Over the course of about four hours on Saturday during Las Vegas BikeFest, I had the distinct honor of serving as a judge in both the Custom Bike Show and the Ms. BikeFest pageant, and the experience was, frankly, stressful. Despite bringing highly developed skill sets in both competitive genres to the task—skill sets honed over years of ogling bikes and girls—I nonetheless experienced moments of existential self-doubt since the hopes and dreams of so many hinged on the thoroughness and fairness of my deliberations, and as a matter of human nature it’s nearly impossible to remain entirely detached and objective in this or any other endeavor in life.
You try, but the pitfalls are many. In the case of custom motorcycles, for example, you can find yourself defenseless against strong feelings of preference for an entry that eerily mirrors the exact machine you would personally build if you had the time, the resources, and, alas, the talent. But that’s not a legitimate judging criterion. It’s also not legitimate to mentally disqualify a beauty pageant contender just because she reminds you of the crazy ex who owes you a ton of dough and is still stalking you, restraining order be damned. You’re expected to leave all those little biases at the door and conduct yourself with scrupulous impartiality. It’s a tough duty, scrutinizing gorgeous machinery, faces and physiques for hours on end, no matter what you might think. Seriously. No, really.
But I’m not looking for your sympathy, here. My cause is nobler than that, and I’m bringing this whole subject up in order to point out what I perceived during that marathon bout of judging to be an alarming disparity between the two contests—one that does a grave injustice to the gals.
That disparity has to do with the concept of competitive classes, and how the bikes were separated into several and judged strictly against their peers. It’s only fair, really, and also allows a whole lot more people to reasonably participate with a shot at a trophy of some kind. Classes level the playing field so that some guy or gal with a tastefully tricked-out stocker doesn’t have to go head-to-head with, say, an über-custom Jim Nasi creation. The women, on the other hand, got lumped into one single undifferentiated group, and one dominated by specimens who clearly spend the bulk of their time and money on their physical appearance, conforming to a single media-driven standard of feminine beauty. That’s so wrong.
The obvious solution to this dreadful state of affairs is to institute a class system for beauty competitions, and I see no reason why it can’t be done using bike show categories as a model. With that in mind, I’ve taken the liberty of writing up this rough draft of judging classes complete with basic specifications for inclusion in each, and some suggested areas of judging emphasis. Additions and revisions from the readership are, of course, welcomed.
Primary judging classifications
Semi-Custom Class: The entry is fundamentally stock in configuration—and happily so, thank you very much—but has received some cos­metic flourishes like, well, cosmetics. Pierced ears, minor hair removal and diminutive floral or butterfly tattoos are the limit of acceptable body alterations in this class. Some semblance of decorum in attire—a nice plaid two-piece, for example—is appropriate.
Custom: Entries in this category have greater latitude in futzing with what God gave ’em, but basic chassis components must remain stock in appearance. In addition to alterations enumerated in the Semi-Custom class, navel piercing, more extensive hair removal, and tribal tattoos on the small of the back (the so-called Santa Cruz license plate) are permissible. At least a hint of attire is required.
Radical: The name says it all. Entries can pretty much tear up the divine blueprint and start from scratch. Extreme bodywork including extended front ends, piercing of any soft tissue, lip- and eye-liner tattoos, and any procedure that ends in “plasty” are allowed. No attire is required, though nosebleed heels and body glitter will be judged favorably.
Special award categories
Best Dresser: Couture matters most in this category, and jewelry, too. Classy stuff, not that QVC crap. Think Cindy McCain at the Buffalo Chip.
Best Bobber: Hopefully this award has something to do with flapper-style hairdos. Otherwise, we’re not going there.
Best Rat: The winner in this popular category will have dubious hygiene, tragic self-esteem issues, and, ideally, a long grim history with methamphetamine. Trailer queens are encouraged to compete, but their trailers are restricted to single-wides with axles and vestigial tires intact.
Best Vintage: Contenders must be over 50 years old and have some serious miles on the clock. Points are awarded for faithfulness to the original stock unit, but deducted for obvious restoration work. A graceful patina of aging will be valued, including crow’s feet, graying hair, and that transcendent Mona Lisa beauty and serenity that glows from the visage of a mature self-assured woman content with her appearance and very existence in every particular. Let’s also call this award Best in Show.
It’s all right here in the diaries.


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