Motorcycle show revs up with custom bikes and memorials

As the Progressive International Motorcycle Show opens with new bikes, new accessories and new ideas, visitors share their reasons for coming.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 15, 2011; 3:43 AM

In the final hours before the doors opened to the public, the vast hall had the ethereal quiet of an art museum, a near silence even as it filled with magnificent machines.

If the starter buttons on all 550 of those machines were touched at once, the roar might blow the roof off the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

But the custom motorcycles that are the centerpiece of this weekend's Progressive International Motorcycle Show were rolled quietly into place until the red carpet held about 20 of them.

Befitting the museum-like hush, each was a work of art that demanded the admiration even of those who hold no affection for their roar and the lure of open highway that stirs the wanderlust in bikers.

The cost of the custom paint jobs alone on these machines exceeded the price tag of most of the stock bikes in the surrounding displays.

Lloyd Hardy, who won the custom competition at last year's show, invested about $12,000 in the intricate artwork that adorned his metallic green bike.

Just like paintings hanging in a gallery, each two-wheeled piece had a name: Tangerine Scream, Fire, The Snake.

And each had a story that reflected its creation and its artist's intent, but none more so than Blue Angel, which sat midway down the row.

Painted blue with an adorning sculpted silver pattern that defies description, it is a masterpiece that needs a tour guide to point out the subtle refinements through which its story is told.

That guide would be Sylvester Brown, Blue Angel's owner, who rolled it into place alone Friday.

He points out the police shield with wings on the rear fender, the badge that almost blends into the fuel tank beside a football and the classic masks of tragedy and comedy.

And on one side, so delicately drawn that one has to draw close to make it out, the outline of a man hunched in contemplation like Rodin's "The Thinker."

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