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Born Free 11

Jul 02 2019

Good times, great weather and bitchin’ bikes are always featured on the Born Free menu. It’s tough to put a label on this massively diverse Southern California gathering of motorcyclists, but it’s easy to see why Born Free has become one of the largest motorcycle events on the West Coast. It’s not quite a rally, yet it attracts a two-day crowd that rivals the size of many. And each year co-founders Mike Davis and Grant Peterson shake things up to ensure the good vibes permeate throughout Oak Canyon Park, packing in more bikes, more music and more fun than most motorcycle shows.

The show runs Saturday and Sunday, but the weekend’s festivities kicked off Thursday night with the hooligans invading Industry Hills Expo Center for the Born Free Stampede. The thrills and spills went well into the night as intense bar-banging action took place with X-Games qualifying on the line along with all-important bragging rights.

Nick Busby's 1962 H-D Panhead — winner of the Biltwell People's Champ. The bike features a chrome molded straight leg frame, 4" over 44mm fork, 16" rear and 21" front wheels, and some killer custom bodywork and paint performed by Nick and Matt Busby.

On Friday, the masses gathered at renowned biker bar Cook’s Corner for the Biltwell People’s Champ. Online voting during the prior months narrowed the field down to six finalists, and each of the finished builds was worthy of top honors. But in the end, Nick Busby’s 1962 Panhead dubbed “Double Take” earned the most votes along with a $7,500 check and featured spot inside the "Invited Builders" area at Born Free 11. Nick's weekend got even better when "Double Take" earned him a free trip to Japan for the world-famous Mooneyes Hot Rod Custom Show. Every year Mooneyes reps attend Born Free and hand-pick one bike to get an all-expenses-paid trip to Japan, and "Double Take" was the first bike ever selected from the People's Champ crop of machines. Congrats to Nick on an honor well deserved, and congrats to the other five People's Champ finalists for putting in some amazing work.

"Hexaglide" by Suzy Pilaczynski, a 1977 H-D Shovelhead with mesmerizing hexagon-shaped inverted telescoping legs and a slew of other tricks that made this build truly stand out.

"Double Take" by Nick Busby, 1962 H-D Panhead and winner of the 2019 Biltwell People's Champ.

"The People's Magnum" by Matt Pontano, a wild H-D 45 Magnum-powered build with one-off frame (and pretty much everything else!).

Ben Jeffries' all-business 1960 FLH with custom swingarm and super clean single downtube frame.

"Juan N' Done" by James Juarez, a 1951 Panhead with heavily modified "raked and baked" '48 H-D frame.

"Tangerine Sky" by Caleb Denton, a 1975 H-D FLH digger/chopper hybrid with all kinds of not-so-subtle details.

By 9:00 a.m. on Saturday the line to get into Born Free stretched a quarter mile long. Attendees have two options for tickets: a Born Free Grass Pass or General Admission. As Born Free organizers put it, a Grass Pass is for those wishing to ride their motorcycle inside the park on show grounds and “become the show.” The gates open and before you know it, 10,000+ bikes are meticulously filtered into Oak Canyon Park and all of them are qualified to win one of the 20+ awards as part of the show. These passes sell out quick, so act fast. General Admission passes run about 5 bucks cheaper, with parking available in adjacent gravel lots.

The Ives Brothers entertained the masses all weekend long.

"The Third tReich," a Volkswagen-powered creation from the masterful mind of JP Rodman.

To keep things fresh, Born Free organizers threw in a few new wrinkles this year. The daring showmen that are the Ives Brothers entertained packed crowds lined three deep atop the infamous Wall of Death. Cody and Kyle kept the throttle pinned and fans on their toes all weekend long.

In addition to the amazing choppers and old school/vintage bikes that really formed the foundation for Born Free, nowadays the weekend also incorporates satellite “shows within a show” like the San Diego Customs FXR & Dyna Show. Harley-Davidson also enlisted a handful of builders this year to take a Milwaukee-Eight model of their choice and turn it into a full-on performance customs. So if choppers, bobbers and classic scoots aren’t your main thing, there’s still plenty to check out at Born Free.

One of our favorite builds this year was Hawke Lawshe's "Azureus," a gorgeous raked-out Shovel chop complete with engine and transmission case cut-outs that lets you see the inner workings of H-D's venerable powerplant.

With bikes literally everywhere you look, trying to take it all in can be a tad overwhelming. Organizers do a solid job of arranging the BF11 Invited Builders into one “corral” and the People’s Champ builders into another area to keep them clearly separated from the 10,000+ Grass Pass DIY garage builders. You could spend an entire day walking the grounds and still miss more than half the bikes. Trust us; we tried. So with that, we'll leave you with a few dozen pictures that hopefully provide a small taste of everything Born Free has to offer. Don't take our word for it, though. This is one event that needs to be experienced first-hand.

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