Country music capital Tamworth in Northern NSW has been named as the venue for the 24th annual national HOG Rally next year. And Harley-Davidson HOG Rally organiser Kim Williams is already predicting it will be a record, based on the positive response to the Cairns HOG Rally.
“We’ve had good responses from people talking about it already,” she says. “It could be a record because of the momentum from one rally to the next.”
She says the city is well set-up to accommodate the thousands of HOG members expected to attend because it annually hosts the annual Country Music Awards. “Tamworth has such a good reputation, it’s fairly central and there are some great riding roads in the region. It could be a record rally.” Dates have not yet been confirmed.
Even though numbers are down a little this year, Kim says she is delighted with the 1400 attendees at the Cairns HOG Rally this weekend, given the concern among riders regarding the recent VLAD laws in Queensland and suggestions that riders could be harassed by the police. “This rally has been the most talked about in years,” says Kim, whose official title is customer experience manager. “We didn’t even know we would have a rally because the numbers were so low. At the end of January we only had 300 people registered.”
In honour of the riders who have “braved” the long ride to Far North Queensland, Kim designed a second rally pin which features palm trees and the words “I choose freedom”. “These people deserve something more. The pin represents everything about why we choose to ride. It wasn’t expected and it’s a nice surprise.”
Kim says Australia and New Zealand HOG membership has also grown about 10% in the past year, despite the political and police pressures in Queensland, making it the fastest growing in the Asia-Pacific region. She says there are now 25,000 active HOG members which is the fourth biggest group in the world. HOG membership costs $75 a year but is free for the first year when a rider buys a Harley. There are almost one million HOG members worldwide in its 31st year.
Kim says the growth in membership during the VLAD law controversy proved that riders banded together during adversity. “They don’t let rumours get in the way of a good time,” she says.
And the Hoggies have certainly been having a good time under picture-perfect blue skies. It could have been a totally different picture had the rally been held a few weeks earlier during Cyclone Ita, as originally scheduled.
The Cairns rally also seems to have attracted a higher proportion of women. Kim says she doesn’t know the exact numbers, but agrees that female numbers are growing as more and more women move from the pillion seat to the rider’s seat.
One of the best promotions for women to get their bike licence is the Jump Start program which Harley has been running for several years. It consists of static, working bikes which people over 16 without a licence are able to “ride”. Most of those who participate in Jump Start are women, says Mitch Jackson of Harley. “They love the opportunity to let the clutch out, change gears and rev the bike while it’s on the stand,” he says. “We’ve only had one woman who was a bit upset and frightened. I think her old man pushed her into it. But she enjoyed it so much she came back two times.”
Cairns resident Kaylie Sinapius, 26, had a go on the stationary Sportster 72 and thought the experience was “brilliant”. “I’ve never ridden before, but I love motorbikes. I want one now. I’ll never forget it.”
The rally also features dyno drag races, demo rides on new Harleys, bike competitions, piglet races, a tattoo competition, stunt shows, a show and shine, rock bands, a custom shop and ends tomorrow with the traditional “Thunder Run” from Cairns to Port Douglas and back. There is so much on this year’s schedule, a special phone app was created so HOG members could stay up to date.