Republic of Texas Biker Rally 2018

By Robert Filla

New face of the Republic

Austin, Texas, June 7–10—The Republic of Texas Biker Rally touts being the largest “turn-stile” motorcycle event in the nation (paid admittance). But you are only as relevant as your last event so the ROT promoters are constantly researching new attractions that would appeal to an ever-evolving audience. For their 23rd annual rally, they dropped the 18-and-older age requirement for admission allowing those as young as 13 to attend as long as they were accompanied by an adult. Of course safety is always a concern, which dictated that those younger than 18 would only be allowed a day pass (up until 11:00 p.m.) and have no access to “Adults Only” areas, the campgrounds or over-night privileges.

Republic of Texas Biker Rally

Held at the expansive Travis County Exposition Center, new for ROT 2018 was the Russ Brown Custom Builders Tent that was home to the Kustom Kulture Artisan Show. The Artisan Show featured various artists demonstrating everything from leathercraft to airbrush artwork. There were also 21 bikes entered in a custom bike show competing for $6,000 in cash and prizes. One of the more unique builds was a flat track-style Harley Shovelhead that was constructed by 10 U.S. veterans working with Motorcycle Missions, a non-profit dedicated to aiding veterans and first responders dealing with PTSD through motorcycle therapy. But it was Houston native Timothy Scates who walked away with the big money, winning $2,000 in cash and another $2,000 in expense allowances to attend the AMD USA Qualifier in Cherokee, North Carolina, later this year. If he wins in North Carolina, he will advance to Cologne, Germany, to compete in the AMD World Championship of Custom Bike Building.

Also at the Kustom Kulture show was another first for the rally—the Daughters of Custom Build-Off. This competition featured three father-and-daughter teams unveiling a motorcycle they had built together. The winning bike would be named the official ROT Military Bike and given away during a special military tribute shortly before ZZ Top performed on Saturday night. A sharp Ameri-can V-twin built by daughter Nikki and father Roy Martin won that honor. (Veteran Mathew Wil-son’s name was drawn as the winner.) The other two customs built by team members Sofi and George Tsingos and the duo of Ady and Austin Andrella are schedule to be auctioned to the public with the proceeds supporting the military through the Fisher House Foundation and the Patriot War-rior Foundation.

Saturday's Ride-In Bike Show had a majority of big-wheel baggers
Saturday’s Ride-In Bike Show had a majority of big-wheel baggers

Along with the ROT Flat Track Races were the first-ever AMA Supermoto Races, which saw a large audience on both Friday and Saturday. For those not in the know, Supermoto is a combina-tion of dirt and pavement tracks linked together in a circuitous design along with plenty of jumps. According to rally promoter Jerry Bragg, the intent of introducing Supermoto was to attract a new crowd of possibly younger attendees. This form of racing has international appeal with some racers coming from as far away as Taiwan and from my observations it seems to have quite a few fans in Texas too.

To placate those riders who have been loyal to ROT for years and need little-to-no change, there was the always-popular bike parade and party in downtown Austin on Friday night along with Micro Championship Wrestling and the Rotten Tattoo Expo on Friday and Saturday. The ride-in bike show on Saturday morning offered more than 50 bikes on display being judged by Wino’s Crew MC out of Fort Worth. And surprisingly, while there were more than enough baggers entered in the show, there was not a single Knucklehead, Panhead or Shovelhead. Saturday afternoon inside the horse arena at the Expo Center was the classic bike rodeo playing to a crowd of several hundred. The bike games included the slow race, loudest bike, wienie bite and barrel race. Numerous musical acts performed throughout the weekend including Shooter Jennings on Friday night along with plenty of local talent.

The Micro Championship Wrestling crew put on several rough and tumble fights on Friday and Saturday
The Micro Championship Wrestling crew put on several rough and tumble fights on Friday and Saturday

Conditions were favorable all days to hit the road and take a spin through the Hill Country and visit Lake Travis or stretch out a little further for a ride to Luckenbach. Temperatures remained in the mid-90s (which is moderate for June in Texas and much better than the triple digits on tap the week before) with a front blowing in from the southeast late Saturday afternoon, dropping the temps even further. 

Saturday night ended with one of the largest crowds to ever attend a ROT Rally concert. ZZ Top put on a great show, playing their biggest hits to the enjoyment of thousands. And then the “Adults Only” kicked into high gear and waged well into the early hours of Sunday.

Taking a bike into inappropriate places included 900-pound Harleys barrel racing in loose dirt
Taking a bike into inappropriate places included 900-pound Harleys barrel racing in loose dirt

According to reports, organizers consider the 23rd Republic of Texas Biker Rally to be the most successful in years. And despite a downturn in many motorcycle events, ROT seems dedicated to continue for another couple decades. Keeping the event fresh by offering a continuously evolving selection of venues seems the soundest course for future success.

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