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Tuesday 17 August 2021



Sonoma International Raceway, California, July 16 - 18

The past two years have delivered the biggest shake-up to the established motorcycle industry events calendar for a generation, with many people believing that the nature of motorcycle events - industry/trade and consumer - is likely to emerge changed for ever.
In addition to the impacts of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the change premise is also predicated on the changing demographics as Boomers are replaced by the alphabet soup of digital era consumer age groups, the changing attitudes to and experience of the ownership and riding experience that we are seeing, and the widely touted impending demise of the internal combustion engine.

Custom Classic - requires a 1999 or earlier OEM engine (no replicas allowed), but custom or stock modified frames can be used. 

Hugo Eccles with Untitled Motorcycles won with a 1975 Moto Guzzi Supernaturale. The custom is a minimalist café racer that features an 844 cc engine and a 23% lighter build than its original 1975 donor. The hand-formed aluminum gas tank is a contemporary reinterpretation of the classic LeMans and encloses a state-of-the-art electrical system, and much more.

Dave Kelly secured runner-up with a custom-built 1939 Flathead.

With entry into riding two wheels under greater challenge than ever, kudos to Informa, the current owner of the venerable International Motorcycle Show series, for responding to the issues that forced the cancelation of the winter 2020/2021 series by taking it outdoors.
So far, consumer and industry reaction to the concept that made its debut at the Sonoma International Raceway north of San Francisco at the end of July has been mixed. Consumers appear surprisingly divided about the absence of the conventional indoor expo style exhibits.
However, it does appear that centering a cut-down event on the test rides, integrating them into the 'mother ship' rather than locating them a shuttle away, has gone over well.
By all reports, the attendance at this first 'IMS Outdoors' was light - especially compared to the crowds the series has seen in many of its Convention Center style expo venues in its illustrious 40- year history.
In terms of aftermarket opportunities, for potential customers to feel the "extended experience" the vendor count was equally thin, with OEM offerings trumping the modest sprinkling of aftermarket P&A and G&A shopping opportunities.
All that said, the mission that Informa has fallen back on is the proverbial 'mission to inform', and in terms of letting recent and potential riders get to grips with the core product, the bikes themselves, then they may well have closed the gap with the MIC and its AIMExpo (which is now 100% 'trade' focused) and added another voice to the unified hymn sheet the industry needs to be singing from.

Custom Street - based on 2000 and later major OEM engines and frames.

Dan Stern and painter Art Himsl
won with a 2004 Harley-Davidson Softail/sidecar that features handmade fenders and body panels. The sidecar hosted exotic wood flooring, full aluminum louvered polished belly pans and custom luggage behind the seat. The custom also features handmade taillights and trim work, hidden handlebar controls, a bronze powder-coated engine, and much more.

Phil Susoev secured runner-up with a 2003 Harley-Davidson Softail standard, custom-built by Ricky Bray at RKB Kustom Speed.

The OE support appears to have been pretty good, though there were some obvious absentees - the BWM, Triumph, Ducati and Honda factory involvement, to shout out four of the non-believers - and idiosyncrasies abounded elsewhere.
Harley was there, giving the LiveWire One a debut (there were some Serial 1 E-bicycles in evidence too), and whilst there were four or five examples of the new Sportster S in evidence, Harley was not offering test rides on them. That said, by all accounts, one of the longest lines to book test ride time slots on was for the Pan America.
Most of the other 'Usual Suspects' were 'working it', including Indian Motorcycle, but at what was a relatively small event in real estate terms (in the Pit Lane area of the Sonoma Raceway), there appears to have been less in evidence from the four-wheel side of the powersports industry than the organizers were originally pimping there would be.
This was the 11th annual UBCBS and J&P Cycles' ongoing involvement, indeed any involvement and backing from Revzilla and Cycle Gear too (all three share the same ownership), is valuable equity for the organizers. The co-promotional and leverage opportunities between Informa and Comoto are immense, and it is to be hoped that the organizers "get that" and are "playing nice."
Close cooperation between event organizers and 'stakeholders' and the deep and detailed understanding of mutual interests that should come with that are critical at this critical moment in the evolution of the market.
The industry needs to capitalize on the growth that is being seen at this time, to build on it and take the public's enthusiasm for our market's products and lifestyle choices to another level. Failure to 'seize the moment' would be criminal.
The need for a physical showcase in the United States is unanswerable, so it is time for partners, including our OEMs, to be just exactly that and to calibrate their partnerships by how well their collaborators do from the relationships that are there to be forged, not measure their own success by how little they leave on the table.
The adversarial model of years, of decades past, needs to be consigned to that past - it is not our friend. If we are to move forward, everyone involved in an enterprise like IMS Outdoors needs to prosper if the rebooted concept can look forward to another 40 successful years.
This is the 11th annual series for the J&P Cycles Ultimate Builder Custom Bike Show (UBCBS), and with precious few opportunities for customizers to show the fruits of their efforts recently, but with plenty of time to hone concepts and execution, the results of this 2021 nine-city series should be among the best yet.

The popular Freestyle Class is where pretty much anything goes, and the only boundaries are those of the builder's own imagination and craftsmanship.
Gino and Denise Ilacqua with Jezabel Customs and painter Shane Leasure
won with a 1976 Custom Chopper. The motorcycle features throwback rocker boxes, a custom oil tank, twist bar, plus bent metal pieces using camper propane tanks and a vise to shape fabricated pieces, and so much more.

Andrew Harris secured co-runner-up with a 2018 Sur Ron Lightbee. The all-electric on- and off-road Supermoto features regenerative breaking and a complete lighting system including ambient RGB underglow.

UBCBS has a rich history as the largest motorcycle builder competition in the United States, featuring hundreds of motorcycles and offering the chance to win tens of thousands in cash and prizes.
Custom bike show mastermind, V-twin industry guru and UBCBS Director Bob Kay says: "We designed the competition to spotlight professional and amateur builders alike, attracting world-class builders to showcase their rolling works of art at each stop along the tour.
"Not only do the participants receive well-deserved recognition, but the custom motorcycles on display provide event attendees the opportunity to engage with some of the finest customs across the US." 

Joe Stoesser won the People's Choice award with a 1994 Harley-Davidson FXR. The custom, known as The Team Dream, is a perfect example of the last of the FXR. The motorcycle was built in a one-car garage in San Francisco, features a nickel-plated frame, one-off swingarm, candy paint and a few hundred hours of hand engravings.

Each stop along the tour holds a competition at the event comprised of three classes - Custom Street Class, Custom Classic Class and Freestyle Class - and the People's Choice Award. Winners from each category are entered into the championship round held in Atlanta [October 29 - 31], competing for the grand prize and renowned 'King of Builders' title.
"Congratulations to the winners in Sonoma - this year's bunch is truly a remarkable group of builders, with each bike telling a unique story. We are still accepting applications for the upcoming cities and welcome all creatives and builders to be a part of the fun," continued Kay.