The world's biggest custom build contest—for dealers, anyway—is back, and the first round of judging has ended. Now it's on to the next stage, which we're pretty excited about because we actually get to chime in on the action. That's right, your ever-loving editors at Cycle World have been asked to help pick the finalists for the Battle of the Kings custom contest.

Harley-Davidson's Battle of the Kings, an annual contest started in 2015, is the largest dealer custom build competition in the world. So how exactly does it work? In a nutshell, dealers must build a custom Harley-Davidson using a budget no bigger than half the cost of the original model, and 50 percent of the aftermarket parts used have to be H-D Genuine Motor Accessories. Teams can have their build compete in any of three categories—Dirt, Chop, and Race—using any model from the range (not including trikes and CVO machines). And this year, for the very first time, US trade school students were invited to partner with local US dealers to help spin wrenches in the trenches, as it were. Under the watchful eye of seasoned Harley mechanics, these students were introduced to the wildly creative customization process and helped build some of the coolest customs in the world along the way. Heather Malenshek, Harley-Davidson chief marketing officer, said, "Battle of the Kings allows these students to apply their creativity and funnel this passion into real-life applications that will ride with them for generations."

Dirt, Race, and Chop.
The coolest bikes in this round were determined by online votes from the public. More than 40 bikes were entered in three categories: Dirt, Race, and Chop.Courtesy of Harley-Davidson

In the latest round of heated online voting for the US, the public cast more than 40,000 votes to choose the coolest of more than 40 builds. When the smoke cleared, 21 customs were announced as the People's Choice award winners on June 10. Meanwhile, Harley-Davidson marketing and styling employees selected 18 finalists — the top six from each of the three build categories —to move on to the next round of the custom competition. (To check out the People's Choice winners, find the award badge on the winning motorcycles at H-D.com/BattleOfTheKings.)

BOTK contest
This year for the first time, students from US trade schools were invited to join their local dealers in building customs for the BOTK contest.Courtesy of Harley-Davidson

Now it’s on to the next round of judging, which will cull these 18 down to one in each build category of Chop, Dirt, and Race. And that’s where we come in: The next set of finalists will be judged by top editors at Cycle World (along with American Iron and Cycle Source) as well as Harley-Davidson enthusiast Milo Ventimiglia from the TV series This is Us; those winners will be announced on July 1.

The Prince
This 2018 Street Bob from Bangkok Harley-Davidson, called “The Prince,” won last year’s title of Global Grand Champion.Courtesy of Harley-Davidson
Battle of the Kings sticker
Check out builds from all over the world and get a free Battle of the Kings sticker by visiting H-D.com/BattleOfTheKings.Courtesy of Harley-Davidson

It all culminates at the big show—the Annual Harley-Davidson dealer meeting in Milwaukee. There, the top three finalists will slug it out for the Battle of the Kings title to represent the US. Since this is a worldwide competition, the US winning bike and its build crew will then travel to Milan, Italy, in November, to compete with four other global finalists for the ultimate title of Battle of the Kings Champion. Who will be crowned the king? Stay tuned.