We couldn’t think of a better way to shake off a 500-mile ride than to get up the next morning in Sturgis, jump on our 2011 Victory Vision 8-Ball and ride some more. The air was already warm as we pass the shadow of Bear Butte on our way to the Broken Spoke Campground for the Sugar Bear/Michael Lichter Ride. The cast of characters known as the Limpnickie Lot were going about setting up, rolling out bikes, putting parts and gear out on display and hammering on a makeshift wooden skateboard ramp. Taber Nash was scuttling around getting the Nash Motorcycle booth ready with his boy Redge shadowing his father’s footsteps.
Our morning started out with an interview from one of the hosts of the ride, Sugar Bear, who has been building choppers with crazy-long forks since 1969. A humble but talented man, Sugar Bear is famous for making bikes with super-stretches that don’t flop. He has influenced many builders over the course of his career, including the one Sugar Bear partnered with for the Michael Lichter 30 in the Wind exhibit, Count’s Kustoms out of Las Vegas, Nevada.
Pee Wee Herman straps on his helmet and gets ready to ride. He would lead over 300 bikers out of Deadwood for the third annual Legends Ride.
Slowly but surely a slew of custom builders and industry peeps started to arrive, including some of the NorCal custom building crew of Kirk Taylor, Satya Kraus and Bryan Schimke. Bert Baker of Baker Drivetrains came ripping out of the drive-thru bar of the Broken Spoke last second with a crazy smile and an admission that “I’m always late.”
It was a motley cast of characters that would ride out of the Spoke that morning on motorcycles of all makes and models, from rat bikes to a sick gold custom built by Ron Finch to a flame-throwing bagger. Guest of honor Sugar Bear and his wife Fuji would lead the pack on his uber-long black chopper. Riding out, I was sandwiched in between Baker and Dave Cook, winner of last year’s AMD World Championships. When asked if he had something special in store for the AMD’s this year, Cook said he brought a customer’s bike to show but didn’t have the time and resources to dedicate to a bike he felt would be strong enough to defend the title.
As we made a loop around Bear Butte, the second honoree of our ride, famed industry photographer Michael Lichter, was busy doing what he does best, snapping photos. With Chris Callen piloting, Lichter sat backwards with his cameras slung around his neck and clicked away as riders pulled up one-by-one. This was the first time that I’ve had the honor of being shot by the man himself and as he motioned for me to pull up, I felt an immense sensation of pride and honor. This is the same man who has captured the most compelling images from the motorcycling scene over the last 30 years, shooting the likes of Indian Larry, Keino and Cox. He’s traveled far and wide, even doing photo documentaries of the Harlistas in Cuba.
Lemonade anyone? Allen surprised riders by having one of his Broken Spoke bartenders serving hot bikers lemonade during the Sugar Bear/Lichter ride.
The ride would end at the Sturgis Dragway where the Broken Spoke’s Jay Allen had us hooked up with cold drinks and free BBQ, the perfect tonic after a hot ride. The action then took to the drag strip as Allen had arranged for anybody who was willing and daring to take a run down the strip. He even jumped on a bike and ripped off a few runs himself. But the best competition of the day had to be between Beaner and Cycle Source’s Chris Callen. Beaner got the edge first and won their initial trip down the quarter-mile, but Callen would redeem himself by taking the next couple of races, despite one embarrassing moment when he got his pant leg caught in an open primary.
Sitting down to lunch, I was joined by Lichter who introduced me to a young couple from the tiny island of Cyprus. Jack Iacovides was here with his wife, Skevi Omirou, celebrating their honeymoon. Iacovides’ father owns a Harley-Davidson dealership in Cyprus and Jack and his wife both help run the business. They’ve been riding around the States since June, including a tour up the PCH in California. Iacovides also owns a highly-coveted 1936 Harley Knucklehead.
While talking to the young couple, I told them about my Cypriot friend from Austin, Texas, Tony Kousaris, who I used to ride all over the Texas Hill Country with. Turns out they had just sold Tony’s brother a bike back in Cyprus and they know Tony and his family as well. The irony of them knowing the one Cypriot I’ve called friend was not lost on me. It was a moment that embodies the spirit of Sturgis because you never really know who you’re going to meet here, but you’re guaranteed to share a common bond.
The Legends Ride was a star-studded affair, from hanging and riding with Rupert from Survivor to meeting “The Renegade” Lorenzo Lamas who liked our print magazine.
Later that evening we would head over to an industry party for the 2010 AMD World Championship of Custom Bike Building. According to Mary Beth Crowe, one of the AMD reps at the party, there are 71 motorcycles from 17 different countries competing in the show. Some of the most innovative and creative motorcycles you’ll run across were under one tent, from a bike with front-wheel drive and rear-wheel steering to a motorcycle that switches from cruiser to racer in the push of a button. A few early favorites were being mentioned in conversations and the winners will be announced Wednesday. The event is a true international affair, as the AMD Sturgis competition is the culmination of a year-long series of bike competitions held in 15 different countries and the winner is selected by a jury of peers, the other custom builders in the competition. A beautiful diamond-encrusted 2010 World Championship ring awaits the winner as well as the title of 2010 World Champion of Custom Bike Building.
The next morning we begin to head over to Deadwood to take part in the third annual Legends Ride but an accident has traffic stopped to a standstill. Apparently one rider lost control on a curve and laid his bike down, sliding across his lane and into oncoming traffic, colliding with another bike. All three were carted away by ambulance, but fortunately none of the injuries were life-threatening.
This year’s Legends Ride eclipsed even last year’s. The event is quickly becoming one of the most popular attractions during Sturgis. The premier fundraiser has collected over $100,000 the last three years for local charities, with money raised this year benefitting the Sky Ranch for Boys and the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum. Approximately 300 riders took part in the event including celebrities like Rupert Boneham of Survivor fame and actor and motorcycle enthusiast Lorenzo Lamas. Riders were led out of town by none other than Pee Wee Herman on an electric-powered Schwinn bicycle. We had the pleasure of riding out with Rupert, his tie-dyed t-shirt visible in our sideview mirror almost the entire ride as we made a circuitous route through the Black Hills to the
The Buffalo Chip is like a three-ring circus for bikers. Their newest entertainment wrinkle is this high-wire act that rides out over the crowd.
Legendary Buffalo Chip Campground.
“The biker community is one of the most giving communities out there. I stand up a lot in the media and show that some of the people like me who don’t look exactly like we fit in society are those that fit the best,” Rupert said.
Once at the Chip, the gracious hosts had a banquet and free beer waiting for participants in the Legends Ride. They also got to be some of the first to check out Michael Lichter’s Eternal Combustion 30 in the Wind exhibit. The Legends Ride culminated in a killer show opened up by Buckcherry and finished off by legendary rockers ZZ Top. Last year, Buckcherry’s lead singer Josh Todd was deadly ill with a virus and was barely able to belt out a note but more than made amends for it this year with an energetic set. ZZ Top’s Dusty Hill, Frank Beard and Billy Gibbons put on one hell of a show, including a cover of Jimmy Hendrix’s “Hey Joe” and fan favorites like “Cheap Sunglasses.”
Tuesday morning we headed over to California Sidecar’s rig for an opportunity to test some custom trikes. Haven’t had much opportunity to ride many three-wheelers, but if its got an engine and wheels, I’ll ride it. Hooked up with my buddy Joe Knezevic from American Iron and together we rode over to Rapid City on CSC’s Volusia and Classic models to say hi to Chris Sommer-Simmons and artist Scott Jacobs who were holding a book signing at Borders. Sommer-Simmons is a Motorcycle Hall of Fame inductee
and is the only American woman competing in the upcoming cross-country Cannonball Run on historic motorcycles. Jacobs is a prolific painter best known for his painting of Harley-Davidson motorcycles from across the annals of time.
Got back just in time to head over to the Michael Lichter industry party at the Buffalo Chip. Lichter is celebrating his tenth annual Motorcycles as Art exhibit by including his photography for the very first time. He also enlisted the services of 30 of his friends and custom bike builders to create killer custom motorcycles for the event. Get the full story in our Lichter Celebrates 30 in the Wind at Sturgis article and stay tuned for more Sturgis action in the coming days. We headed to the AMD World Championships in a few hours so check us out on Twitter as we break the news of the winner of this year’s contest.