Every year it gets bigger and better. But this year’s Born-Free felt like light years beyond anything that had come before. Born-Free has emerged to be one of the, if not THE, top tiered custom motorcycle show in the world. This year, the formula didn’t change too much from previous years. But the parts that did change were great, such as the addition of the San Diego Custom’s FXR show, the catered camping, and the presence of the Death Riders and their Wall of Death. Everywhere you turned, there was something to behold, from the pool of invited builders to the bikes people were riding in on. The weekend started off the same way it has for the last few years, with Show Class Magazine’s People’s Champ event at Cook’s Corner. This has become one of my favorites nights of the year. Even the People’s Champ builders cranked up the intensity and level of detail from years past. The finalists had their bikes voted on by the spectators. People from all around the world show up to kick off the weekend and witness the recognition of a few custom bike builder’s hard work. This year, Daril Borba took home the grand prize and the invite into the Invited Builder’s show the next day at Born-Free 8.
Born-Free 8 really starts days before the gates open to the general public. Vendors set up booths, displays are built, and all the behind the scenes work happens. By the time the public enters through the gates, the spectacle is already under way. The invited builders circle was top notch. Highlights included Ryan Grossman’s green ‘Alien Poison’ knucklehead, Dalton Walker’s Triumph riding high inside its own hot rod, J.P. Rodman’s blown knucklehead trike and Arie Vee’s 103ci purple knuck.
This year marked the first year of the San Diego Custom’s FXR show. This was sort of a ‘run what you brung’ style event. With FXR’s ranging in condition from fully custom to survivor FXRP’s. It was cool to see the variety of what the FXR platform embodies.
Returning again, and a personal highlight of mine, was the Art and Fuel show. Invited artists took their visions to Throttle Addiction tanks and competed for the best in show. Chemical Candy Customs had a seriously insane molded tank featuring a Native American in war paint. Richard Minino of VNM created a wild paint job sporting a dragon and a custom molded dragon eye gas cap. Most had to be seen to be believed.
Topping all of my experiences at Born-Free 8 this year was watching Death Riders Inc. literally defy death with their Wall of Death. Rhett Rotten is a throwback to the crowd pleasing and entertaining ways of yore. Decked out in clothing from the early 1900’s, Rhett hyped the crowd before whipping around sideways on the Wall of Death. Every bit of the experience transported you to another time and place. It was loud, violent, hot, and completely worth whatever amount of time people waited to see the show.
People can say what they will about Born-Free. To me, it’s like everything else in life; it’s what you make of it. I love aimlessly walking and photographing the grounds and perusing the bikes and the vendor’s tents until I run into a familiar face to share a beer with. I tend to repeat that same pattern for two days straight and I still don’t get to see every bike, every vendor, or every friendly face. It really is an amazing time and I’m so grateful that it’s essentially in my back yard. I almost feel guilty when I meet people that have ridden across the country to be there and I tell them I live 15 minutes away. But then I stop feeling guilty and cherish the notion that I just met someone from so far away because of such a fun event. I can’t wait until next year!
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