Victory and Conquest Customs Win Big on the 2015 Hot Bike Tour
“Six days on the road and I’m a gonna make it home tonight.” – Dave Dudley
For some of the competitors, it was more than six days, but for those of us on the Victory Demo Tour squad, the 2015 Hot Bike Tour was a sun-soaked, six-day rolling circus featuring a tremendous collection of 2-wheeled custom motorcycles.
Victory was the major sponsor of the 2015 Hot Bike Tour, and two Victory Demo Tour trucks traveled the full run of the tour, from Spirit Lake, Iowa, to Billings, Montana, in mid-September. There were also two featured Victory custom builders competing with their rolling works of art: Tim Sutherland of HotVic, who rode and displayed a long and low custom Victory bagger on the tour, and Scott Kietzmann of Conquest Customs, whose entry was Super Bee, a custom version of a Victory Hammer.
Along with Sutherland and Kietzmann, who were official, invited competitors on the Hot Bike Tour, other Victory custom builders also displayed their creations. Rusty Jones of Rusty Jones Customs showed off stretched and stylized baggers, and Lloyd Greer of Lloydz Motorworkz rode and displayed “Bandit,” a Cross Country custom that won Best of Show at the finale in Billings.
‘This is Our One and Only Chance’
The Hot Bike Tour started in the birthplace of Victory: Spirit Lake, Iowa, and tour participants got to tour the Victory final assembly plant on the Wednesday afternoon the event began. That night the tour took over Arnolds Park, familiar as the site of the American Victory Rally for several years. The park was dotted with vendors’ tents, food tents and trucks, a band on the park’s stage, and the stunning customs competing for Hot Bike Tour votes.
Kietzmann joked that since Spirit Lake was “a Victory town,” that was where he and Sutherland stood the best chance of winning the popular vote against several of the nation’s top custom builders.
“This is our one and only chance,” Kietzmann joked as storm clouds gathered over the park and onlookers filled out ballots for their favorite customs. If a builder received the most votes in the bagger or cruiser category at a tour stop, he or she would get an automatic invite to compete on the 2016 tour. Plus, at the end of the tour, a Grand Champion would be crowned.
Unfortunately, neither Sutherland nor Kietzmann won at Spirit Lake, so they rode the next day – participants were required to ride their customs to each tour stop – without any hardware.
It’s a ‘Happening’ at the Corn Palace
The next night’s stop was at Mitchell, South Dakota, home of the world’s only corn palace and of Klock Werks Kustom Cycles, which has produced numerous Victory customs and markets accessories for Victory models. Plus, owners Brian and Laura Klock have both campaigned and set records on Victory motorcycles on the Bonneville Salt Flats in the annual speed runs.
The Mitchell Hot Bike Tour event was a street party. It was a happening. Several downtown streets around the legendary Corn Palace were barricaded to host vendors, the custom bikes, a stage with a rock band, and a stunt show. (The stunt riders were terrific, but the Victory Stunt Team would have really wowed the crowds.)
The Mitchell event drew a large crowd that packed the streets and soaked in all the energy of the rolling circus. The local newspaper made the event the lead story on the front page of the next day’s edition, and no doubt the tour stop was the talk of Mitchell for the following week.
In the custom voting, the Victory entrants remained winless. Kietzmann stood no chance, as event organizers didn’t provide him with a nameplate for his bike, so only his business cards scattered around the bike indicated who built it. But he shrugged, climbed on the powerful custom cruiser and headed west.
‘Swap Your Ride’ a Success
The third day was the high-mileage day of the 2015 Hot Bike Tour. Riders had to run from Mitchell to Rapid City, South Dakota, about 275 miles via I-90, or considerably more for the many riders who took scenic back roads and drove through Badlands National Park.
The distance of the day’s ride was especially popular with riders who took advantage of the Victory Swap Your Ride program. Working with Victory, Hot Bike identified registered tour participants and signed them up in advance to swap their bikes for Victory demo bikes on the first two days of the tour. The first group rode 2016 Victory models from Iowa to Mitchell, and the second group made the run across South Dakota to Rapid City.
Riders who swapped their Harleys, Hondas, BMWs, Kawasakis, and Yamahas loved the opportunity. Instead of brief, guided demo rides, such as those typically offered at rallies, they got to experience the Victory models their way. They rode at their own pace, on their choice of roads, and they got to experience a range of weather conditions (mostly excellent) as well as real-world aspects of riding like fueling, packing their cargo, and dealing with traffic.
Virtually every rider who took part in the swap loved the experience and was impressed by everything about the Victory bikes they rode. They had minor complaints, but most issues they raised could be cured with equipment adjustments or Victory Accessories. Several riders were so impressed they stopped into Sabers Victory in Mitchell or Black Hills Victory in Rapid City to check out the dealer’s Victory inventory. Don’t be surprised if some bike swappers become Victory owners within a month of their ride.
The Friday night tour event at Rapid City’s convention center drew another large crowd, and it turned out to be a pro-Conquest crowd as Scott Kietzmann won the night’s vote. That meant he headed toward the Bighorn Mountains with extra spring in his step and a guaranteed invite for the 2016 Hot Bike Tour.
Where the Deer and the Antelope Play
On Saturday, the tour rolled from Rapid City to Sheridan, Wyoming, which sits alongside the Bighorn Mountains. As riders made the run to this historic ranching community, they passed deer and antelope grazing on prairie land – and on sod farm turf that must have seemed like a premium salad bar.
The late-summer sun pierced the thin air around Sheridan and pushed the afternoon high to around 90 as the Hot Bike Tour set up downtown. As in Mitchell, the event in the center of town became a happening, especially since it was Saturday night, when so many people traditionally head to town for shopping or entertainment.
It was another great night for Kietzmann, who roped his second-straight win in the custom voting, putting the South Florida custom builder on Cloud 9 as he headed to the tour’s final stop.
Making More History in Billings
The 2015 Hot Bike Tour ended in downtown Billings, Montana. This fifth stop featured the usuals – bands, vendors, the stunt show, and the custom bike competition – as well as Victory Demo Rides and a vendor tent hosted by Yellowstone Polaris Recreation, the local Victory dealer.
Victory history was made in historic downtown Billings as Scott Kietzmann won top honors for the third straight day – and he was named the Grand Champion of the 2015 Hot Bike Tour.
He earned a trophy, a custom ring, the admiration of his peers and bike enthusiasts, and extensive exposure in upcoming issues of Hot Bike magazine and on HotBikeweb.com.
It turned out he didn’t need the home field advantage of Spirit Lake for the biker world to appreciate his gorgeous custom muscle bike. He left Big Sky Country with the title of Grand Champion and with the challenge of creating another winning Victory custom for next year’s Hot Bike Tour.