Rocking on River Road
New Braunfels, Texas., Mar. 31—The Giddy Up Vintage Chopper Show is without a doubt one of the most energetic and robust motorcycle events currently in existence in the American South. The vibe of the attendees, the quality of the bike builds, the history of an offbeat culture shared between grey beards and hipsters and some of the finest motorcycle roads in all of Texas culminate in a one-day bike show that transforms into a weekend-long party. The Cinco was on.
Held a few miles outside the Hill Country town of New Braunfels at the River Road Ice House, the Giddy Up was celebrating its fifth iteration. Riders began showing up Thursday, setting up camp at nearby Camp Huaco Springs, visiting the bike dealership, exploring the area, and searching out friends made in previous years. There was also the pre-pre-party Thursday night at The Little Darlin’ just up the road in Austin.
Friday afternoon featured a kick-off party at Gruene Harley-Davidson. Gruene H-D is a high-caliber shop with a huge parking lot for monthly bike nights, H.O.G. events, cook-offs and demo days, basically any reason possible to gather and celebrate the two-wheel life. Drag Specialties sent their trailer rig out for the day alongside Texas Performance Motorcycles, a creative team displaying a beautiful collection of high-end bikes that showcased their work. A variety of food trailers were on hand while the refreshment of the day, The National Beer of Texas, Lone Star was being served—but with a twist. “Donations only,” I was told by one of the pretty ladies working the beer stall as she pointed at a sign stating that all suds money collected would benefit For the Love of Kids and Harleys, a local nonprofit that conducts fundraisers while providing grants and loans to various organizations. Yep, the beer was free. And you even got a free Lone Star koozie.
Despite recent heavy rains, Saturday morning delivered a beautiful sunrise with the day treating riders to clear skies and perfect temperatures. River Road is a protected watershed and absolutely no parking is allowed along the shoulders—a fact publicized by state signage along the route. And since parking at the Icehouse is severely limited, this causes problems that are totally ignored by the bikers with motorcycles parked along every road for half a mile in all directions. From all appearances it seems that enforcement of “absolutely no parking” is also ignored during the Giddy Up.
Twenty-nine bikes were entered in the show this year, staged on a terraced area facing the stage. Those in attendance were allowed to thread their way through the bikes encouraging close inspection. Most of the owners of the bikes were on hand and eager to answer any questions concerning their builds. And there were plenty of questions fielded by the builders with a majority coming from those who never had the opportunity to experience the original wave of chopperdom in the ’60s and ’70s and may have never even heard of Dave Mann. Many of these kids admitted they were currently in the middle of their first attempt at building a chopper and were eager to learn. I was even questioned in the parking lot about the Avon tires and Joe Hunt magneto that are on my Shovelhead by a youngster putting together a Panhead. With the industry abuzz for the need to bring the next generation of riders into the fold, the Giddy Up offers more than just a glimmer of hope.
The Giddy Up is not your traditional bike show and has no judging, no selection, no winner. Being asked to enter is the only reward—a chance to display your creativity and sense of design. And that creativity is rampant with many bikes in the parking lot being on an equal level with those in the show—an embarrassment of cool. And the endless procession of bikes on River Road after a taste of the twisties was astounding. Traditional choppers from the early days with 20”-over springers, outlandish metal flake paint and tooled leather made the day complete with some of the best viewing from atop the roof of the Ice House’s second-story beer garden.
Each year a raffle bike is commissioned and for 2018 the selected builder was Matt Jackson, owner of Jackson’s Choppers in South Austin. Specializing in vintage-style choppers from the ’60s and ’70s, he constructed a gorgeous hardtail 1946 Knucklehead with trumpet upsweep pipes, moderate apes, a 40” sissy bar and a killer black-with-yellow-flame paint job by Slab Side Cycles. And for the first time the winner was a gal, Heather San Miguel, a spunky brunette from the Texas panhandle.
What might be in store for Giddy Up next year? We can only hope for more people and outstanding bikes, the same energetic crowd, and an increase in sponsorship. As for me, I hope to see that kid I met in the parking lot on his finished Panhead maybe sporting Avon tires and a Joe Hunt mag.