2015 Leesburg BikeFest Review

Bryan Harley | April 30, 2015
The 19th annual Leesburg BikeFest roared into this small central Florida town for a three-day festival of biker fun the last weekend of April. According to Leesburg BikeFest Marketing/PR Manager Rachel O’Ryan, attendance this year was about on-par with last, with projected numbers in the 250,000 – 275,000 range. The rally provides a huge economic boost to the area, local TV station WFTV 9 reporting Lake County made approximately $191 million in 2012 according to a statistical study of hotels, vendors, and visitors. Motorcycles began streaming into town early Friday and flowed up and down Main Street all weekend long until the last few die-hard riders rumbled home Sunday night.

Worries that a new road project in downtown Leesburg would be problematic were unwarranted. Work continued until the last minute, but was successful as traffic flowed unhindered. Bikers were warned that the new asphalt was soft on Main Street between 9th and 14th and kick-stand pucks were available. Though warm, weather wasn’t unbearably hot, which helped prevent the asphalt from softening.

Town Square was the epicenter of entertainment. Food vendors lined the perimeter while a steady line-up of bands played throughout the day and night. Lita Ford shredded her electric guitar Friday night while the performance by Wes Scantlin and Puddle of Mudd took it to a whole ‘nother level Saturday. Live music was a constant at the rally as stages could be found all around the downtown district. You never knew when you’d run into the next guitar battle. Just ask the guitarists from Nova Rex who were laying down some hot Eddie Van Halen licks.

The long list of popular Leesburg events included a Tattoo Expo featuring 40 regional and international artists, tattoo guns at the ready to spread their sub-dermal artistry. Motorcycle riding was taken to extremes by both the riders of Team Extreme Street Bike Stunts and Jerry Palladino’s “Ride Like a Pro” squad, while the high-flying antics of the Disc-Connected K9’s provided entertainment of another kind. Progressive Insurance chose Leesburg to debut Flo’s Chop Shop, bringing in barbers from SHED out of Austin to provide free straight razor shaves or trim up beards. Entertainment was non-stop, stages filled with bikini-babes battling for bucks in the Ms Budweiser and Ms Leesburg BikeFest competitions. Saturday ladies got their fill of eye candy as buff bodies stripped of their shirts and strutted their stuff in the Mr. LuckyMan contest.

Gator Harley-Davidson was also another popular rally destination. In addition to being a major sponsor, the dealership was a rally hot spot, with a carousel of musical acts performing on its main stage. Rows of vendors filled its parking lot, from Skully Customs installing air ride suspensions to Trikes by Design selling trike kits. The Ms Gator contest Saturday evening drew a big crowd, while Sunday service was held the following morning and a pancake breakfast was served.
Between its indoor bar, outdoor BikeFest party zone, and daily displays and shows, The Rat’s Hole was rockin’ all weekend. Friday night The Rat’s Hole served as the starting point for the third annual LED Parade. Even though participation was limited (it had to compete with the Ms. Leesburg contest!), there was always an LED parade on Main Street at night, from lit-up V8-powered Boss Hosses to Hayabusas with stretched swingarms and 300mm-wide backsides. Showcasing engines and high-dollar paint jobs with LEDs is popular with riders in the region.

Saturday was the annual Leesburg Rat’s Hole Custom Bike & Chopper Show followed by a Bagger Show Sunday. 110 bikes and trikes duked it out for top honors Saturday, from big-wheeled baggers to stretched-out superbikes to vintage Indians. And while most motorcycles sported high-dollar paint jobs, “Dog” Harmen’s rat rodded 1986 Kawasaki 1200, complete with an equally ratted-out trailer made from an old barn roof, was one of the most popular entries. Better known by his handle “Hondog,” the Middleton, New Hampshire native said he built the trailer because he wanted something cheap he could travel with to get out of New England.

“I’m a Christian biker. I headed down here in January. When I gassed up in Keene, it was 18 degrees. When I got to New York, I got snowed out and I had to spend the night in a parking lot and they plowed around me,” added “Hondog.” His multi-horn-sporting Kawasaki earned him first place in the Rat Class.

When time came to crown a champion though, Judd York of Flat Broke Customs walked away with the “Best of Show” trophy for his ultra-clean bobber. The build featured split tanks exposing the thick tubular backbone, a leaf spring fork, rigid rear, and plenty of brass accents.

On vendors’ row, we came across the impressive work of SDR Studios who could replicate a photograph of your motorcycle as a painting, a slab of sheet metal serving as a canvas. Using metal as a canvas allows the works they create to utilize the medium’s natural patinas to enhance the artwork. Being close to the Caribbean, there were plenty of booths selling stogies and pungent cigarillos. And it wouldn’t be a Floridian biker rally without alligator fare on the menu, from alligator sausage-on-a-stick to alligator jerky.

While the sun has set on this year’s rally, organizers are already planning for 2016 and the 20th anniversary Leesburg BikeFest which promises to be their biggest blowout yet.

             2015 Leesburg BikeFest

The Ride Like a Pro team shows how to really handle big baggers and touring bikes. Guys flexed their muscles for a chance to be crowned Mr. LuckyMan at Leesburg BikeFest 2015. This beauty of a big-wheeled black bagger stood out in Sundays Bagger Show at the Rats Hole.
The Ms Leesburg 2015 contest got the crowd warmed up before the Lita Ford show. We were diggin this digger in the Leesburg Rats Hole Custom Bike   Chopper Show 2015. Music could be found around just about every corner at Leesburg BikeFest 2015.

 

Bryan Harley

Cruiser Editor |Articles | Our resident road warrior has earned his stripes covering the rally circuit, from riding the Black Hills of Sturgis to cruising Main Street in Daytona Beach. Whether it’s chopped, bobbed, or bored, metric to ‘Merican, he rides ‘em all.