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)