To win at the Rat’s Hole Custom Bike Show
can help launch a literal unknown into the limelight or solidify a legend’s reputation. Competition is fierce, the bar is raised every year, and the top custom bike builders in the nation and beyond hold the show in high reverence. That’s what happens when you have the stability of producing quality custom bike shows for 41 years running and use a structured judging system with tenured judges, some with 20-plus years of critiquing the motorcycles entered in the Rat’s Hole Show.
Ted Smith, the son of “Big Daddy Rat” himself and the curator of the competition, said this year was a “Really good show” with approximately 140 motorcycles competing for top prizes in 22 classes. Smith actually designs and creates the trophies personally, each award signed and numbered. In addition to the standard contest, this year’s Rat’s Hole Custom Bike Show in Daytona Beach featured “The Bagger Showdown” with the winner chosen by the people instead of judges. “The Bagger Showdown” pitted Tom Keller of Thug Custom Cycles, Joey Hensley of Backyard Baggers, Ron Carriere from Quebec and Cameron Jurow of Camtech Custom Baggers LLC against one another. A steady stream of custom motorcycle fans streamed through the Daytona Lagoon on a bright, sunny day checking out the eclectic assortment of rat bikes, vintage restorations, super-stretched radicals and everything in between.
This year’s 2013 Daytona Bike Week “Best of Show” award goes to Mike Pugliese of Staten Island, New York, who captured top honors for his ground-skirting bagger featuring creative bodywork and a bold orange paint scheme with tribal flame graphics. If Pugliese’s name sounds familiar, it might be because he’s a veteran of the Biker Build-Off wars and battled against Chica back in the day. He’s also a Rat’s Hole regular whose fabrication skills and ingenuity consistently make him a challenger for the title.
The fabrication skills we mentioned are evident everywhere, from the way the headlight nacelle flows into the top tree to the chin scoop that blends seamlessly into the downtubes. It’s continued in the tank which tapers and flows into the custom side panels and doesn’t stop until the pointed edges at the end of the stretched saddlebags. The spine of the tank disappears beneath the custom seat before reappearing down the back of the rear fender, the tail section blending into the bags so the rear looks like one unit. A monster 26-inch tire sets the tone up front, the big hoop wedged between
Joe Hensley won this year's 'Bagger Showdown' at the 2013 Rat's Hole Custom Bike Show. One-piece bodywork, Air Ride suspension front and back, trick wheels, a boomin' audio system and a display instead of gauges are some of the features that helped Joey Hensley's 'Knockout Cancer' bike win.
a short, stout fork kicked out at a heavy rake angle. The ultra-clean internally wired bars feature the lone gauge integrated centrally into the top clamp of the triple trees, and an absence of visible wiring is one of Pugliese’s signatures. Burly two-into-one pipes come twisting off the tall cylinders of its big V-Twin powerplant. One if its best features is a trick rear braking system with the rotor and PM calipers mounted externally in front of the right saddlebag that appears to connect directly to the driveline. The sum of its parts, from its crisp lines to its tidy bodywork combined with just enough creative engineering helped set it apart in one of the hottest contested fields and earn it “Best of Show” laurels outright.
In “The Bagger Showdown,” Joey Hensley was able to hold off stiff competition from the hopped-up Thug Life bagger to take top honors. Hensley of Backyard Baggers was inspired to build “The Knockout Cancer Bike” because of “the loss of so many people around me who had battled cancer.”
The most distinctive piece of the bagger is its one-piece bodywork that provides smooth symmetry the length of the bike. The single-piece construction rests on a 2000 Harley Electra Glide frame with Air Ride suspension front and rear slamming it to the ground. A 26-inch custom front wheel features fight cancer ribbons for spokes and sits just below the frame-mounted fairing, the one-off wheels courtesy of Tommy Clark at C&S Customs. Others contributing to the project are Frankie Serrano of FSD Exhaust who provided the one-off purple exhausts while Butch Watson at Highrollers Motorcycle Seats is responsible for the seat. The purple powdercoated frame and engine were done by George deBidart at Exotics Powder Coat. The motorcycle is sans gauges, the bagger’s vitals displayed instead on a monitor mounted in the center of the inner fairing. A list of common cancers and their corresponding ribbons runs down the bodywork covering the bike’s tank. And though its theme certainly strikes a chord with many, don’t think for a minute that’s the only reason this bike got chosen by the people as the winner of “The Bagger Showdown.” A lot of work and creativity has gone into its creation and it is definitely worthy of the victory.
There were plenty of other incredible motorcycles in the show, including a striking 1959 BMW R50 that earned Henry Canup first place in the Antique/Classic Restored Class. Jon Shipley of Hoosier Daddy Choppers, a winner in the Sporster Radical Class last year, brought its Fire House Racer to the show to capture the Over 1000cc Custom Class this year. It’s an awesome interpretation of a 2013 Custom Board Tracker with a sweet Springer front end, exhausts that look like fire hoses, a vintage fire extinguisher for an oil tank and thick spokes rolling front and back. Ron Carriere might not have won “The Bagger Showdown” but he did defend his title in the Full Dresser & Touring Class, while nobody could dethrone Rat Smitty of Flat Lick, Kentucky, in the Rat Class either.
This year’s Rat’s Hole Custom Bike Show in Daytona Beach during Bike Week 2013
only entrenched it in the upper echelons of motorcycle shows. A strong turnout once again fueled a spirited competition and provided the Rat’s Hole with momentum as it heads into its next show at Leesburg Bikefest 2013 on April 27.
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