The One Motorcycle Show

By Bryan Harley

Party in Portland

PORTLAND, ORE., FEB. 8-10—The premise was simple. Come share that one motorcycle that speaks to you, one you’ve either built with your own two hands or perchance one you’ve gone through hell and high water with. Invite your best riding buddies and a few fellow bike builders down to a dilapidated warehouse, spread the bikes about the building for everyone to enjoy, and share their stories. Add a case or 12 of cold PBRs to the mix, have the taco truck outside ready at the waiting, roast a back tire or four as the clock approaches midnight, and call it The One Motorcycle Show.

And even though the 10th annual The One Motorcycle Show featured over 165 builders and more than 200 motorcycles scattered about a 45,000-square-foot building in Portland, Oregon’s industrial north side, the show still operates under the same tenets it was founded on. Custom motorcycles still take center stage. Never knowing what you’re going to see around the next corner remains a big part of The One’s appeal as offbeat and original motorcycles continue to be celebrated. Bringing people together is still at the show’s core and seeing old friends or making new ones are special moments. Then there’s the show’s perpetual Portland pizzazz that included everything from electric mini-bike races on a makeshift track littered with empty beer cans to the See See Ural with its built-in espresso machine just inside the entrance. Also included were trance-inducing tunes of the local all-girl band Blackwater Holylight, whose lilting performance echoed throughout the cavernous halls.

By the end of the three-day celebration, approximately 18,000 people had filtered through the doors of the Pickle Factory, the name of the century-old foundry where the show is held. It’s a two-floored, multi-roomed maze of motorcycles, artwork, photography and vendors, and the antiquity of the building lends to its ambiance. Rooms are loosely divided into themes—choppers in one corner, dirt bikes a room over, assortments of British, Italian and Japanese bikes filling others. Motorcycles even filled the gaps in between gems like a late 1950s JAP-powered drag bike, which sat unobtrusively in the upper hallway.

That vintage drag bike was just one of many jewels at the show. Sosa Metalworks’ 1950 Panhead was superb with the lines of its handcrafted tank flowing like an Art Deco locomotive. The genius of J. Shia also shone brightly in Madhouse Motors’ “The Devil’s Advocate,” a reinvented 1957 Royal Enfield with a 700cc V-twin engine. Custom Works Zon traveled all the way from Japan to share its avant-garde land speed racer inspired by Ernst Henne’s record-breaking designs from the late 1920s and 1930s. While the bike’s hand-fabricated bodywork and streamlined steel trellis frame are something to behold, there’s a lot of mystery surrounding its engine—a prototype 1800cc BMW boxer twin. Custom Works Zon got to be the first to experiment with the big boxer, and there’s bountiful speculation about BMW’s intentions for the powerful mill.

Mini-bikes have been enjoying a resurgence lately and earned sideshow status at this year’s bash. The Chopper Gods held a “Mini-Bike Build-off and Race” between six industry personalities, each putting their personal spin on a pull-start mini. Jesse Shepard’s “Pedro de Pacas” mini-chopper paid homage to Cheech and Chong characters from Up In Smoke with its groovy fur-covered saddle, mini-apes, and chopped front end. The build was appropriately “powered by pizza, beer and friendship.” The electric mini-bikes in the “Dodgy Derby” are always a big hit at the show. These little electrics are flogged like racehorses down the homestretch. Even when their batteries are tapped, riders will push them around the track like scooters. The last races of the night are side-splitting as empty beer cans pile up in corners, riders pile up everywhere, and laughter erupts throughout the crowd.

But there was more than silly electric mini-bike races going on at The One. It was the real deal on Saturday when the action shifted to Salem’s Indoor Speedway for The One Pro Flat Track Races. Salem’s 1/8-mile clay oval is tacky and fast and the racing action heated up a frosty night, especially when the Super Hooligans took to the track. The One Pro serves as the season opener of the 2019 RSD Super Hooligan National Championship series, bringing some of the best heavy bike racers around to the Pacific Northwest. Pro flat track veteran Joe Kopp came down from Washington to compete and won the Super Hooligan main event, with defending champion Andy DiBrino capturing second. In the Pro Unlimited class, Harley-Davidson factory flat track rider Sammy Halbert rode to a convincing victory to pocket the prize money.

While the 10th annual show has evolved from the very first gathering to one where manufacturers aggressively joust for sponsorship, the spectacle continues to stay true to its roots. The success of the show is a reflection of its founder, Thor Drake, and the See See Motorcycles crew, who like to build bikes, ride hard and have fun.

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