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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.