It was going to be a special year. Famed photographer Michael Lichter was set to celebrate the 20th year of his Motorcycles as Art exhibit in Sturgis, annually an unparalleled curated collection of custom motorcycles, artwork, photographs, and moto memorabilia. Lichter was also ready to celebrate 40 years of shooting at the rally, and his photos capture the true essence of the rally like no others. It was also the Sturgis Rally’s 80thanniversary, another cause for celebration. Then came Covid, threatening to shut the whole thing down.

But nothing could stop the builders of “Heavy Mettle: Motorcycles and Art With Moxie.” Every builder in the show has built 20 or more bikes and has been building custom motorcycles for at least 20 years. While molding heavy metal into mechanical brilliance is their business, they’ve also shown plenty of heavy mettle keeping their doors open for over 20 years. The builders in this year’s show have just about seen it all, have figuratively and literally weathered countless storms, and forded through the latest tempest to put on an incredible exhibit at the Sturgis Buffalo Chip.

What a treat it is to see so much history under one roof. There were immediately recognizable motorcycles thanks to their TV time on Biker Build-Off. The work ran the gamut, from the super colorful flair of Rick Fairless to Ballistic Cycles avante garde electric custom with hubless wheels to timeless pieces like Kiwi Mike’s Indian. There’s so much goodness under one roof, like Cole Foster’s 1940 Big Twin Flathead with the striking gold inlay on the handcrafted red tank. Take a few more steps and there’s Donnie Smith’s digger called “Headhunter,” an 84 cubic-inch Shovelhead with a wicked girder which graced the pages of Street Chopper back in 1982. Then there’s Aaron Greene’s “Cherry Bomb” with its 330mm wide rear (the first of its kind), fantastically fabricated tank, and mind-melding motor work. Greene’s bike, like many others, was way ahead of its time. From Carl Olsen’s knuckle to Ron Finch’s “Loophole,” the list of extraordinary motorcycles goes on and on as Michael Lichter’s 2020 “Heavy Mettle” Motorcycles as Art exhibit in Sturgis is the gift that keeps on giving.