The 2013 Daytona Bike Week is not a Harley-Davidson event, per se. But, let’s be honest. It might as well be.
Calling itself America’s largest motorcycle event (…There are some folks in South Dakota that might want a word with Daytona about that claim…), Bike Week follows close on the heels of NASCAR’s Great American Race as NASCAR is leaving town and sandwiches in right before countless drunken punks stagger in for Spring Break.
Surprisingly, Bike Week is bigger than the Daytona 500 or Spring Break – piling in more than 200,000 bikers into Central Coast’s most kitschy stretch. There are thousands of sports bikes, crotch rockets, cruisers, choppers and touring rides – motorcycles made by Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Indian, Victory and even Ducati. But, the sheer overwhelming Americana of Daytona Bike Week unofficially demands that the vast majority of motorcycles in attendance be Harley-Davidson made.
I’ll never be mistaken for a proper statistician, but my unofficial count amongst the thousands of motorcycles lining the streets and packing parking lots had Softails, Dynas or Dark Custom rides outnumbering all other manufacturers 10-1. My very nice hotel room in the Hilton high above Atlantic Avenue shook day and night with the copyright-protected rumbles of big V-Twins.
Main Street, FLA
The epicenter of Daytona Bike Week runs down the length of Atlantic – the city’s primary beach cruising strip – and turns down Main Street and its densely packed collection of biker bars, touristy restaurants, gift shops and patch stations (where bikers can pick up whatever emblems they want to sew on their jackets).
This year, the rally started unofficially on Friday, March 7 with early arrivals. By the end of March 9, the city was crammed with what looked like every freewheeling motorcycle south of the Mason-Dixon and east of Texas – though a little scratching would scare up a more than a few Yankees, Texans and maybe even a hippie Californian or two. It didn’t matter the point of origination, as long as the visitor in question brought a love of motorcycles.
The outsider might imagine the Daytona Bike Week thick with old, rednecks (or old, red thick necks) with graying hair tied back under a bandana and skin more weathered than old riding leathers. Yes, there is a pretty good pile of that moving around Atlantic and Main. But, the motorcycle lovers crowd is much more diverse than that. The men and women in attendance range in age from “just old enough for a license” (and maybe a little younger if they’ve got the guts and a little legal creativity) to “still young enough to creak an old leg over a saddle bag.”
There is every race and creed, club riders and lone wolves. They all seem to enjoy an adult beverage, ranging in strength from a simple domestic beer to southern whiskey strong enough to fire 900 CC pistons. Lost in a melting pot atmosphere unique to bike rallies, poor working men who saved and scraped not only to own their bikes but to ride them into Daytona rubbed bare elbows with millionaires who only agonized over which of their motorcycles they’d ride to the beach that day.
#HD110 on Spring Break
While all of that American pageantry played out noisily and happily in the background, Harley-Davidson used Bike Week to check off another stop on its 2013 Anniversary lap.
The Harley-Davidson 110th Anniversary Tour is all about parties, rallies, leather, iron and a hell of a lot of noise. Still, that doesn’t mean Milwaukee’s own bike maker forget about the motorcycles.
The ongoing global #HD110 celebration kicked off in the brand’s hometown with a burnout and beer party in front of the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, Wisc. (Aug. 30 to Sept. 2). However, the international side of the global party actually started Aug. 4-9 with a ride across the Tibetan Plateau and chugged through the Milwaukee rally party into September and a visit to Faaker See, Austria for European Bike Week.
February brought Harley-Davidson’s birthday cake to Goa, India for that country’s National Hog Rally, and March rang the bell in Auckland, New Zealand – where I caught up to the traveling two-wheeled circus.
I kept up the chase with everything Harley-Davidson from Kiwi country through Los Angeles to Daytona and Bike Week to sample the entry for their anniversary year, the 2013 Breakout.
A Breakout in the Flesh
The Breakout debuted last year as a Custom Vehicle Operations model. CVOs are the top of the Harley-Davidson line, offering the top options and most extensive list of personalization and customization options (hence their tag). Now, the Breakout, well, “broke out” of the CVO labs and is now available as a standard issue in the model line. So let’s say this everyman’s Breakout is officially part of the 2013.5 model year.
If I was asked to describe just the look of a Breakout to a would-be buyer with only other Harley-Davidson rides around us in some ethereal showroom, I’d say it has the look and feel of a V-Rod Muscle from the rear and perhaps a chopper-inspired 72 from the front.
Call me the motorcycle equivalent of an ass man, but I like that back end on the Breakout with that fat, angry 240/40R18 radial putting down the power of a 103 cubic inch V-Twin. I always thought the coolest element of the V-Rod, the Muscle or the Night Rod was that squat, challenging rear rubber, and it’s great to see that look shared with the Breakout.
The front end fork is slightly extended for a semi-chopper feel, with wheels decorated with sharp alternating black satin and polished aluminum accents. The handlebars split the different between low-slung racing grips and gorilla bars, but buyers will be able to personalize their hand positions with other options.
In fact, most of the new Breakout can be personalized online through Harley-Davidson’s web-based ordering and customization system. The 2013.5 model doesn’t have quite as many options as the CVO system might offer for this new Breakout’s predecessor, but – with the ability to choose everything from paint color and finish to tank detailing and matching seat leather stitching – it’s a good bit online customization will render a unique bike for the buyer before it rolls of the final assembly line.
As for the ride, there’s ample power and a satisfying, throaty exhaust note – an improvement over the slightly tinny sounds of last year’s 72.
A very pleasant surprise was the Breakout’s seat – a genuinely comfortable host even during a longer ride. If I can let you in on a little motorcycle journalism secret, some of the writers and I go into some of these events worried about our backsides – especially when reviewing an H-D cruiser on a long distance driving event. Harley touring bikes come with some comfortable residences for one’s buttocks, but their cruisers – with their more casual, stretched out ergonomics – can wear out the coxis. (Stop giggling.) The bottom line is cruiser seats can wear you down on rides of more than 100 miles.
Since Harley reps planned a 200+ mile ride from Daytona Beach out and around St. Augustine and back to test the Breakouts, I was expecting it would take about an hour before my arse sent me a typewritten note cursing me and refusing to speak to me every again.
Fortunately, it was strictly “return to sender” as the Breakout’s seat and body positioning make is as comfortable as some small touring bikes – making the motorcycle more than just an urban, quick trip ride.
Breakouts are available now via pre-order for delivery in the second half of 2013.
The Big Reveal
When our day of riding ended, we biker writers were treated to one last bit of Daytona Bike Week pageantry before heading off to ogle motorcycle models and consume copious amounts of BBQ (…Thank you, Hog Heaven…).
Harley-Davidson planned a big reveal of the 2013 Breakout. The journalists were invited to ride the new motorcycles down Main Street in a procession before parking them, one by one, in front of H-D’s big Bike Week encampment.
Once lined up with mechanical precision and parked, the writers were surrounded by the Rockstar Energy models and impressed rally’ers ready to pepper us would-be experts with countless questions about Harley’s latest.
Unfortunately, I don’t recall the models having a ton of questions for us. Still, I was more in the mood for a some beer and ribs than romance. After all, this was Daytona Bike Week.
HD110: Check out John Scott Lewinski’s other stops on the Harley Davidson 110 World Tour:
Berlin: #HD110: Harley-Davidson Rides Music and Motors to Berlin; Apr. 8, 2013
New Zealand: Harley-Davidson Celebrates 110 Years in New Zealand; Mar. 6, 2013
Milwaukee: Harley-Davidson Kicks Off Its 110th Anniversary; Sept. 16, 2012
Special thanks to the following sponsors and benefactors for making this leg of the HD110 World Tour possible: Harley-Davidson, Crave Online, IndieGoGo, Milwaukee Harley-Davidson, Todd Hall, Steve Harpst, Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, Carla Gehrig, Eric Rogell, Traycee King and Nicholas Kearney.