It was all about the custom motorcycles at the 4th annual Arlen Ness Bike Show. Springers, bobbers, baggers and more flooded the floors of the San Mateo County Event Center. Oh yeah, and our favorite industry spokesmodels, the AFT Customs girls, just happened to be at the show as well.
What do you get when you combine hot rods, custom motorcycles, companies like Sinister Wheels and Custom Chrome and sprinkle in a little celebrity in the form of the most acclaimed custom bike builder around? The fourth annual Arlen Ness Bike Show, that’s what you get. Arlen and Cory’s bike show featured rows of custom bikes spread throughout the San Mateo County Event Center April 17-18 as competitors vied for a slice of the $7500 in cash up for grabs in the Pro and Open Classes. Mike Avila walked away the big winner for his custom bagger and rolled out with the $1000 grand prize as the best of the Pro Class. Jeff Federoff of California Choppers earned the most votes from the crowd and was crowned the Spectator’s Choice winner while Michael Medeiros was the Judge’s Choice for his Panhead.
Motorcycle USA made the trip to Northern California to check out show where we got a chance to talk to the ‘King of Choppers’ who was busy mingling and posing for pictures with fans. He chuckled when we asked him if he had a bike in the show.
“I haven’t entered a bike in a show for about 35 years,” he said. And even though he doesn’t have to compete in shows any longer, he admires the craftsmanship of the determination of the builders out there who are striving to make a name for themselves. Arlen did bring three examples of his world-class craftsmanship to share with fans. There was also an assortment of Arlen Ness production motorcycles on display, like the sharp-looking 2009 Softail Chopper with its thumping 124” S&S engine.
Custom Chrome’s President Holger Mohr was on hand closely inspecting the work of the talented custom builders. Custom Chrome, the show’s primary sponsor, was handing out copies of its monolithic 2010 catalog and had a few
The class act that he is, Arlen Ness was busy greeting the crowd, signing autographs and taking pictures with fans.
custom bikes on hand that featured an assortment of the company’s aftermarket Harley-Davidson accessories. It’s no wonder they were at the show as the majority of custom bikes entered were based on the Harley-Davidson platform. I also saw Mohr talking shop with the mind behind Custom Design Studios, Kirk Taylor.
CDS’s Taylor brought an old sofa and coffee table and made the San Mateo Event Center floor his temporary living room for the weekend. He also brought a couple of bad bobbers, one that has graced the cover of Easyriders magazine twice and one he built for his wife. The double cover-earning bike started as a customer build back in 1997. After the bike was finished in 1999, it earned a feature spread in the pages of Easyriders and then headed for the garage of its new owner. Years later the bike would make it back into Taylor’s possession when the owner was feeling the pinch of tough economic times. Taylor bought it back for about the same price he sold it for at $12K and set about tearing it down and rebuilding it. He started by renovating the 96 cubic-inch Panhead with a bunch of hand-picked parts. He kept it old school with a brass knuckled-
Custom bike builder Kirk Taylor told us the story of his bobber that graced the cover of Easyriders twice after being rebuilt after its first run.
handle for a kick shifter, a bone knife handle for a hand-shifter, and threw on a moon eyes oil bag. With no front brake and a suicide shifter, the tall bars are ultra-clean. To top it all off, the air filter cover is engraved with a top-hat wearing portrait of his namesake winged Diablo. Ten years after it grabbed its first cover, the bobber came full circle by earning a spot on the June 2009 cover of Easyriders as well.
One of the other popular attractions was the flame-streaked top fuel dragster at the Top Dog Performance Cycles booth. Mike from Top Dog is the crew chief for Chicago Joe of Trust Me Racing and had Chicago Joe’s Top Fuel V-Twin Dragster on hand. The nitro-injected Harley-Davidson dragster can cover the quarter-mile in seven seconds at over 200 mph. Another man who knows a little something about going fast, Denis Manning, was also in attendance with BUB 7’s compartment open to display the engineering wizardry that powers the streamliner. Manning is an amicable guy who doesn’t hesitate to share tales of his experiences on the Salt Flats of Bonneville in his exploits as the mind behind the team responsible for the ‘World’s Fastest Motorycle.’
The Arlen Ness Bike Show also provided ample opportunity to peruse the various vendors’ wares and to expand our network of friends. We had a spirited conversation with Paul Jeruss of Dynamic Coatings and Fabrication
A swap meet gave bikers a chance to find that elusive piece they needed to complete their works in progress.
who developed a process to pump powder coating through an air brush gun. Jeruss developed the process six years ago which allows him to create killer 3-D graphics with amazing detail provided by the control of an airbrush gun. Running a full fabrication shop as well, Jeruss can break a bike down for powder coating on the spot and can reassemble the bike in-house, making it a convenient process for customers. A motorcycle he did for Cuz Custom Choppers has won 47 awards.
If you’re looking for that little something to set your bike apart from the crowd, Mark Godzilla and his crew at Cool Windshields are doing some awesome work hand-etching windshields. The detail on the finished piece he had on display was amazing and the fact that it was done by hand only heightened our appreciation. He says that his artists can pull off almost any design, be it a logo, picture, portrait, or wild fantasy scene. Cool Windshields also offers a colored lighting system that will make the artwork glow like it’s drawn in neon. The lights are only used when the bike is parked, of course, for rider safety. They’re doing some awesome work, so check them out if you’re looking for something different to customize your bike with.
We also got a chance to talk to our buddy Jim Guiffra of AFT Customs. He and the AFT Customs girls have almost finished work on their latest build called Kemosabe. The bobber-style motorcycle is based on a Honda VT750 and is scheduled to make its debut at the 2010 LA Calendar show. The girls of his modeling agency not only helped build it, but they are also going to take it to Bonneville to attempt a world-record run after showing it at the AMD World Championships in Sturgis. Guiffra just fired Kemosabe up a couple of days ago for its first test run before he sends it out for paint and powder coating by none other than Dynamic Coatings, who we mentioned above.
Famed photographer and author Tom Zimberoff, best known for the Art of the Chopper, was another popular draw. His compelling photographs would catch the attention of
passers-by and if that didn’t work the craftsmanship of the bobber called El Peligroso made many stop in their tracks to check out the bike. Zimberoff was busy selling and signing copies of his work.
When asked how this year’s turnout compared to others, Arlen said that it’s about the same, but admitted that it was hard to tell because it was still early Saturday morning. But there was no shortage of killer customs as rows and rows of baggers, baggers and choppers filled the floors of the event center. Besides checking out all the cool bikes, a small group in back was also conducting a swap meet that provided a chance to find that rare piece to complete that unfinished project bike while the Lean Mean Blues Band layed down some serious licks to close out the party.