STURGIS — There were almost exactly half as many entrants in this year's American Motorcycle Dealer Magazine (AMD) World Championship of Custom Bike Building contest as 2011, but quality was there in spades.
UK-based AMD held its custom bike world championship Wednesday afternoon, pulling in 43 entries from all over the world, all vying for first place in their respective classes: Freestyle, Modified Harley-Davidson, Performance Custom, and Production Manufacturer. AMD Championship Director Neil Blaber said there were around 80 entries in the championship last year.
“We were a fair amount down on the number of bikes we had this year as compared to last year, which I think really reflects the economic situation. We've noticed that in Europe, too,” he said.
Financial troubles brought on by struggling economies worldwide are at least part of the reason AMD announced that this year was the last it planned to hold the AMD World Championship competition in Sturgis.
Blaber cited financial hurdles on the part of builders around the world as one of many factors in the British magazine's decision to move its world championship to Essen, Germany in 2013. Holding the competition in Europe will also save the magazine some capital, Blaber said.
“In order to sort of stabilize things we had planned a year ago for our own expo in Germany. The benefit of that (moving the World Championship competition to Germany) is that we can actually finance the running of the show through revenues collected through booth sales at our expo,” he said. “What we're offering the U.S. builders is the ability to cover all their bike freight, because we'll have hotels adjoined to the expo, we can offer them flights and hotels.”
Blaber was keen to point out, however, that AMD has no intention of abandoning Sturgis.
“…what we want to do instead is to stage an American Championship,” he added. “So, it'll be pretty much the same thing as we already have, same attention to detail, except it'll be U.S., Canadian and hopefully South American builders vying for the American Championship, and then win expenses to go to compete in Europe.”
While entry numbers in the AMD World Championships were down quite a bit, the quality of the bikes in attendance more than made up for the decrease in quantity.
“In actual fact the quality was about the same. The winning bikes would've won any of the last four shows that we've had. The guys (and girls) brought great work, even though there weren't quite as many of them.”
While Freestyle, Modified Harley-Davidson, and Production Manufacturer class winners were occupied with an AMD magazine photo shoot, the Black Hills Pioneer caught up with Angela Tardiff and Shelby Thompson of Jackson California's AFT Customs. The two members of the AFT Customs build/modeling team were garnering at least as much attention as their bike, “Halia,” which won first place in the Performance Custom class - the fourth AMD first place title AFT Customs has earned in the past several years.
AFT Customs' bikes are built in a rather unique way compared to most other custom two-wheelers. Each one is built by a crack team of seven female models — that's right, those beautiful women draped across AFT's equally beautiful machines are responsible for putting those machines together.
“It takes about six months (to build a custom bike). We all have fulltime jobs, we do this as a hobby,” Tardiff said. “It takes a little bit longer because each piece is individually made. Nothing on this bike is factory made. People have been looking at this front fender thinking that it's plastic when actually it's aluminum.”
Tardiff stated that AFT's svelte team of builders handles every bit of the bike build.
“A lot of the girls have no experience with bikes whatsoever, they just come on to the team and learn from the ground up from Jim Guiffra, who's the owner and mastermind of the whole thing,” she said. “He teaches us everything. We do all the welding, the metal shaping, the engine rebuilding — everything.”
AFT's 2012 award-winning bike is a Hawaiian-inspired, heavy duty, more modern take on a café racer powered by a modified 750cc Honda v-twin. It features a World War II style airbrushed pin-up girl on its silver-painted fuel tank.
“This bike, the pin-up art on here is after a Polynesian princess from Hawaii,” Tardiff said. “Halia is Hawaiian for 'in memory of.' One of the girls is Hawaiian and right before we built this bike her father passed away. Unfortunately she couldn't be here for this.”
Many of the custom bikes shown at Wednesday's AMD World Championship competition spend more time in trailers than on the road, this is not the case with AFT Customs' 2012 award-winner. Thompson is taking the bike out to the Bonneville Salt Flats next week for Bonneville Speed Week, hunting for a world land speed record in the “run-what-you-brung” open motorcycle class. A beautiful women pushing a beautiful bike well-beyond the 150 mph mark in one the most surrealistically beautiful spots in the world — what's not to like?
A complete list of the AMD World Championship of Custom Bike Building first place winners is provided below:
First place, Freestyle Class:
Thunderbike of Germany, with their entry “Pain TT Less.”
First place, Modified Harley-Davidson Class:
Boccin Custom Cycles of Italy, with their entry “Knuckle '46.”
First place, Performance Custom Class:
AFT Customs of Calif., with their entry “Halia.”
First place, Production Manufacturer Class:
Darwin Motorcycles of Okla., with their entry “Rocketeer F3.”