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Making the most out of a rally experience

6 things to do before you go

The Rally. It's something you've committed time to and you want to get the most out of your experience. But if you think you'll just show up and all will be well, let's consider something more. You need to plan ahead.

It doesn't matter whether it's big or small. We've attended rallies that attract 10,000 or more riders, others that attract 150 riders. But seriously, if someone is in the business of running a rally, you need to get your money's worth regardless of the size.

Here are a few tips that will help you make the most of your adventure while you're there by planning ahead.

1. Is this rally for you? - If someone is putting on a rally that is built for cruiser-style riders and you ride a tricked out sport touring machine or adventure bike, this rally you're looking at is probably not for you and visa-versa. Time is precious. Pick one that appeals to your riding style.

2. Accommodations - You don't have to register for a rally as soon as advance registration opens (although that money helps some promoters get through the winter). But if you're not camping at the event, you'll need to sort out your accommodations ASAP. Hotel and motel space has a way of disappearing quickly, especially if a wedding gets booked into the area, or how about three mega-weddings…? Book your room early, sign up later and all will be well. Remember, most lodging facilities will allow you a reasonable time period to cancel your lodging, many anywhere between 12-24 hours.

3. What do you want from your experience? - Have you been to this rally before? Whether you have or not, what do you want from the experience? Great riding, good food, camaraderie, evening entertainment, exceptional guest speakers, a clean rally site, insightful rides in the area, etc… This can change from year to year based on how many times you partake. A good promoter provides something for everyone. Some rally attendees initially go looking to learn about new roads and take away what they can from the guest speakers. Over the years they may form long-lasting friendships and later may come just for some riding and camaraderie.

4. Go through the website with a fine-tooth comb - When you arrive at the rally, the staff is in full customer service mode. The volunteers do what they can, but the more you know before you go, the more you can pre-plan your experience. Seriously go through the website with a fine-tooth comb, dial down the schedule to determine where you want to be, when.

Some rallies no longer print schedules you get on arrival since so many riders are dialed into their smartphones, each has it at their fingertips wherever they are (oops - I left the schedule back in my hotel room…?) If you need a printed schedule, print it out before you go.

5. Pre-register or walk-up? - Should you pre-register or just pay a walk-up registration? Some will pre-register, others will pay walk-up, that's up to you based on the following. Pre-registration rates are typically cheaper, but are typically non-refundable. That's because promoters are able to determine t-shirt printing, food needs and otherwise on pre-registration numbers. If you plan to walk-up, plan to pay the entire walk-up rate, not a day rate, which unless advertised, probably does not exist.

6. Will you get the whole experience? - A good promoter puts together a rally that is appealing across a spectrum of riders - from first timers to annually-returning riders. If the schedule is packed full, you will not get the entire rally experience in one visit, rather, you'll need to re-visit a rally from time to time to experience its various aspects over the course of several years.

Tom Mehren/June 2017

Tom Mehren is a sanctioned American Motorcyclist Association promoter who runs the Rally in the Gorge and several other motorcycle-related events in the Pacific Northwest. His promotion collective, The Northwest Full Face Riders, were voted as the AMA Road Riding Event Promoter of the year in 2011.


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