The Allman Brothers Band headlines the 24th Love Ride stage, with the music just one of the many activities at this year’s event, which joined forces with California Bike Week.
When it comes to motorcycle fundraisers there is no doubt that Southern California’s Love Ride is the big Kahuna. The event has become so successful, organizers have already donated over 20 million dollars to charity thanks to the generosity of the previous Love Ride participants. Held each year in the beginning of November, the Love Ride attracts 15,000 to 20,000 riders with the sole purpose of being involved in something special, designed specifically to help out the less fortunate among us. This year marked the 24th installment of the perennial favorite; while that in itself is a major milestone, it pales in comparison to the Love Ride’s standing as the jewel in the crown of newly established California Bike Week.
Instituting a change from previous events when the Love Ride was held as a stand-alone event, organizers made a move designed to bolster attendance, and give participants a wider array of activities to indulge in over the weekend.
Over the past few years Love Ride founder and owner of Harley-Davidson of Glendale (California), Oliver Shokouh, has been wracking his brain for ways to increase Love Ride’s visibility and bring it’s fund raising power to the next level. What began as a carnival to help raise money for charity behind Shokouh’s shop has morphed into a huge annual event complete with big-name celebrities, blocks and blocks of cordoned off streets filled with tens of thousands of bikes and riders, police escorts, top-notch musical entertainment, riding exhibitions and more. Believe it or not, that was not enough for Shokouh; he knew there was room for improvement, expansion, and inclusion of more riders from all motorcycle genres, and demographics.
This year’s event began like so many prior, outside of Glendale Harley-Davidson. Riders started arriving in the predawn hours of Sunday, November 11, by the time the sun’s rays began illuminating the landscape, ten’s of thousand’s of riders had amassed in the streets around Shokouh’s shop. Bikers paid no less than $70 each, (with advanced registration) which entitled them to a Love Ride 24 pin, patch, bandana, key chain, concert admission, trade show and a barbeque lunch. For riders wishing to donate more, there were a variety of other premiums from hats to vests to luggage awaiting those who were more generous.
By the time 7 a.m. rolled around the small stage just outside the dealership’s front door was abuzz with activity. Captain Cardiac and the Coronaries entertained the leather-clad crowd amassed under the rain-threatening skies. If there were any in attendance whose eyes weren’t quite open yet, the Captain and his crew cranked out some of their trademark ’50s and ’60s rock-and-roll getting them ready for funny-man Grand Marshall, Jay Leno. In his familiar role, Jay paraded VIP’s and celebrities across the stage as he kept the crowd amused with jokes, jokes and more jokes.
Love ride founder Oliver Shokouh has seen his small event grow from humble beginnings to its current incarnation. Along the way the H-D dealer’s event has raised 20 million dollars for charity.
Here’s where similarities to prior Love Rides began to dissipate. Instead of hopping on the Golden State Freeway and heading north to picturesque Lake Castaic, Love Ride 24 attendees mounted their rides and navigated north along Brand Avenue on their way to the 210 freeway. Located 35 miles to the east of Glendale is the Fairplex in Pomona. The multi-use facility is best known for hosting the LA County Fair and various drag racing events held at the famed Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. This weekend, Fairplex would be home to California Bike Week. In it’s inaugural running, California Bike Week (actually a three-day event) ran from Friday, Nov 9 through Sunday, November 11. The event is a combination of motorcycle racing, stunt riding exhibitions, a motorcycle industry trade show and motorcycle demo rides, culminating on Sunday as the destination for Love Ride 24.
Racing activities took the form of an All Harley Drag Racing Association (AHDRA) event (www.ahdra.com) and Pacific Coast Flat Track racing on the 5/8-mile dirt track located inside the fairgrounds. With Californians voicing their desire for an AHDRA competition within the Golden State, AHDRA officials scheduled two days of racing at Pomona, aptly named the AHDRA California Bike Week Nationals. The tire-smoking event was sponsored by nearby Laidlaw’s Harley-Davidson, and saw more than 300 competitors vying for top spots in 16 classes.
When the smoke had cleared, Doug Vancil piloted his #3 Drag Specialties/Vance & Hines Nitro-burning machine to victory in the Screamin’ Eagle Top Fuel class. Scoring a final run of 6.340 seconds at 218.48 mph, Vancil beat out runner-up Mike Romine’s 6.429 seconds at 212.23 mph, positioning himself to win the series the following weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada. For more comprehensive race results, and to see what they have in store for next season, check out their website.
After an 11-year absence from the Los Angeles racing scene, flat track racing was back town. Long-time champion racer turned race promoter, Gene Romero added a stop in Pomona to his Pacific Coast Nationals.
Realizing LA-area residents were starving for some flat-track racing Romero decided a stop in Pomona would be a good way to round out his six-event series. A total of 117 racers competed in multiple heats narrowing the field down to three main events. Riders included the Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson Wrecking Crew of Kenny Coolbeth, Jared Mees, Bryan Smith and Joe Kopp, also competing was Chris Carr, who holds the distinction as the fastest man to pilot a motorcycle.
The Love Ride festivities included a trip to Pomona, where the Fairplex was hosting an AHDRA event. Here Pro Mod racer Donnie Huffman warms up his Harley rear before a run.
Romero’s series utilizes rules that differ from that of the AMA, the result is highly competitive racing, affordable to both novice riders and homegrown teams. Riders charged around the 5/8-mile track at speeds approaching 110 mph while they battled fiercely for position in the turns. Racer George Roeder II went on to take top honors in the open class aboard his # 66 Harley-Davidson.
After the evening’s racing was over Romero went on to say “We had all the top guys in flat-track, and they were at their best Saturday night. The fans poured in and showed their support, so we’re excited to start planning for next year’s California Bike Week.”
Shortly after 10 a.m. Sunday morning the first wave of Pomona bound bikes began arriving at the Fairplex. For more than an hour bikes poured into the massive asphalt parking lot, a nice change from the cramped quarters at Lake Castiac. With their gear stored and bikes locked, attendees made their way through the turnstiles being greeted by more than 150 vendors displaying a myriad of motorcycle products. While there was definitely a slant toward the American V-Twin crowd, there were vendors showing off wares for all segments of the industry. Organizers tell us approximately 20,000 folks participated in the combination of Love Ride 24, drag racing, flat track racing and the trade show. When you consider that there was a very real chance of rain on Sunday, along with the change of venue, and an uncertain economy, California Bike Week Executive Director John Buck told us, “Everyone had fun, took full advantage of all the entertainment, demo rides, stunt riders and racing – the feedback thus far tells us we did a great job in this first year.”
Big rigs and product displays were plentiful allowing attendees to peruse high-quality motorcycles and merchandise from the likes of Big Dog Motorcycles, J&P Cycles, Ron Simms, Victory Motorcycles, Big Bear Choppers, Bassani Exhaust, Kuryakyn and Vance & Hines. If it was bike related, it was there for you to purchase. In an effort to keep everyone entertained there were stunt shows from the best in the business, with Victor McLaglen Motor Corps Stunt Team and Jason Pullen amazing the crowd with their own unique styles. If you have never seen VMMC perform you need to do so, these guys are the quintessential motorcycle stunt team performing time-horned riding stunts harkening back to their roots in the 1930s. The American Motor Drome’s skilled riders also thrilled the crowds performing their trademark stunts while riding vertical walls of the motor Drome’s opened-top, cylindrical room – another must-see.
Harley-Davidson showed up with their traveling museum, drag race simulator, Screamin’ Eagle displays and 2008 models for demo rides. If your tastes led you more in the exotic direction you could have also gone for a test ride on a V-8-powered Boss Hoss or one of the three-wheeled Can-Am Spyder’s awaiting licensed, helmeted riders.
Victor McLaglen Motor Corps Stunt Team gives a whole new meaning to the term High Occupancy Vehicle!
Set up on the track’s grassy infield was the familiar Love Ride stage, which played host to numerous musical guests prior to headliner Gregg Allman and friends taking their places. While the band serenaded the crowd with their Southern rock and blues fusion, everyone kicked back and enjoyed a barbeque lunch. By the time the bean counters were finished, the Love Ride Foundation was readying a check for over $900,000, destined for the coffers of multiple childrens charities including: Muscular Dystrophy Association, Reading By 9, Frostig Center, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Special Olympics Southern California, Cure Autism Now and more. For a complete list check out the Love Ride website. Mark your calendars for next year’s 25th Love Ride being held on October 26, 2008.
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