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Guests Going Whole Hog For Motorcycle Hotels

Malcolm Forbes would love the Iron Horse Hotel. The late millionaire magazine publisher was well-known for one of his major hobbies: riding motorcycles.

"The demographics of the average boutique luxury hotel are that guests are 40, married, affluent, with a college education. I found out the average motorcycle enthusiast is 40, college educated, married, and affluent. So the demographics match," says Tim Dixon, whose 102-room Iron House Hotel is opening this summer in Milwaukee, Wis.

"It will be the industry’s first modern luxury boutique hotel geared towards motorcycle enthusiasts, and the sophisticated business and leisure travelers," points out Michel Fox whose company, Quinn & Co., does PR for the hotel and other properties.

Dixon does not expect his venture to spark a host of similar hotels. He thinks it would be impossible for a hotel geared just to motorcyclists to be a successful business venture. And while there are apparently no other hotels like his Iron Horse, there are a few places that aim much of their marketing at the "easy riders”"of the world.

"I am yet aware of any others in the US yet (that gear themselves towards motorcyclists), but I do know there are some motorcycle hotels in Europe that offer rentals or organized riding tours," says Fox.

That’s particularly true in Austria.

The motorcycle market in the US is not only huge but growing. Not only talk show host Jay Leno and actor Brad Pitt but another 20 million Americans call themselves motorcycle riders, according to the Motorcycle Industry Council. The group has had 14 years of consecutive growth and represents a $23 billion business.

Developer Dixon, himself a rider, is turning a century-old warehouse at 500 W. Florida Street in downtown Milwaukee into a $15 million hotel. Its location is part of its expected success: it is near a new Harley-Davidson Museum set to the open this year that will have a restaurant, café, retail shop, meeting rooms and special events space.

The motorcycle motif will help Dixon attract customers who visit the museum or who simply want to stay in a hotel that offers something different, suggests Greg Harris, president of Hospitality Marketers International, a consulting firm.

Though the hotel is not aimed at appealing only to riders, motorcyclists will find elements to help make them comfortable. These include secured covered motorcycle parking, rag bins, an on-side bike wash, packed saddle bag lunches, road trip maps and in-room storage areas for boots, helmets and heavy leather jackets.

There’s at least one other US hotel that claims to be a first in the two-wheel rider marketplace. "Two Wheels Only (TWO) is the first motorcycle only resort and campground in the US opened in 1982 for the pure pleasure of touring motorcyclists," says the Web site for the Suches, Georgia resort.

"While many campgrounds frown on (and ban) all types of two wheeled vehicles, we at TWO have made it our business to make you feel at home during your stay with us. As our name indicates, we restrict guests to only those who are riding or towing their motorcycles," the site says.

Owner G.T. Turner says: "For reasons of geography (mountains) and the fact that Suches is off the beaten path, TWO remains one of Georgia’s best kept secrets." Despite that, however, he says guests come from all over the country to discover the excellent scenery in the heart of the unspoiled (and billboard-averting) Chattahoochee National Forest.

He says the area has "superb mountain roads" that climb and descend with great curves and fantastic scenery. There are hundreds of miles of National Forest Roads and the resort is near the route of the “Tour d Georgia,” the annual world-class professional cycling stage race that has included Lance Armstrong.

Beside two campgrounds with fire pits and bath houses with hot showers, TWO has rooms in a lodge set up like a family home. TWO also has a fully furnished mobile home for rent.

Room rates range from $55 to $90. The mobile home is $85.

The resort is typical in that it requires two night minimums at times. But it also has some rules that are not generally found in other hotels such as a reminder to "respect our local community. REMEMBER: Loud Pipes Risk Rights!"

Another community in the North Georgia mountains is not exclusively for motorcyclists but the 40-acre Copperhead Lodge was built by motorcycle enthusiasts and caters to them.

The resort features individual, log-style park cabins, a rustic lodge, an outdoor pavilion/amphitheater and a swimming pool. The 11 lodge rooms cost $79-$99 a night. The more luxurious cabins (there are ten of them in a rental program) that feature hot tubs and other upscale features cost $109 to $169, according to a check-in employee.

In addition to the pool, the lodge features a number of year-round events you won’t find on many hotel calendars such as a "Wing Ding Bike Night," on Thursdays, when all you can eat is $10 (BYOB), and in March, a "So You Didn’t go to Daytona" special with live rock-n-roll.

The lodge overlooks a creek. All roads are paved. There’s a covered area for motorcycle parking.

When it comes to accommodating motorcyclists, European establishments seem to be more assertive than in the US.

"The Alps (especially the Dolomites) is a biker paradise. Where else can you find so many roads ideally suited for motorcycles," writes blogger Michael Werner from Paris, France. He says motorcyclists can tour for weeks in the Alps,"going from pass to pass, and you’re not going to be alone (thousands of other motorcycles can be found on these roads)."

Various hotels cater to that market. The Hotel Enzian, for example, offers a complete "take charge of your bike" garage with covered motorcycle parking, pressure hoses for cleaning and even a lift ramp to repair damaged motorcycles.

"Let’s Bike Together" is the motto of the Enzian and three other hotels in the area: Hotel Weisseespitze, Pension Maria Theresia and the Hotel Simonhof.

"Service includes guided tours, assistance in planning your routes, a road book with 40 tours and bike washing facilities," says which adds:

"In addition to offering a warm and friendly ambiance and good food, all hosts like to throw lively and animated parties."

Cycle-lovers of all types would probably agree with that assessment, as well as with the high-flying, multi-faceted, motorcycle-riding Malcolm Forbes who picked this epitaph for his tombstone: "While alive, he lived."

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