The curtain raised on the European rally season as more than 20,000 H-D® enthusiasts gathered in the Golfe de St-Tropez for a long weekend of excitement and entertainment, Harley® style
As winter turned to spring in the northern hemisphere, all across Europe H.O.G.® members and Harley® riders began planning exhilarating escapades to the south of France to kick off the riding season. With beachfront bungalows nestled among the palm trees and verdant flora of the Prairies de la Mer resort in Port Grimaud, the setting is perfect for four days of relaxation, great music, a real party atmosphere and, most of all, great riding.
Come Thursday morning, the site began to fill up with riders from far and wide, and locals who have come to know and love the inclusive and welcoming nature of the annual party. The weather? Warm and sunny, of course, with a hint of sea breeze and the odd wisp of cloud to offer some respite from the heat.
As ever, the beach was a hive of activity – during the day, the Harley Village offered a wide array of dealer stalls alongside restaurants, bars and other retail outlets, while by night the main stage and Harley Bar took centre stage, providing musical entertainment until the early hours.
The H-D® Expo tent showcased the latest Harley-Davidson models, as well as housing the Jumpstart™ Experience, where dozens of future riders took their first revolutions towards Harley ownership on the rolling road. The Expo tent also featured Demo Rides – as ever, the opportunity to take a new Harley model out for a spin was extremely popular, with barely a spare slot to be found over the course of the three days – as well as Authorized Rentals, Harley-Davidson Financial Services and H.O.G. Member Services.
The Jeep® Experience also took pride of place alongside the Expo tent, where a challenging series of obstacles had been set up to demonstrate the rugged versatility of these off-road legends, while in the Harley Village an information stand gave visitors the opportunity to find out more about this year’s returning event sponsor.
Another focal point in the village was the Battle of the Kings tent, where the public had the opportunity to view some of the best French entrants in this incredible custom competition. Dealerships took a Harley-Davidson® Dark Custom™ motorcycle – in most cases a Street™ 750 – and gave it an exciting new livery to showcase the versatility of Milwaukee’s finest.
Just back from the main strip, the shopping village was busier than ever with a bigger range of traders, offering many dozens of stalls selling a huge array of clothing, jewellery, motorcycle accessories and other gifts.
On Friday, a few miles inland in Grimaud village, the main event for custom enthusiasts took place. Almost 100 motorcycles took part across 10 categories, with the standard as high as it has ever been. This pretty, quintessentially French village was even more packed than usual, with hundreds of people enjoying the live music and party atmosphere while placing their votes for the People’s Choice award, which was won by Diane Sarbach of Switzerland. Best in Show was won by the astonishing 1938 ‘Bari Vecchia’ antique Knucklehead created by PDF from Bergamo, Italy. For the full list of winners, visit hogeuropegallery.com.
The focus then shifted back to the main event site, where the evening reached a crescendo with a rip-roaring show from British rock giants The Darkness, who combined their raucous riffs with an eccentric and flamboyant stage show, to the obvious delight of the audience.
As Saturday dawned, bathed in sunshine once again, thoughts inevitably turned to the parade. Chapter flags fluttered in light winds as more than 1,500 motorcycles lined up for the big ride. The locals came out in force to admire the spectacle, as the parade wound through St Tropez, Grimaud, Cogolin, St Maxime and several other sleepy, sun-soaked villages en route.
By the time the parade arrived back at the event site the sun was low in the sky, and thousands of happy Harley riders descended once more on the beachside strip for food, drink and top-class entertainment. The main stage was headlined by The Stranglers, who are still going strong after more than 40 years in the limelight, and the Harley Bar saw The Freelers entertain the crowds with a rocking set, featuring a spectacular cameo on guitar from none other than French Customer Experience Manager Stéphane Sahakian.
On Sunday, the sun once again beamed down upon the event site as thousands of happy and sated partygoers hit the road to cruise home again.