By Ethan M. Rogers
Editor in Chief

 

Grease Monkey, Petrolhead, Wrench Monkey or Gearhead – whatever they call themselves, The One Motorcycle Show draws those who specialize, and those who dabble, in the mechanical arts to a weekend of celebrating motorcycles and the people who build them, ride them and just plain appreciate them.

Touted by the event’s press release as “North America’s largest custom bike expo,” The One Motorcycle Show hosted a grand event at Zidell Yards on April 19 – 21. The sheer expansiveness of the show was almost overwhelming with more than 300 custom motorcycles, stunts, demos, a display of artist painted helmets, bands and custom cars.

Thankfully, all of this took place over a three-day period so it didn’t feel rushed.

The weekend kicked off with flat track racing at the Oregon Convention Center. The racing event was co-sponsored by Flat Out Friday, the world’s largest indoor flat track racing. The big bikes trying to slide around a cement track without crashing was definitely a sight to see, but the best part of the evening was the young riders on 50cc bikes and the little kids on bicycles.

For the last 15 years, the One Motorcycle Show has steadily grown from a warehouse in downtown Portland to the 14-acre Zidell Yards Barge Building on the Southwest waterfront on the Willamette River, along with other venues around the city hosting partnership events like Flat Out Friday on April 19, opening day.

The space itself, a working shipyard between 1930 and 2017, is a massive industrial space that required chain link barriers to be put in place around the massive, rusty and worn building supports.

Coveralls, denim, leather – utilitarian clothing was the uniform of the day. Bandanas were a must, either hanging from a back pocket or tied around the neck.

The whole thing had a very artsy, blue collar feel to it, despite all the corporate sponsorship by the likes of Progressive insurance, Russ Brown Attorney and Monster Energy drink.

For their part, Monster sponsored an X Games-style show with BMX rider Jeremy Malott, local boy Nathan Glade and X Games gold medalist Brady Baker. They also gave away free cans of Monster. Apparently people already know what Monster Energy drinks taste like as very few at the event took them up on their offer of free beverages.

The One Show even had their own book vendor – University of Hell Press.

“We’ve been attendees of the One Moto show over the years,” said Greg Gerding, founder of the press. “We’re really proud to be the first book publisher that’s ever been a vendor at the One Moto show – and we’re just having a blast.”

If the smell of burning rubber or two-stroke engines didn’t satisfy event goers’ hunger for motorcycles, then the food certainly tamed their hunger in other ways.

One Motorcycle Show attendees were blessed by the gods (or the show’s marketing team) with the culinary stylings of Portland’s local favorites like Pine State Biscuits, Lardo and Sizzle Pie.

I was surprised to see, though I probably shouldn’t have been, that the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride (Portland Chapter) had a booth. DGR puts on a ride every year in which participants wear suits or other suitably distinguished clothing and ride around on classic and vintage bikes all in the name of prostate cancer and men’s health.

The DGR’s purpose is “to raise money for prostate cancer, men’s mental health awareness and suicide prevention,” said Austin Foster, Portland ride host, whose father is a prostate cancer survivor. “We’ll be doing it here May 19 so you should totally come.”

The cars at the show were probably the most surprising. One doesn’t expect a bunch of cars to be on display at a motorcycle show but it makes sense; machines bring people together.

Michael Christopherson, of ProTek Automotive, was there with his immaculate classic Lincoln Town Car on display. Avants was there with a stand, and I’m pretty sure I saw Avants founder Adam Cramer wandering around. The Gambler 500 even had a couple of rigs hanging around.

If you don’t know about the Gambler 500, Gambler Tevya Friedman, part of the Gambler family, described the Gambler as “The best road trip, worst car show and largest trash clean-up.” If that doesn’t pique your interest you probably enjoy public transportation and wouldn’t likely have appreciated Friedman’s off-road Corvette Stingray which was on display.

The builder artist, the mechanical craftsmen, however, is the height of this show. Those who are honored and celebrated at the three day event are the people behind the bikes, on the end of a wrench or a welder, swearing at machines that don’t bend to their will as easily as they’d like – and they’ve got the scraped knuckles to prove it.

Everything points back to the bikes – these two-wheeled machines of freedom and self-expression. Different types of bikes and riders – all come together to honor builders and the machines alike.

Builder Branden Ben Powell had his steampunk-inspired 2022 Triumph bobber on display.

“I’m not a builder, I’m just a guy, but I had a vision for kind of what I wanted,” Powell said. “I always wanted to do a steampunk-inspired bike.”

Powell was impressed and inspired by other builders, part of the reason the show exists – to bring creatives together and inspire new projects.

“There are so many talented builders out there that get crazy-ass ideas and, man, who gets an idea like that and does something?” Powell said. “I’ve taken so many pictures, I’m already thinking about my next bike and the bike after that.”

Crotch rockets, cruisers, cafes, choppers with ape hangers, touring bikes with saddle bags or panniers — One Moto has it all year after year for the last 15 years.

One of the most interesting bikes, and a bike that defies categorization, was Santa Cruz builder Keith Young’s Holy Bike.

“I’ve been messing with metal since I was 13 years old. Probably younger than that in my dad’s garage, you know? But this is my first crazy show, fun stuff,” Young said.

The Holy Bike (or Holey Bike, the spelling varies) is a mish-mash of found items – and that’s just the way Young likes it.

“A lot of this is me growing up as a kid. You know, we had castle nuts, but we didn’t have any cotter keys. We had nails, we had wire. We would just piece things together. You know, my dad was always yelling at me about, you know, grease all the grease fittings So I got grease fittings just everywhere,” Young said. “It’s a part of scrounging, and, you know, you have a half a mini bike and you want to make it work so you find stuff to make it work.”

It wasn’t just the small builders with cool bikes. Some shops even got involved, like SoSo Cycles – a motorcycle dealership with locations in Concord, San Francisco and Tacoma.

“We don’t do custom bike builds at our shop,” said Matt Park, as he was handing out Pip’s donuts to event goers, “but, our boss is a big enthusiast. And so once in a while he’ll say, like, hey, let’s do something cool with the bike.”

SoSo had four bikes on display – a bit more than your typical solo builder.

This isn’t about how old you are, how much money or education you have or what equipment happened to come standard issue between your legs at birth – it’s all about the bikes.

“If you’ve ever thought about doing a bike,” Powell said, “man, I’d just tell you, grab a bike and start tinkering and you’d be amazed what you can put together on your own.”

Ethan M. Rogers

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