The Born Free show is one of our favorite events to attend and is the premier annual chopper show on the West Coast. The atmosphere is casual and inviting, with a huge variety of fabulous custom motorcycles spread out over a 17-acre plot, along with plenty of vendors, live music, and room to roam.
Set under sunny Southern California skies away from the morass of concrete and strip malls, the Oak Canyon Ranch at Irvine Lake in Silverado is amazingly bucolic compared to the nearby urban areas of L.A. and Orange counties. Thousands of riders streamed in for the event during the last weekend of August this year.
The Born Free organizers describe their show as “a back-to-basics event built on the shared passion of people building and riding their motorcycles.” The laid-back show sprawls over an expansive outdoor area, so there was little concern about wearing masks.
Along with hundreds of bikes on display, the event also featured the entrancing Wall of Death (in which riders literally ride on vertical walls), live bands, swap meets, and bike giveaways. Atypical of chopper-flavored events, old-time graybeards seemed outnumbered by a younger demographic at Born Free – it’s a hipper, lifestyle-y show.
“The show really has evolved over the years,” explained Born Free’s co-founder Grant Peterson in a video. ”People who have been in the motorcycle industry for decades come here and they’re like, ‘Wow, this is different. The vibe is different.’”
And it’s a family-friendly show, with kids under 12 admitted for free, as were military personnel. Regular admission was $20 per day. Purchasing a Grass Pass allowed parking inside the show area rather than out in the dusty parking lot. Pets, coolers, and colors were forbidden.
Motorcycles of all makes and models are welcome, and among the sea of Panheads, Shovels and Knuckles were a smattering of Triumphs, a few Hondas, and even a couple of Ducatis. But the show’s primary focus is decidedly on American V-Twin customs. Fittingly, Harley-Davidson is the event’s headlining sponsor.
“It’s the celebration of the motorcycle, primarily the Harley-Davidson motorcycle, and the many ways in which these enthusiasts express themselves through it,” said Brad Richards, H-D’s Vice President of Styling and Design.
“If you’re trying to understand what’s happening next organically, a show like this is really important,” Richards elaborated. “They inspire us, we inspire them, and we evolve the brand.”
Born Free continues to grow and evolve, but the event hangs onto its grassroots feel that makes it welcoming to anyone. And the high level of the builds on display, as well as the countless cool bikes that are ridden to the show, makes it a world-class motorcycle event.
“It’s hard not to be inspired here with the level of creativity, not only from the bike builders, but from our sponsors and vendors and everything,” co-founder Mike Davis commented. “You get out here, and you just want to be a part of it.”
And we’ll be there for Born Free 13, scheduled for June 25-26, 2022.