Article And Photos By: Troy Bensinger
Originally Published In The October-November 2020 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
“You may not remember, with friends you will never forget.” This biker build off wasn’t supposed to happen. The socalled pandemic was in full effect, but the owner of the Saddle Sore Ranch, Rob Borden, decided to go through with the Blue Collar Biker Build-Off anyway. He wasn’t going to let any stay at home order or social distancing stop this year’s event. Participants from around the country had spent several months cutting, chopping, and welding on their 2-wheel creations for the build off. The Blue Collar Build Off finals are held annually at the end of April in conjunction with the West Coast Rendezvous. It is a four day, offgrid, old school biker campout and rodeo. This event features the BCBO, flat track races, biker games, adult games, world’s tallest outdoor stripper pole, nightly adult campfire parties, and amazing area riding, including the worldfamous Mohave Rattlesnake, a section of Route 66 with 222 curves in just 10 miles. Teams come from all over the country for the BCBO. After they register they have just 30 days to build their bike. They will all start off with some old donor bike or pile of parts. Many people have an old bike in the garage or the backyard that has been sitting there for years in the hopes that “someday” they will fix it. The BCBO is their excuse- it’s their “someday”. They grab a few friends (no more than 4 per team) and spend the next four weeks getting that old thing back on the road. They can put as much time and labor into it as they want within the 30 days, but they are only allowed to spend up to $1,500 on anything they have to purchase. What can you and your buddies build with a crusty old donor bike, and just $1,500 in only 30 days?
When the build time ends, they must bring their bikes out to the Saddle Sore Ranch, where they must successfully complete a 100- mile ride with the other builders. Points are deducted for bikes that do not complete the ride. Then a final judging is done by multiple judges and awards are given. Rob and his wife, Rona, hail from Las Vegas, Nevada. Rob has owned the SSR since 2016. They started out with only 5 acres. But since Rob’s parties have grown in popularity with biker community, he recently purchased 10 more acres of the secluded high desert land that surrounds the SSR. They hold several events each year including a moonshine festival, music events and, of course, several motorcycle rallies. The SSR is located in Mohave County, Arizona, on the outskirts of Golden Valley and is only 6 miles of dirt roads from the most beautiful and dangerous stretch of Route 66 left in America.
“The seclusion is part of the appeal at the Saddle Sore Ranch,” Rob said. “We could never throw the kind of parties we have if we were on a main road. I tell people ‘If you can’t get to the ranch, you don’t belong at the ranch’ and also ‘If you are only a biker up to the edge of the asphalt, you may not appreciate our 15 acre ranch’.” Rob is a lifelong motorcyclist with a passion for riding in the Southwest. He will confirm that you’re likely to develop a kinship with nature while jamming across the high desert. Any desert can throw an array of weather at a rider including extreme heat, high winds, flash floods and freezing nights. Gas stations are often 100 miles apart and a full canteen of water is a must. The barren and uninhabited Mohave desert is always a challenging and rewarding ride.
As a motorcycle lifestyle writer/ photographer, I crisscross the lower 48 six months of the year on a motorcycle, sleeping under the stars and chasing the rally circuit in search of good times, motorcycles and the people who ride them. Since I am freelance, I choose which events I want to cover. I find the non-commercial grassroots chopper campouts such as the Blue Collar Build Off appealing. There the older generation meshes with the younger generation, who are emulating the 1960’s and 1970’s chopper culture we all love so much. I spend the other half of the year in or around my hometown of Golden Valley Arizona living in my 1965 Chevy school bus just 15 miles away from the Saddle Sore Ranch. The weather in the high desert is very accommodating for motorcyclists, allowing me to ride year-round. And I never miss a party at the SSR.
For this event I rode in with Loulou, a friend visiting from France, and Joey Raccoon, a young drifter in his twenties from Michigan. Both guys were quarantining themselves at my remote desert hideout for the past few weeks so the BCBO sounded like the perfect excuse to break free, see some choppers and party our asses off. This year they had 23 teams register. They always have some dropouts because some teams get in over their heads and don’t finish their bikes. This year, due in part to COVID-19 travel bans, over half of the teams did not make it. But nine teams said, “Screw it, we will see you there!” The Scodes chopper club are a great example of the teams that build. These rigid frame, long chop, modern day dirt bags made a good showing at the event considering four members had mechanical failures and had to turn back for California. Thirteen members did arrive on choppers without much hassle from “the man” or break downs. Joe Rod explained that brothers Ty and Bill Walker founded Scodes chopper club back in 1997. They had members come from Temecula, Riverside and LA County.
Big Barrie James, one of the event organizers, was standing over a Dutch oven full of chili as he explained, “This was the Biker Build- Off that wasn’t supposed to happen due to some government restrictions put on us folks due to the pandemic bullshit. The SSR definitely qualifies as a social distancing location, we’re in the middle of nowhere minding our business and living our own lives. The biker community of Arizona never liked being told what to do- they were going to show up regardless.” The teams that made it to the finals were: Ace Cycle – Sparks, NV; Team Tinkerin – Winnemuca, NV; Backyard Bikes – Kennewick, WA; Illinois Tall Boys – Hartford, IL; Boogaloo Crew – Panama, OK; Falling Rocks – Westbrook, MN; Dysfunctional Veterans – St Robert, MO; Hack Motorworks – Lake Havasu City, AZ; Scodes MC – Phelan, CA.
The bike that won Saddle Sore Ranch Favorite was built by Rockford Scholl. His team was Falling Rocks. They made the trek all the way from Minnesota. Team leader Rockford said, “Everything on the bike was made by hand including the frame, front end, seat, tank, bars, etc. All tubing was bent by hand as well. The motor is a 1993 Sportster 1200.” At the end of the rally the winning bike was purchased by SSR owner, Rob Borden. To raise awareness of the ranch and the build off the bike will be the official SSR and Blue Collar Build Off bike used in all advertising and seen at bike shows all through the area. Best of Show and Builder’s Choice are both points-based awards with each bike judged based on several categories. Best of Show is calculated by total number of points from all judges. The Builders Choice Award is ONLY voted on by other competing teams. Best of Show and Builder’s Choice Awards were both won by the Dysfunctional Veterans.
The Cleetus Award is the best bike of the bunch that did not qualify for judging. Perhaps the bike was incomplete or was not able to start the 100-mile ride. However, it still came to the show. The Cleetus Award was won by Ace Cycle. Harley class winners were 3rd place – Illinois Tall Boys; 2nd place – Boogaloo Crew; and 1st place – Dysfunctional Veterans. Metric class winners were 2nd place – Scodes MC and 1st place – Hack Motorworks. This event is old school. No big corporate vendors, miles of t-shirt vendors, or $20 corn dogs. Sometimes campers will pitch in and throw together a pot of chili or some burgers. Sometimes they don’t. BYOB is always recommended (no glass please). Beer and food runs are frequent, so if you need anything, there is usually somebody heading into town that will grab it for you. Rob asks for an admission charge at the gate that is just a donation towards the expenses of the party, entertainment, porta potties, gas for generators and water for the outdoor showers, etc. It is just a small donation, usually $30 per person for the entire weekend which includes tent camping. So next time you’re riding through Arizona be sure to check out Rob and the gang at the Saddle Sore Ranch. Checkout their website at SaddleSoreRanch.com for a list of upcoming events.