In the third and final part of our look at the other side of USA biker culture, here’s where to go if you’re lucky enough to be taking a trip Stateside any time soon.
Motorcycling can be a pretty solitary pursuit. But, like most solitary pursuits, it’s more fun with other people around. If you want to completely immerse yourself in motorcycle culture, there is no better way than attending one of the many rallies held each year in the US. While one is held in almost every state, often attracting many thousands of visitors, a few have become legendary.
Laconia motorcycle week
With roots dating back to 1916, Laconia is America’s oldest running rally. Based on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire, it started off as a spontaneous “Gypsy tour”, where bikers would converge on a location to race and party. Since then it has evolved into a nine-day celebration of all things motorcycle, with a huge array of activities including rides, exhibitions, live music, races and much more besides.
Daytona Beach, Florida
Daytona Beach is one of the most important cities for motorsport in America. The naturally hard-packed sand of the beach make a perfect racing surface, and it has been used as a track since the 1930s. NASCAR, the organisation that runs the bafflingly popular motorsport, was founded there in the 1940s, which cemented the town’s reputation as America’s home of racing.
Bikers have the choice of attending the nine-day bike week in February or the positively dinky four-day Biketoberfest in October. The centrepiece of the spring week is the Daytona 200, an endurance race of 200 miles, or 57 laps.
Of the 48 contiguous states in the US, South Dakota is ranked 46 in terms of population density. Home of the Rushmore monument and the largest concentration of Mammoth remains in the world, it is also something of a Mecca for bikers. Normally, the town of Sturgis has a population of a little over 6500. In August, things get a tad more hectic as the motorcycle rally, currently in its 76th year, attracts an average of half a million visitors to the area. It has evolved beyond its original blueprint to become an all-encompassing celebration of biker culture, and has become the major generator of income for the town. The town has been changed by the presence of the rally, with many new businesses opening to take advantage of the seasonal invasion. In 2015 Harley Davidson built a permanent rally point to act as the focus for their official activities in town.
Sturgis is also home to the Full Throttle Saloon, which advertises itself as the largest biker bar in the world. During the rally it puts on a staggering range of entertainment, including concerts, stunt shows and various activities which are basically opportunities to get women’s clothes all wet and see-through. They know their customers, for sure.
For the last five years the bar has been the subject of a reality TV show, which has certainly not harmed the Full Throttle Saloon’s fame or finances. What did harm it was the fire that destroyed it just three weeks after the 2015 rally. While this is a huge blow the owners have since decided to rebuild.
Over its lifetime Sturgis has become the bikers rally, and will doubtless continue to get larger with time.