22nd annual Arizona Bike Week

By Felicia Morgan

Double deuces in the desert

Scottsdale, Ariz., Apr. 11–15—There are few things more inviting than watching the sun sink behind a saguaro after a warm spring ride through the desert and those of us who are jonesing for a little wind time that doesn’t include frostbite know to head for Arizona to celebrate a new riding season. The magic of the Sonoran desert is certainly enough to incite a road trip, but the fun stuff scheduled every day during Arizona Bike Week is the cherry on top of the big ol’ cactus sundae. After 22 years of hosting the springtime soiree, you can bet the folks at FX Productions Inc. know a thing or two about party planning and offer up everything from bike shows, stunts, concerts and shopping to camping, runs and rowdy races. There are plenty of activities to keep even the most OCD of bikers busy trying to figure out what to do next, even though it’s virtually impossible to do it all.

Veteran ABW attendees know to get their camp spots reserved early and bivouac at the WestWorld venue for the week since camping fees include entry to all the fun stuff that happens when the desert cools down and campgrounds come alive with parties. Concerts spark up the night but during the day, riders generally head for the high country to escape the heat during various charity runs. For 15 years Buddy Stubbs H-D has sponsored a 200-plus-mile run that benefits Camp Courage, the children’s burn camp in Prescott. Riders headed west on Wednesday after departing the Stubbs dealership and another run, sponsored by Harley-Davidson of Scottsdale and also benefiting Camp Courage, was scheduled for Friday the 13th. Known for their generous support of the Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Harley-Davidson of Scottsdale also hosted the 5th annual Hand in Hand ride with all proceeds benefiting the PCH. But not every charity ride was about children. Case in point would be the very adult Arizona Bike Week sponsored T-Bar Trail Ride, benefiting breast cancer charities. The route is mapped out with stops at strip bars. What else would you expect from an event with a motto of “Saving boobs, one bar at a time?”

While out and about, bikers swarmed another parking lot party across town where the Phoenix Bikefest set up Arizona’s only drive-through bar in the Peoria Sports Complex parking lot and offered riders four days of demo rides, and over 100 vendors to shop as well as live music. All for free. Their Friday bike show earned Sideshow’s Cycles the Best Cruiser and Best of Show awards for a total cash grab of $1,300 in prize money plus some very creative custom trophies. “Peep Show,” a very detailed and eye-catching chopper, took home the Best of Show award.

Riders head for the cool country when the valley heats up
Riders head for the cool country when the valley heats up

Meanwhile, back in Scottsdale, the hub of Arizona Bike Week was humming along with live music featured every day at the Handlebar Saloon inside WestWorld and included several local groups like the 74th Street Band and Alice Cooper’s son, Dash, who rocked the indoor stage with his band CO-OP.

Team Arizona, a motorcycle training school, held safety seminars Friday, Saturday and Sunday, teaching riders how to apply basic techniques for hazard avoidance and slow speed maneuvering. On the other end of the spectrum were all-week stunt shows and the Globe of Death riders, where motorcycle mayhem was demonstrated several times each day.

The bad ass bike, “Peep Show,” built by Sideshow’s Cycles in Peoria won the Best of Show award at the Phoenix Bikefest
The bad ass bike, “Peep Show,” built by Sideshow’s Cycles in Peoria won the Best of Show award at the Phoenix Bikefest

While wandering around the vendors we found one of THUNDER PRESS’s newest columnists, Grant Bourne. He was at ABW to help bring awareness to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention as he travels the nation shining a light on suicide awareness and helps raise money for the foundation. You can read about his journey at thunderpressed.wpengine.com/editorial/lifestyle/ride-out-of-the-darkness-the-time-is-now/2018/05/04.htm.

Each year Arizona Bike Week presents a Hero Award to someone in the motorcycling community they feel deserves to be recognized for their representation of the best biker aspects. The personable jewelry maker, George Ganem, also known as Jawbone from Night Rider Jewelry and Lazy Bastard Furniture, took the stage as the 2018 ABW Hero on Thursday night just before the band Chevelle claimed the stage. But on that same stage the next night, Friday the 13th, the band Shinedown displayed their showmanship by entertaining the massive crowd despite the temporary power outage that preempted the show.

The Baddest Bagger contest on Saturday drew fans of all ilk, including Arizona Cardinals fans
The Baddest Bagger contest on Saturday drew fans of all ilk, including Arizona Cardinals fans

The HellRacers Dome indoor 1/8th-mile flat track racing included 40 races that spanned everything from kids to over 60, powder puffs, run what ya brung and the ever-popular Hooligans, to classes divided by engine sizes and right on up to the pros. Races were six laps long and moved quickly, which made time at the track a ton of fun.

There were several visible signs of support for women riders over the course of the week. Gloria Tramontin Struck was on hand at both Arizona Bike Week and the Phoenix Bikefest venue to sign her book, Gloria: A Lifetime Motorcyclist: 75 Years and Still Riding. A motorcyclist since 1941 when riding wasn’t considered stylish or ladylike, the chatty charmer was happy to visit with one and all. Gloria turns 93 years old in July, is a 72-year member of the Motor Maids of America women-only riding club and an icon in the motorcycling community.

Ecstatic Best of Show winner of the Baddest Bagger contest, Danny Wilson from Kansas City, Kansas (c.), accepted the award from American Bagger magazine’s Dave Withrow (l.) and Bagger Nation’s Paul Yaffee (r.). Danny entered a 2016 Road King which was his first build, his first contest ever entered and first time to attend Arizona Bike Week. Wanna bet he’ll be back?
Ecstatic Best of Show winner of the Baddest Bagger contest, Danny Wilson from Kansas City, Kansas (c.), accepted the award from American Bagger magazine’s Dave Withrow (l.) and Bagger Nation’s Paul Yaffee (r.). Danny entered a 2016 Road King which was his first build, his first contest ever entered and first time to attend Arizona Bike Week. Wanna bet he’ll be back?

Lady racer and land-speed record holder, the personable Valerie Thompson, held a meet-and-greet at the Law Tiger’s booth and served as a judge for the Miss Arizona Bike Week bike show organized by Diva Amy from Team Diva. Custom trophies awarded to the all-female bike show winners on Saturday afternoon were blinged out by the glittery Diva and were about as frilly as a trophy could possibly get. In its second year, the gal-grown gig proved popular and provided a colorful bit of contrast to the Baddest Bagger and the 5th annual BadAz bike shows that were sprawled out across the tarmac at the same time. By the time the week’s headliner came on stage that evening, the vibe of ABW had reached maximum frequency. ZZ Top kicked off with “Got Me Under Pressure” and the momentum continued to build from there as the combined energy of band and bikers blew the stops off the packed-to-the-gills RockYard concert pavilion.

For shoppers who didn’t care about the concerts or bike shows but wanted to cruise the vendors, admission was free on Sunday. That didn’t mean there wasn’t anything else going on, however. There were still flat track races, live music, stunts and fun to be had as the 2018 festivities wound down. ABW dates are decided by where Easter falls on the calendar and, therefore, the shindig starts early next year. You can start planning your 2019 blowout vacation at WestWorld for April 3–7. Check the website early this fall to reserve an RV campsite since spaces are consistently sold out by party time. (azbikeweek.com)

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