Austin, Texas 78724
The 2020 ROT Rally dates are June 11th to 14th. Also, this year will be the 25th year of the bike rally. Next, the ROT Biker Rally in Austin is on the LightningCustoms.com’s Major Motorcycle Rallies List.
Next, let us first mention that the below ROT Rally review is just informational only. This is simply what is and is not happening at the event. That being said, it is not what we we want to see happen at the rally. We would love to see the Republic of Texas (ROT) Biker Rally get back to what it used to be years ago. A decade ago it was a pretty cool larger bike rally.
ROT Biker Rally Review
Next, here is one of the most frequently asked questions – is ROT Rally worth the price?
To give you the bottom-line answer first – it might be worthwhile if you are looking to party and camp all weekend. If you aren’t going there for both of these two reasons ROT Rally simply is not worth the price or your time.
So what is our review of the biker rally based on? First, we have 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 rally is in our backyard, we are also able to hear the opinions of ROT Rally from people who go regularly. Subsequently, this review is not based on what we want to see at a motorcycle rally.
Now granted a lot has drastically changed in both the motorcycle-world and with rallies over the last 16 years. As you’ve probably seen a lot of bike rallies that were going on 16 years ago have experienced declines in their attendance. Other rallies that were around back then have shut down. So it is not just ROT falling apart.
ROT Compared to Sturgis or Lone Star Rally
Although you will hear or have read from ROT Rally’s promoters’ that the event has similarities to Sturgis, there simply are not any. Well except that there are both humans and motorized vehicles at the bike rallies.
For instance, the attendance at the ROT Biker Rally in Austin has dropped from approximately 45,000 people to around 10,000 people. This is the number of attendees that pay to get into the Expo Center, which is the official venue of ROT. On the other hand, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally each year gets around 500,000 attendees per year. So there is no comparison when you look at the number of attendees.
Next, how does the attendance at ROT Rally compare to the attendance at other rallies in Texas? Again, there really is no comparison. Notably, the Lone Star Rally is the only motorcycle event in Texas with over 25,000 people. Annually, Lone Star gets around 400,000 attendees. Again, the Austin biker rally gets a little over 10,000 attendees to the Expo Center. So there is no comparison with the number attendees.
ROT Rally’s Attendance Numbers Explained
Next, let us explain why there are vastly different attendance numbers quoted for ROT. Now you might have heard that the Republic of Texas Biker Rally’s attendance is 150,000 to 200,000 people. This is a number used by the promoters and it is the total number of “participants.”
The vast majority of the “participants” are people who do not go to the Expo Center. So this number includes the huge number of riders who come to the Austin-area. They come out to enjoy all of the free things in Austin, but they do not go to the Expo Center.
Second, this number also includes the large number of locals who don’t ride. But the locals come out just to check things out in downtown Austin. Still they are counted as ROT Bike Rally “participants.”
We clarify the disparity in numbers because it can be confusing. In addition, if you think that the official ROT motorcycle rally venue has 150,000 to 200,000 attendees you might expect the attractions of a giant event. But there are not big attractions at ROT.
Also, vendors definitely do not want to misunderstand the attendance at ROT Rally. Or they might think they are going to make tons of money based on the number of “participants.” And they will be hugely disappointed.
In addition, there are no similarities in the quality of attractions at the ROT Biker Rally compared to either the Sturgis or Lone Star. As you will read below, there simply are no comparisons.
Golf Carts at the ROT Bike Rally
Next, we get input and hear comments about Austin’s ROT Rally being a “golf cart rally.” Whether you think golf carts are good or bad there are tons of golf carts there. In the camping area there are more people riding around on golf carts than on motorcycles. Just take look at the pictures and videos and you will see our ROT review is correct.
Also, the reason why there are so many golf carts at ROT is simple, the promoters allow it. Not only do they allow golf carts to be brought in, but they have a golf cart rental company at the Expo Center.
Is ROT Rally Worth the Price?
So is the bike rally worth the money? The answer is it depends. The cost to attend the 2019 ROT Biker Rally was $99. Included with the entry fee was tent camping. So if you were going to both camp and party all weekend in a tent it was a pretty good deal.
Now if you are going to bring an RV or trailer, the cost of luxury is more expensive. With the temperature regularly being in the high 90s or over 100 degrees in Austin, the luxury might be worth it.
We’ve updated this article on February 8, 2020. Unfortunately the four-day pass for the 2020 Rally is $149!! Furthermore, there is not going to be huge name band playing at ROT. The Steve Miller Band is headlining in 2020.
Now we aren’t saying Steve Miller is a terrible band. Our point is that for most people Steve Miller is not as big of a headliner as ZZ Top. Also, this highlights ROT Rally’s practice of not getting top-shelf entertainment. To make matters worse, even with a lesser band than ZZ Top the entry fee into the Austin rally has gone up 50%!!
In addition, the cost for one beer at the rally is ridiculous. It was $8 a beer at the 2019 Rally. Also, bottled water and soft drinks are also extremely expensive. But the good news is that you can BYOB to ROT. With the number of food vendors and the subsequent options way down you might also want to grab something to bring in to eat.
Camping at the Bike Rally
The “camping” has and still is the best part of the ROT biker rally. Although there are still some people doing primitive camping in tents, the number of trailers and RVs has drastically increased. You will see what we mean if you look at the pictures on ROT’s Facebook page. 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 camping area at ROT is R-Rated, so it can get 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.
Subsequently, this means that the entire Expo Center is not an adult biker rally anymore. As you can read on the ROT’s Facebook page, there are a lot of the campers who comment on how this has dampened their time.
2020 ROT Rally Attractions
Next, for both those camping and for those who are not camping there are some things to check out at the ROT Rally. Now there are not a lot of amazing attractions, but there are some things to check out.
First, there are some pretty cool bikes on display. But they are not the bad ass bikes from huge name builders that used to have at the event. Also at the ROT Biker Rally in Austin there is a bike build-off, motorcycle giveaway, bike show, supermoto, flat track racing, and contests.
So if you are going for the cool traditional attractions you see at a large rally you will be disappointed. Honestly, there really isn’t enough to do for half a day at the Republic of Texas motorcycle rally.
Next, the number of vendors at ROT has drastically dropped. And they have dropped in both the number and quality of vendors. Also, the vendors that go to the ROT Biker Rally aren’t big name vendors anymore. In addition, there are very few big rigs at the bike rally.
As you know, big rigs bring out solid displays and cool bikes. In addition, they bring out lots of parts, accessories, and other products. Without the big vendors and big rigs it has decreased the value of going out to the Expo. This is because there is now less to see and not nearly as much to buy at the R.O.T. Rally.
Quality of Bands at ROT
Notably, and not in a good way, is the quality of the bands at ROT Rally. For a long time the quality of the band lineup has been declining. First, there are often unknown bands at ROT. Or there are unknown members from relatively well known bands from the 60s to the 90s playing in hybrid bands.
Now that did change in 2018 when ZZ Top played at the biker rally. Granted the price went up. But it looked like ZZ Top playing was going to help the Republic of Texas Biker Rally’s experience and attendance. That being, said it really didn’t appear to do much for either of the above. Actually lot of the people we spoke with say there were are less people in total at the event.
In 2019, the bands playing at the ROT Bike Rally went back to the circuit bands you see at other events. In addition there were also more of the hybrid bands. To make matters worse, the price didn’t go down even with the lower quality music lineup.
Headlining Band for ROT Rally in 2020
Here’s an update on what band is playing at the 2020 ROT Rally (update as of February 8, 2020). The 2020 headlining band for ROT is the Steve Miller Band. They aren’t a bad band at all, but they are not as popular as ZZ Top.
Now, you might expect the cost of the 2020 ROT Biker Rally to go down from $99. But instead it has gone up to $149. So the 2020 fee has gone up by 50%!!
Daily Overview of ROT
So what is going on at ROT Rally by each day? Thursdays are always somewhere between slow and dead at almost all four-day rallies. ROT follows this pattern. Normally a motorcycle rally really starts picking up Friday in the afternoon. Again, this rally follows this pattern.
But here’s a big problem at ROT because is has something that is a little different. That is the parade going to downtown in the early evening on Friday. If you like riding in a parade this one to downtown is a pretty good one. The partying downtown, which is FREE, is by far the biggest attraction at the Austin rally.
The consequence of having the parade is that buying a day pass for Friday is not worth it. In part this is because the majority of people are either in the camping area or are downtown. Subsequently there is not much going on at the Expo Center if you are not camping at ROT.
Now, this also means that buying a full-weekend pass doesn’t have the same value. This is because you are paying for four days. But you are really only getting whatever is good during the day and night on Saturday at ROT Rally.
On Saturday there are the attractions noted above during the day at the ROT Rally. Then at night there are bands. And the camping is a pretty wild whether you like golf carts or not. But Sunday is like a lot of bike rallies, it is just vendors breaking down as fast as possible.
Vending at the Republic of Texas Rally
As noted above, since almost everyone who isn’t camping leaves to go downtown there isn’t much going on Friday evening at the bike rally. For vendors this is a wreck because just when attendees start showing up they all leave to go downtown. So what should be the second best day of sales, Friday, is really poor at best at ROT.
We’ve seen it as such a ghost town that even ROT Rally shuts down their merchandise booths by the time it is dark on Friday. Merchandise sales are a huge source of revenue for all rallies. So when a biker rally stops selling their products you know as a vendor that it is time to close down too.
Also, there are not a lot of things going on for non-campers on Friday at ROT. And there are very few people in the main area after the parade leaves. So a large number of the vendors close. Subsequently, for attendees / potential shoppers drinking $8 beers with nothing going is not that appealing.
Saturday there are some shoppers at the ROT Biker Rally. But there are not even the amount that you would expect at a rally with around 10,000 attendees. Again, most of the attendees are there to party and camp or are recovering. So this makes the number of shoppers a lot lower than you’d expect at the Expo Center.
In addition, by the early evening people at the Expo Center are going to watch the bands and not to shop. Like you see at lot of four-day rallies, when vendors get there on Sunday it is time to pack up and not to make sales.
Bottom-line for Vendors at the Biker Rally
So is it worth it to vend at ROT Rally? The answer is simple – no. Just like you see at most four-day rallies, Thursdays are dead at ROT. When there starts to be some foot traffic on Friday, everyone quickly leaves for the parade or are in the campgrounds. So Friday is pretty dead. There is also really not much foot traffic even on Saturday at ROT Bike Rally. And then Sunday vendors are packing up.
In addition, there is the extreme heat during this time of year in Texas. Also, there are the huge swings in whether this time of year in Austin like torrential winds. Next there are dirt pathways on at least one of the edges of the majority of vendor spots. Subsequently, inventory can get dirty or destroyed. All of this makes it miserable being a vendor at the ROT Rally.
Next, there is a decent chance that the Republic of Texas Austin Biker Rally is not going to be profitable enough to show up. Also, we have a friend who has worked for the beer and alcohol concessions for years. And we were told that even the rally’s sales were down by over 30% or more from 2018 to 2019 at ROT.
Then you add in that attendance might not be at all what you think. Also you add in the large percentage of people who are there are not shopping. Plus you consider that Rally’s schedule is not vendor-friendly. And vending at ROT Rally is not great to say the least.
Again, it is not just our opinion or all of the above reasoning behind this. It is clear that the big rigs and larger vendors aren’t there. Also it is clear that there are a lot of empty spaces that used to be filled during the biker rally. Next, there are a lot of small mom and pop Walmart canopies, flea market vendors, cheap products vendors, non-motorcycle related companies doing promotions, etc.
Finally, vendors vote with their dollars and time. And with the above the vendors have voted a big no on vending at ROT Rally. That being said, there are a lot more profitable events going on than 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 would rather take the weekend off. This is because they lose money or make very little money. More importantly is the loss of time and huge effort put out in the extreme heat during the Austin motorcycle rally.
Should I Go to ROT Rally?
Again, based on what we’ve seen at ROT and what attendees have to say, the bike rally might be worthwhile if you are going to camp. If you aren’t going to both camp and party, ROT Rally in Austin is a waste of your time and money.
Now you add in that the entry fee is $149 for the 2020 ROT Biker Rally. And it definitely isn’t worth it if you are traveling a long distance. The majority of people who weren’t camping who bought a four day pass were hugely disappointment. Go to ROT Rally’s Facebook reviews and you will see our review is the same. Sorry for the downer information, but it is better to know before you go waste your time and money.
Other R.O.T. Information
- NOTE – All Weekend in Austin is a “No Refusal Weekend.”
- BYOB to ROT for sure.
- FEES for the 2020 rally for a four day pass it is $149.
- Finally, if you want an alternative to ROT Rally 2020 check out the FREE Central Texas Rally happening on the same weekend.