Over the past eleven years Born Free has definitely grown in attendance, vendors and builders. In its current state it has progressed to a 4-day spectacle (more if you hit the right pre-parties), so we set out across the western United States with plans to consume as much of  Born Free Motorcycle Show 11 as possible.

Our festivities started early Thursday morning with a 6 a.m. call time at the Industry Hills Expo Center where we were lucky enough to be racing our hooligan Sportster in this years X Games qualifier. We were greeted by some familiar faces in the form of the Flat Out Friday crew and some of the OG hooligans who along with ourselves made up the whopping 120-rider hooligan class who were about to go to war and fight to be one of the final 48 racers taken to X Games Minneapolis. We were sorted out into our practice groups and started getting some much needed practice laps. I hadn’t raced since the Mama Tried show way back in February with the exception of a local race I was able to jump in the week before (and win) so I knew I would probably be at a bit of a disadvantage, nevertheless I hit the track with high hopes. Needing to finish 3rd or better out of the ten in my heat race in order to advance to X Games, I could only manage a 5th-place finish on the increasingly dry, slick track. Sitting in staging for my LCQ, I couldn’t help but notice all the fast dudes in the LCQ heats. I am continually stunned at how much both the riders and bikes in the hooligan class have progressed. And while it makes me stoked to see such a quick progression to such a high level, I hope hooligan racing doesn’t lose it’s soul in all the broadcasts and Instagram glory. At its roots, hooligan racing is banging bars with your buddies on cheap motorcycles and drinking beers in the pits afterwards swapping racing stories.

The next day was Friday and quite possibly my favorite day because it's when Biltwell holds its People's Champ show at legendary Cooks Corner. I made my way over to Cook’s a bit early so I could grab a burger and a good parking spot without having to battle a crowd. The place fills up fast and the Biltwell guys were on their game as usual. The 6 People's Champ bikes were displayed perfectly in front of a Biltwell banner that could have easily doubled as a semi-truck awning and right beneath it was a rad handmade trophy. All 6 builds were awesome but the one that kept me coming back to take another look was Suzy Pilaczynki's killer powder blue Shovelhead. I loved everything about it, from the hexagonal front end to the lectron carb and her use of color throughout the build. It was stunning from front to back. But Biltwell's Cooks Corner gig is more than a show. It's an awesome hang with a laid back environment, good food, good beer, and plenty of awesome machinery, from the bikes on display to the 100’s of cool builds in the parking lot. The People's Champ party is probably my favorite event of the weekend.

When Saturday arrived, the Born Free Show opened up and was as big and bad as ever. The builders continue to push their creative limits and this year that limit was again elevated by Hawke Lashe of Vintage Technologies out of Montana. I had drooled over his red Knucklehead chopper from the prior year, but this year he went next level.  The skinny, long blue Shovehead was cool enough by itself, but the really nuts part of the bike was the skeletonized engine and transmission. He had cut away all of the engine covers leaving the rockers, pushrods, cam, ignition and some trans gears exposed. And the madness was that it starts and runs! Don’t get me wrong, the other invited builder bikes were beyond sharp, but that bike left me scratching my head. Bitchen' builds aren’t just relegated to the invited builders, though. You can basically swing a dead cat anywhere on the show grounds and hit a rad bike. My favorite part of Born Free is just cruising the grounds scoping out cool machines. You will see every kind of chopper you can image, from hi-tech FXR and Dyna builds to Evo sidecar rigs. And that's exactly why I come to these shows, to see the creativity in the current motorcycle culture and be inspired. Too many of these gatherings are just about being seen and taking a killer pic for the 'gram. But at its core, Born Free is still about the machines and creators that reach deep into their skulls to build something different than anyone else ever has.

If you have never been, by all means treat yourself, make the trip to the land of fruits and nuts (California) and take in all the festivities from stem to stern. Go to the races, party with the Biltwell crew at Cooks Corner and take in the chopperst of chopper shows Born Free. You’ll no doubt see your favorite “influencer” and get some really dope pics for the 'gram but you’ll also come away with some moto-inspiration.