Rolling Thunder in Washington, D.C., is an annual motorcycle Demonstration Run that attracts well over 450,000 motorcycles and one million attendees and this milestone year will pull many more supporters. For this Memorial Day weekend event five tribute custom bike builds will be unveiled on Saturday, May 26, to honor Rolling Thunder XXV.
Jay Allen of Jay Allen’s Road Show and creator of the legendary Broken Spoke Saloon managed the tribute build project. Allen’s custom built U.S. Army bike, featuring an S&S Cycle engine and Baker Drivetrain transmission, inspired the bike build concept back in August 2011 at Sturgis when he was approached by Walt Sides and Ted Shpak, executives of Rolling Thunder, Washington, D.C., Inc.
The other tribute motorcycles were built by four distinct builders: Brigitte Bourget of Bourget's Bike Works, tribute to U. S. Marine Corps; Dar Holdsworth of Darwin Motorcycles, tribute to U.S. Navy; Mike “Kiwi” Tomas of Kiwi Indian Motorcycle Company, tribute to U.S. Coast Guard; and Billy Lane of Chopper's Inc., courtesy of Avon (Fla.) Correctional Institution, tribute to U.S. Air Force. These historic motorcycles are now on their way to Washington, D.C.
“I look forward to seeing the reaction on everyone’s faces when they see these five bikes roar to life as if reporting for duty, paying homage to our troops around the world,” said Jay Allen who will emcee the unveiling at the tribute stage. “These bikes, built by some of the best builders in the industry, are on a mission to honor each branch of the military as a symbol of strength, courage and power as they tour major venues across the country.”
Mike “Kiwi” Tomas departed from La Quinta, California, for his cross country journey to Rolling Thunder and is expected to arrive in D.C. on May 24. Saddled on his tribute Coast Guard bike–a customized 1945 Indian Chief, Kiwi Mike is making a number of significant stopovers and his adventure can be followed at kiwiindian.com. “We are about as sweet a spot we could be! The bike is getting its miles on now during this amazing Ride to the Wall,” said Tomas.
“The Kiwi Coast Guard bike build will be in our August issue, with the completed bike feature in the September issue,” said Chris Maida, editor of American Iron magazine. "Mike has done a fantastic job and we're very proud to be featuring his creation and to be honoring the Coast Guard."
Navy Defense Media filmed Dar Holdsworth’s Navy tribute bike build and will air it on Armed Forces Network and navy.mil. “We have been involved in some very important builds. But none more than this. What Rolling Thunder symbolizes to me is remembrance and honoring those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country,” explained Dar, a Desert Storm Air Force veteran. “We as a country can never leave anyone behind and never forget. Our servicemen gave their all. And we are giving our all on this Navy bike to pay tribute. It is simply the very best bike we have ever built. We are honored to be part of this historic event.”
Brigitte Bourget of Bourget’s Bike Works continues to keep her U.S. Marine bike top secret and the editors of The Horse Backstreet Choppers are keeping Billy Lane’s tribute build to the U.S. Air Force under tight wraps.
The bikes will be unveiled May 26 in the afternoon at the C*A*M*M*O (Center for Military Music Opportunities) Tribute Stage located at Henry Bacon and Constitution Avenues, NW Washington, D.C., just across from Thunder Alley.
Each bike build is exclusively assigned to appear in a leading motorcycle publication: U.S. Marines – Iron Works, U.S. Navy – Cycle Source, U.S. Coast Guard – American Iron, and U.S. Air Force – The Horse Backstreet Choppers. The U.S. Army bike was previously featured in American Iron.
"What an honor it is for American Iron Magazine to be a part of this very special event and bike build,” Maida went on to say. “Rolling Thunder's work on behalf of all our troops is so very important and needed. We can never forget the many sacrifices of our military personnel."
These road-worthy bikes will tour around the country with the traveling "Wall that Heals” and at various military installations and events, Veteran Affairs locations, major motorcycle rallies, and potentially taken overseas to the troops. A title sponsor for the tribute bike tour is being sought now.
“The tribute build came together even better than we could have hoped. The dedication of these builders really shows in these magnificent bikes. We’re tremendously grateful to them and to all the sponsors who came to the table to support the builders and Rolling Thunder XXV,” said Ted Shpak, President of Rolling Thunder, Washington D.C, Inc.
Rolling Thunder’s First Amendment Demonstration Run for the Prisoner of War, Missing in Action (POW/MIA) issues has also evolved to be a display of patriotism and respect for service members and veterans from all wars. The Demonstration Run is Sunday, May 27. www.rollingthunderrun.com