By Jay Clark
We’ve been cooped up so long… time to ride! But where to? If you haven’t been to a big motorcycle rally now is the time to go, if you can. It’s a way to combine a long-distance motorcycle trip, camping and socializing with like-minded riders… as well as one of the most affordable ways to take a weekend trip!
The best part? This is a big country, with a lot of motorcyclists and a lot of rallies. This is just a taste – check out this listing of rallies to find more – but we wanted a mix of cruiser, vintage, custom and off-road (ADV) shows. No matter your interests or where you ride, there’s something for everyone.
As of the time we’ve posted this story, all the listed events appear to be going forward… but the only thing certain these days is uncertainty.. and that some or all of these events may be postponed, shortened or cancelled altogether. All the links below work and have contact info as well as Twitter and Facebook feeds so you can get the latest. Stay safe and have fun riding.
Let’s start with a couple of the granddaddies of biker rallies. Since 1937, riders have been making the trek to Daytona Beach, Florida for Daytona Bike Week. It’s based around the opening race of the AMA road-racing season, but most participants come for the wide range of competitive events, as well as the rock concerts, wet t-shirt contests, acres of vendor displays and anything else you can think of. The event is held in early spring, but there’s a related shindig – Biketoberfest – held in October.
Just a year after the first Daytona rally, a local motorcycle club sponsored a race and rally in Sturgis, South Dakota. Eighty years later, it’s still going strong, a 10-day party that’s synonymous with “biker fun and debauchery.” Over a half-million folks show up most years, with almost half of them riding from their homes, no matter how distant. The concerts at the Buffalo-chip Campgrounds are legendary, and have featured bands like Canned Heat, BTO, Cheap Trick, Styx, Cher, Ozzy Osbourne and “Weird Al” Yankovic. It's held in August.
If you’re looking for the classic adults-only biker party, it’s probably hard to beat Hogrock. head out to hinterlands of Illinois in June for rock music, beer, barbeque and a lot of adults-only events, including the famous “What T-Shirt?” contest and skinny dipping. You can “rock the leaves off the trees” at their Rocktober event in the fall as well.
Those with families will appreciate Northwest Arkansas’ Bikes, Blues and BBQ. It’s a charity event that’s raised over $2 million over the years, and it touts not just great food, beer, bands and vendors, but camping, helicopter rides, Harley demos, custom car, bike and truck shows as well as miles and miles of awesome riding in the beautiful Ozarks. Look for this in the fall.
Southern Colorado is a great place to ride, with the Rocky Mountains and deserts of New Mexico in equal proximity… so why not have a rally there? The Four Corners rally offers the traditional rally fare – beer, BBQ, demo rides, stunt shows, live music – and throws in a hillclimb event and a bike show.
“As our collective existence slips further into digital abstraction, we at the Handbuilt Motorcycle Show believe something has been lost and it is time to revive the culture of physical craftsmanship” reads Handbuilt cycle’s intro to its description of the Handbuilt Motorcycle Show. You’ve probably spent enough time staring at a screen, so a ride to Austin, Texas in November should be a way to make your world more tactile. There’s great riding in the Hill Country, and the Handbuilt Show, which has been going on since 2014, features incredibly beautiful motorcycles of all genres – cruisers, racers, off-road machines, even scooters! -- that are really more art than transportation.
You may have noticed a trend in the traditional “biker party”-style rallies; they’re definitely catering more to the men than the women. Thankfully, that’s changing, and you can experience that change by heading to the Mid-Atlantic Women’s Moto Rally, scheduled for June 18-20 in York, Pennsylvania. The goal of the event is to raise money and awareness for women riders and women’s health issues. It’s also packed with fun events like parades, bike shows, banquets, workshops and even private H-D factory tours.
In case you need an excuse to ride to lovely Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, there’s a big rally there twice a year. The spring rally has been postponed to July, and the fall event might be as long as 10 days, from September 28 to October 4. Music, vending and more!
Everything old is new again, right? That’s especially true with motorcycles, as vintage bikes – and bikes that just look vintage – are the hot spot of the industry. But the Bull City Rally, first held in 2005, has a twist: it’s a show, held Labor Day weekend in Durham, North Carolina, featuring vintage motorcycles and scooters as an homage to the ‘50s and ‘60s Rockers vs. Mods rivalry in the UK. You’ll see vintage motorcycles and scooters from every era and nation, along with enthusiasts dressed in period outfits and great food, beer and music. No entry fee!
BMW motorcycles have a truly loyal following, rivaling the leather-clad V-Twin crowd. They’re really nuts for camping and rally-going, not surprising considering the reputation their steeds have as travel companions. And of all the BMW rallies in the USA, the BMW Motorcycle Owner’s Association’s is the main event. Attended by thousands, it’s legendary for great vending, informative seminars and workshops and for being in locales with great riding and camping opportunities. This year should be no different, and it’ll be in Great Falls Montana June 25-37.
Plus 1. Overland Expo
It used to be that “adventure touring” was strictly a BMW thing, as you needed a big, powerful bike that had enough comfort and performance for the open road as well as bumpy trails. But now almost every big manufacturer makes ADV-capable rides, and you’ll find them all at one of the three Overland Expos. Catering to motorized off-road campers – car, truck and motorcycle – these rallies offer live music, camping, food and vending, as well as seminars, demo rides and much more. Family friendly, the events are July 24-26 in Flagstaff Arizona, August 28-30 in Loveland, Colorado and October 9-11 in Arrington, Virginia.