On an amazingly clear day, the sun is shining overhead bringing summer-like weather to December as I roll out of Long Beach to make the 100-mile ride up the coast to Ventura, California. Heading up 101, a procession of bobbers and rat bikes thunder by, bandito faces hidden behind bandanas with the sun glimmering off gold flaked brain buckets. Twenty bikes ride tight-knit, fast and staggered on stripped down, kick starting, open-belters, each bike a reflection of its
Watch the 2010 David Mann Chopper Fest Video
and see the record number of customs for this bike show, which broke attendance numbers thanks to plenty of glorious sunshine.
rider. Though fierce independence is their trademark, they move through traffic with calculated precision, changing lanes like the Thunderbirds at an airshow. It’s a snapshot of the lifestyle you’d find in a David Mann painting, a fitting tribute since we were all off to honor the acclaimed painter of motorcycle culture. The 7th annual David Mann Chopper Fest was being held at the Ventura County Fairgrounds and riders were escaping the LA Basin like rats on a sinking ship.
The beautiful weather brought record crowds to Seaside Park who took part in the celebration as an estimated 6000 riders turned out for Chopper Fest. The ambience of the old-fashioned swap meet was set by one of the first bikes we ran across in the parking lot that had a chrome mini-keg mounted on the back of its sissy bar, complete with a Budweiser handle above its tap. Collectors kicked it in the back of open truck beds and spread out their assortment in the grassy lawn. It was a great place to scrounge for that hard-to-find part you needed to complete a project bike from boxes of parts filled with nuts, bolts and covers. Vintage saddlebags, fenders and tanks were the hot commodity of the day. Pinstripers with steady hands were busy painting perfect lines on Frisco tanks.
An estimated 6000 riders turned out for the 7th Annual David Mann Chopper Fest. These girls filtered through the crowd promoting a tattoo parlor when they weren't posing for pictures with amorous men.
“Weather’s the best, turnout’s the best and there’s more bikes than ever before in the bike show,” said one of the emcees over the PA, a bubbly girl with bright tattoos in a pink dress.
Approximately 190 motorcycles were on display at the bike show, with 160 of them were divided into 12 categories to vie for top honors. The entrants were as diverse and colorful as the categories - California Bobber, Old School Scooter, Antique, Modern Bobber, Rat Bike, Metric Chopper, Radical Design, Bagger, Big Twin, Sportster, British, Koolest Paint, and Best of Show. There was also the David Mann Memorial prize up for grabs. Sonny Boy out of Sante Fe Springs did an amazing job of painting and pinstriping the unique gas tank-shaped trophies. Gray Cat was honored with the David Mann Memorial trophy but it was Chris Richardson from LA Speed Shop who rode away the big winner, claiming first place in the Old School Scooter category and winning Best of Show for his metallic sea foam green retro chopper Lady Luck
For his award-winning bike, Richardson took an old frame, mounted a 1947 Knucklehead replica engine in it, dressed up the V-Twin with a Linkert M74 carb and a Buck Rogers Bird Catcher air cleaner and added to its nostalgic look with a Springer fork that he narrowed and lengthened. He chopped up a Sportster gas tank and fobbed up an oil tank out of an Offenhauser Chevy 409 valve cover. He kept the front clean and classic with no fender or brake and sourced a fender off an old BSA for the rear. It’s a jockey shifted scoot with a RevTech tranny and a Primo 1.5-inch open belt drive. The bike has plenty of custom tidbits created by Richardson with the piece de resistance in the form of green micro flake paint sprinkled with gold leaf and lime green pinstripes.
Whatever your tastes in custom motorcycles, there was something for everyone at the show. The raspy rumble from the triple pipes coming from a custom 900 Triumph caught our attention as we passed by, its heat wrapped D&B TBS 3-into-3 exhaust emitting a healthy burble. The converted café racer had been completely rebuilt on the front end with Race Tech fork springs to go along with new seals, bushings and grommets. The rear had a 2005 ZX-10 suspension upgrade. Its café racer pedigree was enhanced by Slim’s Fab custom one-off bars and a TBS solo seat and cowl.
On the opposite end of the spectrum was Jeff Wusson’s Green Bonanza 1970 custom mini scooter. Pimped out with a Springer front end and dual shocks out back, a small hinge-spring custom seat and what looked like an old Briggs & Stratton lawn mower engine coated in a lime green, the custom scooter put smiles on many faces.
The 2010 David Mann Chopper Fest was a true swap meet. If you looked long and hard enough, you could probably find it there.
While we weren’t “Oohing and Aahing” over bikes in the show, we were strolling about checking out the 200 vendors set up around the fairgrounds. There were also 40 custom bike builders on hand displaying their craftsmanship. Todd Silicato from Huntington Beach’s Todd’s Cycles was busy greeting fans. Kiwi Mike made the trip over from Riverside with a handful of his beautiful Kiwi Indian motorcycles on display. Mike was still riding a natural high from his recent induction into the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum Hall of Fame. It was good to see Michael Barragan of Evil Spirit Engineering up on his feet again considering he was in a coma about a year and a half ago after a car took him out on his motorcycle just prior to Las Vegas BikeFest
. When we stopped by the Evil Spirit booth, Barragan was busy talking shop with old Headbangers Ball VJ Riki Rachtman. Sugar Bear
and Fuji filtered through the crowd enjoying the sunshine and laid bike vibe of the festival.
The grooving bass of The Preachers filled the air as the band rocked the stage, promoting their CD “Yeah Baby” in between songs. Roller girls from the roller derby team the Oxnard Sugartown Roller Girls dodged through the crowd on old school skates. The beer line was long all day long as cold suds cured the thirsts of the sun-parched crowd.
It's cool to see the custom bike scene being passed to the next generation.
Before we left, we paid our tribute to the Norman Rockwell of the biker lifestyle with a visit to the gallery displaying a few of David Mann’s prints. One of his most recognizable works, “Ghost Rider,” greeted visitors as they entered the hall. The image of a lone rider crossing the desert phantomed by a rider on horse from days of the Wild, Wild West strikes a chord with most riders. There was also the humorous “Saturday Night, Sunday Morning,” the seductive “Choose Your Fantasy” and the defiant “Thunder Struck” on display. Though Mann may no longer live with us in body, as long as there’s a Chopper Fest, his spirit will never die.