2017 Daytona Bike Week Video

From bike shows to vintage boardtrack and flat track races to burnout contests, it was a wild, fun-filled week in Daytona Beach. We finally got a chance to cobble together some of the highlights from the 2017 Bike Week rally for you to enjoy.

Harley Factory Flat Track Racing Team: Brandon Robinson Interview

With four Grand National wins on his resume including a couple on the heralded Springfield Mile in 2013 and a victory in Lima last year aboard the Kennedy Racing Harley-Davidson XR750, Brandon Robinson earned a spot on Harley-Davidson’s Factory Flat Track Racing Team in 2017. While landing a factory seat is a dream come true, it doesn’t come without its challenges. For starters is the development of a new bike. After a 44-year-run, Harley-Davidson switched from the highly successful XR750 to the liquid-cooled XG750R for the 2017 American Flat Track season. The 2017 season sees plenty of changes itself, from a new knockout race format to new venues to the switch to Twins on all tracks this season. There’s also a new TV contract on the table as tape-delayed broadcasts of the races will air on NBCSN this year, adding another layer of complexity and pressure to the 2017 season.

We caught up to Robinson the day before the Daytona TT to get his early impressions of the XG750R, to talk about the switch from the XR750 and about this year’s American Flat Track season.

H-D Flat Track rider Brandon Robinson

Harley Factory Flat Track rider Brandon Robinson puts in test laps aboard the XG750R.

American Iron: How’s it feel to have a seat on the coveted Harley factory team?

Brandon Robinson: It’s kind of a dream come true. I think that’s one of the things everyone looks to get to is a factory ride at some point in their career. To finally get there is rewarding, to know that I’ve put in all this hard work and finally get to that point is surreal.

AIM: How’d that all come about, did you get a call out of the blue?

B-Rob: Yeah, pretty much. I was having a pretty strong season last year and right in my peak I ended up getting a call from Terry Vance and we started discussing possibly working together for the following year. Things just kind of shaped up and worked out and here we are.

(Robinson competed primarily on the XR750 in the Twins class last year but also raced a Kawasaki on a couple of tracks).

Harley Flat Track Racing Daytona TT 2017

The Harley-Davidson Flat Track Racing Team is glued to the screen during the inaugural Daytona TT.

AIM: What do you think about this year’s schedule and the move to Twins on all tracks including TTs?

B-Rob: It makes things a helluva lot more interesting. My big word I’ve been using for Daytona is it’s “unpredictable” right now. You don’t know where everyone really stacks up. No one in this generation has really ridden a Twin on a TT in a national race so between that and everyone switching bikes, you know pretty much the top six-seven guys are all on new equipment, throws out a whole new element to it. We’re not really going to know what to expect until we race tomorrow so it’s going to be kind of crazy.

AIM: Have you been getting in some TT practice on the XG750R?

B-Rob: Yeah, we’ve been getting some TT practice in and testing so it’s been pretty good. I learned a lot in a short amount of time and it’s not near as bad as I thought it was going to be. I thought I was going to have to go out there and muscle this thing around to flick it back and forth. It’s just a little bit slower transitioning back and forth, left to right. Other than that it feels like just a normal motorcycle.

AIM: Is that primarily because it’s heavier?

B-Rob: Yeah I think it’s like a 100 pounds heavier than a 450 so you can feel that, but overall it’s not near as bad as I thought it was going to be. I’m getting more comfortable with it and confident and think it’ll be a good show.

I think it helps me out in some aspects because I was never one of those super aggressive riders on the 450 for like the TT stuff so a Twin kind of plays in my favor. I’ve always been more of a Twin rider so I’ll just have to be smooth and smart.

Harley-Davidson XG750R

Harley-Davidson switched to the XG750R for the 2017 American Flat Track season.

AIM: What do you think about the move from the XR750 to the XG750R?

B-Rob: It’s a little different but we’ve been putting in a lot of testing in and the guys at Vance & Hines and Harley have given us one helluva bike so they did their homework this winter. It’s definitely leaps and bounds ahead of where it was last year. I’m sure with any new bike there’s going to be ups and downs but I think we’ve got quite a few things ironed out and I’m just looking forward to getting on them.

From what we’ve ridden, we rode last year’s stuff and now we have some next generation stuff and it’s definitely a little different so I’m pretty excited about it.

AIM: What are the major differences you’re noticing between the two?

B-Rob: The main difference between the XR and the XG is the power delivery. The XR’s such a smooth power delivery it’s almost like you don’t feel like you’re going anywhere but you’re hauling ass at the same time where the XG, it’s got like the XR bottom and then accelerates to a point more like a Japanese bike or a Kawasaki where it just keeps going. It has a rev limiter and it’s just different. The XR doesn’t have that, where you really have to be critical on your gearing with that bike.

Harley Factory Flat Track rider Brandon Robinson

We got a chance to chat with Harley Factory Flat Track racer Brandon Robinson the day before the Daytona TT.

AIM: Does it wind out farther?

B-Rob: Yes we have a lot longer RPM range on the XG and the cool thing with the electronics is we can play with that and make it shorter or higher or whatever we want to do. We’ve got some more options than we had in the past which is nice.

AIM: Is it a different frame?

B-Rob: As far as what, from last year? Yeah we went to work and developed a little bit different chassis than what they had last year so I think that’s probably the biggest change overall is the chassis and trying to get a better handling on the motorcycle.

AIM: Do all three of you (fellow Harley factory riders Jake Johnson and Kenny Coolbeth, Jr.) run the same suspension?

B-Rob: Same brand stuff but we’re all just a little different on how we like our stuff. Kenny and Jake like their stuff a little stiffer where I’m more on the soft side. Just rider preference, that’s all that really is.

2017 Harley Factory Flat Track Racing Team

Brandon Robinson (Center) joins Jake Johnson (L) and Kenny Coolbeth, Jr. (R) on the 2017 Harley Factory Flat Track Racing Team. 

AIM: What do you like best about the XG?

B-Rob: The thing I like about it the most is the fact that we have so much more options than we had with the XR with the fuel injection and the mappings and we can change a lot with the electronics. So I think that’s an added benefit where we were pretty limited with the XRs, you know, had the carburetors and you pretty much just tuned them in for wherever you were.

AIM: What types of tracks do you like best?

B-Rob: It’s weird, it’s changed over the years. I’ve always been kind of a typical blue groove, little skinny notch groove rider. And then I don’t know, Lima was kind of a weird one for me because I’ve never been known as a cushion rider but we were just on fire that night and after winning I guess I consider myself kind of a cushion rider, I don’t know (laughs). Pretty much any half-miles and miles, the bigger tracks is what I like to ride. The faster you go the more fun I have.

H-D Flat Track racer Brandon Robinson

Brandon Robinson calls landing a seat on the Harley Factory Flat Track Racing Team “surreal.”

AIM: In that regard, do you have a favorite track?

B-Rob: There’s a couple tracks I like going to. Charlotte’s one of my favorite tracks over the last couple of years. For some reason it reminds me of a track back home and I just really enjoy it. Sacramento. Springfield obviously has to be a favorite. I guess Lima now.

AIM: What do you think about the renewed rivalry between Harley and Indian?

B-Rob: It’s pretty cool. It adds a whole new dynamic to the sport so it gives the fans something else to look forward to, it gives us riders something else to look forward to. It’s bragging rights, you know, we want to beat them and they want to beat us.

But it’s not just Harley vs Indian. There’s privateers on a lot of good stuff so you can’t rule out anybody at this point. The more brands going at it the better in my opinion. It makes for better racing and makes for more interest. It’s not just a one horse show anymore.

  • It’s been a challenging start to the season so far for Robinson. After placing third in his heat race at Daytona, he finished near the back of the pack in 14th in his semi and failed to make it to the Main. At the Atlanta Short Track, Robinson cracked the Top 10 with a 10th place finish, then did one better by finishing 9th in the Charlotte Half-Mile. Now his team’s got a five-week break before the next race in Arizona, a perfect opportunity to dial in Harley’s XG750R even more in addition to providing Robinson more seat time. 

And the Winner of the Official Motorcycle of Bike Week 2017 Is…

Rick Claar of Virginia Beach, Virginia, is the winner of the Official Motorcycle of Bike Week 2017

Rick Claar of Virginia Beach, Virginia, is the winner of the Official Motorcycle of Bike Week 2017, a customized 2010 Harley-Davidson Ultra. (Photos provided by Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce)

Rick Claar was having a late breakfast when the phone rang. Since he had both hands full at the time and didn’t recognize the caller, he let it go to voicemail. Once he got a free moment, he checked the message and returned the call.

“Do you have any idea why I’m calling?” said Janet Kersey, Executive Vice-President and COO of the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce.

“The only reason I can think of anybody’s calling from Daytona is that I won something, but that’s kind of hard to believe,” said Claar.

Kersey said “You did win something.”

That something was the Official Motorcycle of Bike Week 2017, a beautiful customized Harley-Davidson Ultra featured on the cover of American Iron Magazine Issue #347. We’ve chronicled every step of its customization in our pages and online and are beyond happy that a life-long rider won this wonderful machine.

Official Bike Week Motorcycle 2017 Winner Rick Claar

Rick Claar works with the guys at Lonestar Motorcycles to dial in the Arlen Ness Modular Handlebars to his liking.

“It’s unbelievable. Like I told her, over the years I’ve bought a lot of raffle tickets. But I usually only get one. I don’t know what, something made me buy two and she said it’s a good thing you did because it was the second one that won,” he said.

Claar traveled down to Daytona Beach last week to pick up his new bike and broke it in properly by riding it back to his home in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

“It’s got about 850 miles on it already,” Claar said. “Best weather I’ve ever had coming home from Daytona.” He said it ran nice and smooth and he easily did 10 hours the second day.

“Everybody that’s seen the bike loves it. The first rest area I stopped at this young woman comes up and wanted to know if it’d be all right if she got her picture taken with the bike. I went on in to the rest area and when I came back, it turned out she was with a traveling soccer team and they all got their picture taken with it,” he said.

While winning the Official Motorcycle of Bike Week is incredible in and of itself, it’s extra special for Claar. The first and only time he ever got to ride with his dad was at Daytona. Last year, quite a few of his family members went down there for the 75th.

“My bike, I took parts from a bike I rode down there for the 50th and put it on the bike I rode to the 75th (an Ultra Classic) so I had parts on it that had been going down there for 25 years.” The winning ticket also happened to be drawn on his sister’s birthday. Destiny, maybe?

Rick Claar gets ready to ride his prize home.

Rick Claar gets ready to take his prize home, riding the Official Motorcycle of Bike Week 2017 from Daytona Beach, FLA, to his home in Virginia Beach, VA.

American Iron sends a huge “Congratulations” to Rick. We hope the motorcycle provides many happy miles in its saddle.

We’d also like to say thank you to the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce for letting us once again be a part of the Official Motorcycle of Bike Week. We can’t thank Street Stuff Cycles enough for all the hard work they put into it as well as our long list of sponsors who made the project happen.

Arlen Ness Enterprises, ASA Electronics, Badazz Creative Coatings, Coastal Moto, Cobra USA, Dakota Digital, Harley-Davidson Genuine Accessories, Headwinds, Hill Country Customs, Hog Tunes, House of Kolor, J.W. Speaker, K&N Filters, KlockWerks, Kuryakyn, Lindy Bar, Metzeler, Paul Yaffe’s Bagger Nation, Prokop Signs, and Spectro Oil.

Blind Bob the Alligator Wins Broken Spoke Burnout Contest

File this in the “Things You See at Bike Week” category. Now, while seeing a guy in an alligator suit at the Broken Spoke during Bike Week is a peculiar enough sight, seeing him compete in the burnout contest later that night took things to the next level. After they got his buddy’s motorcycle strapped down, Bob was led to the bike where he carefully felt his way up from the back fender to the controls. Soon he was working those controls like a boss, hand-shifting his way to a big, smoky burnout. Bob didn’t stop ’till the back tire blew, endearing himself to the crowd on his way to winning the burnout contest. No small feat considering Bob is blind. Rock on, Bob!

Indian Motorcycle’s Gary Gray Talks Flat Track & Early Success of the FTR750

Jared Mees Daytona TT 2017

Jared Mees on his way to the first victory for the new Indian Motorcycle Racing team at the Daytona TT.

To say Indian Motorcycle Racing has exceeded expectations so far in the 2017 American Flat Track season is an understatement. Two races, two wins. Five out six podium positions. Be it TT or short track, the FTR750 has been a dominant force so far regardless of what type of track it’s competing on.

As the season begins its first swing to the longer half-mile and mile-long tracks, we caught up with Indian Motorcycle Co.’s Product Director Gary Gray to talk about the team’s early success and the keys to that success.

AIM: Based on what you’ve seen in the first two races, why do you think the FTR750 has done so well?

Gary Gray: I think our riders. Luckily we’ve got Bryan, Brad and Jared who when they found out we were working on the new bike they came to us and said hey, we want to help, we want to do something new and exciting for the sport and bring some energy to the sport and we were more than excited to get those guys.

Yeah, I think they’re a big part of it and I think the development that we’ve put in, the time that’s being put in to not just build a bike but go out and test it and make it better. We’ve tested at Atlanta, we’ve tested at Charlotte where we’re going to be next week. Obviously we couldn’t test at the TT track (Daytona TT was still being smoothed out day of the race) but we did TT testing before Daytona. So Ricky Howerton and Kenny Tolbert, they’re the best in the business. Kenny’s won year after year and Ricky, in my opinion, is the only guy that’s taken a non-Harley engine and done great things with it. There’s a lot of people trying with other motors and it’s tough but Ricky figured it out with the Kawi and he’s helping us out with the Indian. So it’s good, and the bike’s pretty good. We built the bike but it had to beat an XR on the short track and a Ninja on a mile, so we’ll see what happens on the half-miles and miles.

AIM: In your wildest dreams did you expect you’d win 5 out of 6 podium positions right out of the gate?

Gray: No. No way. I mean, everybody here, the goal is to win a championship at some point. I didn’t think it would be possible in the first year. I set my expectations, my realistic expectations were that we would get on the podium this year. I mean, there’s 18 races, so some time in those 18 races we would get on the podium. And we’d place top five in points somewhere. You look at Bryan last year who won the championship, he only won four races all last year. Flat track is not like pro sports where the New England Patriots win 75-80% of their games. There’s 40 guys that want to beat you. You don’t podium every week, but you’ve got to get points almost every week and that leads to championships. My honest opinion was maybe sometime this year we would podium and we would do well in points because we’d have three really reliable bikes and three really great riders. Top three, top five in points by the end of the year but no, not what’s going on right now. It’s crazy.

Jared Mees takes a victory lap at Atlanta Short Track.

AIM: Especially considering the bike itself is what, a little over a year old?

Gray: Yeah, it’s a year-and-a-half that we started and the bike started running less than a year ago.

AIM: When did the wheels start churning as far as Indian contemplating returning to flat track?

Gray: It would have been two Septembers ago we started talking about it. In October of 2015, we kicked the program off and serious design on the engine started in December of 2015. And then spring of last year we were still designing the chassis and had running bikes by June of last year.

AIM: Did American Flat Tracks decision to run the Twins on all the tracks factor in to the decision to return?

Gray: Yeah, it was critical. Michael Lock at American Flat Track is doing a great job of improving the sport and making it make sense for the manufacturers and making it make sense for customers. It was kind of weird honestly before when one race Brad Baker’s riding a Twin from one brand and the next race he’s riding a Single from another brand. It’s like, what is going on? People still want to follow Brad but there’s some people that want to follow a team and a bike, like NASCAR, Chevy vs Ford vs Toyota or whatever. It’d be kind of weird if they were jumping from brand to brand and type of car. He straightened that out and had it make sense to the fans and it’s showing. Attendance is up and people are excited. We were pretty adamant that if we’re coming back, that’s gotta be the way it is and Michael got it done.

We wanted to give something back to the sport. We bought the brand, Indian Motorcycle, in April of 2011 and came out with bikes in 2013 and have a decent lineup of bikes and things are going well and we’re growing year-over-year. And we said, we’ve got our feet on the ground, let’s give something back to the sport. What better place to do that when our heritage is based on racing with Hendee and Hedstrom actually meeting at a racetrack. They were racers and founded America’s first motorcycle company and so what better way to give back to the sport than do something that would make our founders proud and come back and race. And flat track is a big part of our history and we hope what we’re doing gets people excited and gets people back in the stands and gets them excited about racing and gets people excited about motorcycles.

Indian Motorcycle Co.'s Product Director Gary Gray

Indian Motorcycle Co.’s Product Director Gary Gray has played a vital role in the company’s return to racing. 

AIM: The big three. Did you ever think that you’d land all three considering their past successes with different brands?

Gray: No. Jared, when we started working on the bike, Jared found out and called Michael Lock who put him through to us. He talked to us about his history, which we’re pretty familiar with before us (big laughs) and yeah, we signed him up to test and then signed him for this year. A few years his contract is. And then Ricky, Ricky Howerton, Michael Lock also sent his contact information. Ricky was calling Michael about what we were up to. He was curious so I called Ricky and we started talking and like I said, there’s a lot of great people out there, but he’s the one guy who took something non-Harley and made it work. I think well, we probably need someone like that to balance out Jared and Kenny and so he came on and brought Bryan, which was amazing. It was also amazing that we wouldn’t have to race those guys as well. Or Jared.

We never, never in a million years, we wanted Brad of course, but didn’t even call him because we’re like, who would leave the factory job, the number one ride at the time, nobody’s going to leave that job. There’s no way. And Ricky said, hey have you ever thought about Brad? Well, yeah, but he’s not going to leave. He’s like, well let me talk to him. And he was going to talk to him on Saturday and that Wednesday, Brad called us and said hey, you know what, I heard what you guys are doing and I’m interested. So honestly, all three called us. We wrote out a list of who we would want but were like well we’re not getting these guys, and then all three of them called us and we’re like hell yeah, we would love for you to be a part of it. They just wanted to be a part of it. They said we’re great at what we do, obviously, and we can help you and we’re like we need all the help we can get trying to bring a bike from zero to something. Yeah, it’s awesome. All three of those guys are amazing, their crew chiefs are amazing. Just like the 1-2-3 finish, we wrote it down on paper and thought this will never happen, but it happened.

Indian Motorcycle Racing swept the podium at the Atlanta Short Track.

Indian’s formidable Motorcycle Racing team swept the podium at the Atlanta Short Track. (L-R) Brad Baker, Jared Mees, Bryan Smith 

AIM: So I saw you up there on the podium with Mees and Smith at the Daytona TT? How were you feeling at that moment?

Gray: Probably one of the top three happiest moments of my life. It’s kind of funny. I’m a pretty calm guy, I’m pretty mellow. I don’t jump around and yell and scream and my team knows me as that. Well, I guess there’s some things that can get me jumping around and that was one of them. It was unbelievable. Half-way through that race, I mean three-quarters of the way when Vanderkoi popped I literally just put my face in hands and said I can’t believe this is happening, I can’t believe this is happening. 1-2, this is unbelievable. And then watching Atlanta, this is crazy. When Sammy went down, did that just really happen? Come on guys, you gotta get a good race start, and they did, they got a good race start. Bryan fended off the number four guy and history was made.

Indian Motorcycle Racing Team Celebrates at the Daytona TT

The Indian Motorcycle Racing team celebrates after going 1-2 in its first official race at the 2017 Daytona TT.

AIM: How do you think the FTR750 is going to fare on the bigger tracks seeing how we’re headed to the Charlotte Half-Mile followed by the Arizona Mile?

Gray: I think OK. Half-mile, for sure, it should be really, really strong. Last year at Santa Rosa on the mile, couldn’t be happier. I mean, Joe Kopp was wheelieing down the back stretch in the lead in the main, so that looked pretty good. So, I don’t know, the competitors make a lot of horsepower so I guess you never know. I’m nervous, but honestly I was more nervous about the TT and the short track. I wasn’t sure whether we’d do really well in those races and we did really well. So who knows. Knock on wood, I might have the opposite problem when we get to the half-mile and mile. I hope all goes well.

Our competitors aren’t going to lay down and if you sit still between two races you’re going to go slower. A lot can happen but I feel better about those than the short stuff and the short stuff worked out well so we’ll keep knocking on wood and hope it keeps going well.

1st Ever Boogie East Chopper Show a Big Hit at Bike Week 2017

Boogie East Chopper Show Bike Week 2017

The Boogie East Chopper Show had a solid turnout for a first year show.

Annie Oakley's Saloon Bike Week 2017

Annie Oakley’s Saloon hosted the first-ever Boogie East Chopper Show during Bike Week 2017.

Chemical Candy Customs’ Scott Hoepker credits Pete LaBarbera for his appreciation of old iron.

“Pete had a couple of old Shovelheads and Panheads back then and he would always throw some wild ass parties for his biker buds,” explains Hoepker.

When Hoepker was a teenager, he worked for LaBarbera’s masonry company bricking houses. One year on a trip to Bike Week, Pete ended up in a sleepy little biker bar called Annie Oakley’s Saloon. A conversation began between LaBarbera and the bar’s owner and before the night’s over a deal was struck. The next day, LaBarbera announced he was getting out of the masonry business and moving from Texas to Florida to run the biker bar he’d just bought, Annie Oakley’s.

Hoepker always wanted to make it back to Florida and hang out at his old friend’s bar but sometimes life gets in the way of good intentions. Before he got that chance, he received a call from Tani, Pete’s son, saying his father had passed away from cancer.

“I was pretty bummed that I hadn’t had a chance to visit until a year later to check out the bar and do the Bike Week thing. Memories all came back when Rob, an old friend of ours from east Texas, and I walked into the bar and noticed a few photos of Pete on the wall. We sat down and had some laughs with Tani about the good old days and the crazy shit his old man use to get in to,” wrote Hoepker.

Boogie East Chopper Show 2017

We could see this one rippin’ down the beach in the Race of Gentlemen!

“When Rob and I went back to Texas that’s when the wheels started turning so to speak. Rob had always said ‘Their bar is the perfect spot to throw a good chopper event/party but they just never got around to it.’ We talked it over with Tani and have been working on this ever since. This party has a special place in our hearts so I hope to see it grow into something as incredible as the life of Pete LaBarbera,” concluded Hoepker.

And thus with the help of Gasshole Garage and VNM Horsebites, the Boogie East Chopper Show was born. Motorcycles packed the parking lot in front of Annie Oakley’s Saloon then spilled into the adjacent field. Out back, an array of customs by the invited builders filled the grassy knoll while others in the ride-in bike show crammed in beneath the trees. Cool schwag from a long list of sponsors was raffled off over the course of the day until the Left Lane Cruiser Band upped the energy levels. Between its wooden back deck, outdoor bar, and shaded grounds, the back area of Annie Oakley’s was a perfect place for a good old-fashioned chopper show of 1984 and earlier motorcycles.

Groovy trike at the Boogie East Show Annie Oakley's Bike Week 2017

JP Rodman’s groovy trike was just one of the cool builds at the Boogie East Show.

With a front end stretched far enough to make Sugar Bear proud and a cab so cool it channeled the spirit of Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, it was impossible to miss JP Rodman’s 1960’s style trike. Sporting a blown Knucklehead, ram’s horn bars, and dual M&H Racemaster drag tires on the back, Rodman’s three-wheeler had all the charm of an old fashioned shaggin’ wagon.

Next to it sat Steve “TheHeadChoppa” Bates latest build, a 1945 Knucklehead in a ’38 Knucklehead frame with a solid aluminum rear wheel engraved by New Line Engraving. Bates’ bike is full of fine details, from the handmade shift knob carved from an elk horn to its hand forged sissy bar to its trick horseshoe kicker pedal. “TheHeadChoppa” also brought his ultra-clean 1956 Panhead chopper to the show, a bike we featured online after seeing it at last year’s Handbuilt Motorcycle Show.

HeadChoppa's Behemoth Boogie East Show Bike Week 2017

“TheHeadChoppa” debuted his latest work called “Behemoth” at the Boogie East Show.

We chatted with Jason Ochoa about his clean 1955 rigid Panhead, his build featuring a 1957 straight-leg frame and a 1947 Knucklehead transmission. Bathed in varying shades of purple flake, Ochoa’s Pan included a picture of Jimi Hendrix on the oil tank and the words “Excuse Me While I Kiss the Sky” engraved on the air cleaner cover. Ochoa remembers his dad playing Hendrix regularly at home on an old reel-to-reel and said the theme was in honor of his father, a Vietnam vet who loved listening to Jimi.

Jason Ochoa's '55 Pan Boogie East Chopper Show 2017

Jason Ochoa’s 1955 Panhead has a ’57 straight-leg frame and a ’47 Knuckle tranny.

With a laid back vibe and a bounty of beautiful bikes, the first annual Boogie East Chopper Show at Bike Week was by all measures a big success. Organizers are already discussing doing it again next year. We believe Pete LaBarbera would be proud of the biker bash that took place in his honor at his old haunting grounds.

(Boogie East back story courtesy of Chemical Candy Customs)


The Week That Was – Daytona Beach Bike Week 2017 Photo Review

Cruising Main Street Daytona Beach Bike Week 2017

Cruising down Main Street Daytona Beach – Bike Week 2017. 

It came in like a lamb and went out like a lion. While Daytona Beach Bike Week 2017 started off a little slow thanks to a couple rainy days followed by a few abnormally cold days, it finished with a flurry by the final weekend. Did you catch the Sons of Speed races? Billy Lane put on a fantastic event. Our very own Buzz Kanter won the first-ever race with a last lap pass of Lane, Brittney Olsen blistered the track on her way to the overall victory, and the event blew up social media.

The crowd was on their feet as Buzz Kanter captured the first-ever checkered flag at the Sons of Speed races.

The crowd was on their feet as American Iron’s Buzz Kanter captured the first-ever checkered flag at the Sons of Speed races.

We interviewed Indian Wrecking Crew rider Jared Mees early in the week, then Mees went out and won the inaugural Daytona TT, giving Indian Motorcycle Racing a victory in its first outing in 63 years. And custom bike shows…there were more than we could cover. We still were able to hit the Perewitz Paint Show, Willie’s Tropical Tattoo Chopper Show, the Harley Ride-In Bike Show and a new shin-dig called Boogie East out at Annie Oakley’s Saloon.

Lead Sled Perewitz Paint Show 2017

That’s one fine Lead Sled!

Ride bikes? Did that. American Iron Editor spent time in the saddle of both the 2017 Harley Road King Special and the 2017 Harley Street Rod. Keep an eye out for the first ride reviews in upcoming issues of American Iron Magazine. I spent the week on the 2017 Indian Roadmaster Classic, the perfect workhorse for a motojournalist making the rounds. Its big topcase became my best friend as it made grabbing my camera bag out a snap at all the events I covered. Lots of positive feedback from rally-goers on the Willow Green over Ivory Cream colorway, too. Got to experience Daytona Beach in a new way as well when I took out the Polaris Slingshot SLR out for a day. Testing out its traction control a little bit in the back parking lot of Destination Daytona was a hoot. Cruising up and down the A1A during Bike Week is exactly what this vehicle is made for.

Blind Bob the Alligator Broken Spoke 2017

Blind Bob the Alligator wins the Broken Spoke crowd over on his way to victory in the burnout contest.

I also found a new hero – Blind Bob the Alligator. Blind Bob came out in an alligator suit, worked the crowd like a champ, then hand-shifted through five gears lickety-split until he had the back tire of his buddy’s motorcycle roasting. Roasted it until it blew! Before it was over, Blind Bob had the crowd cheering his name as he was crowned king of the Broken Spoke burnout contest.

Snake charmer. Main Street Bike Week 2017

First alligators, now snakes. What do you expect, it’s Florida!

While we thought it’d be an off year, American Iron was busier than ever at Bike Week. Be on the lookout for the full event review in a future issue of American Iron Magazine. Until then, here’s plenty of pictures to enjoy from the week that was Daytona Beach Bike Week 2017.

Moonshiner Josh Owens makes friends just about everywhere he goes

Moonshiner Josh Owens makes friends just about everywhere he goes.

Harley-Davidson took over the Full Moon Saloon for Bike Week 2017.

Harley-Davidson took over the Full Moon Saloon for Bike Week 2017.

It's a mad dash out of the starting gate at the 2017 Daytona TT.

It’s a mad dash out of the starting gate at the 2017 Daytona TT.

Packed house at Willie's Tropical Tattoo Chopper Show 2017

They pack ’em in as tight as they can get ’em at Willie’s Tropical Tattoo at the annual chopper show.

Inked! Main Street Daytona Beach Bike Week 2017

Inked on Main Street.

Brittney Olsen Wins First-Ever Sons of Speed Boardtrack Race

Brittney Olsen gives the double thumbs up after winning the first-ever Sons of Speed event.

Brittney Olsen gives the double thumbs up after winning the first-ever Sons of Speed event.

Brittney Olsen has etched her name in the record books as the first winner of the Sons of Speed boardtrack races. Riding her 1923 Harley “J” Model boardtracker, Olsen was fast all day on the banks of New Smyrna Speedway, the 20th Century Racing rider using her experience and finely tuned machine to rocket to the win.

“I just feel so proud and honored to be out here. It’s really awesome to be invited. I thought well, I race on dirt and that’s kind of a tricky surface but I’m really, really happy with my team and my mechanics back home. My team in the pits here, Doc Batzler, Doug, Mike Weasner, everybody who helped me get to this spot, thank you so much,” said Olsen from the podium.

Matt Harris of .40CalCustoms finished second, Harris also riding a Harley “J” Model. His boardtracker sang a wonderful song, a bold almost century-old note at full throttle. Harris showed fine form while winning his heat and carried that momentum into the Main to secure second place.

Matt Harris of .40CalCustoms was looking good on his 1924 "J" Model Harley boardtracker on his way to a second place finish.

Matt Harris of .40CalCustoms was looking good on his 1924 “J” Model Harley boardtracker on his way to a second place finish.

“Not too shabby for finishing the bike on Tuesday riding it for the first time Thursday and racing on Saturday!” wrote Harris on .40CalCustoms Instagram account.

Shelly Rossmeyer-Pepe captured the final podium position, piloting her 1915 Harley boardtracker to a third place finish. Rossmeyer-Pepe earned a spot in the Main after winning the Last Chance Qualifier and took advantage of the opportunity to fight for her spot on the podium.

Billy Lane rides the tight line at Sons of Speed.

Billy Lane rides the tight line at Sons of Speed.

During the first Heat race of the day, Team American iron’s Buzz Kanter rode the inside line and passed Billy Lane on the last lap, the pass bringing the crowd to their feet as Kanter earned his own spot in Sons of Speed history as the winner of the first-ever race. In the Main, the engine of his 1915 Harley didn’t run as smoothly as his heat race, Kanter still elated with his fourth place finish. Kanter said the Sons of Speed experience was “one of the highlights of his motorcycle life.”

The crowd was on their feet as Buzz Kanter captured the first-ever checkered flag at the Sons of Speed races.

The crowd was on their feet as Buzz Kanter captured the first-ever checkered flag at the Sons of Speed races.

Josh Owens of Moonshiners fame quickly became a fan favorite in his Heat race against Olsen. The two fought a spirited battle, Owens fearlessly attacking corners as he gave it his all trying to steal the victory from Olsen. In addition to winning over the crowd, Owens proved he’s got some serious racing skills as he directed Matt Walksler’s 1921 Harley around the track.

Josh Owens Sons of Speed 2017

Josh Owens showed he’s got some serious racing skills as he won the crowd over at the Sons of Speed races.

The stands were jam-packed at New Smyrna Speedway, the crowd treated to a racing spectacle the likes of hasn’t been seen in almost 100 years. Billy Lane and all those who made this event possible deserve a huge ovation for putting together possibly the best event of Daytona Beach Bike Week 2017.

Ghosts and Dopplegangers at Willie’s Tropical Tattoo Chopper Show 2017

Willie's Tropical Tattoo Chopper Show is a Bike Week institution.

Willie’s Tropical Tattoo Chopper Show is a Bike Week institution.

“Damn, dude, I thought I saw a doppleganger.”

The randomness of this comment directed at me fit the randomness of Willie’s Tropical Tattoo Chopper Show. Because there’s no rhyme or reason, no sense of order or conformity at Willie’s, it’s just a good old fashioned bro-fest. Come chill out, wedge your bike in the parking lot, and spend the afternoon bumping into everybody and their mother as you make slow circles around the building. Eat some Q, drink some beer, share a story or two. Willie’s is an institution, a Bike Week tradition, it’s the one show in Daytona that nobody wants to miss.

Parting the sea at Willie's Tropical Tattoo Show.

Parting the sea at Willie’s Tropical Tattoo Show.

“I remind you of somebody?” I asked in return.

“Yeah, for a second there, I swore I saw my buddy. He died a few months back when he got hit on his bike down in Costa Rica.”

“Wow. Sorry to hear about your bro. Maybe this is his way of letting you know he’s here.”

“Oh yeah, I have no doubt he’s here today. No doubt.”

See, just about everybody was at Willie’s. Even ghosts and dopplegangers.

Moonshiner Josh Owens makes friends just about everywhere he goes

Moonshiner Josh Owens makes friends just about everywhere he goes.

Perewitz Paint Show Daytona 2017

Though the Perewitz Paint Shows are relatively new on the scene, it’s taking little time for Dave and Jody’s gathering to gain steam. This year’s Daytona Bike Week show filled the perimeter of the vast Russ Brown Pavilion at Destination Daytona, Jody P. stating there were officially 55 bikes entered in the show, though many more streamed in over the course of the afternoon. Entries in the show were a cross-section of current crazes, a bonanza of big wheeled baggers with big dollar paint mixed with a sprinkle of T-barred club-style FXRs, garage builds and choppers mixed in between. Jody and Dave collaborated to paint the “Best of Show” trophy, while Bones and others dabbled and daubed on the other sweet trophies. Not surprisingly, the Hamsters were well represented, and even the first family of custom bike building – Arlen, Cory and Ness stopped by to check things out.

Turbo bagger Perewitz Paint Show 2017

Turbo baggers are a common site at bike shows these days.

Sweet spokes Lead Sled Perewitz Paint Show 2017

Sweet spokes!

Orange Flake chopper at the Perewitz Paint Show 2017

Flaked and chopped!

The Nesses and Dave Perewitz Daytona Beach 2017

The Ness family shares a laugh with old friend Dave Perewitz.

Perewitz Paint Show Trophies Daytona Beach

The Perewitz Paint Show has some of the coolest trophies!

Skulls Perewitz Paint Show 2017

Wouldn’t be a proper paint show without a skull or two.

Lead Sled Perewitz Paint Show 2017

That’s one fine Lead Sled!