Hi, my name is Dave and I'm a concours-holic... Recovering, happy to say, but oh I had it bad, a certified carnauba-in-the-blood addict always with a Q-tip on hair-trigger, ready to banish that last offending fleck of dust. In the five years that I spent as a d'elegance devotee, I took home my share of hardware, including numerous bests-in-class and even a best-of-show. Then it all changed. I was seeing a lot of the same bikes, I realized, their only mileage whatever was accumulated by being pushed from the trailer to the showgrounds. I was hearing the same stories from the same people, and it was all getting a little stale. That's why Cycle World started its Rolling Concours events — sadly now discontinued — where we all went on a three-hour ride, broken up by a nice BBQ lunch, before judging commenced. It's also one of the reasons I love the Born-Free show.

It's a little like Woodstock on wheels, the focus being on vintage customs, bobbers, choppers, cafe-racers, etc., basically anything old and unique. Big difference from the majority of car and bike shows: Most attendees are not yet on Social Security. As one guy in the video from last year's event says, "Not a lot of chaps, not a lot of baggers, not a lot of doo-rags. It's just a good scene, good people." And how's this for a kicker? It's all free – free to attend, free to enter a bike in the show, even free beer! Vans, the shoe people, are a major sponsor, with additional support from custom aftermarket companies and publications/websites that cater to that crowd. There's also a bike raffle and poster sales all going to the bottom line. The event has grown so large in its three years that 2011's location was moved from the streets of Long Beach to a private park in the hills of Orange County. Hundreds of cool bikes showed up, thousands of people, and a good vibe was had by all.

Me, I cruised over on the Web Surfer Special, my Sportster street-tracker, went to general bike parking and was directed by one of the event organizers to continue on to the showbike area. "No thanks, not interested in a trophy," I told him. "I just want to wander around, take a few pictures, visit with some friends and leave when I want."

"Yeah, no problem, just let people see the bike; that's why we're all here," he politely insisted and pointed me toward the other side of the lake.

Born Free 3: metal is the message at California's coolest bike show

Well, okay then, preferred parking. Not many trailer queens on the grass, mostly a bunch of working-class customs. What strikes me at any gathering of these bikes is that they are literally full-metal motorcycles, a trait underscored with brass, copper, aluminum and bare-steel components. Even the paintwork on these machines has flakes of metal – hell, I saw metalflake handgrips! If it's not metal then it's hand-tooled leather, sort of Industrial Age meets Jeremiah Johnson. Coolest gas tank at the show was unpainted steel, touches of rust showing, with tattoo-inspired artwork applied by magic marker.

And not a g'damn Q-tip in sight...

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