I last attended Fuel Cleveland back in 2017 with my 1933 VL and was pleased to be asked back for a second time this year with my 1964 FLH. Having suffered a mechanical breakdown on my trip out in ’17, I was ready to give the 1000+ mile round trip another try, this time with the advantage of a 55-year old machine with overhead valves! As in previous years, Fuel Cleveland was a one-day invitational motorcycle show, featuring a mix of wild custom choppers, race bikes, and vintage originals, parked alongside art and photography that all really captures the spirit of motorcycling. This year there were 90 motorcycles, 15 photographers and 8 artists spread throughout Fuel’s new venue, The Madison. They also brought in 50 vendors, a couple of tattoo artists, a tintype photographer, food trucks, plenty of cold beer, and between 7,000 to 8,000 attendees to pull off one hell of an event.
I wanted to reach Cleveland early on Friday for the load-in, so I decided to roll out from North Carolina on Thursday. If you’ve read any of my previous articles, you won’t be surprised to hear that I was setting my timing and adjusting my rear chain Thursday morning right before I hit the road. I did get to try out my new clear timing plug which made timing my dual points ignition a lot more accurate, but probably took three times as long as I tried for timing perfection instead of close enough. Once on the road, I had an easy ride up through Virginia and West Virginia before crossing the border into Ohio around nightfall. Miraculously, the cold front that had just moved through kept the temperatures down without bringing in any rain, so I made the 400 miles dry and comfortable.
I was back on the road by midmorning on Friday and rolled into Cleveland by early afternoon. As expected, The Madison was located right in downtown Cleveland among a sea of old brick buildings and rusty chain link fences. Unlike its more mundane neighbors, The Madison stood out like some kind of industrial oasis with white walls, gleaming floors and central air conditioning that was steadily drawing in custom motorcycles throughout the afternoon. Someone had made an empanadas run for lunch, and I pulled in just in time to get my greasy fingers on a few before they got cold. Since The Madison had been a factory in its former life, a convenient loading ramp led from the street directly into the venue, so I rode right inside (my Duo-Glide is a heavy bitch and pushing it up the ramp just seemed unnecessary). Waiting for me at the top of the ramp was David Carlo and his camera, taking photos of each motorcycle as they arrived at the venue.
I wandered around the venue for most of the afternoon, taking an occasional photo or two, before heading out to the pre-party at the Saucy Brew Works. The brewery was already packed by the time I arrived, with a good number of motorcycles to check out parked around the block. They had an extensive selection of beers on tap, all brewed in house and if you like a beer with “hints” of this and “notes” of that, then you would be right at home. For those who preferred more “traditional” brews, it was soon discovered that the bar across the street had cold PBRs and a slow, but inevitable migration began.
Saturday morning I was back at The Madison, just in time to watch the vendors roll into the parking lot. As the vendors got set up outside, the last of the motorcycles rolled into the show and were moved into their final positions. My panhead ended up in a prime location by the main entrance, right next to the men’s room which guaranteed that pretty much everyone got to scratch their heads and wonder what a motorcycle with hard bags and a windshield was doing at a chopper show. The rest of the motorcycles were spread throughout the venue and with the walls covered with artwork and photography adding a bit of color, the bikes had just the right backdrop. The quality and variety of motorcycles on display was hands down the best I’ve seen, and really is what I have come to expect from Fuel Cleveland. This is no easy feat as they use a completely different selection of motorcycles each year, which keeps the show fresh, and adds a bit of surprise for the attendees.
With between 7,000 – 8,000 attendees throughout the day, the show was packed until the doors closed at 8:00 PM. Then the real fun started, as everyone cranked up their bikes and rocketed out of the venue, headed for the afterparty. Before heading over to Hooples, I made a pit stop at Slyman’s for one of their famous corned beef sandwiches. Definitely one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever tasted, but it might not have been the best choice with a 500+ mile ride ahead of me the next day…
After a late night at Hooples, I was on the road early Sunday morning for what was going to be a long day in the saddle. The weather was near perfect and my panhead was running good, so the ride back to NC was nice and relaxing, even riding on the Interstate. I really have to applaud the guys from Lowbrow Customs, The Gasbox and Forever the Chaos Life, who work hard each year to put on Fuel Cleveland. Not only is it a top-notch event, but it is also completely free to attend which shows how much these guys care about giving something back to the motorcycling community. There is almost a full year until the next Fuel Cleveland show, so we all should have plenty of time to mark our calendars and finish up that motorcycle build that’s been on the back burner. I can’t wait to see what rolls in next year! Be sure to check out Fuel Cleveland's website for updates and give them a follow on Facebook and Instagram.
Panhead Jim / @panhead_jim