Harley-Davidson’s weeklong online show featured 60 builders from 10 countries — and three winners
Words by Staff Photos courtesy of Harley-Davidson
With the Mama Tried, Congregation and Born Free shows postponed due the ongoing Covid-19 debacle, Harley-Davidson’s first-ever weeklong online motorcycle show – hosted on the brand’s Instagram page – took center stage in mid-June with some 60 custom machines from all over the world taking part. According to Harley-Davidson, the bikes ranged “in style, era and geography,” with three standout custom builders claiming titles in three separate categories.
Grabbing the Harley-Davidson Museum Award was Buffalo, New York’s own Christian Newman for his all-stainless-steel 1940 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead, which he designed and fabricated himself. The H-D Museum folks selected Newman for the impressive technical and design ingenuity behind his stainless, hand-built creation – including the two-inch narrowing of the transmission and running oil through the frame. Newman’s ‘stainless-steel special’ also features a girder fork assembly, open rockers, an outside-the-frame sprocket and rotor, and handmade bar, grips and controls, as well. Newman is a Born-Free 12 invited builder, but made his mark originally as a walk-on at Born Free 9 with another wild Knuckle custom, which won the People’s award and got him in. The guy has amazing Knuckle chops, for sure.
Winner of the Media Choice Award was Burbank, California’s Ben ‘the boog’ Zales and his truly awesome 1963 Harley-Davidson Panhead. “When I first started the build I knew I wanted to do something traditional ‘60s,” Zales says of his Pan, “so I started looking at all the bikes that I loved from the ‘60s show era. They’re all small and low to the ground, so I knew that’s where I wanted to start.” That perspective is pretty obvious looking at his Pan, which exudes uniqueness and pinnacle-level custom fabrication – all of which Zales does from his home garage. The stretched tank, one of the bike’s key aesthetic bits, started out as a piece from Low Brow Customs, with Zales and his painter messing with it over and over until it was just right. Zales is a Born Free invited builder, and it’s easy to see why.
The Harley-Davidson Styling & Design Award went to Waukesha, Wisconsin’s Michael Lange for his customized 1921 Harley-Davidson twin-cam board track racer custom. Lange converted a single-cam Harley into a twin-cam design, fabricating the cam chest and cover, gear rack as well as the cam shafts, gears and oil pump. The bike also features factory racing cylinders and a hand-fabricated fuel tank. “Form follows function,” said Brad Richards, VP of Styling & Design at Harley-Davidson and long-time garage builder, “but both report to emotion. This custom stood out for its beauty, but also as a pure racing machine with a re-engineered motor that keeps the bike performing.” Lange, by the way, has been an invited builder to every Mama Tried Motorcycle Show since its inception.
“Countless shows have been cancelled or postponed in 2020,” said Patrick Holly, brand marketing director at Harley-Davidson Motor Company, “leaving enthusiasts and builders high and dry during what should be the most exciting time of the year. So we came up with a solution – bring together builders, riders and our online community of millions through an event that celebrates the shows that could have been. And even though show-goers couldn’t be there in person, they got to click into each of the builds to watch a video of the builder/owner walking them through their creation. At the end we awarded three category winners and donated 100 percent of t-shirts sales to invited builders. If you haven’t rolled through yet, there’s still time, as the content from the show will remain live on our Instagram page.”
As cool as Harley-Davidson’s online effort was and is, let’s hope we’re back to real bike shows in the very near future!