It is pure irony that on one of the few days when snowy weather made it risky to ride a motorcycle, a regional bikers’ fair called “Cyclefest” made its debut at Ohio Expo Center. The combination builders’ expo/trade show/swap meet was launched in Dayton in 2011, and will be hitting about a half-dozen cities before the year is out.
A first walk-through lets one get a feel for the event. There are vendors who cater to the serious motorcyclist, vendors who will sell their non-related product at any venue, and custom builders. The second walk-through is when patrons will take some time and peruse the offerings in more detail, and this is when the culture begins to come into focus.
One thing quickly becomes clear: Beyond the bottom-rockers, black t-shirts, and chained wallets lies the heart & soul of proud, old-world craftsmen. They toil in musty garages. They load in tires, frames, and engines—either new-in-boxes or dripping fluids from previous use; and weeks (or months) later they will emerge with works of art on wheels. It’s these independent Midwest builders that Cyclefest seeks to emphasize.
One of the more prominent small-shop customs (located conveniently close to the entrance) is a contemporary rebuild of the iconic ‘Captain America’ motorcycle from the 1969 film, “Easy Rider.” (header photo) It was built by Tom Kurelic at Columbus’ Wild Boar Cycles last year. Kurelic says that not counting his time, he invested $34,000. He’s selling it for $26,900; but had he factored in his time, it would be worth $50,000. Now retired, the former City of Columbus chief structural building inspector worked on this project eight hours a day, five days a week, for six or seven months.
Kurelic says the Route 66 theme is homage both to the movie (which was filmed at points along the route) and a personal experience: he hitch-hiked to California in 1964, at the age of 19, along the famous road.
The bike on display is actually Kurelic’s second ‘Captain America’ venture; he built the first in 1970—and wishes he still had it. His Model #1 was built around a 1952 Harley-Davidson with a panhead engine, as was one of the motorcycles made for “Easy Rider.” (Four custom choppers were built for the movie; two primary and two back-ups.) Kurelic says his updated version is what Peter Fonda would have come up with if he had constructed it today: on the frame of a ‘softtail’ (as opposed to the original’s ‘hardtail’) with a 113 cubic-inch engine and foot-wide rear tire (74 cubic inches and five inches, respectively, for the movie bike).
Sinners-n-Saints Choppers has been in business for five years as a full-service bike shop in Whitehall. This one was built four years ago. Like Tom Kurelic’s chrome custom, it, too, features a raked front end and series-250 rear tire. The flame job is over a ‘gold candy’ base.
The small town of Delphos (northwest part of the state) was represented by Offy Cycles. Nathan Offenbacher and his father started as a repair shop and moved into customization. Their showpiece is a tricycle—their first venture—built from the ground-up, featuring a stitched leather seat.
And the beat goes on.
Think of any color, any design, and chances are it could be seen—or if not, definitely built. All of them looked just too good to risk taking out on the road. (But should an accident occur, there’s a law firm specializing in motorcycle injury law. Just look for the booth where the lady behind the counter is wearing a black shirt.)
Like any expo, it was the vendors who added as much flavor as the patrons: accent lights, chromed wheels, jewelry, clothing…the works.
One booth by the back wall stood out among the others: Angell Sews Patches. No vest would be complete without a slew of patches, and Angell seemed to have them all. Her two vintage sewing machines were adorned with cheerful red and yellow flowers, but they are a remembrance of her ‘old man’, who lost his life in Montana. She can’t get to that state to put flowers on his grave, so she carries them with her as she travels.
And it’s the travels that bring the riders—weekend warrior and gypsy nomad alike—to events like Cyclefest, where the annual venture begins. Their bikes are their lives…the freedom of the open road to the soundtrack of “Born to be Wild” and a V-twin under sunny blue skies.
Click here to see more photos of Cyclefest 2012.