Knights at the Roundtable: Allstate’s Bike Week Moto Masters

We were a motley crew. A spunky South Dakotan girl in knee-high boots and flared vintage riding pants standing next to a tie-dye shirt and Chuck Taylor wearing long-haired Texan. There was the steely-eyed Northern Californian with movie star looks, thick arms and a hat sitting backwards on his head chatting with an ultra-hip SoCal urbanite with close-cropped hair, tattoos of motorcycles on her arms and an ever-present smile. And then there was me, a denim-wearing, middle-aged Oregonian hiding behind black Oakleys and a Vans hat. Yup, we were a funky bunch.

Allstate's Moto Masters Roundtable Bike Week 2016

The motley crew of Allstate’s Moto Masters Roundtable (L-R) Zach Ness, Brittney Olsen, Alicia Elfving, Rick Fairless, and me, Bryan Harley.

Somehow, though, Allstate Insurance saw something of value in us. Why else would they invite us to be the five panelists on its Moto Masters Roundtable at Daytona Beach Bike Week? The Roundtable was a live-streaming event from Allstate’s Rider Protection Zone at Daytona International Speedway. The five Moto Masters were each asked questions in their particular area of expertise, the questions coming from Allstate’s Facebook page, the live audience, and pre-prepared ones from moderator Courtney Lambert. Topics ranged from safety tips to trends in the industry, favorite routes and favorite bikes. Live-streaming the event gave people who couldn’t attend the 75th anniversary of Bike Week a little taste of the rally thanks to Allstate. And Bike Week wasn’t the only one celebrating a big anniversary. Allstate was celebrating its 50th year of insuring motorcycles and wanted to do something big at Bike Week. Hence, the Moto Masters Roundtable was formed.

And though motley might we be, we brought a breadth of experience to the table. The spunky South Dakotan? That was Brittney Olsen, a girl wise beyond her years. Olsen is the co-owner of 20th Century Racing, proponents and torchbearers of antique motorcycle racing. She’s a fearless boardtrack racer who’s passionate about old motorcycles and can talk shop with the best of them. Being married to Knucklehead savant Matt Olsen doesn’t hurt any in fueling her passion.

Brittney Olsen Bike Week 2016

Beneath Brittney Olsen’s smile lies a fearless boardtrack racer. 

The long-haired, tie-dye and Chuck Taylor-wearing Texan? None other than Rick Fairless, one of the hardest-working men in the industry. Fairless is a renaissance man, a master with paint, custom bike builder, writer, TV personality, entrepreneur, and big chief at one of the most popular biker bars in the country, Strokers Dallas. Fairless’ empire was once the fodder of a truTV series called “Ma’s Roadhouse.” His colorful style has become his signature as there’s no mistaking a Fairless custom.

Rick Fairless Bike Week 2016

Rick Fairless has no shortage of flair. 

The steely-eyed Northern Californian with the movie star looks and burly arms? Zach Ness, third-generation custom bike builder and part owner of Arlen Ness Enterprises. Yes, Arlen is his grandpa. And sure, Zach was born into this industry, but he doesn’t simply ride coattails. He’s paid his dues, sweeping the floor of the shop, picking up tools, listening and learning. Zach’s come into his own. Most recently Victory enlisted his services in creating a prototype to its new liquid-cooled cruiser called the Octane, Zach’s take an American muscle bike called the Combustion. He teamed up with the National Geographic Channel for a TV series called “Let it Ride” and proudly carries on the Ness bike building tradition of his grandfather and father.

Zach Ness at Bike Week 2016

Zach Ness having a little fun at Bike Week during Allstate’s Moto Masters Roundtable.

As for the uber-cool SoCal girl with the half-shaved head, cool tattoos and ever-present smile? Most know her as the MotoLady, Alicia Elfving. She’s a road warrior, loves to wrench, loves to ride. Elfving honed her skills on the mean streets in and around Portland, did a stint with MotoCorsa, customized a Ducati Monster 750 that was featured in BikeExif, then moved to sunny Southern California so she could ride year-round. Now she runs one of the hottest moto-sites for women riders, engages fans on her various social platforms, and inspires female motorcyclists by fully immersing herself in the lifestyle. She has energy and zeal that’s infectious, evident by her rising popularity in moto circles.

Bike Week 2016 The MotoLady Alicia Elfving

Alicia Elfving, aka The MotoLady, visited Bike Week for the very first time to be a member of Allstate’s Moto Masters Roundtable.

As for me. I’ve been lucky enough to be a motojournalist for almost the last ten years. I’ve ridden and reviewed more motorcycles than I can remember, crashed a few, and lived to tell the tale. I’ve earned my stripes by covering bike shows big and small, from the AMD World Championships to the Rat’s Hole. I make the rounds at motorcycle rallies around the country and call the Sturgis Buffalo Chip my home-away-from-home for 10 days every August. Now I’m American Iron’s Online Editor and a contributor to the magazine, a new role I’m beyond excited about.

Allstate’s Moto Masters Roundtable took place in the shadows of Daytona’s renovated International Speedway. I’m still in awe every time I visit the Speedway as I can sense the spirit of the racing history it has hosted. It was an honor to be a part of Allstate’s history, its first Bike Week Moto Masters Roundtable. Hopefully it will become an Allstate tradition at the rally.

Over the course of a live-streamed hour, our Roundtable fielded a gamut of questions. When asked what he anticipates will be the next trend in custom bikes, Fairless said he sees choppers making a comeback. Zach added that rallies and bike shows are a great way to see what’s coming next. Hailing from South Dakota, Olsen was the perfect person to talk about winterizing a motorcycle, from emptying fluids to putting batteries on trickle chargers. Elfving, a big proponent of “All The Gear, All the Time,” encouraged riders to wear a full-face helmet, listed some of her favorites (Icon, Shoei, Arai, AGV) and shared sources to research before buying. When questioned about helpful tips for riders, I emphasized the importance of a pre-ride check – tire pressure, blinkers, cables, leaks. When asked for tips that would help novice riders, I recited my mantra – ride like you’re invisible. Never assume when it comes to other drivers. If you can envision something happening, act on your intuition and do what it takes to make sure it doesn’t.

Allstate also used the event to unveil the grand prize for this year’s “Motorcycle Sweepstakes,” a 2016 Polaris Slingshot given the patriotic red, white and blue treatment by Fairless. The Slingshot is a blast to ride. It’ll lay down a pretty good patch of rubber in the first couple of gears, sticks to the road like glue but can still be drifted it when time comes to have some fun. Somebody’s going to take this rig home. Why not you? Click this link for a shot at winning. :

While we may have arrived at the Roundtable as casual acquaintances, we left as friends, the love of motorcycles and our industry a common bond that brought our panel of Moto Masters together. I’m honored to have sat at the Roundtable with each of them and look forward to when our paths cross again.