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Tuesday 21 March 2023

Comment by Editor-in-Chief, Robin Bradley

AMD 'Approved' Custom Bike Show Program 

The reaction to our decision to 'retire' the AMD World Championship has been one of widespread and, literally, worldwide disappointment among custom bike builders and AMD 'Affiliate' event organizers.

The feedback from 'builders' - competitors and otherwise - is that the program provided a focus for the custom-build market and represented an inspirational, motivational and aspirational goal. 

The positive effect that the program has had on custom show conduct, staging values and judging integrity expectations has also been appreciated by many who now worry that without an industry scheme, some of the old problems that plagued custom shows could return.

Many of the event organizers who were involved in the 'AMD', those who were dedicated to doing it well and had the interests of the custom bike industry at heart, have told us that the recognition by 'AMD' was valuable to them as it was respected by competitors and recognized by consumers in their countries as having real meaning and event credential.

As we commented when announcing the "permanent suspension" of the program some months ago, we are fully aware of the respect in which it was held, the value placed on it and the positive effects that it had on 'raising the bar' - both in terms of bike build quality recognition and event conduct standards.

Walking away from that positive role wasn't something that we here at AMD were happy about. However, just as starting out down that path was a 'child of its times' back-in-the-day, then so too knowing when to walk away and leave the stage open for a new concept, a new formula, and new players to emerge was as important at this time as the start of the undertaking had back in the 1990s.

The times are different now, and I'm pleased to say that, budgets apart, most of the show staging problems that gave rise to the 'AMD' program are now largely in the market's rear-view mirror. If custom bike shows are going to be able to reconcile their two, often conflicting priorities, it is time for new ideas and options to emerge.

Those two priorities are to honor and showcase the custom motorcycle design and engineering values of the past, and to be able to address the future by embracing the ever-changing 'direction of travel' that drives the evolution of motorcycle design and engineering. 

What was once cutting-edge and radical is now 'retro' and nostalgia. The industry needs events that will showcase the new radical, will create new experiences and new memories. It both needs to keep the flames alive and find new flames.

Having deliberately taken our time about our decision-making and planning, there is now a clear void and the opportunity to 'seed' a new vision of international Custom Bike Show coordination and recognition to help those new concepts emerge, to provide a platform from which a new direction of travel for the custom bike show sector can emerge.

In direct response to feedback from builders, event organizers and well-known industry collaborators, AMD is therefore launching a new version of its 'Affiliate' program - the 'AMD Approved' program.

A seal of approval that provides recognition and profile for custom shows that, no matter how different they are to each other, do nonetheless share our values, care about the interests of their competitors and about the quality and future of custom motorcycle design and engineering.

This is no 'show conduct playbook', this is not a show structure cookie-cutter, but it is an indication that the show is serious about giving its visitors a quality experience and the chance to see the best possible custom bikes, while also giving their competing guests the best possible platform to showcase their work.

At this stage, there is no pathway to any kind of finals concept, this is not the comeback of the 'AMD' World Championship event, but it is a brand carry-forward that event organizers and their competitors can use. They can use it as a signal of intent that they understand the importance of doing their best to "do the right thing" where custom show organization, conduct, judging and integrity are concerned.

Is it an endorsement of the show by AMD Magazine? Is it accreditation by AMD? Is it certification? Well, yes to all those to varying extents, but it is a badge of approval that can also be withdrawn at any time if the majority feedback from builders about the event is negative. We will work with organizers on a consultancy basis to advise and help them make their show the best it can be, but 'Approval' is annual and is not automatically renewed.

With this new program announcement, we can confirm the first three events that are 'AMD Approved' for 2023. With 'Custom Bike Show' operated by Twin Club MC in Sweden (first weekend of June) and 'Biker Fest' (Italy, May 18-21), operated by Moreno and Micke Persello of Bikers Life fame, we are recognizing the oldest custom shows, and two of the longest established and most internationally respected of the events from the former 'AMD Affiliate' program.

Plus, we are recognizing a new event to the 'AMD Family' - the Indian Riders Fest in Czechia and its associated 'Budweis' Custom Show (June 9-11, 2023). Not a new event, it has, however, made great progress in terms of its status, backing and profile in the past 24 months. 

It represents a genuine first for AMD, and for the international custom motorcycle market in general, as the first show that is 100 percent dedicated to past and present Indian motorcycles.