Cloud-topped mountains crown a valley with an azure lake at its centre. All is calm, all is quiet. Then it comes: a rumble like the mountains are on the march. The sound of more than 100,000 riders from around the globe on 75,000 bikes warms our alpine atmosphere – and will continue to do so for the five days of this European Bike Week® in Faaker See, Austria.
This was the closing event of the Harley-Davidson® year in Europe, and while the atmosphere was calm on Tuesday, by Saturday’s grand parade, the excitement was tangible: costumes, media, helicopters, police escorts and local dignitaries.
This mountainous idyll is the backdrop for five days and nights of live music, great food and rumbling engines. The heart of the festival is a giant stage flanked by bars and bikes – whatever you need, you’ll find it here. The road around the lake becomes a one-way loop punctuated by various stalls, bars, stages and scenes of stunning natural beauty, always host to a passing Harley (or 12!). It’s great to see H.O.G.® patches from all over the world; from as near as just down the road and as far afield as the US and Kuwait.
“I’ve been to lots of European rallies,” explained one H.O.G. member, “but there’s just something about Faak that’s great. It’s the people – especially the local people – who create such a great atmosphere. On top of that, the scenery is just breathtaking!
“H.O.G. makes the event extra special for us. It’s allowed me to travel to some amazing places and it means that I know I’ll meet up with old and new friends when I come to a Harley-Davidson rally – it’s that focal event. Also, because it’s my fourth time here, just riding around the lake feels like I’m coming home.”
“It’s great to see lots of Ladies of Harley™ here,” said another member. “There are lots of younger women here too, Italians particularly. In our own Chapter we’re seeing more and more ladies signing up. It’s great.”
The main stage witnessed some amazing and exciting acts, from the original Asia – of 1980s Heat Of The Moment fame – to the Guns N’ Roses Experience and The Affray. The Guns N’ Roses Experience were particularly convincing – not just for their very accurate 1990s tour get-up, but for the singer’s identical voice! Other acts wowing the crowds included The Leningrad Cowboys and Triggerfinger, as well as tribute acts for The Eagles and U2, but Hayseed Dixie proved ever popular, and the Bogus Brothers laid on a musical spectacle that had everyone singing along. From the main stage to almost every bar and stall within a two-mile radius, the Scottish drummers were on hand to take us back to the old school – bagpipes and all!
A big highlight of the festival was the Custom Bike Show, which began on Friday afternoon. The entrants were truly incredible and members and visitors alike stood agog at the creativity unbound.
On the judging panel were Adam Ames and Scott Miller from the Harley-Davidson Motor Company in the US. “I’ve enjoyed seeing bikes with a vintage element brought together with modern flair,” explains Adam. “Maybe an antique feel, but with a larger-diameter wheel on the front. People have found some cool ways to blend the two together and add individual style.”
As for Scott, he’s rewarding people who have gone the extra mile with that attention to detail: “But it also has to look l like a complete package. It can’t just be features thrown together.”
The winner of the People’s Choice was the imaginative Behemoth Bike, by Game Over Cycles, inspired by Polish death metal band Behemoth.
Winner of the Best Modified Harley-Davidson was ‘One Way Machine’ from Germany, which won its owner 3,000 euros of Harley-Davidson Parts, Accessories and MotorClothes® vouchers!
Best In Show was awarded to Andreas Bergerforth from Thunderbike. His design ideas made exceptional use of the bike’s lines, accentuating the profile across the length of the bike.
Saturday’s parade included the unveiling of a huge statue of a couple on a Harley® – nice to feel so welcome and appreciated in the locale. As the police escort sirens sounded, the parade began and Harley-Davidson motorcycles – and a few guest bikes! – stretched for as far as the eye could see revved and readied for the off. The weather was as glorious as it had been all week, and for much of the route, the roads were full of local spectators waving, cheering and whistling – all smiles at the sight of so much beautiful metal. No wonder they erected a statue for us!
H.O.G.’s Nigel Villiers and Alison Povey were on hand to present the winner of the bike raffle. Ewa Zalewska from Bielawa in Poland took home the brand-new Dyna® Switchback. Until that moment not yet a Harley owner, Ewa was ecstatic to be entering the world of H.O.G. on her two new wheels!