For most of Austin, the Republic of Texas Biker Rally is a distant rumble. Maybe a traffic jam, if you’re not careful. Or at most, a roaring, flashing parade along Congress Avenue.
Make no mistake, this is no small event. Born in 1995, it has grown to over 30,000 paying customers at the Travis County Expo Center and more than 200,000 who watch the Friday night parade downtown.
But if you’re one of the many Austinites who let early curiosity slide into a decade of avoidance, you are going to be surprised. Here is today’s R.O.T. Rally …
It is a music festival, of sorts
This year’s rally brags that it features “over 30 bands on 3 stages.” All it would take is a few more outlaw country / Americana artists for it to be a junior version of Willie Nelson’s Fourth of July Picnic: Joe Ely, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Billy Joe Shaver, Gary P. Nunn, Dale Watson and the Dirty River Boys all are performing over the next three nights.
Other performers include Honky, Jonathan Tyler, Kings of Chaos, Prophets and Outlaws and Texas Hippie Coalition.
They are racing — and not just to the bar
This year marks the second year of the ROT Flat Track Races. And it’s not just the pros: “On Friday, we will open up the track to anyone where you can come and 'Run what you Brung', with no bike restrictions,” the website says.
A fellow named Doug Danger is going to jump one of Evel Knievel’s bikes 100 feet over two spinning helicopters. And I didn’t make any of that up.
There’s food courts
Disappointingly, the bikers don’t live off of whiskey and knuckle sandwiches while at the event grounds. They’ll have access to some of the same food trucks Austinites enjoy every day.
There’s biker rodeo games
The website describes five games ranging from high-speed barrel races (in the vein of actual cowboy rodeo) to the “slow race.” But a crowd favorite surely will be the “Honey I’m Home”: “Simulating being caught with your pants down,” the website says, the “pilot must get out of bed, through an obstacle course, and fire up the bike!”