
Founded originally as a motorcycle race in 1937, this second oldest of the motorcycle events didn’t run continuously. It was discontinued in 1942 for reasons related to the then war efforts.
The rally picked back up after several years of unofficial party goers kept returning the area. The current event has run continuously since 1947 and attracts 500,000 enthusiasts for a 10-day adventure.
Staged in early March, the Daytona Bike Week features races, auctions, equipment swaps and sales, and live music. The event draws in more historians than many of the others, so it’s no surprise that classes on tech and ride histories feature prominently during the event.
Why You Need to Go
Racing fans benefit from a plethora of tracks available in the Daytona area. Unlike other motorcycle events that include races as additional features, Daytona is a race-first situation. The quality of the tracks and the pedigree of the routes gets taken up a notch.
The unseen advantage here lies in the race routes ability to accommodate spectators. The location also provides terrific hotels as well as a few outdoor camping regions which provide that authenticity of the older days where camping was a must for riders.
4. Laconia Motorcycle Week
Though not as popular as Daytona or Sturgis, Laconia gets the honor of being the oldest of the motorcycle events. Founded in 1923, the Laconia Motorcycle Week runs mid-June.
The week comes with the usual sampling of live music and assorted rides and shows. Bike demos and scenic rides feature at the top of the list of offerings because of the well-managed partnerships between event planners and companies.
Why You Need to Go
Great rides, temperate location, and iconic status make this a top choice among motorcycle events. No other rally takes the time to layout the schedule and stick to it quite like Laconia. Maybe keeping a schedule seems a little less than “rebel biker” to many, but executing a plan with precision for the benefit of all is what being a good rider is about.
Laconia also plays well with the heritage of bikers and the culture. Many museum-quality pieces are bound to ride through the streets and veterans enjoy the inclusion of the old guard with the enthusiasm of newer riders looking to learn from history.
5. Sturgis Motorcycle Rally
The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally also began as a race and blossomed into the largest of the motorcycle events in the country. The first race was called the Black Hills Classic and ran, as the current rally does, in early August 1938. Over time the event grew and formed the pattern of cooperation and diversity seen in many other rallies.
Live music, races, and exquisite recreational rides along set tour routes are the norm. The rally has an average of 500,000 annual attendees but their 2015 numbers topped 750,000 for the 75th annual event.
Why You Need to Go
Sturgis puts named-brand recognition into the world of motorcycle events. People from around the world travel to the coasts so they can ride to the centralized location. The town explodes from a population of 9,000 to nearly half a million for a brief window.
Musical acts from the past and the present share the stage. Accommodations have built up over the years, but campgrounds and trailer camping still dominate to give that real taste of traveling on the open road and stopping when or where you can.
Sturgis pioneered so many of the vents that can be found at other motorcycle events, including slow rides, DIY repairs, and custom bike shows. Eating contests, races, and tests of skill and strength all make for a lively return to a lifestyle that sometimes seems more dream than reality.
Motorcycle culture doesn’t die, it simply changes. In the past 20 years, different styles of bikes have risen and fallen in popularity. Protective gear laws have shaped and reshaped fashion. The number of women involved in motorcycle ownership has climbed to nearly 12%.
Keeping up with all of the events and technology doesn’t have to be a hardship. Staying informed is really just a matter of knowing where to find information. We provide articles and information about the biker life to help you stay informed.