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Get your motors running

Every summer for the past 14 years, a few blocks of Front Street in downtown Medford have been transformed for a day into a miniature version of Bike Week in Sturgis, S.D., Street Vibrations in Reno, Nev., and the Redwood Run in Northern California — just to name a few popular motorcycle events across the country.

This year's no different.

Starting at about noon. Saturday, Aug. 20, custom bike builder Mark Daley of ThunderStruck Custom Bikes is putting on the 15th annual Xtreme Bike Show and Street Party on Front Street sandwiched between Habaneros and Porters restaurants. Hundreds of mostly Harley-Davidson motorcycles in ascending levels of customization will be displayed as their owners compete for trophies in a variety of categories — from full-blown customs to stock street bikes — as well as specialty classes and "metric cruisers," bikespeak for foreign-made bikes.

The event isn't just for bikers. Families and kids are welcome to rub elbows with the boys (and girls) in black leather. If you haven't seen the gleaming chrome and wild paint jobs and the people who ride these mechanical marvels, this is your chance. Admission is free, and there are plenty of activities, including live music, food, a beer garden, vendors and other attractions.

As always, proceeds from the bike show entry and vendor fees go to support Boys & Girls Clubs of the Rogue Valley.

"I've been with Boys & Girls Clubs for 15 years, and for as long as I can remember, (motorcyclists) have been supporting the clubs," says Jeff Cox, special projects coordinator for the organization. "It's been a great relationship, and (Daley) just loves to do it."

The bike shows have raised about $15,000 per event in recent years. The money goes to support an after-school program and other activities that benefit more than 650 children a day at the clubs' various locations.

"Just in White City, we see 200 kids a day," says Cox.

Daley remembers the first bike show he produced at the old Moose Lodge parking lot in west Medford.

"At that first show, we made about $800," says Daley. "But then as we put on more shows, the number of contestants got bigger, and the sponsors got bigger and now we're doing a lot better.

"With the economy the way it is, I'm glad to have my sponsors — people who have stayed with us through the years," says Daley.

Registration for entering bikes begins at 11 a.m., and judging runs from 1 to 3 p.m. Trophies will be awarded at about 3:30 p.m. It costs $10 to register for the bike show. Trophies are donated by various sponsors.

Live music will be performed by The Blues Society beginning at 12:30 p.m. Past bike shows have featured rock bands, but Daley says he wanted to try something different. The Blues Society is the house band of the Ashland Blues Society, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting live blues performance and education in Southern Oregon.

Vendors will abound, providing all kinds of food, drinks, arts and crafts, jewelry and lots more.

Some of the more colorful vendors include "Slap Ya Mama" meat rubs and spices, along with a vintage motorcycle group with a collection of British bikes from the '50s and '60s and a number of vintage and custom cars. Standing by will be longtime local motorcycle mechanic Sandy Bennett. He'll be there with "Little Red Riding Hood," the 1964 Electra Glide that he rode from Canada to Mexico in 18 hours, 15 minutes between Oct. 11 and 12, 1971. Bennett says the feat likely would have made Guinness World Records, but they don't recognize that category because it might encourage traffic infractions.

Longtime readers may remember some of the custom cycles Daley has built over the years that have been featured in Tempo. He built replicas of the choppers ridden by Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper in the 1969 classic film, "Easy Rider." Another bike, "Sniper," was a radical custom that earned Daley second place at the Official AMD World Championship of Custom Bike Building at the 70th annual Sturgis Bike Week.

This year, Daley is putting the finishing touches on "Overkill," a bike he's been working on for about four years for owner John Geer of Eagle Point. Saturday's bike show will be the bike's first public viewing.

Building a custom bike from the ground up is not easy.

In the early days of motorcycling, bikers customized their rides by tearing off excess parts to reduce weight, lowering and extending frames and adding a lot of chrome. Today many of the world's top custom motorcycle builders employ computer programs that design the bike, then they send specs out to manufacturers who produce intricate wheels and other parts using computer-operated milling machines that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Daley doesn't work that way.

"I see a vision of the bike in my head, I draw it and I build it," says Daley. I build everything I can on them."

Folks who enter their bikes in Saturday's show generally aren't that deep into the craft. Some bike owners settle for paint jobs, bits of chrome here and there and exhaust pipes, seats and other parts that differ from the ones Harley-Davidson installs at the factory. Ask anyone on a Harley: Customizing your bike is half the fun.

Mark Howard is a semiretired copy editor at the Mail Tribune. Reach him at mhoward011@charter.net.

Mark Daley of ThunderStruck Custom Bikes sits with some of the children from the Boys & Girls Clubs. Daley helps support the clubs every year with his bike show and street party in Medford. - Photo by Denise Baratta