There’s something about the open road that motorcyclists find appealing. Whether it’s the open air or the thundering rumble of the engine beneath them, bikers are a proud and enthusiastic group of people.
It’s this type of passion that translates into what many people believe is a complete lifestyle. Motorcyclists travel great distances just to show off their pride and joy, often completing most of their journeys on their bikes. Rallies have emerged throughout the country now that it’s known some riders will travel anywhere- even long-established gatherings that have grown in stature in the past few decades.
For the die-hard enthusiast and the average weekend rider alike, these gatherings are a way to fully immerse oneself in the biker subculture. Listed below are the five best biker rallies in the country:
1. Sturgis Motorcycle Rally:
Since 1938, the small town of Sturgis, South Dakota, has been home to one of the largest biker rallies in American history. Riders from all across the globe make their way to the small western town to partake in multiple events. The rally originated as a celebration with roughly two dozen racers participating in a few functions, including a half-mile race and various ramp jumps, the South Dakota Office of Tourism says. The gathering has grown exponentially since then, with more than 600,000 riders in attendance in 2000; the rally averages anywhere from 450,000 to 800,000 people each year. Hidden in the northern quadrant of the South Dakota Black Hills, Sturgis Motorcycle Rally has a picturesque backdrop and miles of open roads in close proximity for riders to explore. Normally a town of just 7,000, Sturgis happily hosts the throngs of bikers that entertain the senses with growling engines and the smell of exhaust.
2. Daytona Bike Week:
Similar to its northern counterpart, Daytona Bike Week has been running for almost 70 consecutive years. The event was first created in 1937 as a motorcycle race – one which occurred over a sand and road course. This tradition lasted until 1942 when the American Motorcycle Association canceled the event due to Word War II, the Daytona Chamber of Commerce’s website says. Although the race was canned, people still showed up for an unofficial party that became Daytona Bike Week. Currently, the rally attracts 500,000 bikers over a 10-day stretch and includes a number of parties, various forms of entertainment, camping and even weddings. With warm weather and close proximity to tourist attractions like the Kennedy Space Center, Silver Springs state park and themed water parks, Daytona Bike Week provides an avenue of entertainment for every biker in town.
3. Laconia Motorcycle Week:
In terms of overall size, Laconia Motorcycle Week is slightly below the likes of Daytona and Sturgis, but the small-town New Hampshire gathering is actually the oldest bike rally in the country, according to its official website. The quaint New England scene on Lake Winnipesaukee would be enough to put this rally on our list, but its fun and unique events like the largest beer belly contest make this festival a must-see destination for all bike enthusiasts. Thrill-seekers can participate in the rally’s many races, while others can just cruise the tree-lined roadways along the state’s largest lake.
4. Myrtle Beach Bike Week:
If there’s a recurring theme here, it’s that all of these rallies are at the grandfather stages of their respective lives. Myrtle Beach Bike Week is also in its 70s, and the scenery along South Carolina’s eastern coastline would be enough to attract any non-bike enthusiast for a visit. The traditional racing and events are planned at Myrtle Beach, as well as custom motorcycle shows and a vibrant live music scene. Moreover, there are a number of attractions within hours’ driving distance, including wildlife refugees, a former USS Battleship and a couple of castles for the history buffs, according to automotive website How Stuff Works.
5. Rolling Thunder:
Although Rolling Thunder hasn’t been around quite as long as the other bike festivals, its purpose may be the most important. Held each year in Washington, D.C., on Memorial Day weekend, the bike rally is aimed at directing attention toward the brave men and women who dedicated their lives during the Vietnam War, its website says. Founder Ray Manzo, a former Marine, also wanted to bring attention to the fact that American servicemen had been abandoned as prisoners of war at the end of the struggle – a fact he found out in 1987 while visiting the Vietnam Memorial. Rolling Thunder started in 1988 in New Jersey, but it has since gathered thousands of former military service members who congregate in the nation’s capital to pay homage to the fallen. The rally isn’t exclusive to Washington, as smaller events occur in various parts of the country. However, the best annual turnout is in D.C. because rally-goers attend the Vietnam Memorial each year.
6. ROT Biker Rally:
Although its just 18 years old, the the Republic of Texas Biker Rally in the state’s capital is the largest ticketed motorcycle rally in the nation, according to the ROT website. The event is so large that the City of Austin has joined forces with ROT Biker Rally by closing off about 50 blocks downtown for a massive parade and party that is typically held the second weekend in June – one that’s expected to draw more than 200,000 people. This year’s ROT Rally is scheduled for June 12 to 14 and will use the Travis Co. Expo Center as its headquarters. The mass gathering isn’t just known for the congregation of cool and unique bikes, either. Austin’s self-proclamation as the “music capital of the world” has seen great musicians pass through central Texas, and the ROT rally is just another reason to attract great acts. Past rally headliners have included Willie Nelson, Joan Jett, Eddie Money, Twisted Sister, Charlie Daniels and Hank Williams Jr., but this year, ROT attendees will get to see former Van Halen front-man Sammy Hagar.