May. Myrtle Beach. Motorcycles.
It’s that time again! May brings many things to the Grand Strand: Beautiful flowers, perfect temperatures, festivals, and graduates. One of the most unique times of the year occurs the last 3 weeks of May: Our annual motorcycle rallies.
For three straight weeks, Harleys, Kawasakis, Hondas, Suzukis, and all manners of custom and very cool vehicles can be seen and heard from Little River to Georgetown. Since Myrtle Beach has been around, Harleys have been visiting the Grand Strand in the Spring and since 1980, Atlantic Beach Bikefest has drawn upwards of 400,000 riders. Needless to say – it’s a big deal! You’ll find all sorts of events, specials, and deals happening during these weeks that are fun for everyone!
Okay, let’s talk about the Harley Davidson rally! It’s loud…really, really loud. Some may find the noise level to be a bother, but some enjoy the rumble of the V-twin motors that give Harleys that distinctive sound. As for me, I am thrilled when all of the Hawgs come rolling into town. The custom paint schemes on the bikes, the vendors, the leather accessories and all of the excitement is awesome. You will notice that the majority of Harley riders are middle aged or older.
The Memorial Day bike rally is known as Black Bike Week, also called Atlantic Beach Bikefest and is an annual motorcycle rally held in the Myrtle Beach, South Carolina area, and always on Memorial Day weekend. This bike rally originated in Atlantic Beach, S.C. held its first rally in 1980 and was sponsored by the Flaming Knight Riders motorcycle club; about 100 people showed up. Since then, however, it has grown in popularity until this rally has become the largest predominantly African American rally in the country with upwards of 400,000 bikers converging on the Grand Strand a week after 400,000 Harley riders leave. You’ll see some of the coolest, most creative paint schemes, light features, and unique designs anywhere. Many locals and visitors take chairs and sit by the road, enjoying the variety of bikes that speed by.
There are several noticeable differences between the two rallies: 1) the Black Bike week participants are much younger, for the most part, 2) the bikes are mostly manufactured in Japan, 3) the atmosphere is much more festive.
In total, it is estimated that over 800,000 motorcyclists’ vacation and party on the Grand Strand during the month of May and most of these bikes are riding two up. That’s a lot of people!! If you like looking at bikes and watching the hordes as they travel to and fro, you will definitely have a good time. However, if you don’t enjoy this, you really should plan a relaxing vacation at the beach in June or July or August.
Here’s some tips for visiting during May:
1) Be aware!!! First and foremost is AWARENESS of the many motorcyclists. It’s easy to be distracted when driving at the beach, especially at night. The glitter and glitz of the lights can be blinding and if you’re not watchful, a single bike might be easily overlooked. As you are slowly driving along in the left lane and looking for your destination, keep a watchful eye on the road. Let your passengers look for the landmark that will identify what you’re looking for. It’s okay if you have to turn around in the event that you missed your turn. Switching lanes rapidly and recklessly to make a left hand turn is not only illegal, but potentially deadly.
2) Don’t get frustrated!! Motorcyclists numbering in the hundreds might ride down from Ohio or West Virginia. They ride together as a group, and for the most part try to stay together as they travel from one location to the next. When you are sitting at a red light, make sure there are no stragglers breezing through a changing red light in an effort to keep up with the crowd. Too many times a frustrated motorist has turned left at a red light without understanding the “group mentality” that comes from riding with fellow bikers.
3) Change lanes with the utmost caution!! All side view mirrors have blind spots. It is extremely easy for a bike to fall in this spot. Remember to look twice before changing lanes. There’s an old saying that “loud pipes save lives”; many riders believe that it is easier for a car driver to be aware of the biker’s position if he can hear it.
Bike Weeks in Myrtle Beach are such a great time to visit if you keep in mind there will be a TON of traffic. It’s not only a great time for our biker friends, but for our economy. Bring on the Bikes!
Jason Coker is originally from the metropolis of Burlington, NC and is passionate about vacation rentals. Having served on the front lines of a premier vacation rental company, Jason has a great understanding of all aspects of this fantastic industry. An aficionado of music, sports, and all things geeky, Jason spends his free time performing music, grilling out, and relaxing with his son, daughter, and lovely wife, Amy.