Last year's Born Free bike show in Orange, CA, was a sleeper event that no one could have predicted would be such a huge success. Organized by a group of enthusiasts for their fellow chopper fanatics behind the Orange Curtain, Born Free I was as lean and stripped-down as the 200 or so hand-built death traps that dotted the small warehouse parking that hosted their event.
Of course, you might assume any motorcycle event in SoCal is likely to be nothing short of awesome. Take it from the Born Free braintrust of Grant and Mike D: it takes more than geography to make an event great. Here's how these chopper fanatics conceived and executed what many believe was the best SoCal bike show of 2009, and what they have in store for everyone at Born Free II this summer.
How did the idea for the 2009 Born Free show come about?
GRANT/MIKE D: We'd been talking for a while about how there aren’t better bike shows/rides/what have you in SoCal. There have been a couple of cool things like the Chop Meet and the Bash which were a lot of fun , and some various rides that we got going that were a good way to spend a Sunday riding with 30 other guys and girls on old bikes, but we wanted more. There are plenty of gimmicky bike shows out there put on by non-riders/builders and we wanted to put on a bike show for people who simply like old motorcycles and the culture that surrounds them.
Why the name?
GRANT/MIKE D: The name was hard. We knew whatever we picked would be stuck to us and we would have to live with it forever. I think it was Mike who finally came up with Born-Free, which is part of his Born Loser blog name and the Free is from mine and Harpoon’s brand Freedom Machinery & Accessories (FMA).
From our perspective the first year's event was a success by any measure. Was your conclusion the same?
MIKE D /GRANT: We have to agree. It was even better than we hoped it would be. The only problem we had was the heat and having to make a late beverage run. There were more great bikes from all over the country than we could have imagined. Plus there were people there from all over the world! We were shocked. It was a 30-day event planning crash course that taught us more than a lot!
Southern California seems to have several events a weekend for most of the year. What are they all missing? What makes Born Free unique?
MIKE D: The thing most SoCal bike events lack is the bikes! The big shows that are going on right now lack "real bikes." They focus on getting the biggest names and tires and ignore all the smaller shops, old timers, young kids, garage builders and true enthusiasts. The other thing is what they charge to enter a bike, admission and parking, food or drinks and that sort of thing.The times are tough right now and spending your hard-earned money to look at maybe five cool bikes out of 100, paying 20 bucks for a hot dog and a beer just does not make sense to us. That's why Born Free is unique. It is free to enter your bike, free admission, tons of free giveaways, free food and drinks and more old bikes gathered in one spot than 100 of those big shows combined.
Who's behind the event and what are their individual duties?
GRANT : It’s(myself) Grant Peterson, Mike Davis, Harpoon, and Josh Conely for the most part, plus help from many of our close friends and better halfs. Mike and I kinda spearheaded most of the initial things in the get go of last year along with sponsors, etc. Mike is full-throttle when it comes to organizing the show! He’s always coming up with new ideas for every aspect of the show and he and I work hard trying to get the sponsors lined up and organized as well as logistics for the location and the Panhead build. Harpoon of course handled most all the artwork needed for things like shirts, flyers, posters, etc and will be painting the Panhead. Last year was right around the time he got hit on his panhead which slowed him down a bit.
We decided to bring Josh into the mix this year because he’s a real go getter,top notch fabricator,wears cool clothes and has a lot of resources at his fingertips after 15 years with his own company, Utility Board Shop, plus his old man has a sweet garage AKA the Chino Fab shop which is where we are all building the Panhead.
Harpoon and I have a new partner in FMA named EZ who is an amazing artist and is responsible for most of our new designs and even though he’s in Seattle trying to move down here he’s already working some new stuff for this year.
It’s tough for all of us because we aren’t show promoters first and foremost, in fact last year was the first time for any of us to do something of this scale. We all work regular jobs, actually I’m not sure regular describes most of them, and we all have constant bike and car projects, so putting together this show can really be like a third or fourth job for us, but it’s gonna be worth it.
GRANT: It’s me, Mike Davis, Harpoon, and Josh Conely for the most part, plus help from many of our close friends and wives and girlfriends. Mike and I spearheaded most of the initial things in the beginning. Mike is full-throttle when it comes to organizing the show! He’s always coming up with new ideas for every aspect of the show and he and I work hard trying to get the sponsors lined up and organized as well as logistics for the location and the Panhead build. Harpoon of course handled most all the artwork needed for things like shirts, flyers, posters, etc., and will be painting the panhead we give away at this year's event. We brought Josh into the mix this year because he’s a real go-getter and a top-notch fabricator. Harpoon and I have a new partner in FMA named EZ who is an amazing artist and he's responsible for most of our new designs and even though he’s in Seattle trying to move down here he’s already working some new stuff for this year. It’s tough for all of us because we aren’t show promoters first and foremost, in fact last year was the first time for any of us tried something of this scale. We all work regular jobs and we all have constant bike and car projects, so putting together this show can really be like a third or fourth job for us, but it’s gonna be worth it.
What did you guys learn last year, and what is going to change for 2010?
GRANT/MIKE D: We know we need more help this year and we’ll do a few things like the raffle differently.
What's the ultimate goal, and where do you see the event in 2015? More of the same, or a six-stop worldwide rock and roll extravaganza?
GRANT/MIKE D: That’s a tough one. With the first show being such a success and so special, it’s hard to retain that overall atmosphere at the show again and again, but we’re going to try. With success comes growth, cost, and trouble multiplied. We spent some serious coin the first year right from our own pockets because it was a labor of love, we didn’t charge for anything except t-shirts. But for the second one we are expecting twice as many bikes and double the spectators, we need to fill the mouths of everyone with food and drinks and build the Born Free Panhead which will go home with a new owner. This is why we are having vendor booths and our gracious sponsors are helping share the burden. How are we going to top this one? Good question!
What classes are going to be in the bike show?
GRANT: Last year we didn’t want the show to be about awards and strict judging, but we did want to have trophies. We had a panel of judges that we picked from our peers the day of the show. Last year we also used vintage motorcycle show trophies that Mike found that he had retagged for our show which was neat. Last year I think we had trophies for Best in Show, Best Knucklehead, Best Panhead, Best Shovelhead, Best American pre-1984, Best American post-1984, Best Pre-Unit Triumph, Best Unit Triumph, Best European, Best Japanese, Best Original, and Most Far-Out, and it’ll probably be something like these again this year.
What about trailer queens and late model bikes? Hot Rods?
GRANT/MIKE D:We are trying to keep the show very special and filled with the old bikes that we love. We know guys are doing cool stuff to new bikes & we are all getting older, so late model bikes are welcome and if they are trailered in, so be it. We are trying to advertise the show in places that attract people with similar tastes to help keep the same feel. One of the big things for us last time is that you rode to the show. We have talked with many groups of people all over the country and Canada that are riding thousands of miles to come to Born Free from the east coast, midwest, northwest and beyond. There is even talk about bikes being shipped from Japan to come to our show.
Any other activities? Anvil tossing? Wild West gunshows? 38-Special cover bands?
GRANT: Again, this is a tough one for us. We want people to enjoy the show and hang for a while. It seemed last year lots of people spent quite a bit of time catching up with old friends and making new ones which was great since the attendees were so widespread. There are a few things we’d like to do and we are working on them now. We are having an after party at Alex’s Bar in Long Beach and that will be fun. We’re working on a lineup of bands and will let everyone know when we have that figured out.
Give us the particulars: Who, What, Where, When, How much (vendor booths and general admission) and where to look for more details.
It’s June 12, 2010 from 12 noon to 6:00 pm at Pacific Coast Cycles, 2430 Lewis Avenue Signal Hill, CA 90755. It’s free to get in and free to enter your bike. We are working on a Born Free website which should soon be www.bornfreeshow.com but until then visit the Born Loser blog and the FMA blog for more details. Raffle ticikes for the free Panhead are 25 bucks a piece, and each one comes with a free BF poster. The only stipulation for the Panhead raffle is that you must be present to win.
Lastly, is there anything Chop Cult members can do to help? Put up fliers, post on blogs, etc?
MIKE D: Just keep the buzz going, get your bike built or running, tell your friends, post the flyer at your shops and websites and make sure to book your travel plans now. Lastly is buy a poster with the free ticket to win this chopper. If you win it will be the cheapest Panhead you’ll ever own!