The first annual South Beach Bike Week — for the leather-wearing, engine-revving, open-road riders of motorcycles, not the pedal-pushers in Spandex — will roll onto Ocean Drive this weekend for camaraderie, cruising and lots of partying.
Events include a “Shameless Burlesque” show, erotic party, billiards competition, best tattoo contest and a “HipHop Bikers Gathering.”
While the motorcycle rally has the potential to lure thousands of attendees during the slow tourist month of August, the city of Miami Beach and the Ocean Drive Association did not exactly roll out the red carpet, according to the Bike Week’s founder and organizer, Diego Caiola.
“Since it was not like an antique show, or a 5K, the city was a bit standoffish about it,” Caiola said. “We couldn’t get any street closures. It’s not an event that many of the city workers wanted. We’ve had to do everything in private venues.”
And some citizens have expressed concern on social media, with one Facebook posting complaining that Bike Week — which actually runs only three days, Friday through Sunday — would be “another South Beach nightmare.”
But Caiola, 38, a father of three who grew up in Miami Beach and went to college in the area, said he has worked endless hours to make it an event his hometown can be proud of, and an event it will support in the future.
“We know a lot of people think of bikers as long-haired, big-bearded drug addicts, like the Hells Angels guys who go shoot up bars,” Caiola said. “But bikers are regular people who on weekends associate with other bikers and just hang out. We’ve had calls from doctors, lawyers and even a judge who say they are coming.”
Among those who have paid $50 for an all access pass to the weekend is Sgt. Luis Gonzalez of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office. He is riding to the rally on his 2010 Ultra Classic Harley-Davidson and meeting up with 20 other members of The Defenders, a fraternal motorcycle club with chapters all over the country for active and retired law enforcement, emergency services, military and public safety professionals.
“The old stereotype of bikers as old dirt bags, homeless guys and gang members has kind of changed,” said Gonzalez, who works at the Plantation Key Detention Facility in the Keys.“We’ve never had trouble in the places we go,” Gonzalez added. “Then again, the bad bikers, we call them the 1 percenters, know we are law enforcement. It says it on our vests. So they don’t mess with us.”
Nannette Rodriguez, director of communications for the city of Miami Beach, confirmed that bike week does not have any special event permits for street closures and the like, but said it was because Caiola “never applied.”
Nobody knows exactly what size crowds to expect for the first time event, but expectations are just a few thousand — not the hundreds of thousands who show up for the well-known and long-running bike rallies in Daytona Beach; Sturgis, S.D., and Laconia, N.H.
The event has been marketed directly to bikers and motorcycle clubs. Few outside that community have even heard about Bike Week, and that includes Jerry Libbin, president and CEO of the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce.