How to have fun, stay safe, and stretch your money at the big bike rallies
For bikers, the opportunity to revel in all things motorcycle comes in the form of attending bike rallies. And, with summer being the peak season for the big events, we tapped our resident motorcycle event expert Todd Matthews for some tips.
Todd typically travels tens of thousands of miles a year, attending power sports events across the country as Progressive’s senior marketing events specialist. He estimates he’s been to well over 100 motorcycle events in the last decade—from Sturgis to Laconia to Daytona, and everything in between. So, he’s learned from experience.
Here are his tips.
Before you go …
The biggest thing Todd emphasizes is to be prepared.
- Find a place early—When the dates are set for the rally, hotels start to fill up. Book your hotel a month or two early so you have a place to stay. If you’re looking to save money, and you don’t need the comforts of a hotel, Todd has a few suggestions. “Consider camping near the event. Or, look into renting a house off of Craigslist with a group of friends. These options can be a lot cheaper than spending $300 – $400 for a hotel.”
- Check the weather—“As you get close to the event, look ahead at the seven-day—even 10-day—forecast to see what the weather is going to do,” Todd advises. “Also, plan for unexpected weather.” Even if the forecast calls for blazing hot temperatures, Todd will bring a rain suit. “Everything happens outdoors. It’s no fun being miserable outside because the weather took a turn you weren’t prepared for.”
- Make an itinerary for what you want to see—Check the rally’s website and online message boards to chart out what you want to see. Not only will this save you time, it’ll ensure you experience the really cool things that require you to sign up online beforehand (like test driving the hottest bikes).
- Get your bike serviced—Take your bike in for a tune-up before you leave. This includes making sure your tires are inflated, oil is changed, and filters are in good condition. “The last thing you want is to be broken down on the side of the road and miss the event,” Todd says.
- Know your route—Have check-in points along the way so you can let people know the trip is going well—especially if you’re traveling alone. It’s also good to know how many miles your motorcycle’s gas tank can log before you need to refuel. This will help you plan fuel and food stops along the way.
Once you’re there
Alright, you’ve done your planning, you’re well prepared … now it’s time to rev up your bike and enjoy the event.
- Stay close to Main Street—Every rally has a hub, or a “Main Street,” where most people park their bikes. However, the outer fringes—where there are fewer people—can be a little unsafe for both you and your bike. Park your bike as close to Main Street as possible.
- Prevent theft—Consider a LoJack and a locking mechanism to protect your bike. “Also, make sure to empty your saddle bags before you go milling about,” Todd states. “Don’t give anyone an excuse to run off with your bike, or your stuff.”
- Bring a spare key—With so much going on, you might misplace your keys. Keep a second set with you so you don’t find yourself marooned at the rally.
- Bring cash and do some wheeling and dealing—Not everyone takes credit cards. Bring some cash to the event so you don’t miss out on the opportunity to buy accessories. “And remember: vendors will bargain,” Todd states. “Haggle the price, and you could get a better deal on the merchandise you want.”
- Have a map—It’s easy to get lost—especially when some of the streets are closed for the event. Bring a map to help you navigate. “People will use their smartphones to get around as well. Biker InCite, for example, is an app that plots out the major bike rallies like Sturgis, Hollister and Bikes, Blues & BBQ.”
- Wear bright colors—I know, I know … you want to wear your leathers. But as the day goes on, the drinking increases—and with it the danger of being a victim of a drunk driver. “Obviously, you don’t want to drink and drive yourself,” Todd says. “But it’s also important to protect yourself from others. Wear the right gear so people can see you.”
- Look for the best deals on the last day—Vendors are anxious to unload their merchandise as the rally draws to a close. If you’re patient, waiting until the last day can save you a ton of cash.
Start preparing now
The key is to be prepared. “I like to say that ‘poor preparation precedes poor performance,’” Todd says with a smile. “Planning ahead will help you get the most out of your experience.”