If you're active on ChopCult, it's safe to say you dig choppers, or that you're at least bike curious. If you've been in the game for years, you also know it's easy to get burned out. There's so much hype glorifying this week's uber-cool whatever that it doesn't take long to reach your limit and just avoid "the scene" all together. If you swallow what traditional "biker" culture has been shoving down our throats, you might believe it's perfectly acceptable to stand in a parking lot looking at flabby boobs and listening to bands that sucked twenty years ago that suck even more today. We call bullshit on choices like these, and a growing number of grassroots promotors agree with us.
Last month we ran a feature on Sturgis, the grandaddy of motorcycle rallies. In that story we quoted experts who believe that when done properly, even massive productions like Sturgis can be fun without compromising your soul.
The Philo Beddo Family Reunion is an event that's on the opposite end of the Sturgis spectrum. Its organizer, Gabe at Afterhours Choppers, hates just about everything, so for him to invite people into his home town is a stretch from the beginning. But with help from his wife Lois and friends Steve, Murray and others, that's exactly what Gabe did. We're not exactly sure why Gabe named his NorCal gathering the PBFR, but it sounded cool, and it made for some of the best flier art this year.
In the old days, say around 2006, promotors believed all kinds of attractions were required to make their event a success. If you're like us you tried a couple of these events, and probably left those soulsuckers feeling cold and empty. It only takes one or two such experiences to realize you've got nothing in common with "the common biker," and that none of these events are very much fun.
Unfortunately, the motorcycle industry revolves around events like these. Witness the massive trailers, city blocks of small business owners crammed beneath EZ-Ups, everyone busting their asses to make a splash in a sea of sameness and boredom. The irony is, as events get bigger and more complicated, crowds continue to dwindle, either from death or disinterest. Remember LA Bike Week? It sucked, and now it's dead.
What the crafty little guys in this industry have realized is that instead of cashing in their 401k's to sit under a tent in Laughlin, it makes more sense to do business on the Internet and through independent motorcycle shops that share their perspective. With that working in the background, there is a little more time for doing what you love, which by all rights should be riding your damn motorcycle.
So, has the web killed the giant biker rally? Not yet, but it is inflicting a million little wounds each day. What's left? Well, the way these big events got big in the first place is people enjoyed riding somewhere fun and partying with their friends. That is where dudes like Gabe, Steve and Murray come in.
Perhaps that's why clubs became so popular years ago; you could just go camp in the woods with your buddies, raise a little hell and not have to participate in all the manufactured silliness so common today. Engulfed by a sea of vendors with a ten-dollar beer in his hand, most real chopper guys in the same situation look skyward and think, "There's got to be a better way." Enter Gabe and the PBFR.
The plan for the Philo was simple. Throw a party. Tell some people about it on blogs, forums, etc. Offer up some beer, great food, some raffle prizes and have a little ride on Saturday. Even with two nights of camping and quality food, the cost was $25 per rider and that's pretty easy to live with. About 40 or so riders showed up, and none went away disappointed. Basically, it was a good excuse to ride bikes, have some beers, swap some lies and camp under the trees and stars.
Thanks to ChopCult members and friends rustrocket84, BlueCollarMoto, Revelator and Craze for riding the 1,000 or so miles up there and back with me. Other crews came from SoCal late in the day Saturday, riding over from the coastal route. Another group rolled west from Carson City, Nevada and skipped the Saturday ride to hit up an Oakland A's game, then headed back for the party. As much fun as any event is, it's the ride and the shared experiences along the way that make it most memorable. In the end, events like the Philo Reunion are easier to describe by telling you what they aren't. They aren't big, they aren't expensive, and perhaps best of all, they aren't complicated.