Ty and I arrived in Cleveland as the sun was setting over Lake Erie. It had been a long day of travel full of delays, mechanical issues with the plane, sweating on the tarmac and, possibly, one minor event involving puking in an airport bathroom. After checking in to our hotel late, tired, and hungry, we ambled down to The Winking Lizard to eat a little dinner and wash the day’s trouble down. The next day was spent touring around Cleveland, checking out sites and breweries. It also included a comically terrifying event where an Uber driver took us the wrong direction down a one-way street under construction and then hauled ass through barricades and onto a closed freeway offramp that, thankfully, turned out to be intact and didn’t leave us a flaming heap at the bottom.
After a delicious dinner, we cruised down to the Wolstein Center and grabbed our press passes to document the Mama Tried Flat Out Friday races. In the pit we wandered past bikes of all sizes, ages, and classes; the racers were the same - all ages, classes and various experience levels but, they all shared a sense of community and anticipation. Stepping onto the track, you can immediately feel the stickiness underfoot that is a result of the Dr. Pepper syrup poured out on the concrete and allowed to dry before the races to increase traction. We took up positions in the center of the track and waited for the roar of the bikes coming up out of the pit for the preliminary heats. The first bikes up comprised the Vintage Class, and these fantastic flatheads rolled up and ripped around to the starting line to begin a night of racing that was, like most things chopper or cycle related, fun and loud. From a photographer’s standpoint, it took me a few laps to catch my stride and figure out how to frame the races but, once I did, it was more fun that I’ve had behind the lens in some time. There was a great sense of camaraderie as we all worked around each other in a small space and it was my first chance to meet some of my social media friends like Mikey Arnold, Alec Ozawa, and Benny Stucker.
In a small track with bikes moving at high speeds, accidents are bound to happen and there were wipeouts, skids, and sparks aplenty. The most insane event occurred in the Inappropriate Class run when a local racer, Corey Preston, slid out in the back turn and landed on his back on the track, I heard the crowd erupt behind me and turned to frame up and focus my lens just in time to see another racer lose control of his Sporty and ultimately run over Corey, essentially turning him into a human ramp! It was immediately apparent that he was in significant pain but, he walked off the track under his own power to great cheers from the crowd. It is my understanding that while he had some severe injuries, he is recovering well.
The next morning, we headed over to Ingenuity Cleveland and the Skid Mark Garage to check out the Fuel Cleveland show. On arrival, the first thing you see is the show outside the show; the rows and rows of local bikes that line the streets and the parking lot outside the venue. Many of them are works of art in and of themselves, and it turns the entire block into a unique and changing motorcycle display.
Once inside the building, the mechanical artistry on display is marvelous to behold. From custom-created land speed racers to survivor bikes; there’s a little bit of something for everyone no matter what their preferences might be. And, every bit of fence surrounding the bikes is covered in artwork, of all mediums, displaying all things chopper.
As an artist, it was simply an incredible experience to see firsthand so many builders, painters, fabricators, photographers, and artists of all types and genres together in one space.
Each night that we were in Cleveland, there was an after party at a different bar with all the attendant burn-outs, wheelies, and drunken festivities that one would expect at such a show. Every day was this amazing show of community that, for me, has come to represent the world of choppers and all the people that inhabit it.
Mikey Arnold, The Gasbox, and the Lowbrow crew have indeed put together a fantastic event that is more than just a motorcycle show; it’s a celebration of all things chopper. And, that is what makes Fuel Cleveland well worth a visit every single year. Check out Fuel Cleveland's website and follow them on Facebook and Instagram for updates on the next event happening on July 27, 2019.
Jennifer / @jenniferfarrisphotography