Born Free 8 was one to remember forever, it keeps on getting bigger, better, and even crazier. From over the top and amazing builds from this years invited, to death-defying stunts by Rhett Rotten and Death Riders Inc. on The Wall of Death. It's no wonder thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts travel from all over the world to experience this all-encompassing show. Let's take a look at some of this past weekends festivities.
Friday, Show Class Magazine People's Champ Pre-party
The festivities over the past few years always start out at Cook's Corner. A small bar just outside the Born Free show grounds. Show Class Magazine has thrown the People's Champ contest pre-party there the past few years. What is the People's Champ you ask? It's a social media competition where the average joe builder can make a name for themselves. They submit photos of their latest builds through out the past few months, people vote for their favorites and the final 6 get a chance to win an actual spot into the invited Born Free area. The final voting is by everyone who attends the Cook's Corner Pre-party. Here are the 6 finalists.
Reuben Mcchancey's Harley-Davidson Panhead, People's Champ 4 finalist.
Reece Zylstra Harley-Davidson Evo Big Twin with a dual magneto set up, People's Champ 4 finalist.
Vince Nygra's beautiful Harley-Davidson Shovelhead with an all original up sweep frame. People's Champ 4 finalist.
Louie Hartley's crazy purple Harley-Davidson Panhead. People's Champ finalist.
Jake and Jesse Keough's Harley-Davidson Shovelhead is killing it in the length department. People's Champ finalist.
Through out the day hundreds of bikes jammed in and out of Cook's Corner.
A sea of bikes at Cook's Corner.
This is such an amazing Sportster! With great stance, amazing exhaust, hand made seat pan fender combo and hood on the front, this bike has some real style.
People rolling in from all over the country on some of the most brilliant bikes.
Really simple and neat Sportster. It was really great to see so many women riders.
The stance on this Harley-Davidson Shovelhead is out of control and really amazing.
I think my favorite part about Cook's Corner's pre-party is checking out all the tank art. You can walk down the line of bikes and every other bike has something amazing painted on the tank.
The winner of the 2016 Show Class Magazine People's Champ is... Daril Borba! Congrats again Daril.
Daril Borba celebrating an emotional win. He told me he built his Panhead in his backyard and the paint was done by a friend in a backyard garage. Just an average guy taking top prize! So Cool.
Darill Borba's immaculate Harley-Davidson Panhead. People's Champ 4 winner.
Saturday, First Day Of Born Free 8
The gates opened early this year and you wouldn't believe the amount of bikes that filled not one but three lots. People flocked to the Invited builder section to get there first looks at this year's wild creations. I watched people's faces in awe as they looked over the unreal amount of talent this year's builders brought to the table. To be honest every single person in the show set the bar even higher than last year's builds.
Matt Machine built this crazy Harley-Davidson WL. Watch your eye on that sissy bar. The artistic talents are shown really well on in his metal work and a really great visual from all angles.
Big Truth and Jay Medeiros from Choppahead absolutely killed it on this Triumph. The chrome and gold combo with the light blue paint really makes this bike pop. Big Truth said they were making a bike that represents their style, they could do something off the wall and crazy but it wouldn't be them. They took home the "Best British Bike" award.
Jim Harper executed this 1940 Harley-Davidson UL flawlessly. Clean lines and done with great sense of taste.
Jake and Zack Hindes fabrication skills on this 1941 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead are unreal. Everything was made by hand, they even made their own molds for forging the front end.
Uwe Ehinger from Hamburg Germany talked to me for a while about his Harley-Davidson Knucklehead build. The patina and detail on the motor, the tires, the paint, so much passion from one man and it shows in this build.
Jason Sheets has one of the greatest eyes for old bikes. Check out this 1936 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead, and the super tiny gas tank!
Justin Walls from Columbus, OH built this beautiful alcohol only running 1927 Harley-Davidson JD. He fired it up a few times and it sounded like a gun going off over and over again, so loud.
Andy Carter from Pangea Speed has his design on lock with this sick Harley-Davidson Shovelhead. The small details on this bike really take the cake, from the little devil guy on inter tube to the footboard on the casing.
Kiyo Mitsuhiro of Kiyo's Garage in Gardena, California, USA won 1st place with this Dual engine Honda CB750 race bike. It was so awesome to see this bike from the beginning stages and now to see it not only finished but win Born Free 8. He will be racing it next month at El Mirage, and we can't wait to see how fast he goes!
The mad man him self JP Rodman and his groovy Harley-Davidson Knucklehead trike. There is so much to look at and so much time and effort that went into this build. You can tell that Jp put all of his heart into this build.
I don't know what it is about 4Q Conditioning / Max Schaaf's builds, they have a timeless style. This Harley-Davidson Panhead has ic style and perfect in every way. Just extremely clean lines and looks like a bike you could ride forever, an instant ic.
Joe Lingley's 1947 Indian Chief, stunning and y with just the right amount of patina. The fork tubes are a nice touch to this and the tires make the stance perfect.
Aaron and Shawn Gurdado thinking outside the box and building one really awesome Harley-Davidson 750 Street. The frame and seat pan look absolutely incredible on this bike.
Arie Vee just knows how to make a proper chopper. Love everything about this Harley-Davidson Knucklehead. Check out the German helmet oil tank and those handlebars. Arie took home 2nd place with this build, he won second with last year's build as well.
Bryan Thompson built this super clean Pre-Unit Triumph.
Matt Jackson's ic style can be seen in this Harley-Davidson Panhead chopper. The tangerine color looks so good and flows amazingly with the pipes, set off by the thin black flames.
Jeff Leighton's 1942 Harley-Davidson UL took home 3rd place at Born Free 8. Those pipes are insanely cool and the engine in spotless.
Tim Vander's 1961 Harley-Davidson Panhead is looking good with the twisted sissy bar, internal throttle and narrow 21 inch front wheel.
Aki Sakamoto of Hogkillers doing things different in this flashy, but performance-built, Harley-Davidson.
Daril Borba's 1949 Harley-Davidson Panhead and Show Class Magazine People's Champ winner!
Jay Hart's 1937 Harley-Davidson WLDR. Not sure I have ever seen this motor before. Pretty awesome!
Ryan Grossman's 1947 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead took home the "People's Choice" and "Best Chopper" awards at Born Free 8. Love the oil tank integrated into the rear fender, which was made from a Lowbrow Customs Manta Ray Fender.
Jeremiah Armenta built not one but two Harley-Davidson Knuckleheads. What is cooler than a hillclimber Knucklehead getting transported on race day by another Knucklehead? Both riding and running bikes oozing style and patina!
Oliver Jones killed it yet again with this amazing Harley-Davidson EVO Big Twin. His style is the chopper of a new era and he always brings fresh design to his builds.
Go Takamine's 1939 Indian Sport Scout. Go's shop is named Brat Style, and funny enough has been co-opted by custom motorcycle fans all over the globe as it's own style under the same name, 'Brat Style'.
Matt Walksler's 1928 Harley-Davidson JDH-XR. Matt is part of Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley, NC. The chrome tank and fender make this bike extremely clean and different.
Last but certainly not least Dalton Walker's brilliant Classic car Triumph combo. This turned more heads than any other thing in the show. All I can think to myself every time I look at is, "How did he have enough time do all this?". The fabrication, the perfect lines, and the design were all flawless. You could stare at this thing for hours and still find something new to look at.
Just when you thought you couldn't see any more amazing bikes, the general parking area throws you a curve ball and you realize it's full of even more amazing vintage bikes, choppers, diggers and trackers. Sometimes you even find a bike and wonder why it isn't in the actual show as well. I love seeing people's renditions of what they think a motorcycle should look like and or function like, it's like our DNA, no two are truly alike.
The Pan-American in one piece, with not a single problem on it's cross country voyage to find it's spot at the S&S Cycle's booth.
Just a small part of the show grounds.
Just lounging and keeping cool on a beautiful Shovelhead. This bike has a really great springer front end and extremely clean.
Show patrons taking a break and doing whatever they can to keep out of the California blazing sun.
Did I forget to mention there is tons of beer!
Just a few amazing choppers in a sea of more choppers. Turn your head one way see an amazing bike, turn your head another and see 20 more just as good. Born Free is the mecca of custom bikes.
At the end of the day, Grant Peterson and Mike Davis give out the first days awards and also give one lucky show attendee a bike via a raffle drawling. This year's bike give away was a 1953 Panhead built by Chopper Dave.
Mason Burke wasn't the first name called to win. The first person never showed, he had his doubts and wasn't even paying attention when Grant called out his name. His friend standing next to him pushed him in shock saying "Dude they called your name!". I met Mason in Vancouver last year, such an amazing dude and to see the raw and utter emotions pouring from his face from winning was amazing to see. This couldn't have happened to a better dude.
This is what winning a 1953 Harley-Davidson Panhead feels like. Thanks Twila for bringing a model to the party!
Sunday, Second Day Of Born Free 8
There is just a copious amount of things to do and see at Born Free and completely overwhelming if you have never been there before. Make sure to plan to go a second day if you have never gone, just to catch up and see anything you may have missed. I'm truly grateful I got to back for Sunday because I'm missed out completely on the art and fuel section, most of the vendor area and Rhett Rotten's Wall of Death show the first day.
If you missed the Art and Fuel display, here's a recap on the tanks.
Richard Minino aka Horse Bites. He took home first place with this insane dragon tank. This is his second year in a row winning Art and Fuel, which is also voted on by show attendees. The Rest in order - Denny Babin, Gen Love Ear Art, Jon Raleigh, Chad Carter, Buck Wild, Sonny Boy, Taylor Schultz, Chemical Candy Randy, Hot Dog Kustoms
Death Riders Inc. and The Wall of Death
One of my favorite parts of this year's Born Free was Rhett Rotten and the Death Riders Inc. Watching death-defying stunts on oldest Wall of Death still standing in America is no joke and something everyone must see. Dare devil, leader of Death Riders inc. and living legend Rhett Rotten has been cheating death and riding The Wall of Death for over 22 years. It is an intense moment to witness the raw emotion and passion he has for what he is doing with his life. You can really tell he is extremely grateful to be doing what he loves and he doesn't take anything for granted.
They ended up doing a show every hour for Born Free attendees both days, risking their lives and putting on the best show. I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to shoot photos twice on Sunday from above and below The Wall of Death and I will forever remember the overwhelming feelings of emotion I had while experiencing it so close.
Rhett Rotten on the red Harley-Davidson 48 Sportster, top tower. Josh Kohn on the blue Harley-Davidson Flathead. Balancing on rollers and showing off to the crowd a little before each show.
Rhett doing the "Jesus Christ" on the tower rollers. This takes extreme balance and technique.
Rhett Rotten standing on the pegs on this 1937 Harley-Davidson on the oldest Wall of Death in America. Truly unreal.
The emotions are real and Rhett is in complete control over his destiny. Just making it look easy and staring me down.
Rhett Rotten is a showman through and through and passionate about everything he does.
The adrenaline rush I had shooting right underneath Rhett was something I will remember forever.
In conclusion Born Free is one of the best custom motorcycle shows in the world for a reason. Mike, Grant and Chris dedicate all their efforts into making an atmosphere that is enjoyable and laid back; all while giving plenty of exciting things to look at, watch, and do. If you have never been, you must experience it at least once in your life. I promise you will never be disappointed if you love motorcycles and having a good time. Born Free 8 is a wrap and I can't wait to see what Born Free 9 has in store for everyone. Till then, Cheers.
Photos and words by:
Oak Canyon Ranch is the perfect setting for Born Free and has been it's home the past 4 years.