Arizona Bike Week Wrap Up

Biker Bands, Spectacular Rides & Furry Chaps: Arizona Bike Week May Be Best in the West

Motorcyclists from across the nation found refuge from the relentless, abominable winter -- at least for awhile -- at the balmy atmosphere of this year's Arizona Bike Week. The 18th edition of the event has evolved into one of America’s finest motorcycle rallies, safe from hooligans and county revenuers (police), and designed to offer the most fun for the buck. While most of us were still stuck in the cruel grip of a particularly prolonged cold season, rally officials said attendance at ABW was up roughly 25% over last year, with 70,000 event-goers in the mix, despite unseasonable cool temps the first day or two.

The weather turned perfect by Day 3 and crowds poured in. More than 200 vendors offered their wares; everything from leathers to cigars, go-fast or look-cool parts and accessories to traditional accoutrements of silver and steel. But the real bling came in the form of music. This year, organizers knocked it out of the park, somehow putting together a headliner lineup that included Aaron Lewis, Big & Rich, Joan Jett, Lynyrd Skynyrd and ZZ Top. Capacity crowds packed the new RockYard stage area to cheer their favorite biker anthems. Local bands joined the live fusillade, with music playing day and night somewhere in the Vendor Village.

ABW kicked off with five days of Pre-Rally parties, contests, giveaways, and charity rides, then topped it off with the Cyclefest, ABW’s official opening day. The event is held in Scottsdale’s mammoth equestrian venue, WestWorld. This has grown into a premier event, rivaling older and larger rallies for fun, live music, vendors, activities, food, and even an unobtrusive law enforcement attitude. It outdistances all major rallies in scenic rides, charity runs, and perhaps most importantly, an upbeat vibe.

Riding into the Valley of the Sun from the colder, wetter, meaner outer-lands feels like taking a soft sweeper into a exultant biker paradise, a land of milk and beer, ideal temperatures, soft breezes, otherworldly scenery and tanned hot bodies with provocative tattoos. First stop - Cave Creek, a place seemingly built for bikers, boasting more biker-friendly establishments per block than anywhere on planet Earth. Cave Creek is a kind of party sister to Cyclefest some 20 miles to the southeast. We scooted from one music, vendor, beer girl and bike show place to the next, winding our way to the main event.

Ten full days of stunning signature rides in and around Scottsdale, the greater Phoenix metro area, and up to the biker haven of Cave Creek; Miss Arizona Bike Week; barbecues, Western cookouts, best bike builds; bike games; factory demo rides, bikini washes; bike outfitters; and at least two kinds of death defying, gravity denying stunt shows are followed by concerts and other activities best suited for the cover of darkness.

This year marked the inaugural BadAZ Bike Show, which featured metric and domestic bikes competing in eight categories: sport, cruise, modified, builder, vintage, classic, trikes and sidecars, and rat bike. Master builder, Paul Yaffe, debuted his new look bagger, the SRT (Steam Rolling Touring). The bike has flipped the big wheel trend on its tail, featuring a 220 front tire, Twin Cam–based 124 cubic-inch motor, and electro-luminescent paint.

No fewer than 12 charity rides, galloping through a surprisingly bohemian metro area, raised tens of thousands of dollars, according to officials. Organizations for MDA, autism, various cancers, children’s health and education, families of law enforcement, breast awareness, the Special Olympics, the Children's Care Hospital and the Humane Society, among others, presented a true sense of what bikers are about.

Four major self-guided and mapped rides gave attendees the choice of riding into the heart of Arizona's breathtaking Martian landscapes and long-dead volcanic ranges, exploring ghost towns, skirting Indian ruins, visiting red rock wonderlands, cool desert rivers and lakes, and slicing through hundreds of millions of years of geologic time. Cyclefest admission cost $50 pp for a five-day pass (up $5 from last year), or $20 pp Wednesday and Thursday; $25 Friday and Saturday, and $15 Sunday. All tickets included the evening headliner concert series.

While all makes and models of bike and biker are welcome, like any motorcycle rally there isn’t a lot to entertain children. But that didn't stop single women, who showed up day and night alone or in pairs, dressed in Scottsdale finery, posh leathers or swanky saloon fashion. Once almost the exclusive domain of crazed men, motorcycle rallies have seen a steady influx of women riding or walking in, adding clean faces and nice-smelling hair to what used to be a grizzly gathering.

Arizona Bike Week will reconvene next year around the same dates, but the schedule is yet to be determined. Ticket prices are not expected to vary much. For more information, call 480-644-8191 or visit www.azbikeweek.com

Trip Tools

Like a marching army, motorcyclists ride on their stomachs. So it's incredible to us that event reviews seldom, if ever, offer restaurant or accommodation suggestions. So here are our two cents on where to sup and where to snooze -- not that there’s anything wrong with a quick bite and a dirty nap.

Where to Stay

Best Western Plus Sundial (Scottsdale)

7320 East Camelback Rd.

Scottsdale, AZ 85251

480-994-4170

www.bestwestern.com

First off, the location can't be beat. Nightlife, restaurants and shopping are short walks away. The swanky MINT Restaurant/Ultra Lounge is across the street, so you can tuck the chopper into the hotel's well-lit parking area and hoof it over to view the sexy Scottsdale eye candy. If that's not your thing, numerous other options are close by.

It may be hard to tear yourself away from your room, though. Ours was tidy and sleek, and quickly became home during Bike Week. We so appreciated the high-speed Internet, and sweet amenities like a heated outdoor pool and hot tub. Complimentary continental breakfast is self-served off the lobby each morning.

Best Western partners with Harley in a Ride Rewards/Rider Friendly program. The loyalty plan includes reduced room rates, free wipe-down motorcycle towel and access to a washing station upon check-in. Additional benefits, such as complimentary bottled water and lip balm are also available.

Where to Dine

Andreoli Italian Grocer

8880 E. Via Linda

Scottsdale, AZ 85258

480/614-1980

www.andreoli-grocer.com

Here is a menu worth working your entire way through. Giovanni and Linda Scorzo are at the helm of this authentic Italian eatery and market. Charming, rustic furnishings set the stage for a memorable dining experience alongside al fresco options.

Here, the food is where it's at. Giovanni is both butcher and baker, cheese maker, and more. All are made with the highest level of perfection. The ingredients are premium—a simple sandwich, such as the Porchetta (Roasted Pork Seasoned with Garlic and Fennel on Baguette) is dreamily delicious. The fries with fennel seem kissed in olive oil, and are the best I have ever had. Products of their motherland can be purchased, and carry-out menu items will be just the thing for a saddlebag picnic.

Bottled Blonde Pizzeria & Beer Garden

7340 E. Indian Plaza

Scottsdale, AZ 85251

480/970-1112

www.bottledblondeaz.com

Near our featured hotel, this venue is a restaurant/nightlife concept with a Jekyll & Hyde transition from daytime to late nights. This warrants consideration since the scene fluctuates and one's mood should match what the environment is dishing out. See website for hours.

We went in the early evening and thoroughly enjoyed our Burrata Appetizer, the Forager Pizza, and Chicken Panini Sandwich. The menu gives a strong nod toward modern Italian fare, fresh and pleasing. Items such as Salads and Pastas are also represented. Open-air atmosphere is chic, yet comfortable with various seating areas.

Park your bike if staying at our suggested hotel and hoof it over to enjoy Full Bar offerings. Beautiful ladies are plentiful, and it seems Scottsdale is swiftly becoming the new O.C. Also notable, weekend brunch, and area golf carts are available to shuttle you about.

Garage Wine & Tap

1534 E. Bethany Home Rd.

Phoenix, AZ 85014

602/265-4125

www.garagewinetap.com

If you attend bike builder Paul Yaffe's annual party coinciding with Bike Week, you may opt for a nearby venue to chill your heels. A mere minutes away is Garage Wine & Tap. This once auto shop cum gastropub sports a relaxed patio, bar, and dining areas.

I wouldn't be surprised at all if they expand or franchise. The staff is sincerely amiable and attentive and the food has a mouth-watering appeal. We had the Garage Burger with Onion Rings and the Herb Marinated Chicken Sandwich. The restaurant uses premium beef and pork, and it really makes for an exalted, flavorful burger.

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