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Business Management

Custom Bike Shows are Alive and Well


[dropcap]I[/dropcap] just got back from Daytona and decided to write this month’s column on a topic near and dear to me – custom bike shows. If you think about it, custom bike shows are a pretty good reflection of the state of our industry. It’s not just the number of shows, but the diversity, the quality and most important, the following. Builders get a chance to display their talents and if they are lucky enough they may even get commissioned for a build or two. Parts manufacturers get inspired to create new products for the masses, giving everyone a chance to personalize their bike. Custom bike shows entertain and motivate bikers at all levels to modify their bikes to become something special, something personal. Most certainly, dreaming about custom motorcycles are responsible for more sleepless nights than any other form of transportation.

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EOO-1We can’t even begin to count the number of bike shows from international, national, regional and local competitions to prestigious invitationals, underground warehouse events, specialty bagger and paint shows that are everywhere, but more importantly, they are well attended. Bikers want to be inspired, and trust us, nothing gets the mind spinning like a one-off custom.

The bike show season starts with the AMD World Championship of Custom Bike Building in Germany followed by the AIMExpo Championship of the Americas, which is around the same time the new motorcycle year begins with new model introductions and product reveals. The Ultimate Builder series kicks in and usually closes just before all the Daytona bike shows. This year we went to Warren Lane’s True Grit Vintage Bike Show, the Perewitz Paint Show, Harley’s Editor’s Choice Show, and everyone’s favorite show at Willies Tropical Tattoo Shop. We missed the Baddest Bagger, Rat’s Hole, the Boardwalk and a bunch of other shows we just didn’t have time to check out.


Other rallies have taken note from Daytona and Sturgis and are putting a greater focus on bike shows. The Harley Museum Invitational Bike Show has become a staple of the Milwaukee Bike Rally and the ROT Rally in Texas will be introducing The Republic of Texas Invitational Bike Show this year. The invitationals are awesome from Giddy Up to Born Free to The Brooklyn Invitational to Artistry in Iron. The millennials have started the newest trend, warehouse bike shows featuring bikes displayed more as functional art. Pick any one of them; The One, Garage Brewed, MaMa Tried or HandBuilt and you will find a happening warehouse event full, we mean FULL, of enthusiasts checking out bikes and having a great time.


OK, this is all great but what does it mean to me as a motorcycle industry professional? When the economy was spiraling downward custom bike shows did not go away, but there was not as many of them and they were dominated by more stripped down basic styling. As the economy got better the number of shows increased and the builds got more exotic. What this means is you should be paying attention to which show is drawing your target audience and how that audience aligns itself with your customers? You should attend the shows that fit with your business model, maybe even set up a booth or sponsor the ones that fit your needs. Ours is an industry that feeds an individual’s passion.


There is no one more passionate than a person who spends countless hours designing and building their vision with no greater expectation than the respect and admiration of their fellow peers. Every custom bike show I have gone to this year has been well attended by enthusiasts taking their time to check out the unique details of their favorite machine. The custom bike show indicator says we can expect a pretty a good year in the motorcycle business, and I think we can all welcome that!

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