Attending the Republic of Texas RoT) Motorcycle Rally in Austin marked two firsts for me; it was my first time attending a bonafide motorcycle rally, and my first time visiting Austin since moving to Texas in 2013. Now that it’s all said and done, I’ll definitely be heading out to more rallies, and getting the chance to explore Austin more.
With everything packed for the weekend, I hit the road to Austin in the middle of the day on June 9th after waiting from some rain to clear from the skies over DFW. Normally some rain wouldn’t deter me, but I wasn’t on a tight schedule by any means, and why ride in the rain when you don’t have to?
I made the right call, as the last few clouds gave way to clear skies and plenty of hot Texas sun. My Boulevard C50T and I settled into a nice groove, and pushed on to the first pit stop, the Czech Stop in West, Texas. It marked the halfway point of the trip, and after a few hours and about 110 miles in the saddle I wanted to stretch my legs, and both the bike and I could use a bit of fuel. Unleaded for the bike, and some of Czech Stop’s famous kolaches for me.
I chatted with a dude who pulled up on a motorcycle sporting a massive 502ci big block Chevy V8 (not sure if it was a genuine BossHoss, though) while eating my kolaches, then gassed up my bike and returned to the road.
After a few more hours on the road I pulled into the parking lot of the hotel in had reserved in Round Rock, just a bit north of Austin, unpacked my gear, and got a bite to eat at a nearby Tex-Mex joint. It was already getting to be late in the evening by that point, so I took a few minutes back at the hotel to sketch out a plan to tackle Saturday’s rally attractions, and went to bed.
I rolled into rally registration at about 8:30 Saturday morning, and despite it being early, there were a ton of people already at the Travis County Exposition Center. I got my wristband, bought a t-shirt, and hopped back on my bike to make my way through the expo grounds to find a parking spot and soak in the spectacle of the event to gather some first impressions.
There were torn up and broken strings of multi-colored plastic beads on the ground, remnants of the rowdiness from the night before. The dude riding in front of me had a string of them dangling from the back end of his Sportster. It struck me as sketchy and not intentional, so I decided to steer clear of the beads to avoid getting any caught up in the moving parts of my bike. A string of beads around an axle would probably result in the day being less fun.
The roadway to the parking area snaked through the campgrounds. Camping at RoT is clearly a big deal, and there were hundreds, if not thousands, of rally-goers camping out across acres of expo grounds; the campsites ranged from small enclaves of motorcycles huddled around humble tents, to the more serious campers sporting pickup trucks towing camper-trailers, to the luxurious RVs equipped with hot tubs and pools, outdoor kitchenettes, grills, and full-fledged entertainment centers. I found parking under some trees, unpacked my camera and made my way through.
The day was filled with checking out what the rally had to offer. Vendors large and small lined every avenue of the rally grounds. Motorcycle, golf cart, and side-by-side traffic was a constant presence, nearly outnumbering pedestrians in the outdoor areas.
I popped into the large covered vendor barn and caught a bit of the biker rodeo games; the fuzzy ball race, the slow race, and the loudest bike showdown. The games were fun and competitive in their own right, and made all the more entertaining by an announcer brimming with off-color dad jokes. One competitor, known only as “Birdman” rode with his pet parrot perched atop the handlebars of his trick Yamaha V-Max. Once the rodeo was over, I headed out to check out more of the rally.
I hit the ride in bike show, which had a good turn out of awesome, if not necessarily conventional show bikes. Some were show quality, but for the most part, the ride in show featured a mix of custom and stock bikes that get put through the wringer and pick up some miles, dirt, and grime in the process.
My favorite was an older couple with their 1984 Honda GoldWing Aspencade with nearly 214,000 original miles. They bought it new, and have rode it through the majority of the US. It was as period correct as possible, down to the raised white letter Dunlop tires.
The highlight of the rally for me was in the Thunderdome, at the Kustom Kulture Artisan Show and Grease & Gears Garage. It was a convergence of cool bikes, art, tattoos, and live presentations and demonstrations by artists and builders alike.
World-famous artist Makoto Endo worked on a painting while the builders in the show presented and discussed their creations.
There were some seriously cool bikes, especially the FXRs by Texas Performance Motorcycles and their rad retro paint jobs.
This gave way to live presentations on the Grease & Gears stage by experts in the industry; I was able to catch my buddy Chris Moos dive into a talk about the mathematics and physics of raking a frame, while still maintaining good steering geometry, and then proceed to saw the neck of said frame off live on stage.
Upstairs, tattoo artists went to work applying fresh ink to rally attendees. I dug the Kustom Kulture Artisan Show, and spent the majority of the day there trying to soak in as much of it as I could.
As the day wore on, I made my way to the flat track pit to catch some stunt shows and races. I ran into a cool old dude walking around carrying his Chihuahua, and chatted with him for a few minutes about how he rides everywhere with his dog on the bike.
I grabbed an iced cold brew coffee from Flat Track Coffee Company’s kiosk adjacent to the track, watched some stunt riders do their thing, then took a seat on the sparsely populated metal bleachers, and waited for the action. And kept waiting. It was 5:00 pm, and the practice laps scheduled for 3:30 had yet to begin. I grew impatient, and decided to meander around a bit more.
RoT Rally touts itself as part biker rally, part music festival. The music being played on the Bud Zone stage and Cowboy Bar periodically punch through the ever-present rumble of motorcycle engines, and round out the atmosphere of the rally with fitting rock and country tunes.
I regret not sticking around late enough to catch Honky, but with an early hotel check out Sunday morning, and a ride back to Denton to resume life as normal, it didn’t fit into the schedule.
With my coffee empty, the ice melted from the Texas heat, and my phone battery on the verge of death, I decided to pack up and roll back to the hotel to refresh and recharge before the ride home the next day.
On the way to the hotel, I stopped at a hole-in-the-wall BBQ joint and grabbed some brisket and smoked sausage for dinner. I decided that was a sufficient punctuation mark for my first rally experience, rode the rest of the way back to the hotel, and put a wrap on RoT Rally 2017.