The Daily Riders of Mooneyes 2012


Starry-eyed Americans fortunate enough to attend Mooneyes' Hot Rod Custom Show in Yokohama every December are generally effusive regarding the bikes on display at this world-class event, and for good reason. For two decades, Mooneyes has been the greatest bike show on earth. Cool as the customs at this motorized fashion fest may be, it's the hand-built street machines that flood into Yokohama's parking lot that steal the show in my book.

Until Born Free organizers Grant Peterson and Mike Davis fine-tuned Shige-san's master plan for US consumption, Mooneyes was the hippest brodown in bikerdom. Today Born Free trumps Yokohama by a wide margin on both volume of two-wheeled porn and classic chopper style in general. To my slightly jaundiced eye, the custom creations at Born Free are more innovative and interesting than their Nipponese counterparts. While Japanese builders appear to have cornered the market on barn-built patina, that aesthetic exudes a certain prefabrication that compromises honesty and belies the style. You can't really fake patina, can you? Some Japanese builders are trying, and it comes off rather sad.



Fortunately, the bikes Japanese chopper freaks actually ride exude an essence that screams "made in Japan." I've never understood any person's compulsion to dress like James Dean or Easy E, so Japan's obsession with American greaser and West Coast barrio culture seems creepy and contrived. That being said, a majority of the period-correct peacocks who parade into Mooneyes' parking lot in bomber jackets, carefully cuffed 501s and striped prison pants are riding some of the coolest old Harleys, twisted JDM singles, shaft drive V-twins and chopped mini bikes I've ever seen.

Next week we'll take it indoors with bike and car features from the land of the rising sun. Today, please enjoy these grainy pics from the the 21st annual Mooneyes Custom Hot Rod Show. I tried to stay focused and well lit—honest I did—but the jelly-jar sized sake shots Grant Peterson introduced me at the pre-party Saturday night ruined my vision and work ethic by Sunday. My photos from inside the Mooneyes show are much better. I promise.

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Commented on 12-3-2012 At 06:35 am

Wow. McGoo throwin' some gospel. As he sees it!

Commented on 12-3-2012 At 06:57 am

They may have a taste for stupid looking striped prison pants. But their taste in that blue and while knuckle is brilliant.

Commented on 12-3-2012 At 09:04 am

hell yea FUCK japanese

Commented on 12-3-2012 At 09:06 am

Tx for the great tease, now get back in there and give us some shots of the show.

Commented on 12-3-2012 At 09:31 am

Fake patina seriously... Still I'd take fake patina over gay theme bikes any day and I'd kill to be at the Moon eyes show... can't wait to see the rest of the pictures. -Bear

Commented on 12-3-2012 At 10:01 am

Great pics its cool to see the metric bikes and the old school harleys. Just makes me sad to know ill probably never be able to go to japan to see it first hand..

Commented on 12-3-2012 At 10:34 am

always appreciate your honesty man! some nice bikes so far

Commented on 12-3-2012 At 08:56 pm

A bit harsh... Awesome bikes there regardless

Commented on 12-4-2012 At 12:18 am

I love that among the small budget builds and kept running old bikes you still cant get away from $50,000 baggers

Commented on 12-4-2012 At 05:20 am

Yeah on one hand I totally know what you mean. On the other hand you can go back to socal and nobody will miss you.

Commented on 12-4-2012 At 08:42 am

Sorry ONIGOROSHI this guy doesnt speak for me........This article should have been about the positives of the event not the negatives that live in his own head...really bad writing dude. I have ridden, built , snowboarded and surfed with my Japanese friends in California, Hawaii and Colorado they are a cool people and talented builders, This review totally fucks them over in my opinion.

Commented on 12-4-2012 At 10:10 am

Your an idiot. Does the 48 mean you have a dealer bought sporty and you ride around San Diego thinking your Jax of the Sons. I'm not even Japanese, I just don't like discrimination. I'm sure I'll bump into around SD Jax, I'm mean Pointdog! HAHA LOL

Commented on 12-4-2012 At 02:31 pm

Lame, Give me your ticket next time.

Commented on 12-4-2012 At 05:24 pm

Not all of these dudes rides crappy bikes....I've seen some that are bad ass and they beat the shit outta them.Check out "Suck my Shovel" blog...there are some great bikes on there and some hot Asian chicks too

Commented on 12-4-2012 At 05:35 pm

Three more parts to this four-part Mooneyes feature: the show bikes, the show cars, and the custom chopper seats on display at the event. All three are sufficiently fawning to pacify readers who think I took a cheap shot at the locals' expense. For the record, Mooneyes owner and show curator Shige-san and two members of his dedicated, helpful staff spent 2 hours with Rico Fodrey, Tyler Malinky and me at Mooneyes HQ talking about business, fashion, race cars, and life. I didn't get to go snowboarding with these gentlemen, bit I think we're all friends.

On the good chance I was obtuse, my point is simply this: historically speaking, chopper fans are quick to give Japan and Mooneyes more credit than they may deserve for building and showcasing awesome motorcycles. Plenty of American builders do great work, too, and Born Free has proved to be a hot bed for showcasing their talent. Shige himself comes to Born Free every summer to select builders for his own custom showcase.

In previous editorials I've opined just as harshly on American "bikers" who play dress-up, too. IMO posing is an equal opportunity offense.

Commented on 12-4-2012 At 06:17 pm

I was there with McGoo, so I feel as though I have a good point of view on this story. In no way is McGoo bashing the Mooneyes show or the Japanese motorcycle and hot rod enthusiasts who attend it. He is simply making a point that, the same as in America, there are more than one type of person that helps form an event or scene. Guys in the American chopper subculture tend to deify Japan in regards to motorcycle culture, but the reality is, just like back home, there are those worthy of high regard and notice; but there are plenty more who cling to symbols of a bygone era that perhaps never was. You can read and ruminate over the honest words of a writer who was there, or for the easier to digest version just check out some photos of the sick bikes on the dope blogs from others that were there.

Commented on 12-4-2012 At 06:23 pm

agree or disagree I do appreciate the honestly and magoo is not the first to post similar opinions so no need to hate. I dig the shit out of the Jap built bikes but this is still America and we still build nice bikes. You guys want something to read.. if you got upset then it was a good article.

Commented on 12-4-2012 At 06:33 pm

I just got back today from the show and it was a bit to take in. But I have to agree with McGoo about the U.S. having everything here at Born Free. Yes there are ALOT of O.G. Knuckleheads and Pans and a lot of killer Triumphs, but I still think the cool factor still swings towards the States. Sure some of us still want to look up to them for their style of bikes, but I think there are better bikes here! And McGoo I have a great pic of you from Saturday night in a dark alley doing some serious biker shit!

Commented on 12-4-2012 At 06:45 pm

And I'm not bagging the show in any way what so ever. The people from Mooneyes are great and take everyone in with open arms and they are a well oiled machine. And those of you who want to go next year can start saving money now, everything together it's about $3,000 to go for 5 days and a really long flight. So save your money and you too can go. There was some mind blowing stuff there and some stuff that was average. I just feel that the people that think that they are the best when it comes to vintage bikes might be a little wrong. Yes they have cool stuff, but we have a lot more.

Commented on 12-4-2012 At 09:33 pm

I think being a little critical about any movement is a healthy thing. A tad of satire is always good to lighten the slap from the pedestal. Anyone in the motorcycle biz understands the Japanese influence and appreciates the people and things surrounding it. I think a fine point Mcgoo makes in general is that Americans, some, seem to pander a bit much to it and paint this picture that it's the be all end all. That is not to say it isn't great and great work is being done, it is to say that in its basic foundation it is mimicry of an American past time and culture, and to some, including myself find it personally conflicting. That's neither good or bad, it just is.
I suppose it may be a bit strange for a Japanese samurai sword maker who dedicates his life to the art form to come to a show in America where all these Americans are dressed like him and are attempting to make exact copy's of historical objects he dedicates his life to. Even more particular is the focus of historical context, in the case of choppers, the 60's and 70's Maybe the example is a little stretch, but it would be strange.
None of that is disrespectful to the Japanese nor what they do, it is just an observation. The cross cultural weirdness gets even stranger for me when Americans that the Japanese are basically imitated pander to them or fawn all over them like they are some lords of the new world. It all makes me a little uncomfortable. Maybe I am over reading it a bit, but it has always struck me that way. You open a Japanese chopper magazine, on one page it the rider with chopper, socal or norcal version, on the other page is the clothing and where to buy it. Again, it is what it is, good or bad. I would love to go to Yokohama and ride old choppers there, I have friends there etc. But I am not going to bend over and blow smoke up someones ass to do it.

Commented on 12-5-2012 At 04:59 am

Yeah cro has a really good point and mcgoo too although maybe he could have toned down the negativity until the second or third article. The custom motorcycle scene here is just fucking weird... They have a phrase katachi kara hairu (entering from the shape) that means getting all the trappings right before anything else. Anyway it's not an organic scene like in the US.

Commented on 12-5-2012 At 05:16 am

We build our bikes in our image and what is cool to us, just like all the garage monkeys stateside build what they want. Does it really matter if one guy has stripped prison pants or a way over the top pompadore or hell a beard (which seems to quite popular with the stateside rider and builders)

Point being: Don`t bash something or one`s style chioce just because it is something you wouldn`t do. Apprecieate the ingenuity and the effort that went into creating something cool and unique and move on.

(I have been to the X-mas party stateside and have been to the Yokohama show. Both equally suck and are both equally awesome.)


Commented on 12-5-2012 At 12:40 pm

just kidding. I love japanese

Commented on 12-5-2012 At 05:59 pm

Knowing how much the Japansese love and imitate our culture, I was excited going to Japan for the first time.

At 6'5" I thought I would be a legendary god for them to gawk at. For christ's sake, all their clothing has a bunch of nonsensical english words and phrases on them.

I was expecting to be greeted like Paul McCartney at Shea Stadium.

Huge let down. Hardly any of them worshipped me in a satisfactory manner.

Great food, hospitable people, but those shirts that say, "Rock and Roll James Dean Bacon Cheeseburger" don't really need to exist.

Commented on 12-5-2012 At 11:52 pm

CRF I wonder if they laugh at all the Kanji tattoos that Americans have? You only think it says "Wisdom and Power" around your belly button but it might say Hello, Kitty in Japanese...

Commented on 12-6-2012 At 08:50 am

They HAVE to!! Or at least I hope they do... That's the sketchy thing about languages and Kanji specifically. One errant stroke of the pen and your "Princess" tattoo actually says "Pig".

Commented on 12-6-2012 At 02:51 pm

Tomorrows Pearl Harbor day. Its a wonder they would want to emulate anything us round eyes ever did, all things considered.

Commented on 12-6-2012 At 02:52 pm

"Rock and roll James Dean bacon cheeseburger." I. am. Crying! Arigato CRFYou for making my week AND my point.

Commented on 12-8-2012 At 01:07 am

hmmm interesting indeed...emulate, masturbate....full "building" piecing together a Panhead, no really, I am...I hope no one takes offense. I'm building a Panhead that is...offense to it, I am honestly building it for myself, But pretty much for you. IT would be a killer place to visit...Matt Olsen is a friend of mine and I was extremely happy for him and his wife to experience that show...maybe some year I will make it over yander

Commented on 12-12-2012 At 05:59 pm

cool pix....was BF4 ever featured??...never could find anything from that show

Commented on 12-12-2012 At 10:03 pm

I was a skeptic at first, until I was in Japan and saw some of these bikes in person which were 'mind-blowing.' Hate to say it, but I think they are more in touch with our biker roots than we are in the US, particularly with all the baggers you see on the road these days here. Plus, I don't think I've ever seen a trailer full of bikes in Japan. I have seen a lot of random shovels on the highway out of nowhere there on many instances. I can see the author's point - everything there is 'over the top' when it comes anything American or cool. Overwhelming.

Commented on 12-12-2012 At 10:10 pm

I was a skeptic at first, until I was in Japan and saw some of these bikes in person which were 'mind-blowing.' Hate to say it, but I think they are more in touch with our biker roots than we are in the US, particularly with all the baggers you see on the road these days here. Plus, I don't think I've ever seen a trailer full of bikes in Japan. I have seen a lot of random shovels on the highway out of nowhere there on many instances. I can see the author's point - everything there is 'over the top' when it comes anything American or cool. Overwhelming.

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