For the average person, the words Freedom and Machine conjure up many different visions. For me, and for those who love the life on two wheels, these words have more significantand perhaps, specificmeanings. Straddling a tank full of gas, with a hot combustible engine beneath you, with an endless road as far as the eye can see would certainly be one of those visions. So when a show like Freedom Machine Show comes along, well… the instant images from a biker’s point of view is nothing short of over the top excitement.
The Freedom Machine show, now in its 3rd season, is all about showcasing vintage, custom and antique motorcycles of all makes and models. Classic restorations, retro bikes, choppers, bobbers, and cafe racers, showcasing the extensive and varied talents of builders from all over Ontario, Quebec, and New York.Even the majority of bikes from the attendees, were in one way or another customized or modded out, to reflectthe personality of the owners. How appropriate that hashtags #stocksucks, #builtnotbought hold true, in the spirit of Freedom Machines.
The show was conceived by lifelong friends, JayTyrrell, Neil Lounsbury and Ivo Zielinski, to share their love of riding, motorcycles, and the moto culture with an ever growing moto community. I was invited to be a show artist to display my photo work in the art tent in year two, but I’ve been coming to this show since the beginning. Right from the inaugural year at Frontier GhostTown, you can immediately sense that this was going to be something special.Afaux western town (used for concerts, music festivals, and private functions), with all its grittiness, dirt roads, ramshackle buildings, infused with some HaightAshbury hippie vibe lends itself as the perfect backdrop to host this iron horse event. In fact, getting dusty and grimy from the dirt road as you roll in, is part of the course, as that seems to set the tone for the day’s event.
Lined up in front of the saloon building on Main street, is where all the featured bikes by the invited Showcased Builders were displayed. Bikes as different as their creators, all fabulous works of art and superlative craftsmanship. Some of these bikes incite the urge to jump on it in a nano second and rip on it hard and fast as it was designed to do. Others look so beautifully crafted that I can proudly see it displayed on my living room floorlike a piece of art sculpture, with all the intricate details, admired over and over again. Machines created by incredibly talented builders like Jason Parker Race Cars, Cycleworx Custom Motorcycles,Ted Hale and Clockwork Motorcycles, just to name a few, were the perfect eye candy for a bike porn photographer, like myself.
In particular, Jason Parker’s late 50’s, early 60’s chopper style 1958 Panhead with the “tangelo” pearl orange, with a candy fade paint job by Connery Custom Paint, was a show stopper.The colour contrast with the abundance of polished chrome acted like a beacon from four corners of Main street, astellar bike, as you would expect from a build by Jason.
Hdn4hell, a stunning 1980 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead Hardtail build by Grant Schwartz with its Paughco Springer front end, and killer paint job by Don Straus of Tonto Designs, were among my favourite builds for this year.You know a bike is speaking to you when you can picture yourself riding that beauty all over town.
New to this year’s edition of the Freedom Machine show was the Rat Bastard Build-off.As the name would infer,The Rat Bastard Build-off was an open invitation competition to anyone with a big enough mojo to build a bike (chopper, tracker, cafe racer, or whatever your mind can conceive).Any bike. The criteria was to make it a rideable, road worthy bike with an extremely tight deadline and to a maximum budget of $1,200.00!This criterion is quite the challenge, forcing the entrants to think outside of the box. Congratulations to Robbie James on being crowned Champion, for the firstannual Rat Bastard Build-off! I can’t wait to see what next year’s entry will bring simply because you never know what you’re going to see at the Freedom Machine Show.
Back for the second year of the show is the Homegrown Heroes section. Builders who build, not as a means to a living, but create for their reasons and gratifications. At firstglance, you’d think these bikes were also part of the Showcase Builders, and you wouldn’t be wrong in your estimation.The obvious labour of love to these machines was evident in the quality of the build as well as the creative eye behind the aesthetics of the bikes. Christian Newman’s Knucklehead left me speechless!This bike takes “custom” to a whole other level of “Holy shit,” unabashed gawking.An engineer by trade, Christian designed, fabricated and assembled what he needed for this bike.About the only things that were original were the 1940 motor, transmission, tires, chainring, brake rotor and some hardware. With the attitude of “it ain’t right till it’s right” in the eyes of the creator plus about 3500 working hours into the creation of this bike, the result speaks for itself.And that, ladies and gentlemen, tells me everything I need to know as to the passion and determination of this very cool, funny and understated Dude. It’s no wonderThe Stainless Knucklehead (aptly named) was invited to be one of 26 invited builders to Born Free 9 where he won for Best Knucklehead as well. Bravo Dude. Bravo!
As always, one of the highlights of the show is the giveaway bike.This year was no different, of course.Acustom 1978 Honda CB750, beautifully reborn from the highly skilled hands of Rob Cloutier at Bullit Custom Cycles. I saw this bike before its reincarnation and let me tell you; I wish I had taken a before and after photo to show the difference.With help from Honda Canada, Hustle Machine, Prong Built, Sturgess Cycle,AllstateTires, Dime City Cycles and BlackWidow Custom Paint, the collaborative effort with Rob at the helm transformed the CB into a sleek, black and green, stunning beauty of a cafe racer. Highly anticipated, often humorous with comments from the eager crowd before the draw, you can feel the excitement from everyone hoping that they have the golden ticket in their possession.Although they would be happy for the eventual lucky winner, you know that secretly in their hearts, there’s a tinge of jealousy because they didn’t win.That’s how beautiful this year’s giveaway bike was, and the other two bikes from previous years. Oh, and by the way, the lucky winner wasAmanda Rose. Fist pumping, yelling, jumping all the way to the stage and beyond. I really couldn’t be happier for her (wink, wink).
No motorcycle show is ever complete without the customary vendors and sponsors. The show is steeped in its grassroots vibe, so it was fun to see a major sponsor like Honda Canada stepping into the fold seamlessly with its selection of bikes curated specificallyfor the show, which took nothing away from the independent vendors who bring a lot of personality and swag to the table.The likes of Hog Town Cycles,Town Moto, Chop Cult, Rolling Chaos, Chop Shop Industries, Le Cafe Racer and all brought their “A” game along with returning sponsors Lucas Oil, Blackhorse Cycle, Resurrecxion Cycles, Sturgess Cycle and DaltonTimmins Insurance.This year the Freedom Machine team brought in a gorgeous lady barber for those who wanted a free haircut.You could try your hand at chucking an axe to release some frustration or bragging rights that you can hit the target, put on by the finepeople at BATL. By far Freedom Machine Show is my favourite event that I look forward to attending every year. Not just for the fabulous bikes and vendors, but also to hang with old friends, and always making new ones in the moto community.The after party band,The Greasemarks, played its brand of hardcore Rockabilly music, hard and furious much to the delight of the attendees. Those who camped overnight were treated to a bonfire,partying and socializing to wrap up the night’s festivities, well into the morning.
About the only negative aspect of this year’s show was the weather, 2017 being the riding season of rain, it wasn’t entirely shocking the day started out in the rain. Fortunately, the weather did not dampen the excitement, nor did it take away the chill and relaxed vibe from all who came to the show. As JayTyrrell said, “The people that braved the weather to come to the showare the people that really wanted to be here.We are just the caretakers of Freedom now. It is the participants: the people, the riders that make the run up to Frontier GhostTown on their timeless vintage styled custom choppers, bobbers, cafe racers and antique motorcycles.The Showcased Builders and Homegrown Heroes that own the show and make the show what it is and what it will become and for that we are humbled and truly grateful.”Well said, Jay.Well said. See you next year, Freedom Machine Show!