Photography: Mikey Revolt
The motorcycle scene is just like any other. Whether you’re into skateboarding or goth bands, you and others who share your interest tend to hang out at the same places on the regular and you start to see the same people.
You may not ever talk to them or become best buds, but you know who they are, you know why they’re in the same place as you, and there’s a mutual understanding that you kind of get each other just because you both showed up.
Mikey “Revolt” Arnold, one of the founders of the Fuel Cleveland Vintage Motorcycle and Art Fest, wants his show to be a place where people into the motorcycle scene come out and talk to one another. He says, “Going to shows and hangouts, often just going on rides, saying hello and checking out their bikes and talking to them—it makes bonds that last forever. The friendship value of motorcycles is pretty crazy. If you’ve said hello, you have a friend forever.”
Fuel Cleveland is in its third year offering attendees a chance to see some of the country’s best vintage bikes on display. It includes artwork and photography by motorcycle enthusiasts and plenty of information, ideas, and inspiration for gear heads at all levels of expertise. They’ll also be serving alcohol and some amazing and unique street grub at the free event.
Arnold and his cohorts, world-recording holding racer Tyler Malinky of Lowbrow Customs and bike builder Jesse Bassett of The Gasbox, started Fuel Cleveland in 2015 and it has quickly become an acclaimed event. Cycle Source Magazine, a leading authority in motorcycle culture, voted Fuel Cleveland it’s Best Event in 2016. “We beat out some of the biggest shows,” Arnold beams. “And the visitors’ parking lot is just a motorcycle show of its own. You can spend hours outside looking at all the people, identifying the license plates that arrive from all over the country to the show.”
This year’s event has a lot to offer for motorcycle enthusiasts of all varieties: Tattoo artist and Ink Master judge Oliver Peck is fan of Fuel Cleveland and is joining both as a guest and sponsor this year. Bobby Seeger of Indian Larry Motorcycles, one of the nation’s most well-respected bike builders, will be coming in from New York with several of his company’s best bikes.
New York-based bike builder Christian Newman, according to Arnold, “has spent an ungodly amount of hours on this 1940 Knucklehead [Harley-Davidson engine] he is building. Each part is handmade. This bike has an external back brake caliper and sprocket, which as far as I know has never been done.”
Cole Rogers runs a bike-building shop in Lebanon, Ohio and is a past winner of the International Master Bike Builders Association national championship. “Cole has been building bikes all his life,” says Arnold. “The front end is his own design. He’s just full of talent, his style is distinct. You know when you see one of his bikes that he created it.”
Artists, including Arnold himself, will have their work, ranging from photography to painting to 3D works, on display. Arnold is a published photographer with most of his work revolving around his love for bike culture. Buffalo-based artist and art teacher Chris Galley paints his peculiar pop-art designs on everything from helmets to Christmas ornaments—he could make a canvas out of just about anything. Artist Anthony Hicks creates vibrantly-colored, sharp-detailed, elegant landscapes of the car and motorcycle culture.
Even the food options will be a bit off the beaten path. Long-time Medina food favorite Dan’s Dogs will be there serving up wieners on their famed Texas-toast-style buns. Artisan slider specialists Betty’s Bomb Ass Burgers will be there, and Panchita’s will be serving both Puerto Rican and Polish street food.
Cleveland is a perfect fit for all of this because motorcycles have always been an Ohio favorite. But to those on the outside of the scene, Cleveland’s weather might seem like an obstacle to riding in this neck of the woods. However, Arnold believes biking is so popular here not in spite of the weather, but because of it: “[In winter], you’re tearing your bike apart. Fixing it, working on it. You’ve got projects in the garage constantly.”
These winter garage-dwellers are the bikers Arnold and Fuel Cleveland are reaching out to. Citing Lowbrow Customs, he says, “One of the reasons they’re so good at what they do is because they’re catering to that guy that is hooked on their motorcycle and may be stuck in the garage for five months during winter. You have so much down time.”
Fuel Cleveland begins Friday, July 28, with a pre-party and officially happens Saturday, July 29, from noon-8 p.m. at the Ingenuity Cleveland site on the near east side at 5401 Hamilton Ave. For more information, visit their website at fuelcleveland.com.