Article and Photos By: Twila Knight
Originally Published In The May 2019 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
Born-Free has become a staple in our community. We all know it’s coming up, we all know it will be huge, we all know we need to get that Grass Pass, and we all know we will be spending the weekend with no cell phone service. No cell phones, but there will be tons of bikes, music, vendors, food and let’s not forget… beer. And here we go again, the countdown until Born-Free 11 begins. Builders are hustling; there are a few wrenches missing that have disappeared into oblivion. There are the ever present cuss words when that bolt falls into the frame in a spot no hand or magnet can reach. And all this is done for the chance to win, or just to be recognized. The struggle is real, and the weekend is epic.
Flashback… Born-Free 10 didn’t let us down; they brought in new builders to freshen things up. There’s always a big line up of great bikes; I can’t imagine having to pick out just a couple to win. The most predominant win is always Best In Show, which went to Justin Walls and his amazing Salt Flats Racer. He won himself a trip to Yokohama Japan for the Mooneyes Show. Before the weekend of B-F, Show Class Magazine hosts its People’s Champ show, giving one lucky winner the ability to be a part of the builder’s circle for the Born- Free weekend. Last year that honor went to Josh Sheehan and his custom Shovelhead which earned him a spot as an invited builder for Born-Free 11.
If you have been to the event before, you know that the weather is almost always, well, shitty. It is hot and muggy because those canyons love to block the breeze. However, last year it was a cool, slightly cloudy mid-70’s to low 80’s at the peak of the day. The one year they finally got some shade by the band area, is the one year they didn’t even really need it. But don’t worry, hot or not, the guys have assured me that they will have that shade area setup again. It is a perfect area to sit and listen to the headlining bands; people-watch and stroll in and out of the invited builders circle. But enough about B-F10, what’s really important here is knowing what’s in store for Born-Free 11!! You will have your regulars, of course. There will also be the fairly recent addition, but quick to become a crowd favorite, Vans Half Pipe, which will be back in full swing. They not only have skateboarding but also some BMX’ers will be out there tearing it up. There will be plenty of invited builders. Usually they have somewhere around 20, but this year they amping things up a bit and pulling in 30 or so builders from all over the world. There will be some new blood, and some old hats strutting their mechanical stuff. This year, they will also have their first female builder! Brittney Olsen of 20th Century Racing will be bringing her unique style to the grass and I can guarantee she will not disappoint!
As for Vendors, even though a few years back they had to reign in on the vendor count, they still have roughly 200 vendors, from all over the world, for your perusing pleasure. The guys in charge review the vendors every year to make sure their wares are motorcycle-industry related. As the guys mentioned during my interview, “You won’t be shopping for bed sheets, beanie babies, or timeshares in Guadalajara.” To bring a new flavor to the show, the guys have worked out a little something with the AMCA, the Antique Motorcycle Club of America. A spotlight will shine on the AMCA bikes to remind us all where this little lifestyle started. With any luck, they will be able to do a little regional swap meet with them as well. And giveaways… forget about it. I know, I know, get to it already. Well, they have it all covered yet again. They will be giving away so many bikes it will blow your mind ! Let’s see, they have a 1960’s style chopper built from a 1938 Big Twin Flathead UL, a 1939 Harley UH, which was a barn find, but has been of course fully rebuilt, and a 2019 H-D Street Bob that has been customized by the crew at Orange County Harley- Davidson. Plus, they will be giving away another brand-new Harley at the Stampede. There may be more giveaways, but only time will tell.
Of Course, both stages will be filled with bands all weekend, and they are working on some new acts if they can snag them. The one-act they will let me sneak out a word to you is Revolution Mother. They will be on stage killing it like they always do. To me one of the most exciting events of the weekend is…The Wall of Death!!! A set up of absolutely insane riders racing in a circle… Vertically! It is craziness, and personally, I love standing in the middle of it all with my camera up, and my mind blown. Ives Brothers will be the proud presenters this year, and I can’t wait
An obvious fact is that Born-Free and Harley-Davidson have become quite buddy-buddy. This year they are doing something similar to Route 66. Six guys are going to be man-handling 6 Harley Softails of their choice and customizing them however they deem worthy. Once they are buckled up and ready to ride, they will be hopping on them and riding their happy selves from Milwaukee straight to the grounds of Born-Free. I am not going to lie; I am completely jealous, my little ride to Born-Free is about the same distance as the gas stops on a peanut tank. Maybe one year I’ll ride across the country just to turn around and ride back to Born-Free; just so I can have a better story.
Now, let’s talk about aaaallllll the parties that happen surrounding this two-day event, which turns into a weeks-worth of events. As many of you may already know, this year they went for two races, one this past December at the City of Industry, and the Stampede which will again come up at the Costa Mesa Speedway. But, before the Stampede, things will kick off with the spring party, the BF X Party on Saturday, March 19th up at the Baldy Lodge. The week of the event you have the Dice Pre-Party, Wednesday, June 19th, then as mentioned the Stampede on Thursday, definitely a must go. You can get a sneak peek at all the builder’s bikes before everyone else. On Friday Night, at Cooks Corner, Show Class Magazine will hold the ever-popular Peoples Champ. This show will also include a female builder. Suzy Pilaczynski from OldSft cycle shop will try to earn her way into B-12 as an invited builder. Then, you have the show itself: a two-day gala, Saturday, June 22nd, and Sunday, June 23rd. Quite the line-up!!! Better start preparing those livers now folks.
Ok, logistics time. You can see the dates above, but other important info you should know as you are prepping for this B-F season… A nice turn of events is you do NOT have to be present to win ANY of the bikes given away at the event itself. So buy your tickets, and should you run over your foot with your own motorcycle and can’t stand the pain of walking through the canyon, your still safe. A klutz, but safe. You will, however, have to be present to win the bike from the Stampede, so suck it up, grab some crutches, and sit in the stands long enough for your ticket to be called. Also, Grass Passes… They sell out every year, so get them early if you haven’t gotten them already. And remember, a grass pass allows you to bring your bike in and maybe get noticed by the guys. Who knows, you might become a part of the show itself. You can go to Loser Machine’s or Born-Free’s website for them. If you aren’t a fan of crowds, try and attend Sunday, it is the least crowded of the two days. Last but not least, keep an eye out on the guys Instagram and Facebook @bornfreeshow, for all event info, dates, times, changes, etc. And of course, to purchase tickets, swag and grass passes check out www. bornfreeshow.com See you all there!