Daytona Bike Week 2010. Reinventing Itself.

The Daytona party ended yesterday on a warmer note. Not only because of the weather but also because of the lesson learned from this 69th edition. Yes, for financial reasons, many bikers could not make it to Daytona. Same for many  friends of the custom motorcycle industry. Some new bikers come and go, some motorcycle businesses emerge and vanish and some are obliged to interrupt decades of  continuous attendance to big rallies like Daytona. During one week, I have talked with many bikers & vendors, not only with those I met in Florida , but also with those I keep in touch with on a regular basis by phone and email. Even if they lost their bike or home because of evil loans and mortgages or put their motorcycle businesses on stand by because financing has dried, I can assure you that they all will be back at the first opportunity. And during this time the custom motorcycle industry adapts, diversify and reshapes itself, exactly like this 69th edition of Daytona Bike Week.

You must admit, it made no sense that the motorcycle industry, like others, was supported by sales, factory or custom motorcycles, financed by equity loans. It was absurd that some vendors thought that the size of their trailers would be enough to acquire a permanent industry status and that their haulers deserved more investment money than their products. I know too well how much you can make, and will never make, in the custom motorcycle business. Opportunist manufacturers are gone to other opportunities. biker fashionistas are chasing other trends. So, this year in Daytona, much more than during the last 15 years, you met real people doing their thing, riding, building and showing bikes, manufacturing and demonstrating parts and together celebrating their common passion for the sport of motorcycling.

In our biz, almost all professionals started as hobbyists tinkering with bikes in their garages or playing with some pieces of steel or aluminum to turn them into cool parts for their own motorcycles or those of friends. In these tough recession times where all individuals and businesses are obliged to reevaluate their relation to money, those providing creativity at the lower cost are the new heros of the day. Their names? Whatever you call them, backyard builders, semi pros, or generation X & Y builders,  they gather in rallies, creating the scene in places like the Limpnickie Lot, Willie’s Tattoo Show, the Broken Spoke Saloon, etc.  Don’t make this mistake. These places don’t organize bike shows. They create “Happenings”, sort of popular motorcycle art performance with an active participation of the audience. If you don’t know who is who, I defy you to recognize the builder from the spectator. Contrary to other bike shows there is no boundary between the  bike as artwork and its viewer. These shows are social gatherings, exactly the way rallies were when they got started.

Even among tenors of the industry, I mean the big names who have paid their dues, exemplifying our profession, by the quality of their bikes and parts, atmosphere has changed. The human factor is back with more support from each other. I enjoyed seeing Harley-Davidson back on Beach Street, with factory people mixing with clients and engaging in serious motorcycle conversations. Not just looking at them passing by in the alleys of the Ocean Center and at best giving them pins, stickers & catalogs. The vision of the Harley-Davidson, Indian & Big Dog Motorcycle semi trucks side by side is for me the symbol of this Daytona Bike Week. A smaller but more human rally where all vendors regroup and reinvent themselves to be closer to each other and to their clients, literally and physically. This year, the rally map has changed. Its content too. The motorcycle industry is doing exactly what it has to do to survive. After this Daytona Bike week I am more than ever convinced of its resilience. The only thing we need now is a good job for all those who want to work. As fast as possible. But this is another story…(pictures Horst Roesler, Cyril Huze)

25 Responses to “Daytona Bike Week 2010. Reinventing Itself.”

  1. 1 Steve Kelly Mar 8th, 2010 at 8:24 am

    Spot on Cyril. I enjoyed this year’s Bike Week for most of the reasons you stated. If I could have changed just one thing, it would have been the weather.

  2. 2 Darin Maltsberger- Instructor@MTI Mar 8th, 2010 at 8:55 am

    Great article Cyril. The downturn in the economy has touched everyone………and it seems to have the same effect on every group of people out there. As you said, it brings us all down to a more human level. And that’s a really good thing. I wasn’t able to go to Daytona. It is on my bucket list. Being able to read your daily updates has been the next best thing to being there. Thanks.

  3. 3 Shifter Mar 8th, 2010 at 9:09 am

    Very good analysis, as usual. It’s the way I felt at Bike Week. Smaller, friendlier. I hear that because of the cold clothing/gloves merchants did very well.

  4. 4 JoAnn Bortles Mar 8th, 2010 at 9:22 am

    Cyril, your article hit the nail on the head, very correct on all counts. We had a wonderful time in daytona. Despite the brutal cold, there was this positive atmosphere in the air. Companies are doing what is takes to survive these hard times.
    I am very thankful our little paint shop is busy, but we are a small shop with small overhead. We still have the same worktruck we’ve had for the past 12 years, same little trailer.

    Your quote, “These shows are social gatherings, exactly the way rallies were when they got started.”
    I feel the same way.

    Great article!

  5. 5 Jeff Moss Mar 8th, 2010 at 9:44 am

    Was there 4 days. Everybody nicer, hotel people, merchants and Harley employees on beach street and at dealership. Coming back to what a rally is supposed to be. BTW, your blog is also a social gathering, proof that you have a sharp understanding of what’s going on in the motorcycle biz..

  6. 6 Boss Hawg Mar 8th, 2010 at 9:48 am

    Although the coldest I care to remember, this bike week was great for me. I am happy to see the downsizing and the industry correct itself, too. Now let’s wish the best to all us white-beards and the upcoming quality of some of the younger builders as our industry transcends to them.

    We spent very little time at Destination Daytona, however, we did enjoy the motorcycle races at the speedway and most of all what’s quite evidently is the resurrection of life on beach street at the riverfront park again, bringing the core back to where it used to be and on Ridgewood, too.

    Boss Hawg

  7. 7 MAYHEM Mar 8th, 2010 at 10:14 am

    Great observation of Daytona Cyril – great article.

  8. 8 Jeff Nicklus Mar 8th, 2010 at 10:50 am

    Very well said Cyril! I am sorry I missed this year but I thought it more important to stay here and take care of what business we have and make a few bucks rather than make the trip to Daytona and cost me many dollars. It does sound like it is time to come back to Daytona, and Beach Street, for Desperado.

    Over & out,


  9. 9 P. Williams Mar 8th, 2010 at 11:22 am

    Read everything I could find online while in Daytona, This is the best report because it expresses very well how bike week has changed to adjust to new economic realities. All recessions bring some benefits. For us bikers one of them is that riding is again more important that the symbol status of parading an expensive custom motorcycle. I agree with you Cyril. A rally should remain a celebration of friendship between bikers, not a motorcycle fashion show and money circus although there is nothing wrong with making a living building custom bikes and selling stuff to bikers.

  10. 10 Vette Mar 8th, 2010 at 11:45 am

    Cyril, what you said here is very real. I felt it everyday we were in Daytona. Vendors, spectators, and magazine editors alike all shared the same positive comments without negativity. A really warm family feeling of pulling together to make it happen. And in this year’s gathering the vibe was exactly what it was meant to be: the passion we share for the sport!

    Debuting the Vette Frame Build at BikeWeek was the perfect venue with lots of good feedback on the frame. We will be there for Biketoberfest. Thanks to all those who came to see it and I will still let you ride it, Cyril!

  11. 11 JP@MyEvilTwinChoppers Mar 8th, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    Very well said! Some people always land on their feet, some were never intended to!

  12. 12 ODee Mar 8th, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    Kudo’s to you Cyril! I wasn’t there, but apreciate your informative, strait forward, constructive, positive, and well written take. Thanks

  13. 13 Biker58 Mar 8th, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    Perhaps the economic whoas have finally brought the real builders to the forefront. I look forward to once again attending bike events that display quality built motorcycles/products. While the “semi-truck” phase was original it pre-empted what these events are all about – checking out the wares of the real builders and hanging with a hundred thousand of your best friends! Look forward to seeing Desperado again as we have missed you in Daytona. How about a “Dummies” segment on the new revolution – I think the industry could use an “upper”!

  14. 14 freedomlaw Mar 8th, 2010 at 6:17 pm

    Cyril’s blog is simply the best I read on a regular basis on any topic. The topic happens to be motorcycles, which are my hobby, but his insight overlaps so many other parts of our culture. Thank you.

  15. 15 Press Pass Mar 8th, 2010 at 10:23 pm

    Cyril is the most intelligent custom builder I know. And I know all the good ones. Great blog, great thoughts, great read.

  16. 16 Patrick R. Mar 8th, 2010 at 10:26 pm

    Cyril is also a good example of reinventing himself while still contributing to the motorcycle industry..

  17. 17 baddad Mar 9th, 2010 at 6:03 am

    Great article!

  18. 18 Otis Ward Mar 9th, 2010 at 7:49 am

    Great story! I should say, another great story!

  19. 19 maroco Mar 9th, 2010 at 9:31 am

    Daytona motorcycle “Meca” . All the best for next years!

  20. 20 Dave Welch Mar 9th, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    Cyril, I was hoping you would have come by the Rat’s Hole show on Sat. I had my Bat-Pod replica at the show you would have gotten a kick out of it. Missed seeing you there, you can see pictures of it on my web site under motorcycles work in progress.

  21. 21 TRIBAL IRON CHOPPERS Mar 9th, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    Dave, I was there. We had our Alamo Poker Western Theme bike in the show. Your Bat Man bike was AWE inspiring. Looked like it came right out of the movie. Very nice job and attention to details. I wanna ride the bastard so bad!

  22. 22 david uhl Mar 9th, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    excellent assessment!

  23. 23 Cris Sommer Simmons Mar 10th, 2010 at 1:21 am

    You are so on it! I couldn’t agree more. I’ve been going to Daytona Bike Week on and off since the mid-80’s and it sure has gone through some changes.

    I loved seeing Harley on Beach street too. Freezing with the real people on the cold and windy days.

    We kept running into you everywhere too. We must think alike!

  24. 24 Custom Motorcycle Parts Mar 14th, 2010 at 1:16 am

    I love reading about motorcycles, it’s one of my favorite hobbies as a rider and I can definitely see you enjoy writing about it too.

  25. 25 Grinch Mar 15th, 2010 at 10:12 am

    The cops were out of hand again. The pulled everyone over that was parked on the boardwalk and made them show their paperwork. It was like Nazi Germany. They also were checking for stolen bikes like normal. They really put a damper on things.

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Cyril Huze