For more than a decade now the Born Free show has long since become the mecca of invitational bike events in the United States. Bringing tens of thousands every year to Oak Canyon ranch, the California show has always had its own unique vibe and really cast a mold of its own in terms of how the show has been set up on the ranch. The only real constraint of Oak Canyon would be a lack of on-site camping and somewhat strict show curfew times. When Grant Peterson and Mike Davis first set out to put on one of the greatest motorcycle shows in the country the idea of expanding the horizons of the show to other states was a logical transition to make to grow the event and the perfect place for growth was the overwhelming acreage of Yellow Rose canyon in East Texas. As the saying goes everything is bigger in Texas so they teamed up with Oliver Peck and the crew at Yellow Rose to open the doors for a Born free show that could include on-site camping, on-site flat track and motorcycle drag racing and tons more room for activities than any chopper hooligan could ever desire. The month of October is a beautiful time in east Texas and the first ever Born Free Texas was definitely gonna be kicking off with a bang. So we saddled up and headed south to see what Grant and the gang had in store.
The show began with an immediately different vibe than what anyone could expect from a Born Free show. With bikes rolling in everywhere and vendors setting up, the vibe was definitely way more laid back and there was tons of room for everyone to spread out a make their own little home for the weekend in the Yellow Rose grounds. The bike show area began filling up and the invited builders got prime space right in front of the stage. Yellow Rose Canyon is well known for its massive "bowl" that normally houses large capacity concert goers but the bowl soon began to fill up with rows upon rows of custom bikes that were even as impressive as the invited builders.
Born free is no stranger to great racing but one thing that was instantly different about the Texas show was, you didn't have to go very far for a little piece of the dirt flying moto action. The yellow rose Canyon grounds has its own dirt flat track and everything from Mini bikes to choppers was taking a rip around the dirt to get a little blood pumping and a little grit in people's teeth. The Mini bike and dirt bike racing was by far the most competitive but the chopper races were definitely the most entertaining and fun to watch.
When the dirt track went dormant the next piece of action took you over to the dirt drags area where friends and foes battled it out to see who could beat their best time or in some cases just make it from one end of the track to the next without wiping out. The drags went on throughout the weekend at sporadic times but were always easy to know when things got going because the dust cloud they kicked up could be seen from miles around. Chopper versus bagger Mini bike versus cafe Racer there was really no one safe from a good old-fashioned dirt shower and if you weren't first you were definitely last and literally eating your opponents dust.
After the dust settled from the drags it was a good time to venture back into the Canyon bowl and check out what bikes had rotated into the show bike area as well as checking out some of the invited builder merchandise where you can buy custom made parts from your favorite builders to install on your own bike. This was also where we found some of our favorite builds of the show including some pretty wild CB750 choppers.
The Cherokee chapter AMCA helped out with rounding up some great vintage parts vendors for the first ever Born Free Texas swap that was set up all weekend long. While a lot of the AMCA swaps focus on Harley centric parts we were really stoked to see a lot of great vintage Japanese bikes in the swap mixed in with some of our favorite harleys. It was easy to get lost for hours diving in to bins of parts for vintage treasure or just talking shop with the Amca members.
The grounds were filled all weekend with the sounds of great music from a ton of great live rock bands. Yellow Rose Canyon is well known for its incredible sound stage and having an endless stream of great jams all weekend kept everyone's spirits high. Mothership headlined on Saturday and melted faces with their Southern rock bliss.
One of the parts about born free Texas and it's laid back vibe was it really gave you extra time to get to meet with all the different builders and get an idea what inspired them to make each one of their machines so unique. Whether they had been building since the 70s or were a part of the new generation of custom builders there was a seamless mix of unmistakable talent roaming the grounds at all time. Eric of FnA cycles and Drew of Freakshow fab had some of our favorite bikes of the weekend with their attention to detail and incredible performance upgrades.
As the sun set on the last day of the 3 day wild party that was Born Free Texas there was a definite sense of calm and a real unity with everyone involved. It takes a lot to get an event off the ground and make it a success and the good vibes and never-ending good times that Yellow Rose Canyon facilitated really made everyone feel at home. We look forward to many more October nights watching the Texas sun set over a sea of glimmering motorcycles and we hope Grant and the gang keep making the Texas event bigger and bigger.
Photos and words by Mike Vandegriff