Daytona Beach great way to cure winter blahs

By Marissa Baecker

As riding season approaches we [riders] are all dreaming about the day we are going to get back on our bikes and where we are going to go. Well the good news is you don’t have to wait for the weather to change to enjoy motorcycling.

If you are itching for some sunshine and looking to vacation south of the border get on a plane and go to Daytona Beach, Florida for bike week which kicks off March 9 and continues to March 18 (10 days = a rider’s week not a calendar week) and this year celebrating 71 years running. While Sturgis, ND may be the biggest motorcycle event in the U.S., Daytona is right on their heels.

Daytona itself is worth travelling for. Miles and miles of pristine beach that you can actually ride on initially drew attention to Daytona back in 1937 with the inaugural Daytona 200 race.

You don’t have be a rider to enjoy a vacation to Daytona. This destination is the perfect playground for all members of the family. Disneyworld in Orlando is a couple of hours away as is the Kennedy Space Centre providing a family with options for everyone’s interest aside from parking yourself on one incredible beach and watching the day go by with the sounds of the waves of the Atlantic. Stay in Daytona and take a day trip to Orlando or the other way around.

As a child, I went to Daytona often during bike week. I remember turning my dad down on a day trip to Disneyworld because the beach was a more attractive choice.

Just strolling the beach is a site to be seen. If ever you wanted to take in some motorcycle culture, a walk on Daytona Beach will do it.

You will find the usual motorcycle events throughout the event – bike raffle draws, street vendors, show n shines, bikini competitions and a variety of live music at the local evening hot spots but what draws the riders to Daytona is the racing.

The Daytona International Speedway hosts a number of racing events throughout the year from Nascar to racing schools but during Bike Week it’s Supercross, Flat track, the AMA Pro SuperSport as well as the Pro XR1200 series and all the superstar racers that come along but the main event is the start of the season for the AMA Pro Road Racing circuit and the Daytona 200.

The AMA Supercross will open the speedway events. Returning to the circuit is two-time Daytona champion Ryan Villopoto. Joining him in the lineup are James Stewart, Chad Reed, Ryan Dungey and Trey Canard. The Supercross track itself is being designed by a former champion – five time title holder Ricky Carmichael.

Friday, March 10, the pros will take the spotlight in the two and a half mile (4 km) tri-oval portion of the Speedway. The lights will be on and the riders will be flying through the warm Florida air getting the adrenaline going for a fun filled week of racing. By Sunday, the amateurs will have their chance at the track continuing on Monday.

After your first look at the track, you will get a few days explore the grounds with available tours, check out the garage, the pits, the fan zone and maybe even meet some of the competitors.

Heating up Thursday and Friday, March 15 & 16, track action is getting going once again with the AMA Pro Road Racing practice and qualifying runs as well as the Pro Flat Track Grand National competition. Then on Friday, the racing heats up with the Pro Superbike and Pro Supersport competitions.

Also on Friday, the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame will host a fundraising breakfast. The guest of honour will be world roadracing champion Kevin Schwantz – a 1999 inductee.

“Kevin Schwantz stands among America’s greatest motorcycle racers, and holds a special place in the hearts and memories of a generation of racing fans,” said Jeff Heininger, chairman of the American Motorcycle Heritage Foundation in a press release. “We’re honoured that one of the Hall of Fame’s most decorated members is joining us at our annual Breakfast at Daytona fundraiser and will provide a first-hand perspective on his world-championship career, and the people and companies that he worked with along the way.”

If you haven’t seen a Pro XR1200 event, Daytona will ignite the series on Saturday, March 17. This model specific race has riders on specially modified Harley-Davidson XR1200 motorcycles. B.C.’s Darren James will be on the track again this year racing the bike with the maple leaf tank and working his way to that $60K jackpot.

Saturday hosts the main event; the kick-off to the 2012 motorcycle road racing season. The Daytona 200. An action packed day of two wheeled racing around a 12 turn 3 mile track that will have fans sitting on the edge of their seats with amazement at how these racers can handle a bike. All your senses will be activated as the bikes roar across the pavement like a swarm of bees on the edges of their tires flipping from side to side and reaching speeds that are only possible on a track.

Delta and US Airways fly directly into Daytona Beach but if you want to see the country – side or would rather stay outside Daytona – Orlando is a good option as well. There are many trucking companies that will get your bike there or you can rent one if you want to.

If you can’t get to Florida for 10 days, no problem, Bernie Ryan – a mechanic we wrote about last year – is hosting his annual Daytona fundraiser at the Shark Club in Vancouver. This is a condensed version of events on a Sunday afternoon, where you can watch the races on the big screen, share the company of other local enthusiasts, bid on auctions, help raise money for the Children’s Hospital and enter to win a motorcycle as well. Sunday, March 18 at the Shark Club on Georgia Street in Vancouver, doors open at 11 a.m. For up to the minute details visit daytonaparty.shawwebspace.ca.

For the real deal and vacation, just google Daytona Bike week and a plethora of information will bombard you. Next step, visit your travel agent and go shop for some sun block.

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