The parking lot at the Cashman Center was packed as around 30,000 bikers made Las Vegas home for the weekend.
With a full moon hanging above the spire of the Stratosphere, Las Vegas became party central for approximately 30,000 motorcyclists who rode to the desert to partake in the Ninth Annual Las Vegas BikeFest. After years of thinking that Sin City would be an excellent spot for a motorcycle rally, Harry Schwartz, president of Full Throttle Productions, and his sister Pam finally made it happen. What started out as a modest gathering has evolved into one of the largest late-season West Coast gatherings.
Attendance numbers were about the same as last year, according to event organizer, Pam Schwartz.
“We’re not hurting as much as other motorcycle rallies because it’s Las Vegas,” said Schwartz.
On a somber note, one motorcycle-related fatality has been reported. A 46-year-old Las Vegas man was killed when the driver of a Chevy Impala failed to stop at a red light. Besides that, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police has kept a watchful eye on an otherwise incident-free affair. The host hotel Sahara has a “No Colors, No Weapons” sign aimed at preventing a conflict like the one at Harrah’s in Laughlin, but it didn’t prevent club members from flying their colors. The Hells Angels even had a couple of booths set up in the Cashman Center, but armed officers were ever-present, especially when a group of Tri-State Vagos entered the building.
In a corner of the Cashmen Center cordoned-off by cyclone fence and barbed wire, 20 accomplished custom bike builders were invited to take part in a battle royale called ‘Artistry in Iron.’ Master builders like L.A. County Choprods’ Gard Hollinger and Central Coast Cycles’ Scott Long signed autographs and answered questions for fans as others inspected the craftsmanship of these master builders up close. Thunderstruck Customs rode home with the
Thunder Struck Custom Bikes out of Medford, OR, rode off with the Builder’s Choice award in the Artistry in Iron competition. Congrats to Mark Daley.
‘Builder’s Choice’ award and a cool $10K for its industrial-looking, slammed red chopper with an aircraft theme. With quadruple carbs, a triple-belt primary and an innovative rear hub braking system, Mark Daley was honored to receive the award that was chosen amongst stiff competition from his custom bike building brethren. Better yet, Daley hails from Motorcycle USA’s hometown, Medford, OR, so look for a full-length feature article on the winning bike in the upcoming weeks. While getting the scoop on his winning bike, Daley did confide in us that he’s looking at using a Ducati for his next project.
Our friend and metric motorcycle guru, Jim Guiffra of AFT Customs was on hand with the Long Beach Calendar Show-winning bike, LowLa, along with his lovely AFT assistants, Kylie, Melanie, and Sukhee. Guiffra said that his next project with the girls will be a bobber that he plans on taking to the salt at Bonneville after competing in the AMD World Championships in Sturgis next year. He also gave us a few tips on our upcoming Honda Fury project bike.
Custom motorcycle builder Kris Krome demonstrates the riding position on his build that won second place in the recent AMD World Championships in Sturgis.
Speaking of AMD, Kris Krome was on-hand with Re-flex-tion, the bike that took second place in the Freestyle Class this year at the Sturgis contest. The motorcycle features a frame made completely of polished stainless steel that has the polish of chrome. It has what he calls an elastamerick front suspension and turns by articulating motion. Krome was more than happy to hop aboard and demonstrate how the bike tilts according to body position.
But the custom builder who deserves the most props is Evil Spirits Michael Barragan. A little over two weeks ago, Barragan was T-Boned while riding the motorcycle that he was bringing to the event by a car that ran a signal. Fortunately, he saw the driver in time to launch himself over the hood of the car. The motorcycle was pinned beneath the car’s front wheels and suffered extensive damage. Barragan got busted up pretty bad and fell into a coma, but has since awakened and is on
This custom motorcycle was under a car two weeks before the contest. Even though Evil Spirit’s Michael Barragan was in a coma in the accident that took out his bike, he still wanted his crew to bring it to Vegas. Get well soon, Michael.
his way to recovery. A picture of him from his hospital bed, bandaged and bruised, was on the floor next to a picture of the bike underneath the car. Barragan displayed true biker spirit and was able to flip the cameraman the bird with a big swollen finger. He insisted that his crew still bring his busted-up bike to the competition.
On the less serious but still competitive side, 10 contestants took the Cashman Theatre’s stage for the BikeFest bikini contest. Emcee Mark Patrick kept the audience laughing as he introduced the girls in faux beauty pageant fashion. In the end, it was local girl Shannon Kelly who took home the $500 top prize for registering the loudest applause on the decibel monitor.
Friday evening, the action shifted to Las Vegas Harley-Davidson. Don Andress, president of Las Vegas H-D, had a mini-rally in its own right going on its parking lot. Demo rides on 2010 Harley-Davidsons were a popular draw. Besides being one of the stops on the $100K Poker Run, the dealership had live bands, vendors, cold beer, and also hosted a wet t-shirt contest that saw another Las Vegas cutie named Christina take home the $1000 prize.
Motorcycle USA was up bright and early to take part in the high dollar poker run mentioned above. The run started at the BikeFest HQ, the Sahara, where we drew our first card, a lousy three of clubs. Las Vegas H-D was the next stop, where our crappy draw continued as we pulled an eight of diamonds. The run then headed north out of town to the Valley of Fire State Park. The desert air was cool and the 2010 Harley-Davidson Dyna Wide Glide I was riding was fun to ride on the curvy road leading to the park. Our next draw was a nine of spades, no help, but the scenery was beautiful and the ride enjoyable. Boogieing back into town, the Hard Rock Hotel was our next stop. My hand didn’t get any better as I pulled a Queen of diamonds from the deck, pretty much eliminating the only hope I had of winning the $500 prize for worst hand. The fun finished at Count’s Kustoms, a popular custom bike builder in Vegas and sponsor of the $100K Poker Run. A big fat King of spades was my final card, confirming that I was loser for the day. I still had one more chance at the randomly selected big money, but after turning in my form, the computer that they punched the numbers in confirmed that I didn’t have the lucky hand. Will find out if anybody won in my wrap-up report, but at the time it was still up for grabs. The best hand at the time I was there was a Jack-high straight, and the lowest hand was a two, three, four, five, seven combo.
But not all bad came from it. I now knew how to get back to Count’s Kustoms for its Fourth Annual MotorPsycho Open House. The Count opened up his garage doors to let partiers take a peek at his awesome collection of high-end, collectible sports cars and custom bikes. Dollar beers, BBQ, and live music made for a happening scene, highlighted by a performance by the Vince Neil Band. Neil ran through a list of Motley Crue favorites, and I banged my head to some vintage tunes from the hair band days next to a guy who was a dead ringer for a young Axel Rose. When the band cut into Girls, Girls, Girls almost everybody sang along.
The Cashman Center was also the scene of BikeFest’s Custom Bike Show. The event had a good turnout, with the majority of bikes entered in the Radical Class vying for the $3000 top prize and an invite to be one of the featured builders in the 2010 Artistry in Iron event. While the stretched-out, bling bikes with big fat ends still drew a crowd, one of my favorite motorcycles was an old school chopper with an original 1947 Knucklehead engine appropriately called ‘White Knuckle’ for its all-white paint job and white knuckle-shaped heads. The bike was built by Ron Carpenter out of Anchorage, Alaska, and was infused with plenty of details that paid homage to Carpenter’s home state. He used an Ulu knife for the front rotor, used by natives for skinning game, and it had a skin drum air cleaner (a first for me). The kick starter was cut out in the shape of Alaska, and the state flag served as one of the mirrors. ‘White Knuckle’ also had a grey diamond-tuck seat made of salmon skin and brake and clutch pedals in the shape of bear paws. My favorite part was its jockey shifter, which was made from a large bone. When I asked Carpenter what animal it came from, he smiled.
“It’s an Oosik,
or the bone from the penis of a walrus,” he said.
Which seemed only appropriate, considering BikeFest does take place in Sin City.
As festivities wound down at the Cashman Center, the action shifted to places like the Hogs & Heifers Saloon and the NASCAR Café. I could hear the girls of The Iron Maidens rocking out at the Ultimate Beerfest and BBQ poolside party at the Sahara from inside my room. Las Vegas definitely lived up to its billing as the ‘Entertainment Capital of the World.’