History of Daytona Bike Week
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Hard sand, warm winter days and the excitement of that first motorcycle race on the beach that made Daytona Beach the home of Bike Week since January 24, 1937. Could it be the spirited activities (aka BIG TIME PARTY 24/7) surrounding the event that keeps people coming back year after year. The campgrounds at night are another World or so I am told.
The first Daytona 200 race took place on a 3.2 mile beach and road course, located south of Daytona Beach. Ed Kretz of Monterey Park, CA was its first winner, riding an Indian and averaging 73.
The 1937, race course ran approximately one and a half miles north on the beach; through a 1/4 mile turn where the sand was banked, and then onto the paved, public roadway portion for the trip south. Old School note-as a general rule road bikes & sand do not mix. This was way before the first Moto Cross bike. Coming back on the final turn, another high sand bank awaited riders as they raced on the hard sands of the beach. Interestingly enough, starting times for these events were dictated by the local tide tables. The races continued from 1937 to 1941. In the early years the Daytona 200 was also called the “Handlebar Derby” by locals
In 1942, the Daytona 200 was discontinued because of World War II. The American Motorcycling Association (AMA) solemnly noted it was “in the interests of national defense” that the event was canceled.
On February 24, 1947, the famous motorcycle race resumed and was now promoted by the legendary Bill France. Newspaper stories of the period recount that the city fathers asked townsfolk to open their homes to the visiting motorcyclists because all hotel rooms and camping areas were filled to capacity. I’m thinking this will not work in 2009. The 1947 Daytona 200 featured a record 176 riders.
In 1948, a new beach - road course was used because of developments along the beach.
Bike Week has always had a flavor & spirit of its own. Sometime after the war, the event began to take on a rugged edge. While the motorcycle races on the beach were organized, events surrounding the race were not. As time passed, locals became afraid of the visitors and law enforcement officers and city officials were less than enthusiastic about what some termed an “invasion”. Relations between the Bikers and law enforcement officials continued to worsen. When things appeared to be at their worst (after the 1986 event), a special task force was organized by the city in cooperation with the local chamber of commerce to improve relations and change the magnitude and scope of the event.
Today Bike Week has transformed into a 10-day festival that expands throughout Volusia County. There are hundreds of events for motorcycle enthusiasts to enjoy. Bike Week now welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors annually and is enjoyed by locals (can you say Bikers Economic Stimulus) and motorcycle enthusiasts worldwide.
I will come back every year even if it means putting another wheel to keep the Road King from falling over when I stop, I thinking side-car.