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Timonium Motorcycle Show

By Andrew Peterson

Over the past several years the Timonium Motorcycle Show, held each February at the Maryland State Fairgrounds, has grown to become one of the staples of the winter motorcycle show circuit in the mid-state area between Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

This time of year the weather can be unpredictable. Some years the weather breaks and many people are able to ride to the show, providing a show outside in addition to the indoor show in the auditorium. Although we had warm, sunny weather the week before and after the show, the weather during the show weekend was not conducive for travel by motorcycle. As I drove down Interstate 81 through northern Maryland I marveled at how the fresh snow covering not only the fields, but the trees as well, had transfigured the landscape into a world of white. It was easy to tell that I was not the only one heading south this morning as I was passed by numerous trucks and cars with motorcycle-related signs and stickers on the back windows.

The organizers of the show had parking down to a science, allowing the throngs of early visitors to enter the fairgrounds, park quickly and join the long line waiting for the 10:00 a.m. opening. One of the advantages of having a press pass was that I could get into the show early. This allowed me to get some pictures of the show bikes before the crowds filled the aisles. At exactly 10 the doors opened and the exhibit hall quickly filled with eager participants anxious to see what new and unique show bikes would be on display this year.

This year there was no stock class in the judged show, which makes sense because no one who brought a bike to this show had a purely stock motorcycle. Classes ranged from Mild Custom to Radical, and also included Antique, Pro Street, European Specialty, Metric, Nostalgic Bobber and numerous Harley classes. In short, there was a class for just about every type, age, size or personality of motorcycle on or off the street. For many, this alone is worth the trip to the show. There were many theme bikes this year, including military themes that honored various branches of the armed services. And speaking of the military theme, anyone who wore a U.S. military uniform enjoyed free admission to the show all day Friday.

Another common theme was musical groups. Two bikes stood out in particular, the first being the Led Zeppelin bike with artwork from the album covers decorating fenders, tank and saddlebags. The second was Rick Levitan’s Beatles bike, which featured artwork from many of their iconic album covers decorating every inch of available space. The Beatles bike display also consisted of a sound loop playing tunes from the Beatles, so as you neared the display you might hear “Sgt. Pepper” or “Abbey Road” wafting through the air adding to the impact. Others must have agreed, as the Beatles bike won People’s Choice Best of Show.

I always enjoy looking at the antique bikes, probably because it brings back memories of when I was younger and could only dream about owning and riding motorcycles. One of my many favorites this year was Buster Greenwood’s just-out-of-the-shop, fully restored 1966 XLCH Sportster. He said he has owned the bike since the ’70s, but with kids and a career, it had sat in his garage for several years until he came to the realization that now was the time to restore it and ride it again. The bike went directly from Jackman Custom Cycles, who did the restoration, to the show. Buster didn’t even have a chance to ride it yet, though he is looking forward to doing so once spring arrives in earnest. His bike took first place in the American Antique, 1948-and-Newer class.

Some of the other award winners included Denny Ritchie’s 2010 Roadkill Chopper, Judge’s Choice Best of Show; Curtis Wolf’s 1966 H-D Sportster, Best Display of Show; Kevin Webb’s 2007 H-D Night Train, Best Paint of Show; John Nicklin’s 1976 Honda Radical Trike; and Brian Kehoe won the 3rd annual Beatris Landis Memorial Award for Best Antique of Show with his 1939 Indian Jr. Scout—a really fine machine, I might add.

It would not be Timonium without vendors, and this year was no exception. It would appear that the tough times of the past few years have weeded out the marginal vendors, leaving the best capitalized, with the better product offerings remaining. There were the usual sections of custom parts, leather and various clothing items as well as insurance, trailers, metal polishing and just about everything else you might need. Representatives from some of the larger summer events also had booths set up so people could start planning for summer rides, whether to Johnstown in June, West Virginia in July or August, or to Ocean City in September.

Entertainment included a pole-dancing contest each day with cash prizes for the winners. Other featured events included the Bikers and Babes Newlywed Game, a tattoo contest, frozen T-shirt contest and an official after party in the evening with biker contests like banana eating, biker celebrity look-a-like and the Scarred & Dangerous Thrill Show. These guys do things no normal person would consider doing, like eating glass and fire, snapping a mousetrap on their tongues, lifting bowling balls with their ears and stapling $20 bills—with real staples from an industrial staple gun—onto volunteers from the audience. Yes, you get to keep the cash. Celebrities included Michele Smith, who was promoting her new line of jewelry and rhinestone helmets. She was also very accommodating to fans that wanted to pose with her for pictures. Ron Finch had a large display of his uniquely styled customs, which are real works of art. In fact several of his machines are on display throughout the world in art museums. Emilio Rivera from Sons of Anarchy was also on hand Saturday and Sunday afternoons signing autographs and posing for pictures.

Back again and even larger than last year was the swap meet in the upper hall. If the main hall was comprised of all spit-and-shine trailer queen custom machines, the swap meet was garage- and home-built bikes that looked like they were ridden on a regular basis. There were more vendors with more parts than last year and, best of all, lots more bikes. As I was walking through the hall, looking to see if there was something I might be able to use on one of my bikes at home, I noticed the distinctive sound and smell of metal being cut with a grinding wheel. This could mean only one thing: There was a custom build in progress. Sure enough, following my nose, I found Prime City Cycles in the process of cutting down a gas tank for a build they hoped to finish before the end of the weekend. The idea was to start with a donor bike and turn it into a unique one-off custom bike by Sunday afternoon. In this case they were working on a Honda, but their purpose was to demonstrate that anyone with the courage and skill could take an old bike no one wanted and turn it into something unique, and not spend a fortune in the process.

The show can be best summed up by a comment I overheard from a father to his young son as they were entering the main hall. The boy asked his father why so many people had come out on a snowy winter day, to which the father replied, “Because when it is wintertime and the weather is cold outside, people want to go inside, see the motorcycles and plan for when the weather is nice, because then they will all be out riding and not going to indoor shows.” I could not have said it better myself.

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