PHOTO CREDITS: Kiwi Mike in Oklahoma: Courtesy of Kiwi Indian Motorcycles. All other images: Photo by M. Stemp, IronWorks Magazine.
[WASHINGTON, D.C. - JUNE 8, 2012] The five custom tribute bikes honoring Rolling Thunder’s XXV anniversary were unveiled at the C*A*M*M*O Tribute Stage on May 26 to a rousing crowd of onlookers, including veterans, servicemen and servicewomen. Each bike, representing a branch of the military, was incredibly well-received by the military persons who served for their respective branch.
A record 550,000 riders and 1.2 million people attended Rolling Thunder XXV in Washington D.C. The unveiling was web streamed live to the Armed Forces Network. Jay Allen, creator of the Broken Spoke Saloon and Jay Allen’s Road Show facilitated the entire tribute bike build.
Custom builders Dar Holdsworth, Brigitte Bourget, and Mike “Kiwi” Tomas, along with the family of Billy Lane, and including host Jay Allen came together to pay tribute to Rolling Thunder. None of the elite builders knew what the other was creating so every bike was unique and focused particularly for that branch.
“Unveiling the five tribute bikes really capped what was already a very poignant, emotional day for everyone,” said Cathie Lechareas, executive director of C*A*M*M*O (Center for Military Music Opportunities). ”There was a huge buzz about the bikes; media couldn’t wait to get a look and the service members in particular were very moved and grateful. As each bike was driven onstage, the crowd became even more excited. It was a tremendous thrill and privilege to have those bikes unveiled at our event,” she added.
The five custom tribute bikes led the honorary Rolling Thunder Demonstration Run. Mike “Kiwi” Tomas rode his 1945 Indian in tribute to the Coast Guard, Dar Holdsworth saddled up on his Navy build, long-time friend of Billy Lane, Harry Bostard, rode Billy’s Air Force tribute bike, and Derrick “Moots” McDonagh, GM of Bourget Bike Works rode their Marines Tribute Bike, with Jay riding his Army bike. Chris Maida from American Iron Magazine, which is featuring the Coast Guard bike in a forthcoming editorial, also rode with the tribute bikes. Billy Lane’s bike is featured in The Horse Backstreet Choppers magazine.
“This was an easy project for IronWorks to say ‘yes’ to. We were honored to be invited and delighted to participate,” said Marilyn Stemp, editor of IronWorks Magazine, which is featuring the Bourget’s tribute bike build. ”Riding behind the military tribute bikes was remarkable, one of life’s unforgettable moments for me. But it’s important to remember that Rolling Thunder began as a demonstration for POW/MIA awareness, and with Bowe Bergdahl currently being held as a POW in Afghanistan, Rolling Thunder’s goal is as relevant now as it was 25 years ago.”
Brigitte Bourget took the wrap off her mystery build, which literally took breaths away across the sea of people watching the Rolling Thunder Tribute event unfold. “The Bourget’s U.S. Marine Corps tribute bike was built by those who are honored by and grateful for the service and sacrifice of all of our U.S. Soldiers and their families, past, present and future,” explained Brigitte Bourget. “With the pledge to always show the utmost respect and the promise of undying dignity to our servicemen and women, it is my great honor to have been a part of the Rolling Thunder XXV Military Bike Tribute Project.”
An entire storyline accompanies the Marines build. “The premise is that a guy built himself a Panhead chopper in the late 60s, then went off to war. When he got home, this is how the bike looked, sitting in his garage waiting for him to come home,” explained Moots, builder of the bike at Bourget’s Bike Works. Read the story in its entirety at rollingthunderrun.com Marines Tribute Bike.
A long list of sponsors stood proud behind the tribute build event, including some outside of the motorcycle industry like Love’s Truck Stop and Country Stores, providing gas for Dar Holdsworth to travel to Rolling Thunder to drop off his build. Escort Radar Detectors also contributed to the costs. Holdsworth’s Navy tribute build will be featured in Cycle Source magazine. A Desert Storm veteran, he considered this honorary build his best ever, evident in the extreme creative approach he took with the project.
Mike “Kiwi” Tomas of Kiwi Indian Motorcycle Company took his 1945 Indian customized for the Coast Guard on the journey of a lifetime, riding from Santa Monica. “Riding the bike all the way to Washington D.C. was a challenge that I put upon myself riding on America’s back roads, not freeways, which would be the easy way out,” shared Kiwi who composed an entire blog about his life changing adventure. “The Coast Guard puts itself on the line and to the test every single day and so did this bike, which we appropriately named CG-1.”
The biggest sponsors were S&S Cycle and Baker Drivetrain, two strong and proud USA manufacturers. “S&S has a long history of support for our veterans and our troops. We are especially proud that four out of the five tribute bikes featured in the Rolling Thunder Rally have S&S engines in them. Our servicemen and women put their lives on the line to defend our freedom, and in my mind, there isn’t a better symbol of freedom than the custom motorcycle. We’re honored that our US made engines are part of this tribute to the American serviceman, “ said Steve Iggens, President of S&S Cycle, Inc.
Walt Sides, Executive Director of Rolling Thunder Washington, D.C., Inc., said, ” The unveiling was an absolute success and people were elated. After the unveiling, the bikes were staged in front of the Pharmaceutical building, receiving attention there, too. The work of the custom bike builders and Jay Allen is very much appreciated.”
“The tribute bikes have been unveiled and are now reporting for duty to pay tribute to the U.S. Armed Forces at events nationwide and overseas, ” added Jay Allen. The first few stops for the bikes will be June 23 in New Jersey at the We R One Annual Benefit Run, with the proceeds to benefit Combat Paper. Next is the Iowa Grand Motorcycle Rally, July 25 – 28, and Sturgis Motorcycle Rally from August 6 – 12 at the Thunderdome. More to dates to be announced. To read more about the builders’ personal experience with the Tribute Bike Tour and Unveiling go to www.rollingthunderrun.com To become a tour sponsor or to inquire about the tribute bikes installation at a location or event contact firstname.lastname@example.org.