Custom bikes and motorcycle gangs were welded together in many American garages in the 1950s. So, although the third edition of the ‘Bikes on the Hill’ show was a bit misleading location wise, Hughes Automotive still seemed like the perfect place for this two-wheeled art exhibition.
After the end of World War II, there were lots of leftover Harley Davidson and Indian motorcycles left over from the U.S army. This led to many young men, often soldiers, getting their hands on them.
With the turning of the time, and the beginning of America’s love for the automobile, as modifying and car shows becoming more mainstream rather than an underground activity, you could say it bled over to the bike scene. In workshops and home garages across the USA, people began customising their bikes whilst forming strong bonded groups that rode together and very quickly, it became a way of life.
The first modifications weren’t really modifications, rather just stripping the bike of as much excess weight for the purposes of speed. This was called the ‘bob-job’ and made bikes more minimalistic whilst also making them more suitable for dirt racing at the time.
By the early 1960’s, bikers began properly cutting up their bikes, adding chrome and unique touches making each bike their own. The ‘chopper’ is a style known by having high handlebars, low seating, and often an elongated body shape.
Although the ‘chopper’ is probably the most renowned style of custom bike, it isn’t the only style.
Rat bikes, like rat rods are meant to look beaten, rusty and neglected, whilst also being a functional motorbike.
Speaking of functionality, Bagger motorcycles are characterised by their large cases on the rear. This rat style bagger was carrying ice cold beer in the back!
Brat bikes are a style that originated from Japan, merging two forms together, the simplistic Bobber - being long, low, and having the same tyre/wheel diameter front and back – and the Café Racer, a short, smaller bike built for speed which originated from the UK.
Speaking of speed, modified sports bikes, usually from Japan and Italy are known as ‘Street Fighters’.
Regardless of what style of motorcycle though, each bike on show was styled in its own unique way, and extremely well.
You must remember, unlike a car, with a motorcycle all the innerworkings are on display and easily seen. Which made the bikes inside on display even more impressive.
Parts that are usually oily or gritty like brakes, carburetors and exhausts are cleaned, shiny and with added touches among the already custom paint, body lines and trinkets.
No piece of metal or screw is left unturned or unfashioned, each and every piece of the bike has to be customised in some way.
These customisations can range from a gathering of unique touches, to the bike being based on a whole theme in itself. Very much then like custom cars, yet still leaves you with a different kind of impression.
The precision, attention to detail and care in the work, the ideas, their planning, and their overall execution can’t be ignored. Even the trophies were custom and one of a kind.
It can be kind of intimidating coming to a show like this, with lots of burly men and women, with their tattoos and beards, but they're all very nice and cool people.
There seems to be two parts of motorcycle culture (and the same can be said about the Bosozoku in Japan) that are often put together, the patched bikie gangs tied to crime and obviously the loud and proud modifying of motorcycles. This show demonstrated that the latter can exist on its own, with plenty of passion and comradery.