Why this may have been the most important PD13 in history

Big cruisers, tons of love from the community, and a perfect Ontario summer day—this is why even a pandemic can't ruin our ride.

How do you safely hold one of the world's largest single-day motorcycle rallies during a global pandemic? You don’t! At least not officially.

Regardless of where you land on what activities are considered “safe” in a pandemic, the 40th anniversary of the iconic PD13 Motorcycle rally was going to take place—officially or not. One could argue the fact that it’s held completely outside, presented a strong argument that it was safe to do so.  

Once a year the typically sleepy beach town of Port Dover Ontario is taken over on Friday the 13th by tens of thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts in celebration of PD13. With the 2021 date falling on a beautiful summer day in August (yes they attend in winter too), this year would be no different, pandemic or not. Everyone including Kristal Chopp, Norfolk County Mayor (where Port Dover resides), knew a sizeable number of die-hard motorcycle riders would be in attendance to celebrate the 40th anniversary of this spectacular two-wheel tradition.

As I was making my way to Port Dover I flipped on a local radio station and heard Chopp being interviewed about the event and ensuing predicament facing organizers. She confirmed no official vendors would be on hand, and the town of Port Dover was open for business according to local rules and regulations for whoever did show up. Furthermore, Chopp stressed PD13 is a substantial revenue generator for local businesses, who after 18 months of rotating lockdowns, were eager to have the extra patronage.

The OPP were also expected to have a strong presence onsite, making sure all the various MCs in attendance would be kept in line.

My only other experience at PD13 was during the 2014 iteration and that particular year, fell in June. The sheer number of people and bikes was overwhelming at first sight, but once you realized everyone was there to just show off their ride while mingling with likeminded people, you truly appreciated this type of event.

Sure this year had a different feel considering what’s going on in the world but a strong showing was in attendance and while the festive vibe felt subdued at times, the fact that such an event could even take place without it turning into a national news story about super spreading, was very comforting at a time when very few things feel normal.

Just about every type and brand of bike could be seen this year from big cruisers to crotch rockets, to antiques, to custom builds to even trikes—all sharing the road and cruising the strip of Port Dover and the surrounding neighborhood.

A strong sense of support for riders was evident throughout the city with numerous signs stating, “motorcycle parking only.” 

I’d estimate between 10k-20k people and bikes were in attendance which is down considerably from pre-pandemic levels of 100k-150k, but after almost two years of next to no public gatherings, seeing that many people coming together to bond over a love of motorcycles was good for the soul and gives hope that things will eventually get back to the way they used to be.

About Virgil Knapp

Virgil Knapp is a freelance motorsports photographer and writer.

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