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Life in the Vintage Lane



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2016 Championship of the Americas winning bike build by Jordan Dickinson

It would be hard to argue the huge influence vintage motorcycling has had on today’s custom culture. We must remember an antique motorcycle is vintage but a vintage bike may not be an antique. Vintage actually represents the enduring characteristics of a period in time when quality aged into timeless perfection. Today’s custom builders seek to combine the best of individual craftsmanship and modern technology with flamboyant style to produce a new interpretation of traditional customization.

The energy of this vintage revival comes together in celebration at such great events as Garage Brewed, Mama Tried, HandBuilt and Born Free. AIMExpo has even created a contest where the best of the best come together in a friendly but determined competition to decide who shall represent the Americas in a world championship based on quality and craftsmanship.


So let’s get this antique versus vintage out of the way. An antique motorcycle is over 25 years old in most circles but many refer to anything pre-1980. The big difference is an antique is an original unrestored bike or a restoration utilizing as many original or old, new stock parts as can be found, but only re-pops as a last ditch solution in a restoration.

The gentlemen and women that pursue the world of antique are meticulous to a fault but that’s what makes their end results so amazing. Vintage on the other hand can just look as though it has aged in time, be it a custom or original reproduction or any combination of many different models and bikes that just gives you that warm and fuzzy feel. Vintage is enhanced by its surroundings and the lifestyle apparel of its participants.


I have really come to appreciate the results that come from young builders casting, forging, welding and shaping metal to produce one-off and/or limited production parts for their custom creations. They are able to create exaggerated dimensions and maintain functionality for a style you may not be familiar with. They build in meticulous detail and top it off with an incredible paint job that just blows your mind.

The custom scene has broadened beyond the traditional V-twin scene to an unlimited palette of drivetrain and chassis combinations. It seems that an appreciation for functionality has expanded the styling to include custom creations that can go from the show to the race track, off-road desert or mountains, and even on a cross-country trip. Many new events and rallies include a racing element, a custom bike scene, and of course a celebration scenario reminiscent of the ‘good old days.’


Vintage is definitely a feeling to be absorbed in, hence the success of a new generation of motorcycle celebrations. The lack of formality beckons back to a simpler time and a focus on enjoying the day to its fullest over getting the perfect marketing message out and being politically correct. A big part of that euphoric feeling comes from overwhelming appreciation for the impeccable custom creations on display.

The appreciation for the hours of dedication your buddy put into his bike and the honor it was for him to be invited to this meeting of the tribes is what it is all about. There needed to be one place for the entire motorcycle industry to marvel over these jewels of form and function, a place where these talented craftspeople would be recognized and connected.


In 2015, AIMExpo stepped up and created the Championship of the Americas with a top prize funding its winner’s participation in the AMD World Championship of Custom Bike Building held every two years in Cologne, Germany during the INTERMOT Show.

AIMExpo is full of vintage attractions with the return of the Retro Affair and the Skidmark Garage Showcase and Lounge in the center of the new Custom Culture area featuring moto artisans and the Championship of the Americas. The contest features four classes based on platforms indifferent to style and brand preference. Free Style holds the top honors with its winner moving onto the world championship.


There is also a Retro, Street and Performance class. Rules and class definitions are available at AIMExpo’s website ( Anyone can be eligible to compete if they fill out an application by clicking on the register tab and scrolling down to the Championship. All are welcome to sign up – dealers, custom shops, aftermarket manufacturers, garage builders, and of course any builder from anywhere in the Americas.

Win or not, participation in AIMExpo is a win in itself with a world of benefits and opportunities to grow your career or business in the motorcycle industry. See ya in Columbus, September 21 – 24.

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