2012 Michael Lichter Sturgis Exhibition. Come Together, The Spirit Of Born-Free

Always a prominent event during Sturgis Bike Week, the annual Michael Lichter’s “Motorcycle As Art” event will return in 2012 to the Buffalo Chip’s® 7,000 square foot Exhibition Center with an all new exhibit titled “Come Together, The Sprit of Born-Free” It will celebrate freedom of expression, contemporary motorcycle design and the vision of today’s most innovative artists and custom bike fabricators. This exhibition will look at what is behind the notion that motorcycle design is as much about the culture and times it was born of as it is about the machinery itself and it will do this by looking at an emerging movement within custom motorcycling.

The Sprit of Born-Free Curator Michael Lichter explains” “Over the last few years, custom bike building has been returning to its roots. Custom bike builders have been looking back to simpler times, to motorcycling in the 1950’s-1970’s for inspiration. They are back in their small garages all across America getting their bikes to work better, look better, and represent who they are. They work by themselves and they work with their best friends. This new breed of builder is acknowledging the styles of the past as well as today’s engineering innovations and in doing this, they are breathing new life into old machines. Their creations reflect their personal stories, their friends and contemporary life they are part of. Paramount to all, they are building these bikes to ride – and they ride them hard”.

Over the last few years, custom bike building has been returning to its roots. Hastened by the state of the motorcycle industry and the economy as a whole, custom bike builders have been looking back to simpler times, to motorcycling in the 1950’s-1970’s for inspiration. They are back in their small garages all across America getting their bikes to work better, look better, and represent who they are. They are using old original swap meet/eBay parts from the decades surrounding WWII or they fabricate one-off hand-made parts whenever possible. For these builders, anything beats the catalogue ready billet-cut machine-made parts that have become so pervasive. They work by themselves and they work with their best friends.

Following this evolution of custom bike building, two people that had no experience with bike shows, Grant Peterson of Freedom Machinery and Accessories and Mike Davis of Born Loser, decided to organize a one-day show in Southern California in 2009 “about the love of old motorcycles and like minded individuals having a good time together. They wanted the show “to unite people from all walks of life by bringing the passion that we all have of these old machines together for one special day.” It was also important to them that the show was free to all that would come, and thus “Born-Free”, the bike show who’s title came from combining words from their two company names, began. By 2011, the show had grown from 200 bikes in 2009 to 4,000 that were ridden in not only from all over California but from all over the USA and Canada.  They came by themselves, with their riding partners and in small packs.  They came on Harley Knuckleheads, Panheads and Shovelheads, on Triumphs, BSA’s, Hondas and Kawasaki’s.  All told, 10,000 spectators came to this one day celebration.

Motorcycles as Art” curator Michael Lichter worked closely with Born-Free creators Grant Peterson and Mike Davis on this exhibition to fill the Buffalo Chip’s 7,000 square foot Lichter Exhibition Hall with 2-dimensional art and more than 25 custom bikes.  They have selected the most creative bikes and artwork associated with Born-Free to represent this spirited movement and the culture it is part of. With the all-embracing attitude behind Born-Free, there will also be written text and video on display.  Most of the exhibition participants will be experiencing Sturgis for the first time and for most Sturgis goers, this will be their first time to experience the spirit of Born-Free. The exhibition at the Buffalo Chip will be open daily to the public with free admission from August 4th through the 10th, 2 pm to 10:00pm.

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7 Responses to “2012 Michael Lichter Sturgis Exhibition. Come Together, The Spirit Of Born-Free”


  1. 1 Rollin Feb 8th, 2012 at 9:32 am

    Spectro Oils is honored to again help sponsor this event. Michael Lichter puts on an amazing show every year, one of the best events in Sturgis!

  2. 2 Doc Robinson Feb 8th, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    Everything Mike does is always top shelf. His events are my absolute highlight of Sturgis each year. Can’t wait for this one!

  3. 3 badams Feb 8th, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    Born Free as a grass roots event has been fun. Lots of passionate builders and riders attended. Given the trends of Socal, there was alot of cloning which lead to the fear of becoming contrived. I would only hope in this instance there are a wide variance of styles from all corners of the US represented.
    With that, to see a couple of C&L Hog Shop bikes shown would make it all worth while. Falcigno’s bikes still have yet to be topped in this sub-genre.

  4. 4 Rogue Feb 9th, 2012 at 7:26 am

    I am looking forward to this event as it is always a must see for me.
    Michael is on top of what is happening in the motorcycle lifestyle and this show is just anothe example of that

  5. 5 Mike Kiwi Tomas, Kiwi Indian Motorcycle Co Feb 11th, 2012 at 2:49 pm

    The 2011 Born Free bike show had so much energy excitement there it was truly great to be there. Its been a long time since I’ve seen so much enthusiasm at a motorcycle show. Interesting to see guys ride in from all across the USA on their home grown bikes. It’s an exciting part of our mc culture make up. I won’t be missing Born Free 2012!!!

  6. 6 uhl Feb 12th, 2012 at 11:00 am

    ALWAYS the highlight of Sturgis for me, but I kinda like art/moto . cant wait to see how this years unfolds. Thanks Mr L.

  7. 7 Caliente Feb 13th, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    I love Born Free. But I’m saddened to see it being brought into the mainstream fold of Sturgis, welcomed with open arms and called a wonderful influence. Somehow, something of the magic of Born Free will be diluted, and along with it the whole grass roots scene.

    Plus, the event and the whole scene have been attracting younger riders – and that’s something the industry and custom world needs. But widespread acceptance and a nice pat on the head by the likes of Sturgis is exactly what will turn those kids away. It was said in ‘The Wild One’ … “What are ya rebelling against?” Many of those people turning up at Born Free have been rebelling against the middle-aged, concho-wearing, pseudo badass, shiny Harley tourer wearing bike scene. They really don’t need The Man getting in on their act.

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