Known as the Woodstock of the Motorcycle scene, the annual Born Free show brings out plenty of insane machines and even more weird and wonderful humans
Words and Photos by Megan Margeson
Don’t get me wrong, a lot of people rightfully flock to the Born Free show in Southern California to feast on the eye-bulging bikes and world-class masterpieces of art. The show routinely brings in some of the best bike builders on the planet. From JP Rodman’s bad-ass trike to Nik Heer’s land-speed racing Triumph, these alone make the trip well worth it.
But there’s much more to Born Free that’s rarely talked about. Mainly, the People—those funky and wildly creative souls that inspire me to come back every year. From custom fabricators to T-shirt designers, here are a few of the people that you must-see and, hopefully, meet. Trust me! They are plenty cool.
In need of some rad undergarments? Dana Dencklau’s Huckleberry Brand has got you covered. On top of undies, Huckleberry also does bandanas, patches, beanies, shirts and sweatshirts. Here at Thunder Press we love a good lightning bolt! Matching chonies, anyone?
Even if you are a Born Freer, you may not know his name, but you know exactly who he is. Jerry Brady brings his enormous snake to the show every year. When his scaly friend is not lounging under Brady’s bike, enjoying the show like the rest of us, he can be held for a photo op.
I have a deep appreciation for individuals who have mastered their craft, and Dennis Garman is one of them. He has been doing leatherwork for over three decades. I personally don’t own a gun, but his leather gun holsters were right up my alley. While leatherwork is his passion, his love is his 1982 Harley FXR Shovelhead that he has toured the country on multiple times.
In all honesty, I usually walk straight past T-shirt booths. But these two did a great job of reeling me into their Mortus Viventi booth. Their tarot-card inspired clothing is dedicated to using profits to build music venues in Southern California. So why not get some magically inked shirts and support a good cause?
Ever wonder who the artist is behind the beautiful Born Free design? This gentleman here goes by the name “Sunny Boy” and is an incredible artist. While the original design can only be admired, he had many prints for sale.
I have heard of Tobacco apparel many times but have never had the opportunity to really look at their products until now. I have personally been eye-balling a pair of Kevlar-lined jeans for quite some time, so it was awesome to check them out in person. Owner David Ackerman was happy to off some of his merch for a picture.
Does “Ben the Boog” Zales ring a few bells? Well it should. Not only does he build some incredible bikes, with his apropos “Blue Crush Boog” Panhead taking second place in the Invited Builder category, he is a killer motorcycle photographer. The guy just oozes talent.
While it seemed most of the booths were run by companies fairly local to Southern California, there were a couple from the complete other side of the world. Hajime Reizen of Chipps Company came to Born Free all the way from Tokyo, Japan!
If you know me, you know I am obsessed with turquoise. After spending my teen years constantly stealing my Mom’s turquoise jewelry, I have slowly been investing in my own collection. When I came across Kristy’s Broken Arrow booth, lo and behold I spotted something familiar. This woman was the artist behind the bracelet my mom recently gave me. I couldn’t wait to thank her and show her that I was wearing her piece.
This insanely talented husband-and-wife duo, Pinstripe Dave and Jeana Jane, specialize in, well, pinstriping and wood burning. Pinstripe Dave must have won all the games of Operation as a kid with those steady hands!
On top of the many booths to explore, there are incredible bands that perform throughout the weekend. Spirit Mother from Long Beach was a crowd favorite with their face-melting jangly, rhythmic and heavy-psych rock. Band member Armand Lance told me that “as someone passionate about building choppers, playing Born Free was special because it was an opportunity to bridge the gap between the two things I spend my life doing.”
Atwyld is a motorcycle apparel company made for women, by women. Owners Jaime Dempsey, Anya Violet and Corinne Mayer decided to tackle the lack of female riding gear head-on. “The word Atwyld is something that we created to represent the single moment that exists between fear and thrill. It’s that moment when you are on the absolute edge of your comfort zone and your adrenaline is pumping. Riding a motorcycle is, for us, about reaching this Atwyld moment as often as possible,” said Dempsey. These young ladies make some incredible gear for both street and dirt.
Do you like beautiful motorcycles? What about beautiful women? Well, do I have the booth for you! Meredith Devine is the artist behind the “Meredith’s Painted Ladies”. Devine will do some seriously bad-ass body painting on stunning ladies as they pose on custom bikes. To her, Born Free is the ultimate cultivation of motorcycles, vendors and artists. “I always feel really inspired after the show to shoot more, make more merchandise and get out on my bike.” Meredith has a book of her work, prints, and wood cuts available for purchase and was surely a hit at the show.
Sure, the Invited Builder bikes of Born Free are mind-blowing. But the sheer talent and ingenuity found within the many aisles of booths make it a unique and wild event. And remember, Stay Weird and Support Local Artists!