The Fuel Cleveland motorcycle show has been an event very dear to our hearts for many years.Photographer Mikey "Revolt" Arnold and the entire Lowbrow Customs and Gasbox crews have been gathering folks together in the name of art, photography, and custom moto culture since the show's inception in 2015. The show also brings us a greater appreciation for the state of Ohio and just how much it has been a part of the custom motorcycle culture throughout the years with many great things to offer.
Each year the show gathers a new lineup of custom bikes, vintage survivors, and race-inspired performance machines that continue to drive the Midwest’s thriving motorcycle culture. Motocentric photography and art have always received equal focus at the show with both given prominent display each year no matter the venue the event is held at. Throughout the years the show has been held at a few different locations around Cleveland, all of which have been awesome in their own right and give attendees a new outlook on different parts of the city, while exposing folks to some interesting Cleveland culture and giving everyone a great space to party. Despite a short break during the pandemic, when partying was not the safest idea, the crews behind the show regrouped and brainstormed how to come back stronger than ever in 2022.
Though Fuel Cleveland had typically been held at various warehouses in Cleveland, the show has grown to a level that no warehouse space can accommodate it, so the organizers made a bold move and decided to move the show out of downtown Cleveland. The show’s new location is in a part of Ohio that many out of town motor riders and adventure seekers could appreciate: the beautiful Cuyahoga Valley National Park, just south of Cleveland. Located within the park is a site that many wouldn't expect for hosting a massive moto show: the historic Hale Farm & Village. This incredible property was added to the historical registry in 1973, but the farm’s main house, "The Jonathan Hale homestead", and many of the surrounding structures were built nearly 200 years ago and to this day have all the charm of early 1800s living. With a fully functional blacksmith shop, glass blowing studio, brick making, and candle making structures across the property, Hale Farm has something for the whole family to enjoy. And if your family also likes a little bit of wild fun on two wheels? The farm has hundreds of acres and over 30 structures with more room to accommodate parking thousands of motorcycles and more spaces to explore than any warehouse space the city of Cleveland could ever offer. Pair that with some great July weather and the National Park’s scenic roads and this year ended up seeing one of the biggest crowds for the event yet. We sponsored the event again this year, set up shop in the fantastic vendor village, and took advantage of all the wonder that this year's Fuel Cleveland "Hale Farm edition" had to offer.
As the event began to get underway the bikes began rolling in by the hundreds, lining up row after row in the grass moto parking area, or even catching some shade under a tree. Visitors to Hale Farm that day brought a respectful rumble that the property had probably never seen or heard in its 200 year history. Clusters of customs began huddling in every crevice they could find and everyone felt early in the show that this was gonna be a really great day. Walking the endless rows of "ride in'' motorcycles there were bikes from every single era and walk of life. The best part is that each person rode there to enjoy the love, comradery and passion that come with vintage motorcycles.
The vendor village was a great first stop on the way out of the moto parking area and into the show’s main area that took up the entire village. This year, instead of just one building displaying walls of moto photography and art, the vendor village became host to tent after tent where each artist could set up their own personal gallery. Instead of just a small section of wall to occupy, the photographers and artists had their own booth to enable them to display and sell prints and artwork. One of our favorites in the moto art world, Christopher Galley of Devil Chicken Design, was just one of many artists on display that day. The vendor area was also filled with a multitude of great businesses selling everything from parts and riding gear to functional moto art. We joined the fun getting people hyped for the upcoming Himalayan moto adventures of Motorcycle Sherpa, the versatile line of leather and knives of Whiteknuckler Brand, and our Old Bike Barn tent had a great appearance from our 2022 sponsored rider, Johnny Bova, meeting with people all day as he helped us sell some great Old Bike Barn products and gear.
As you made your way through all of the great vendors and artists, the main walkway brought you out to the incredible Hale Homestead and village where the main bike show took up the grounds. The bikes really filled up the entire village area and there was plenty of room to be able to see each bike from every angle with more than enough room to catch some shade or a beer under a tree with friends. Fuel Cleveland’s lineup never disappoints in terms of diversity and we definitely found some favorites in the vintage Japanese and American customs realm this year.
Holding the show at Hale Farm & Village also allowed the organizers to do something they had often dreamed of but had never had the space for at previous venues. The grounds of Hale Farm could more than accommodate the 2022 show along with a bonus custom van show. With a range of all different models from the 60s, 70's and 80's, the innovative interiors and flashy custom paint made each van in the show unique. The van owners ended up opening all the doors and windows to give everyone an up close view of what custom van living is really like and it’s easy to get hooked on the culture real quick. We certainly walked away wanting to dig through classifieds to find a piece of rolling Econoline history for ourselves after seeing this incredible lineup.
The van show also shared a space with some of the in-house "makers" that occupy Hale Farm and one of our favorites was definitely the blacksmith, using tools and techniques still true to what it was like to pound hot, molten steel 200 years ago. He gave several demonstrations throughout the day, demonstratinghis skill at turning metal into functional tools and pieces of art, producingsome awesome souvenirs you won’t find at any other show. The grounds also had several other artisans who did glass blowing, candle making, and other crafts true to what life in the 1800s was like. It was definitely not what you would expect from the environment of your average motorcycle show, but we loved it and welcomed everything the farm had to offer.
As the day wound down, the custom bike builders began meeting with people to talk about their machines and then firing them up to ride them directly out of the show. One great thing about Fuel Cleveland has always been that it is not just for show bikes that don't run. With the exception of a few historical bikes, every bike could be ridden in and out of the show and to us, that's something we love to see at any event.
The show came to a close with the drawing of a winner for the Fuel Cleveland raffle bike, a beautiful 1966 FLH Harley Davidson. Tyler from Lowbrow Customs and Jesse from Gasbox did the final draw and gave away the coveted and pristine first year shovel to the lucky winner, Mary Vennekotter. Even though there could only be one winner of the bike raffle, it really felt like everyone was a winner that attended Fuel Cleveland that day and we thank Mikey, Tyler, Jesse and the whole crew for putting all the hard work in to make the 2022 show something we will love to see come back in 2023. Word is that the event will be returning to Hale Farm for not just one day, but TWO days this year and we can't wait to support the event again!
Photos and words by Mike Vandegriff