Austin, Texas 78724
ROT Rally 2020 dates are June 11-14. This will year will be the 25th annual the event held in Austin, Texas. The ROT Biker Rally is on the LightningCustoms.com’s Major Motorcycle Rallies List.
Let us first mention that the below ROT Biker Rally review is just informational. This is just what is and isn’t happening at the event, it is not what we hope for. We’d love to see the Republic of Texas (ROT) Rally get back to what it used to be. Back in the day, it was a pretty cool larger biker rally.
ROT Biker Rally Review
Next, here are three of the most frequently asked questions. Is ROT Rally worth the price? Is it even worth the time to go to ROT? What are the reviews of the ROT Bike Rally?
To give you the bottom-line answer first – ROT is worthwhile if you are looking to party and camp all weekend. If you aren’t going there for both of these two reasons, it simply isn’t worth the price or your time.
What are our opinions in this article based on? First, we’ve been going to the Republic of Texas Rally in Austin religiously for the last 16 years. Also, we have spoken with tons of attendees and vendors over the years. Since the event is also in our backyard, we are also able to hear the opinions of ROT from people who’ve been going for years. Subsequently, the above and below is not based just on our preferences of what we want to see at the motorcycle rally.
Now granted, a lot has drastically changed in both the motorcycle-world and with rallies over the last 16 years. For many of the events that have been around for over a decade the attendance is down or the rally has shut down.
What Is the Attendance at ROT Rally?
Although you will hear/read from the ROT Rally’s promoters’ that the event has similarities to Sturgis, there simply aren’t. The only viable comparisons are that there are humans and motorized vehicles. For instance, with the attendance – the ROT Biker Rally has dropped from approximately 45,000 people to probably a little over 10,000 people. This is the number of attendees that pay to get into the Expo Center/official venue. On the other hand, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally gets 500,000 attendees, so there is no comparison.
Next, how does the attendance at ROT Rally compare to attendance at other rallies in Texas? Again, there again isn’t any real comparison. The Lone Star Rally is the only motorcycle event in Texas with over 25,000 people. Annually, Lone Star gets 400,000 attendees. Again, the Austin rally gets a little over 10,000 attendees to the Expo Center. Subsequently, there is no comparison.
In addition, there is no similarity with the quality of attractions at ROT compared to Sturgis or Lone Star. As you will read below, there just simply isn’t.
Next, to explain why there are vastly different numbers of attendees quoted. Now, you might have heard that the Republic of Texas Rallies attendance is 150,000-200,000 people. This is a number used by the promoters and it is a total number of “participants.”
The vast majority of this attendance number is people who don’t go to the Expo Center. Added to the approximate 10,000 attendees are two groups of people. First, are the riders who come to the Austin-area to enjoy all of the free, but who don’t go to the Expo Center. Second, are the huge numbers of the locals who don’t ride, but who are just checking things out in downtown Austin.
First, we clarify the disparity in numbers because it is pretty confusing. In addition, if you are thinking the official ROT motorcycle rally venue has 150,000-200,000 attendees you might expect the attractions of a giant event, which there aren’t. Finally, if you are thinking of being a vendor and are going to make tons of money because of the number of “participants,” you will be hugely disappointed.
What’s Going on at the ROT Rally?
The “camping” has, and still is, the best part of the bike rally. Although there are still some people doing primitive camping in tents, the number of trailers and RVs have drastically increased (look at the pictures on ROT’s Facebook). With the huge drop in the overall attendance at the Republic of Texas Rally, there has also been a drop in the number of people in the RV/camping area.
At night the area is R-Rated, so it can be pretty wild. Now it is just our personal opinion, but we think this is a good thing. That being said, allowing kids in the non-camping area has changed the rules; as it should. Now this is does mean that the entire Expo Center is not an adult biker rally anymore. As you can read on the ROT Motorcycle Rally’s Facebook page, a lot of the campers comment how it has dampened it their time.
Next, we get input and comments about ROT being “golf cart rally” rather than a “biker rally.” Whether you think golf carts are good or bad, the answer is that there are golf carts everywhere. In the camping area and in the adult nighttime parade route, there are more golf carts than motorcycles. You can just look at the pictures and videos and you will see our review is correct.
The reason it has happened is that the promoters have made the decision to allow it. Not only do they allow golf carts to be brought in, but have a golf cart rental company at the Expo Center.
Is R.O.T. Rally Worth the Price?
The answer is, it depends. The cost to attend the 2019 ROT Biker Rally was $99. This fee included tent camping. So if you are going to camp and party all weekend in a tent it is a good deal.
Now, if you are going to bring an RV or trailer, the cost of luxury is more. With the temperature regularly being in the high 90s or over 100 degrees in Austin, the luxury might be worth it.
Then there is the cost for one beer at the motorcycle rally. It was $8 a beer. Bottled water and soft drinks are also extremely high. The good news is that you can BYOB at ROT. With the number of food vendors and options way down, grab something to eat to bring in as well.
What Bands Are Playing at ROT?
Notably, and not in a good way, are bands. For a long time the band lineup had been declining. There are now little known bands or unknown members from relatively well known bands from the 60s-90s playing.
That did change in 2018, when ZZ Top played. Granted the price went up, but it looked like it was going to help the Republic of Texas Rally experience and attendance. That being said, it didn’t really appear to do much for either. Actually lot of the people we spoke with said that there were less people in total at the event.
In 2019, the bands playing at the ROT Rally went back to the circuit bands you see at other events and the hybrid bands with musicians from 30-50 years ago. Even worse, the prices didn’t go down even with a much lower quality music lineup.
What are the ROT Bike Rally Attractions?
Next, for both those camping and those not camping there are some things to check out at the ROT Rally. Not a lot of amazing things, but there are some things to check out.
First, there were some pretty cool bikes on display, not from the bad ass bikes from huge name builders they use to get, but still pretty cool. At last year’s ROT Biker Rally there was a bike build-off, motorcycle giveaway, bike show, supermoto, flat track racing, and contests. So if you are going for the cool traditional attractions at a large rally, you will be disappointed. There really isn’t enough to check out for half a day at the Republic of Texas motorcycle rally.
Next, the number of vendors at ROT has drastically dropped in both number and quality. The ones that are there aren’t big names. There are also very few big rigs at the bike rally. The big rigs used to bring out solid displays, cool bikes, and lots of parts, accessories, and other products. Without them it has decreased the value of going to the Expo. There is less to see and not much to buy.
So what is going on at ROT Rally by the day? Thursdays are always really somewhere between slow and dead at almost all 4-day rallies. Normally a motorcycle rally really starts picking up Friday in the afternoon. ROT does follow this pattern.
The R.O.T. motorcycle rally does have something that is a little different and that is the parade going downtown in the early evening on Friday. If you like riding in a parade, this one to downtown Austin to party is a pretty good one. The partying downtown, which is free, is by far the biggest draw at the entire rally. Austin is a really fun city. Again, it is free.
Consequently, having the parade means buying a day pass for Friday really isn’t worth it. Also, this means that buying a full-weekend pass doesn’t have the same value. This is because you are paying for four days and are getting only one kind of good day on Saturday at the motorcycle rally.
Vendors at the Republic of Texas Rally
Since almost everyone who isn’t camping leaves to go downtown, there isn’t much going on Friday evening. For vendors this is a wreck because just when attendees start to showing up for what should be the second best day of sales, everyone leaves to go downtown.
We’ve seen it as such a ghost town that even ROT shuts down their merchandise booths, a huge source of revenue, by the time it was dark on Friday. When a rally is stops selling their products, you know as a vendor that it is time to close down too. Also, without a lot of things going on for non-campers, very few people, and a large amount of the vendors closed. Subsequently, drinking an $8 beer isn’t all that appealing.
Saturday there are some shoppers, but not the amount that you’d expect at an event with around 10,000 attendees. Again, most of the attendees are there to party, camp and are recovering. So the number of shoppers is a lot lower than the number of people who go to the Expo Center. Also, by the early evening, people are going to watch the bands and not to shop. Like a lot of four-day rallies, when you get there Sunday it is time to pack up and not to make sales.
Should I Vend at the Austin Bike Rally?
The answer is simple – no. Just like you see at most four-day rallies, Thursdays are dead. When there starts to be some foot traffic on Friday, everyone quickly leaves for the parade or are at the campgrounds, so it is dead. There really isn’t the foot traffic even on Saturday and Sunday you are packing up.
With the extreme heat this time of year in Texas, huge swings in whether in this part of Austin (torrential winds), and the dirt pathways on at least one of the edges of the majority of vendor spots that can dirty or destroy inventory…it can make it miserable. In addition it can make not profitable for a lot of vendors.
The bottom-line for vendors, there is a decent chance that the Republic of Texas Austin Rally isn’t going to be profitable enough to show up. A friend who has worked for the beer and alcohol concessions told us that even their sales were down by over 30% or higher from 2018 to 2019. So attendance might not be at all what you think, a huge percentage of the people there are not shopping, and the ROT rally’s schedule structure isn’t vendor-friendly.
Again, it is not just us or all of the above reasoning behind this. It is clear that the big rigs and larger vendors aren’t there, lots of empty spaces that used to be filled, smaller mom and pop Walmart canopies, not a lot of part and accessory vendors, flea market vendors, cheap products, lower quality products, more non-motorcycle related companies doing promotions, etc.
Vendors vote with their dollars and time. That being said, there are more profitable events going on that the Austin bike rally. Even for vendors who are looking for an event to go to between their next destinations, a large number of them said they’d rather take the weekend off. This is because they lost money or made very little. Moreover is the loss of time and huge effort put out in the extreme heat.
Should I Go to ROT Rally?
Bottom-line, based on what we’ve seen at ROT and what attendees have to say, the bike rally is worthwhile if you are going to camp. If you aren’t going to camp, ROT Rally simply really isn’t worth the money or your time. It definitely isn’t worth your time if you are traveling a long distance. The majority of people who weren’t camping who bought a four day pass expressed that it was a huge disappointment. Go to the ROT Facebook reviews and you will see the same. Sorry for the downer information, but it is better to know before you go.
2020 ROT Biker Rally Other Info
-NOTES: All Weekend is a “No Refusal Weekend” in Austin
-BYOB for sure
-FEES: 2020 fees are TBA