Savage Roads

Friday, February 16, 2018

Daytona Bike Week 2018

Daytona Bike Week
Daytona Bike Week started in 1937. It may have been the appeal of the hard sand, the warm winter days and the cool idea of a motorcycle race happening on the beach. It most definitely the spirited activities surrounding the event that have kept people keep coming back year after year. Bike Week has been a biker tradition since January 24, 1937 with the first running of the Daytona 200.

1937 Daytona 200 as the crowds look on in amazement
The first 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 American made Indian motorcycle and averaging 73.34 mph. Kretz also won the inaugural City of Daytona Beach trophy.

1937 Daytona 200 Winner Ed Kretz
The race course ran, in 1937, 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. 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 local racing scribes.

Getting ready at the starting line

Harley-Davidson has always been a big part of Bike Week in Daytona Beach. In 1940, Harley-Davidson not only won the Daytona 200 mile road race Championship, but 8 of the top ten were won by Harley-Davidson.

A big win for Harley Davidson at the 1940 Daytona 200. 

In 1942, the Daytona 200 was discontinued because of the onset of World War II. The American Motorcycling Association (AMA) sadly noted it was “in the interest of national defense” that the event was canceled. With the war, came a general rationing of fuel, tires and key engine components. Even though the racing event was “officially” called off, people still showed up for an “unofficial” party called Daytona Bike Week. On February 24, 1947, the famous motorcycle race resumed and was promoted by the legendary Bill France. Newspaper stories of the period recount that the city fathers asked the townsfolk to open their homes to the visiting motorcyclists because all hotel rooms and camping areas were filled to the max. The 1947 Daytona 200 featured a record 176 riders and in 1948 Life Magazine did a full feature on the event.

                                      Racers line up prior to the 1948 Daytona 200.  In 1948, a new beach road course was used because of developments along the beach. Organizers were forced to move the event further south, towards Ponce Inlet. The new circuit measured 4.1 miles. The last Daytona 200 to be held on the beach road course took place in 1960. In 1961, the famous race was moved to the Daytona International Speedway.

Following World War II, a new course was used 
Bike Week has always had a flavor of its own. Some time 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 edition, 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.

It is time for the 76th Daytona Bike Week are you ready!
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 and motorcycle enthusiasts world wide.Plenty of action and all about the vroom...

Pat Savage

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