In the realm of custom motorcycle shows across different American destinations, there are often many that stand out from the rest as easily recognizable and well-defined environments that one can picture in their mind with ease. The endless rows of bikes lining the streets of Sturgis, South Dakota or hordes of long-fork, wide-tire choppers parked beneath palm trees in Daytona Beach are two great examples, but what comes to mind when you think of the old gold rush town of Virginia City, Nevada? Even though the town does host a few great off-road motorcycle events due to the vast, rugged terrain surrounding the town, choppers and performance FXR's definitely weren't a staple of the town until recently. So, in 2021, Choppers Magazine editor Cary Brobeck, talented builder Josh Sheehan, and the FXR bazaar crew set forth to put custom motorcycles on the map in Virginia City and we here at Old Bike Barn were happy to sponsor the event.
Combining a part amateur, part pro rodeo with the bike show took the party from stylish to wild with an offering of real-life danger you couldn't get anywhere else. Are there any other chopper shows where you can ride your bike into town, slam back some liquid courage at an Old West saloon, and then jump on the back of 1,600 pounds of pissed off prime rib in front of your friends? Answer: nowhere else but the Virginia City Roundup.
The weekend kicked off with everyone rolling into town on Friday night and slapping kickstands down onto the main strip of town. Virginia City's rich architecture remains untouched since the mid-to-late 1800s and serves for a very nostalgic backdrop that people come from miles around to be immersed in. The old Western themed shops and famous saloons like the "Bucket of Blood" or the "Silver Dollar" are a must to grab a quick beer before heading over to the historic Piper's Opera House to get an ear full of great rock and country tunes from the night’s entertainment, The Rhyolite Sound and Jesse Daniel. Piper's Opera House was a new addition to the event this year and a very fine one for new patrons of the show. Piper’s has been hosting events in its grand ballroom since the late 1800's and remains preserved intact for future generations to enjoy. The ambiance and decor were the perfect setting for a laid-back evening.
While the Saturday morning sun came up fast, the sound of coffee filling silver tin mugs was set against the echo of thundering exhaust sounds filling the canyons of the Virginia City fairgrounds. Some of the more rugged attendees camped in the dirt lot just outside the fairgrounds while others staggered out of the various historic motels along Virginia City's main strip. Josh, Cary, and their crew made quick work of getting everyone staged for the show.
The approach to this year’s event was different than past years as the event was split in a few different areas. The first year split the FXR's and custom performance bikes on one side and all of the custom choppers on the other. For 2022, they mixed everyone together and then also did a separate "ride-in show" lot along the back side of the rodeo with all of the vendors.
This area filled up fast with some impressive machines from every era and even one of our recent favorites making an appearance, the "Wang sport" Dyna Goldwing hybrid from TPJ Customs.
This year’s main bike show had a host of invited builders that took their builds very seriously and knocked out some incredible machines just in time for the event. The 2022 builders were Kenny Slaughter, Cleen Rock One, Dalton Walker, Marcus Ellis, Ryan Grossman, The Eazy Co., Hawke Lawshe, Jason Wilson, Tony Medellin, The Saxons MC, Reid Mccleary, Dave Bridgewater, TPJ Customs, John Jessup, Ramjet Racing, Mike Pantazi, Kevin O'Neal, Keith Hoshino, Joe Stoesser, Sean Jackson and PowerPlant Motorcycle Co.
The chopper category really shined with some remarkable customs this year. The Eazy Co., Cleen Rock One, Jason Wilson, and Ryan Grossman stood out as some of our favorites in terms of very intricate frame molding and custom fabricated "one off" parts. The FXR category favorites were Dr.Holiday's custom race fairing FXR, "Action" Sean Jackson and his FXR-inspired Harley Pan American and the Powerplant FXR /chopper hybrid just to name a few.
The day capped off with the rodeo festivities getting underway. There were multiple activities to sign up and take part in, each with their own element of danger that was meant for only the toughest and bravest of riders. From bull wrestling and bull poker to amateur bull riding, there was a lot to get excited about whether you were trying it out for yourself or taking a seat in the grandstands watching the dust fly. The bulls this year showed absolutely no mercy as they launched people in mere seconds, but a combination of sheer luck and well-balanced skill shined through to see a lucky few take home the coveted Virginia City rodeo belt buckle trophies at the end of the day.
Photos and words by Mike Vandegriff