Another year and another Born Free down. This year marked the 10th annual Born Free show, a custom motorcycle event that started out as a chopper house party in Signal Hill, CA in 2008, that evolved into a block party, and then eventually one of, if not the biggest custom chopper and motorcycle shows in the world, and somehow they pack it all into two days. Shows like Sturgis and Daytona are obviously huge events too, but they’re a week long and more so a rally, plus they don’t place the focus on small-time DIY-type builders of vintage bikes like Born Free does.

This was my fifth Born Free, and it’s been cool to see it grow and evolve over the years. The level of fabrication and the bikes people build in their own garages is unreal, and to see so many of them in one place is unimaginable. Everywhere you turn, there’s something to be seen, and you’re continually surprised by how some of these bikes even exist. The fact that someone thought up an idea so crazy or so far outside the box and actually followed through on it – in such epic fashion, no less – really makes me happy. This also reminds me of how pathetic my “fabrication” skills are in comparison. Most of these builders, especially the invited builders, are craftsmen of the highest caliber.

This year, unlike like years past, wasn’t as hot, fortunately, but there was still no cell phone reception, almost no shade and all I got was a sunburn, a hangover, some badass memories, and a bunch of photos. I also got to ride and display the ’78 Shovel I’ve been working on, so that was pretty cool, too. I wouldn’t change a thing, except for maybe the hangover part…

Below is a photo recap of some of the neat/wild/crazy/beautiful/painful/impressive things seen at Born Free 10. You can click on any photo to really blow it up.

Born Free 10

One of the show’s crown jewels, an H-D Knucklehead built by Vintage Technologies out of Montana. The details on this thing are unreal.

He welded, smoothed then polished every single chain link on the primary and secondary drives. We don’t even want to know how long that took.

There’s a lot going on here, but there’s so much chrome and polishing you can barely make out any details. You’ll have to click this one to zoom in and check out those dual Linkert carbs.

This year’s Show Class Mag Peoples Champ – The Mantis built by Josh Sheehan. Check out the tapered 20-inch over rigid front end.

Another perspective. Also a girl with a beer.

Gotcha.

Honda-Davidson Africa-by-ways-of-Milwaukee Twin. I’m not even sure where to start with this one built by San Diego Customs, a 2018 H-D Softail with a Milwaukee Eight cloned into a pseudo Africa Twin.

This bike is all business. Big motor means big brakes.

Who would like to take this thing for a rip? I know I would.

At a glance, this bike can easily be mistaken for an Africa Twin.

This Harley-Davidson Shovelhead built by Chris Graves looks great and super tough but has so many cool and intricate details that are neatly tucked away.

This rear end may look hard-tailed, but there’s actually a mini swingarm that’s hydraulically operated. Look to the left of the kicker and under the transmission. That’s the hydraulic pump and it can raise and lower the ride height as well as set the firmness of the ride. Of course, it’s not like it’ll have a huge difference, and every bit helps, but it’s more impressive from an engineering standpoint than anything else. Especially for someone building in their own garage.

Dual carburetors, dual discs, dual petcocks and dual magnetos. The rear cylinder is actually another front cylinder. Normally the carburetor is in the middle, between the two heads and the intake splits into each cylinder.

Reverse shot of the business side. Chris keeps everything super tight. The spark plug wires are coated in a clear heat resistant coating and are tucked into some of the cylinder’s cooling fins. Notice the shifter behind the front pipe. Be careful not to burn your shoes, Chris. There’s nothing unsightly or hanging out off the bike.

Chris custom built his timing cover to accept two magnetos, but also to serve double duty as a footpeg, too.

A better shot of the timing cover/dual mag/footpeg setup. Also, notice how neatly tucked away the rear brake pedal and master cylinder are.

The cockpit.

Did someone call 911?

This isn’t your everyday run-of-the-mill FXR. Then again, FXRs aren’t all that common anyway.

I can’t imagine the looks this thing gets when, or if rather, people realize it’s not a real police bike.

Newport anyone?

A 1967 Meirson speedway bike built by Royal-T Racing in New Orleans.

Bigger may not always be better, but in this case, it definitely is… Also, that’s 1819cc.

Iron butt award goes to this guy, and I think that coffin-shaped sissy bar symbolizes the death of his ass.

Canadians, amirite?

Another nope in the seat department. On a hardtail no less.

Nope.

NOPE. There are few things in this world I hate more than snakes.

Another seat that looks painful just looking at, but this Pan has so much character. Check out that tank!

An ironworker by day, chopper builder, and painter by night.

To most, this probably looks like any other Harley-Davidson motor, but it’s actually an Ironhead bottom end that’s been divorced from its transmission (Sportsters combine their transmissions within the engine cases unlike Big-Twins where the motor and tranny are separate), with two front Shovelhead jugs. The cylinders’ cooling fins actually had to be ground down in certain areas so that the Sportster push rods and push rod tubes would clear properly and the case was bored to accept the bigger, Shovelhead cylinders. The right side cam cover (which you’re looking at on the bottom) was drilled to accept that magneto, too. Additionally, it’s running dual carbs and the motor is mated to a ratchet top four-speed transmission. Wild stuff.

This guy rode all the way in from Montana to be there for the show. My favorite choppers are definitely the ones that are ridden regularly. Show-only bikes are cool, too – don’t get me wrong – but a motorcycle that’s actually functional and road tested is way cooler in my book.

A dirty, oil-covered bike beats a shiny chromed one for me any day, but this is borderline excessive haha.

For a foot clutch, jockey shift bike, this brake is more for keeping the bike from rolling backwards on a hill than it is for bringing it to a stop.

Riding a chopper long distance is fun because you never really know what you’re in for, and that’s all part of the adventure, but I’d rather ride here like this, on a Grand Touring Harley-Davidson FXRD.

It’s like you’re on a bagger, but not really because it’s an FXR. Something even the wife can get on board with.

Speaking of FXRs, this is a 1993 FXR frame with a 2018 Milwaukee Eight somehow shoehorned in there, with all the geometrically correct rubber mounting points. Once this bike is all put together, the motor will get punched out from 114ci to 151ci. That’s 2,474cc for those counting, and they hope for it to make nearly 200 naturally-aspirated ponies.

This Victory racebike prototype was built by Roland Sands Design and contested the 2015 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. There’s 156 turns between the bottom and top of the 14,115-foot mountain, hence the bike’s number plate.

The fuel cell is under the motor there, rather than above, to keep the weight as low as possible. We don’t know what kind of numbers the Victory motor is making, but we do know it’s a 60-degree 1,133cc motor running 15:1 compression. Snappy.

The bike’s tubular steel frame is all custom fabricated, and that’s a Ducati 899 Panigale rear Ohlins shock.

And a turbo Sportster flat tracker to wrap it all up.