Now in its seventh year the Night of the Troglodytes vintage bike show hosted by Harley Carrara of Tradition Cycles and Mel Stultz founder and organizer of The Race of Gentlemen has grown to become one of our favorite events every year. It perfectly captures the aesthetic of a specific era of custom bikes shows long lost since the 1970s. While TROG focuses on the pre-1950's preservation of that era of racing and moto/car culture, the NOTT show focuses more on the rest of the century up until the 80s with motorcycles mainly ranging in the pre-1976 to 1940's range of the custom bike culture. It's exactly what a bike show would have looked like if you were to somehow steal Doc Brown's Delorean and juice up the flux capacitor to the year 1977. That's essentially what Mel and Harley set out to do in the beginning putting on this show kicking off TROG weekend each year and they have nailed the aesthetic year after year.
Held in the historic Binns/Bonita lots, just between the two 1950s style motels, it's literally just a stones throw away from the Atlantic Ocean and famous Wildwood, NJ boardwalk. It's easy to see why people come from all over the world to participate with their vintage machines or just witness the experience first hand as its something you need to see in person to really understand the vibe that they achieve so well. As you approach the area you feel the electric vibes of the town begin to fill you with excitement as you hear the fluttering sounds of rock music echo between the walls of neon lit fifties style motels and diners that line the streets on all sides.
The sounds of screeching hot rod tires and thumping big twin motorcycle cylinders can be heard all around you in every direction as the spectators of the event race in from close by motels in the area. The whole town basically becomes a part of the experience and it turns into somewhat of a time warp block party for anyone wild enough to venture in. As you make your way closer to the Bonita you find that the streets are lined with every fantastic moto sub genre you could ever hope for. Choppers, bobbers, cafes, and classic vintage stock motorcycles alike line the streets adjoining the motel in every direction. As you reach ground zero the people start to become part of the time warp as well. Hippies in mexican blanket ponchos share cigarettes with greasers and girls in polka dot skirts while they high five fuzzy collared chain draped crusty long haired ogres helping them kick each others ratty old machines over in triumphant moments of unity.
A psychedelic 60's throwback trip out oil projected light show illuminates the walls behind them all as the wailing tones of vintage Rickenbacker guitars belt out over the shouts and hollers of a sea of excited patrons. It's what you would expect of a 60s or 70s biker exploitation film freak out party. It's the kind of vibe that only exists in well cultivated corners of the globes from people that eat, sleep and breath the preservation of this long lost era of moto customization.
At the height of the night the motorcycles become one with the crowd disappearing into the fold of huddled hordes of beer sloshing brutes and babes all looking for ultimate kicks. The beer cans smash on the concrete and the flashlights come out as people begin to point out their favorite parts of the machine of their choice and what a great selection they have to choose from. The entrants of the show range from pre-80s vintage American, British and Japanese customs. While the knuckles, pans and shovels make up a big selection of the show stoppers we were very excited this year to see the inclusion of a KZ digger as well as a Honda CB450 chopper, both with their own unique notches in the history of choppers.
As the night winds down and the bands ring out their last notes, the bikes lining the side streets fire up one after another providing a nice dessert to the Troglodytes main course while getting to watch each bike roll out one by one. The show bikes begin to find their way to their respective corners of the town and the aftermath becomes more present. We chose to photograph heavily during this time as it was a great way to communicate what a whirlwind the show really is. We also for the sake of nostalgia added select photos from NOTT 2017 and 2018 as well as this years show just to give you a deeper glimpse into the fun the night brings forth.
Whether you've come to Wildwood for ultimate race glory or to satisfy your chopper kicks The Night of the Troglodytes and The Race of Gentlemen weekend provide everything your heart could ever desire. Please check out their Instagram accounts @nightoftroglodytes and @t.r.o.g._official for more info on how you can attend next years events.
Photos and words by Mike Vandegriff