CUSTOM & STYLE: The 2015 Brooklyn Invitational

The biggest little motorcycle show in the world.

The 2015 Brooklyn Invitational event scene

As the heat of the city summer mellows, what’s been dubbed New York Bike Week is the slightly grubbier answer to NY Fashion Week. In a similar spirit of excess, Bike Week lasts more like 10 days, and is growing; the rev-up for the Brooklyn Invitational show starts a few days prior, with parties and pre-events filling a social calendar for a globe-trotting cadre of Alt.Custom builders, chopper folks, racers, vintagents, and their attendant press corps. Bike Week stumbles from the Invitational to the five-day Motorcycle Film Festival, and finally the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride, which caps the week, unless you include the Race Of Gentlemen the following weekend in New Jersey, which most people do. Amazingly, for the distance traveled by many attendees and participants, the Invitational itself lasts only a day—but it’s a long day, with live music cranking up at 8 p.m. and going till the wee hours, and then the general decamp to nearby watering holes.

motorcycles on display at The 2015 Brooklyn Invitational

The Brooklyn Invitational has a reputation all out of proportion to its size; there were only 20 bikes on display in Root Studios (a fancy white-walled rentable photo studio), but many thousands crowded in. That crowd provided a further, free show on the street (to get inside the BI costs $10), a wide-ranging display of vintage bikes, flat trackers, customs, bob-jobs, choppers, and even bicycles. The magic of the Invitational is generated as much by who shows up as what's inside, and familiar faces from Japan, Germany, the UK, and across the US brought newly constructed machines or simply flew to Brooklyn for this annual de facto builders convention. Much of the BI’s draw includes the organizers of the event, including Keino Sasaki, and longtime supporters, like Paul Cox; both top-tier artisans from Brooklyn whose connections in the worldwide custom scene run deep and wide, and on whom the mantle of “authenticity” rests easily.

Ehinger Kraftrad Speedway custom motorcycle

It was pleasing to note several machines in the gallery had already been featured in Cycle World, like the Revival Cycles J63, Roland Sands' Pikes Peak Project 156 racer, and Ehinger Kraftrad's Speedster. You'll likely see at least one more in CW's future, as new builds by Fuller Moto, Sosa Metalworks, Trevor Wade, Walt Siegl, Shinya Kimura, Paul Cox, and others, deserved a closer look. While Cox and Sasaki remain peerless stylistic traditionalists, builders like Christian Sosa are pushing aesthetic boundaries in a quiet way; his Suavecito is based on a vintage Indian Chief powerplant, with handmade everything else, and was on display at Austin's Handbuilt Show. It was somewhat lost in Texas at the back of the hall, but it sat dead center in Root Studios, looking lakester-low and remarkably sensuous. With lots of hand-carved elements like rounded frame lugs, sweated-on stainless details, and small aluminum tanks, the bike's components have an intimate scale, and the bike feels very personal, a feeling confirmed by Sosa in conversation.

motorcycles lined-up in front of graffiti

New customs were joined by several authentic vintage racers, including the awesome factory monocoque John Player Norton Commando racer from 1973, a couple of veteran flat-trackers (Norton and BSA), a full-on modern sidecar “worm” racer, and a serious H-D Shovelhead dragster with a monstrous Hillborn fuel injection horn, the bike owned by Jasin Phares. Joined by Go Takamine’s Indian “Chout” (a Scout chassis with larger Chief engine), the vintage machines sitting amidst the new customs made a clear statement by the curators (or “inviters”) on the relationship between old and new. Equal floor space was given to both camps, a nudge for new builders to learn their history, and vintagents to dig what’s happening now, and how the past and present are linked. It’s common at shows to mix older bikes with new customs, but the curation of machines at the Invitational, plus their hot-box proximity, gives new and old equal billing. For a fan of both vintage machinery and Alt.customs, this is truly an excellent effort.

For more information:

Photo #1

Project 156 at The 2015 Brooklyn Invitational.Walter Germeihardt

Photo #2

The 2015 Brooklyn Invitational.Walter Germeihardt

Photo #3

The 2015 Brooklyn Invitational.Walter Germeihardt

Photo #4

The 2015 Brooklyn Invitational.Walter Germeihardt

Photo #5

Project 156 at The 2015 Brooklyn Invitational.Walter Germeihardt

Photo #6

Project 156 at The 2015 Brooklyn Invitational.Walter Germeihardt

Photo #7

The 2015 Brooklyn Invitational.Walter Germeihardt

Photo #8

The 2015 Brooklyn Invitational.Walter Germeihardt

Photo #9

Walter Germeihardt

Photo #10

Project 156 at The 2015 Brooklyn Invitational.Walter Germeihardt

Photo #11

The 2015 Brooklyn Invitational.Walter Germeihardt

Photo #12

Ehinger Kraftrad's Speedster at The 2015 Brooklyn Invitational.Walter Germeihardt

Photo #13

The 2015 Brooklyn Invitational.Walter Germeihardt

Photo #14

The 2015 Brooklyn Invitational.Walter Germeihardt

Photo #15

The 2015 Brooklyn Invitational.Walter Germeihardt