Born Free Motorcycle Show Report

Ryan Adams
by Ryan Adams
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The Born Free “vintage chopper and classic motorcycle show,” is now in it’s ninth year of existence, and it shows no signs of slowing down. The event took place at the 17-acre Oaks Canyon Ranch located behind Irvine Lake in Orange County, CA, June 24-25. As the event continues to grow and larger brands and manufacturers participate, some will worry the core values the show was built on may begin to dissipate. This has not shaken the steadfast resolve of founders Grant Peterson and Mike Davis to keep the event grounded in its grassroots upbringings. This is a hard-core enthusiast-driven show that relies on its attendees for direction when making decisions, and we hope to see that continue for many years to come.

born free motorcycle show report, Toshiyuki Cheetah Osawa owner of Cheetah Custom Cycles Tokyo Japan raced this beauty on Thursday at the Stampede and won second place for the invitational builders on Saturday
Toshiyuki “Cheetah” Osawa, owner of Cheetah Custom Cycles Tokyo, Japan, raced this beauty on Thursday at the Stampede and won second place for the invitational builders on Saturday.

The two-day event showcased motorcycles built by internationally renowned customizers to garage-builders and a little bit of everything in between. New for 2017 was the inaugural Stampede event at the Costa Mesa speedway. The Stampede saw some of the builders racing bikes they had built for the show the following weekend.

The Stampede: Prequel to Born Free Motorcycle Show

born free motorcycle show report, Bikes were rolling in and out all day long With a Grass Pass you were allowed to ride into the grounds for parking and eligible for the best in show award
Bikes were rolling in and out all day long. With a Grass Pass you were allowed to ride into the grounds for parking and eligible for the best in show award.

With the abundance of creativity prevalent on the grounds, it was easy to find yourself questioning whether you were looking at an attendee’s motorcycle he rode in on or a carefully crafted bike purpose-built for the show.

Born Free 9 offered up over 120 vendors, including some major brands showcasing their market specific goods such as Bell Helmets, Dainese, Vance & Hines and Heidenau Tires, while still offering great finds from brands like Rusty Butcher, Feltraiger, and Babes Ride Out. The vendor areas were a great place to learn about new builders and brands as well as the chance to get a quick straight-razor shave from Hawleywood’s Barber Shop/Layrite. Vans also came out for 2017 in a big way with a vert ramp and pro skateboarders in attendance to “shred the gnar.”

born free motorcycle show report, 1955 Triumph built by Bryan Thompson for Vans
1955 Triumph built by Bryan Thompson for Vans.
born free motorcycle show report
Great food, live music, and copious amounts of PBR were other cornerstones of the event that kept the energy coursing through the two days. Shirts were shed as the temperature rose and the inflatable pools sprinkled throughout began to look more inviting. So much so that a chopper ended up in one of the aforementioned pools, doing a burnout, spraying the crowd behind him with water. A welcomed cool down. Compare it to a misting fan at Disneyland, only the chopper version.
born free motorcycle show report

I spent most of Saturday doing laps around the show, chatting with vendors and with every lap something previously unseen was spotted. It’s no wonder the most heard request from attendees to the founders years ago was to add another day. The event started off as a single day but has since grown to the point of needing another day almost out of necessity. Many patrons travel from far and wide to attend the show and camp nearby. The founders wanted to really make this show into a destination which has now been likened to the “Woodstock of motorcycling” or the “new generation’s Sturgis,” and while these claims are hefty, Born Free certainly delivers a good time.

born free motorcycle show report

Attendees came from all walks of life; young kids on their first motorcycle, fully tattooed tough guys, hipsters, and life-long motorcyclists of every kind. I want to note this here; Born Free is not just some hipster motorcycle show. It is a specific niche of motorcycling sure, but it is also a very visceral and emotion-driven niche that can be seen in the countless hours of hard work poured into these motorcycles by their makers.

born free motorcycle show report

We all have something in common, we love motorcycles. I don’t know many motorcyclists who wouldn’t enjoy the vast array of bikes shown at Born Free, so maybe next year, put your inhibitions aside, throw your leg over that old chopper or Honda or Ducati sportbike, and cruise on out to Born Free 10 which we can only speculate will be one hell of an event given it will be the 10-year anniversary.

Ryan Adams
Ryan Adams

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  • Starmag Starmag on Jun 26, 2017

    There are those that would say I'm some sort of Luddite because I like UJMs from the 70's and don't have any desire for an electric bike or the complexities of electronic nannies. I wonder what that makes the guys who insist upon flat heads and hard tails?

    • John A. Stockman John A. Stockman on Jun 28, 2017

      That makes me a Luddite also. I owned a succession of Japanese bikes starting in 1983. First was an early 80s KZ250, 38,000 miles in two years. Then same-vintage KZ440, 3 in a row totaling about 150,000 miles between all 3. A first-year GL1500, Ural Tourist and a Suzuki Burgman 400. My early bikes were easy to work on and diagnose and since they were that way, only one instance where I was traveling did one of the KZ440s quit running on a mountain road. Checking the things you should, one of the coil wires came off. Squeeze the spade connector, slide it back on, on my way again. Oh, one rear flat on the 250, fixed the tube with my repair kit. Reliable bikes that I could fix and maintain myself. Not that I don't love the Ural and the Burgman, I do. But those early memories and all those miles were the some of the best times ever on the bikes I've owned. My first, KZ250... https://uploads.disquscdn.c...