TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) -— You’ll probably hear it before you can see it — the roar of bikers’ engines as they descend on Austin.
But this year’s 25th annual Republic of Texas Biker Rally almost didn’t happen. And officials say there are still questions about its long-term future.
If you ask them, they’ll tell you: It doesn’t take much to make ROT Rally bikers happy. They especially like clean cuts, good music and a welcoming city, year after year
“We ride to live, live to ride,” said Kenny Brown, a biker who lives in Austin.
“If it left [Central Texas], I think Austin would be losing a cherished thing that’s been here for so long,” said Chad Loken, who also lives in Austin. Loken said he’s been to every ROT Rally since its inception in 1995.
But last October, the likelihood of the Republic of Texas Biker Rally losing its contract with the county was an all-too-real possibility.
One of the original founders, Jerry Bragg, admits he was nervous the Austin tradition might die.
“We love being in Austin, we love being at the Expo Center, and I think they love us because they voted us back in,” Bragg said. “This year promises to be even bigger and we are excited about that!”
The Travis County Commissioners Court settled on a two-year contract extension, ensuring the biker rally stays until at least next year for its celebration in 2020. But after that, it’s back to the negotiating table.
The annual biker rally brings in a lot of money to Central Texas. ROT Rally officials said, based on prior year estimates, there is a $100 million economic impact to Austin and Travis County.
“When rally day comes and you feel the thunder, you just feel the chill-bumps again and it makes it all worth it,” Bragg said.
As for the bikers themselves, there’s no place they’d rather be. Bragg said he expects around 20,000 people to flock to the Expo Center for this year’s ROT Rally.
“Austin being the state capitol, this is the place for it,” Brown said.
“I hope it doesn’t go away. But if it does, we’ll see if I go,” Loken joked.
“We’ve got the best riding in Texas, we’ve got the community that welcomes us, we’ve got the support of the city and the county. The stars line up and this is the place to have a motorcycle rally,” Bragg said.