A relatively new motorcycle event that has grown in popularity over the years is the Born Free Motorcycle show in Silverado, California. Unfortunately, the show was cancelled last year due to COVID-19. When I heard the 2021 show was going to happen, I booked a flight out of New York and headed West. Founded by two motorcycle enthusiasts, Mike Davis and Grant Peterson, this show has been going on for the last 12 years. Their goal for Born Free was to showcase custom-built bikes by some of the best builders from around the globe. Without a doubt, I knew there would be some killer bikes on display, so I brought along our videographer and photographer, Matt Keane, to capture all of the fantastic sights. Once we landed in Los Angeles, we headed straight for the show. It was about an hour's drive South of Los Angeles, as the event is held at the Oak Canyon Ranch. The ranch is located within the Santa Monica Mountains, which makes for a perfect riding destination with plenty of twisties and a wide-open highway. If you wanted your bike within the showgrounds, you had to pre-buy a grass pass for your motorcycle, otherwise you had to park in the gravel parking lot. Both days of the show, the grass bike passes were sold out. While riding, we didn't feel bothered by the heat. Once we were off of our bikes, however, the heat was killer and the sun was blazing. I knew I would be lobster-red by the end of the day, even after slathering on sunscreen.
Regardless of the heat, there was a large turnout of riders. The walk-in entrance fee was $20 per person. Sunday was the second day of the show, as this is a two-day affair that's hosted on both days of the weekend. Once we got inside the gate, there was plenty to see and do. The first thing I noticed that is the people were much younger than the crowd you would typically see at other events, like Sturgis for instance. This younger group of attendees sets Born Free apart from most biker gatherings in the U.S. While there were some gray beards here and there, the majority of the crowd were in their 30s or early 40s. The bike of choice for this next generation of California bikers is the Harley Dyna Wide Glide. There were plenty on display, with custom parts, fairings and Metal Flake paint jobs. A large majority of the crowd were even riding them to the event. What is super cool about California is the wide variety of riders and style of bikes they ride. You will see the Latinos riding lowered, tricked-out baggers, with Kandy color paint jobs and ape hanger handlebars. Then you'll probably see a hippy style, 30-something biker riding a chopper he wrenched in his garage with whichever spare parts he had that worked for the build. On the other end of the spectrum, you'll find someone on an Enduro Bike wearing their full riding gear. Custom bike builders were invited from all over the country to showcase their rides, from 1970s style Choppers to tricked-out Baggers and Dyna Wide glides. We hardly saw any antique bikes that were older then the '60s.
All of the California aftermarket motorcycle brands had tents, like San Diego Customs, Moon Eyes, Loser Machine, Roland Sands, Cycle Zombies... and too many others to list. They were showcasing their builds and latest parts, and there was an array of custom bikes on display. Of course, Born Free had their own merchandise tent set up, with almost every shirt sold out from the previous day. In past years, Vans had a half pipe skateboard ramp showcasing some of the best skateboarding talent California has to offer, but this year they opted for the always-exciting Wall of Death display by Rhett Rotten instead. Music lovers will be happy to hear that there was a constant stream of bands performing on the main stage. Nobody was playing AC/DC or Lynyrd Skynyrd, though. This crowd wanted Hardcore and Punk, and they wanted it now. If you have ever been to the Mooneyes show in Japan, Born Free had a similar kind of vibe, except with a California twist. There were plenty of cool bikes, lots of biker-inspired artwork and just an overall relaxed, laidback atmosphere. With no burnouts, no motorcycle rodeo games, no drunks, this year's Born Free was pretty tame compared to your typical biker event in the U.S. Overall, I thought it was a good show worth attending. Here in the States, usually all the new trends for fashion and motorcycle styles start in California, bounce over to the East coast until they eventually move to the middle of the country. In New York, there are more choppers making a comeback, which is nice to see.
This next generation of bikers still have the passion to ride, but they sure do it differently than us older folks. Personally, I don't ever remember taking an all-day trip to a coffee shop or a vineyard, but hey, to each their own. As long as the younger crowd is living life on two wheels, then I say more power to them.