Scores of motorcyclists will be cruising the lakefront this weekend, but the Milwaukee chapter of the Latin American Motorcycle Association will be in Chicago making a pitch to bring a national biker rally to Milwaukee.
The annual rally of thousands of Latino bikers is for LAMA chapters around the country. This year’s rally is being held in Chicago, where the group was founded about 40 years ago.
Members emphasize that LAMA is not an outlaw group like the Hell’s Angels or the Pagans.
It’s the complete opposite, said Robert Miranda, a LAMA member from Milwaukee.
“We are kind of like HOG (Harley-Davidson Owners Group) in that we just want to ride, have a good time and build up miles,” Miranda said.
While in Chicago, he said, the Milwaukee chapter will lobby to have the group’s annual convention here in the near future. LAMA has more than 200 chapters and 10,000 members, so the competition to get the annual event is intense.
“What we need to do is push it a little harder,” Miranda said.
Milwaukee is certainly no stranger to biker rallies, including huge Harley-Davidson events such as the company’s 110th anniversary in 2013.
Labor Day 2018, Harley will host its 115th anniversary party on the city’s lakefront, attracting thousands of motorcyclists from around the world.
This July, the city is hosting a Blue Knights law enforcement biker group that is expected to attract about 1,000 people and have a $ 1.1 million economic impact, according to Visit Milwaukee, the city’s tourism bureau.
A rally of combat-veteran motorcyclists last summer attracted about 2,000 riders, said Marco Bloemendaal, a Visit Milwaukee senior vice president.
With Milwaukee being home for Harley-Davidson, the world’s largest manufacturer of heavyweight motorcycles, there’s a natural draw for biker rallies here, Bloemendaal said.
For decades, Latino Harley riders have called themselves “Harlistas” as a way to proclaim their passion for the brand and the bonds shared between fellow riders.
It has helped make Harley-Davidson the No. 1 seller of new, on-street motorcycles among Hispanics in the United States, an important distinction as the company broadens its market with sales to minorities and nontraditional customers.
Harley sells more than four times as many new bikes to Hispanics as its competitors, the company said in 2016.
Much of that success has come from Harley’s status as an American icon, and it’s carried over to Latin American countries.
Yet the company could do more to reach the Latino marketplace, according to Miranda, a Harlista and one of the original members of the Milwaukee LAMA chapter.
“If we could get Harley-Davidson to sponsor a national LAMA rally in Milwaukee, or the other rallies we have around the country, it would radiate through the Latino community,” Miranda said.
“I think they need to step it up a little bit more,” he said.
A Harley-Davidson spokeswoman said the company did not have anyone available for comment Thursday. But the company has sponsored events popular in the Latino community, including the Ultimate Fighting Championship for mixed martial arts.