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Hundreds of bikers take their talents to South Beach

Large groups of tattooed, leather-clad bikers invaded South Beach Saturday, turning heads at brunch hot spots and setting off car alarms by revving their loud engines.

The bike enthusiasts, met along Ocean Boulevard for the first ever South Beach Bike Week, which kicked off Friday night with a party at the Clevelander.

"It was packed," said Diego Caiola, 38, the event organizer. "There were bikes everywhere."

Caiola said the city was hesitant to host the event so they were unable to secure any street closures. Instead, they approached individual businesses and asked them to hold some of the events in private venues.

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.”

Regardless of the permitting issues, hundreds of curious bikers came to South Beach Saturday.

"We’re bike enthusiasts," said Walter Cesario, 48, who owns a pizza restaurant in Hollywood. "In the summer time there aren’t many events so this gives us an excuse to ride."

It was a great day for riding but parking was a hassle for many of the riders who wore boots, jeans, and black vests while looking for a parking in the 90-degree heat. Some of them took over an hour and a half to find a spot.

"The last thing a biker want to do is look for a parking spot." Cesario said.

The bikers were as diverse as South Beach itself.

There were weekend riders who cruise on their Harleys to blow some steam after a stressful week at work and adrenaline junkies who ride speed bikes wherever they go. There were also couples riding in two-seaters of on bikes set up with side carts.

"I came out here to ride, see some bikes, and see some women," Jerome Wilson, 33, of Fort Lauderdale said.

Wilson, who likes to ride his Kawasaki Ninja to "save money and look good doing it," rode to South Beach with a three of his friends. This is their first motorcycle event.

Although some of the bikers had long beards, tattoos, and wore leather vests, the days of violent and intimidating Hell’s Angels-type bikers are a dated stereotype. Most of the bikers were happy to pose with tourists on their way to the beach.

"A lot of people that ride are lawyers and doctors," said Jay Tee Lefflbine, who runs a custom bike shop in Boynton Beach. "We just got back from Sturgis. It’s a great place to network."

Lefflbine rode a custom bike he built in his shop, Steel Knuckle Customs. He came with six friends that travel to motorcycle events throughout the country.

Miami Beach should welcome the influx of bikers because bikers tend to spend money, he said. The trip to Sturgis, South Dakota cost about $4,000 per person, he added.

Many of the tourists welcomed the bikers and their loud hogs, including Joyce Dolley, 38, who was visiting South Beach from Orlando.

"We went to the Jay Z and Justin Timberlake concert last night and this is a nice bonus," she said. "This location is perfect, this is the strip."

Saturday’s crowds weren’t overwhelming compared to some of the bigger motorcycle gatherings across the country. There were a couple of hundred riders spread throughout Ocean Boulevard in the morning and many of them made their way to Washington Avenue in the afternoon. Regardless, people were happy to be in South Beach and think bike week could take off.

"When they first had Leesburg they had 2,000 people. Now they have 40,000," said Butch Mahoney, 66, who has been riding for 50 years.