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Biketoberfest is the “Mini-Me” to the “Daytona Bike Week,” lasting only a week instead of Bike Week’s two, and drawing around 100,000 riders versus Bike Week’s 300-400k. It’s become my preferred venue for visiting Daytona, as it usually has better weather, you can get a hotel room without a minimum rental period, the traffic is manageable, and pretty much everything that goes on during the March Bike Week is happening in October. The only downside is the lack of the Daytona 200 race and the other national events at the track.

This year I went with my riding pal Mike who rode his Road King; I took the Concours. I was hoping to take the Low Rider, but some a-hole hit it in the parking lot about two weeks ago, knocking it over and bending the rear fender and handlebars. However, the Concours is perfect for a road trip like this, with lots more storage and a nice full fairing, which would prove useful due to the rain showers that cropped up pretty much the entire three days of our trip.

Mike met me at my place Friday morning; I have 50% custody of my son, and I had to deliver him to school Friday before his Mom took over custody for her week. That meant it was about 9:00 am before we got on the road, which was a pretty good time as the traffic prior to that hour in South Florida sucks anyway. Mike and I had taken a cruise up A1A on the beachside not long ago, so we decided to “SuperSlab” it North, first on the Florida Turnpike and then on I-95. The weather was perfect, mid 80’s and sunny, and we made good time getting up to Central Florida, where we stopped at Palm Bay Harley Davidson. The weekend prior to our trip, I had helped Mike change the rear tire on his Road King, and somehow he dropped not one, but both his hard saddlebags, scuffing the tops of them pretty badly. At Palm Bay HD, he got the leather top cover set for the bags, and we installed them with the supplied Velcro in the parking lot. Say what you will about Harley, but nobody does accessories like they do, not even close.

After dressing the bike’s wounds, we did the last 150 miles to Volusia County quickly, and cut over to A1A at New Smyrna Beach. I wanted to avoid the usual miles long backup of bikes getting over the causeways in downtown Daytona, but as it turned out, I needn’t have worried. This year’s Biketoberfest attendance was remarkably light and traffic was a non-event most of the time. We were able to pull right on to Main Street and join the “parade” with almost no waiting. My guesstimate of the attendance would be about 2/3 of what I’ve seen in previous years. I don’t know if the motorcycle “fad” is finally fading, if the economy was a factor, or if the predictions of lousy weather kept the crowds down, but for the first time I was actually able to park right on Main Street. At that point the bar-hopping began, and we worked our way up one side of Main Street and down the other. It was a nice change to be able to get a beer without having to be pushy or be pushed.

We took our time getting started Saturday morning, and finally hit the road around 11. Mike wanted to go to Destination Daytona, where Harley Davidson meets Disney. We had been by Destination Daytona briefly last March during Bike Week, but this time many of the stores that were still under construction then were now open. This included J P Cycle’s super duper mega giganto Cruiser Crap store. If there is a gee-gaw, widget, jimcrack, or gizmo made for a HD cruiser, clone, or metric cruiser, this place has it. Mike wanted to get a new set of pipes for his bike, and picked up a pair of Rinehardts. J P does not have their own installation facility, but they partner with a company called Master Wrench from Iowa, who puts a giant tent in the parking lot decked out with lifts, tools, and mechanics. For $60 and a tip, Mike got his new pipes installed, and proceeded to annoy the crap out of me with convulsive throttle twisting for the rest of the trip. A somewhat weird policy at J P is that if you buy parts or accessories at the J P store during the event and have them shipped home, you get free shipping and a 10% discount. If you just take the parts with you, you get no discount at all. That upset Mike no end, and he got so bent out of shape about it he advised the management he will never buy from them again. Until the next time he wants something they have.

Our next stop was the combined Ducati / Triumph / Generic Chopper dealership across from J P Cycles. This was a pretty nice store, and they had a large selection of Ducatis in stock, including the new Hyper Motard, an awesome yellow 1098, and many of the “lesser” bikes. The full range of Triumphs were on display, including the Rocket III. Their selection of used Triumphs and Ducs was huge; at least 50 bikes were displayed outside. We then went to “The World’s Largest Freakin Harley Davidson Dealership.” If someone had told me back in the 80’s that someday a Harley dealership would look like a Nordstrom’s in design and size, I’d have laughed in their face. The ground floor included new bikes, several departments of clothes and accessories, (men’s, women’s kids, and pets), a café, a parts and accessories area, and more. An escalator in the center of the store led upstairs, where hundreds of used bikes were on display. The service department is also upstairs, and a glass wall allows the owners to watch as their bikes are being worked on. Rossmeyer also had several bikes from his personal collection on display on the second floor, including Servi-cars, Knucks, Pans, Shovels, and customs. A couple of Playboy Bunnies were supposed to be there taking and signing photos with visitors, but I guess they were on a carrot break when we were there.

Our next stop was the Daytona International Speedway. All of the major motorcycle manufacturers had their giant tents set up, and all of their models on display. They were also doing test rides, but without prior planning, that wasn’t in the cards for us. If you’re interested in that, get there at the start of the day and plan to invest several hours in the process. We did watch a bunch of people whizzing around what looked like an autocross track on Can-Am Spyders. I don’t know if the riders were inexperienced, if Can-Am had put limiters on the rides, or what, but the Spyders were moving very slowly around the track. I don’t think I’ll be buying one soon. At the Kawasaki tent I drooled over the new Concours 14 again. What a nice bike. The ergonomics are perfect for me, the styling is gorgeous, the quality is obvious. If things go the way I hope they do, I will buy an ’09 next year.

On the East side of the Speedway facility was “Kickstand City,” which housed displays and vendor booths for the smaller companies. Here you could anything from a custom made saddlebag to a tattoo. There was a pen filled with Boss Hogs of all descriptions, including one done in a “Toy Story” motif. In trike form, the things almost look rational, but the two wheeled versions are just…something. The funny thing is, there was a Rocket II parked next to one, and they didn’t look that much different! Speaking of trikes, there were several types and models on display. Some of them were full conversions, some basically replaced the rear wheel with an axle and diff. The one that was really bizarre was basically a set of training wheels that bolted up with a huge frame to almost any bike. What a “rig!” Imagine the worst possible traits of a motorcycle, a trike, and a lawn service trailer all combined into one (and I use the word loosely) vehicle. I can’t imagine who would buy this thing, but apparently people do.

At this point the weather was closing in, so we headed South to Cocoa Beach where we had dinner and spent the night. The weather was really closing in Sunday morning, so we put on the rain suits and droned through the storms back home. There is nothing fun about wearing a rain suit in 90+-degree weather. When it’s actually raining it’s not too bad, but in this type of Florida weather it’s off and on like an oscillating sprinkler. So, you wind up soaking the inside of the suit and helmet with sweat…which makes for a pretty miserable feeling. Luckily we made good time, and were back in Ft. Lauderdale within three and a half hours.

On many occasions I’ve sworn I’ll never go to Daytona again. The town is generally ratty, and I don’t have the lifestyle I used to that made a week long party attractive. But, between the races and the bike displays, it’s still worth a visit. And, it’s a good excuse to get on the bike and ride. I’m pleased to say the Concours did about 1000 miles total without a hiccup. See you March?
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