News Feature

'Splitin' Lanes & Dodgin' Gutters’ returns to The Bowl



July 25, 2018 | Rahoul Ghose

inaugural splitin' lanes & dodgin' gutters video | whitney dinneweth, above the cut films

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  What’s funny about that is both Tim and I have the least desire to put a ‘this is the best’ label on something. We have our favorites certainly, but motorcycles are super subjective and everyone loves their bike. For me if I’m riding something … that’s the best bike in the world at that moment. The experience is very visceral.   

-- Girard Fox, Basket Case Productions
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It’s a grassroots, curated event, born out of a never-ending appetite for all things motorcycle, with a mandate to make moto history accessible to both enthusiasts and the general public.

After a year outside in the heat and sunshine as The Lot, Basket Case Productions' Splitin' Lanes & Dodgin' Gutters makes a triumphant return to Brooklyn Bowl in Williamsburg for its fourth year – Sunday, Aug. 19 – boasting an impressive collection of rarely seen classic and vintage motorcycles, a DJ, an in-house tintype photographer, food, drink and bowling.

For event co-organizers Girard Fox and Tim Warner, SL&DG is quite literally a labor of love, a chance to showcase close to 50 hand-picked motorcycles ranging from the teens-era, through the late '70s. But it is also about community. Bringing bikes and people together.

That philosophy was evident even in the early years when Fox and Warner – who work at Brooklyn Bowl as a chef and director of operations, respectively – relied on community support to kickstart the show.

Warner looks back at that first year, 2014, with both pride, and sadly, a deep sense of loss.

“I’ll always remember asking our friend Ray Abeyta to do the artwork for the poster that first year. He had a studio in Works Engineering and was an ambassador for the neighborhood, not just the moto community,” he says. “We didn’t have a lot of money to deal with and thought he would just do a sketch … he ended up do a 4’ x 5’ oil painting for us … an image of (Girard’s) Indian chief going down one of the lanes in an infinite perspective and at the end the pins were all spark plugs.”

Abeyta, who helped to open Williamsburg hotspots Union Pool and Hotel Delmano, and graciously gave his art for the cost of supplies, tragically died in a motorcycle accident in November that year.

poster artwork for first and second year | ray abeyta (r), robert garey (l)

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  I’m always looking for as old as possible … the things I know the least about and get the most excited for are belt drive bikes, flat tankers. I just find that extremely exotic … and I also think that’s the stuff no one gets to see unless they’re going to an actual Guggenheim motorcycle show or a vintage swap meet.   

-- Girard Fox, Basket Case Productions
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The 2015 event saw Abeyta’s close friend and fellow artist, Robert Garey, creating the artwork. The poster mirrored the same theme, but added the local hero into the mix, riding a bike, flashing a peace sign, and wearing a denim jacket with his personal slogan, ‘Te Amo, Baby’, emblazoned on the back.

It’s those local ties, together with the event’s ability to attract some truly unique bikes and owners, which give SL&DG its heart.

Over the years the show has seen no less than two Vincent Black Shadows, the Henderson which racked up a perfect score in the Cannonball, one of only three AJS 'Porcupines' in existence, a Rudge Racer, and Dave Roper's Isle of Man winning Matchless G50, part of the Team Obsolete collection.

“That first year we had a Ner-a-car,” Fox recalls. “1920s center hub steering, very car-like stand position, wheel barrow handle bars, low center of gravity … things you would never imagine from the ‘20s. The front fender looked like a deep-sea animal jaw, (and the bike) ran a very small displacement, single-cylinder which popped out between your legs. I mean who the hell has seen that?”

The show follows the Antique Motorcycle Club of America standard rolling date of 35 years and older, which makes this year’s cutoff 1983. But neither Fox or Warner have an issue with bikes that have period modifications … or even vintage choppers for that matter.

“I’m always looking for as old as possible … the things I know the least about and get the most excited for are belt drive bikes, flat tankers,” Fox says. “I just find that extremely exotic … and I also think that’s the stuff no one gets to see unless they’re going to an actual Guggenheim motorcycle show or a vintage swap meet.”

Warner’s favorite remains the Rudge Racer from a few years back.

This year Team Obsolete is expected to showcase two historic racing BSAs, a full-fared 500 twin, which also challenged the TT, and the Beebee Brothers BSA Triple racer.

In all, 15 to 20 different marks are anticipated on the showroom floor, including Yamaha, Honda, Suzuki, the Cleveland Single, Harley Davidson, Indian, Fox’s own 1922 Henderson – which just finished a successful run at this year’s The Race of Gentlemen, Moto Guzzi, Norton, BSA, Triumph, AJS, Velocette, a belt-driven Excelsior – all the way from Ontario, Canada, and a Vincent Grey Flash.

a few beauties seen at the lot will be at this year's 4th annual splitin' lanes & dodgin' gutters | rahoul ghose

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  I realized quickly in the first hour at the first show we’re not going to teach anyone anything,” he said. “But if they want to know more about bikes, this is a great opportunity for them to talk to an owner about an old bike. All that stuff’s there … we’re not preaching it, but you can talk to whomever you want … it’s all there.   

-- Girard Fox, Basket Case Productions
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“Being involved in the TROG race has certainly snatched some tasty looking bikes from the races for us as well,” Warner says. “We have been so fortunate, through Girard’s connections and the motorcycle community, in having access to these rare bikes.”

The motorcycles are displayed on the Brooklyn Bowl concert hall floor with a select few – about seven or eight – literally taking the stage, brought up using ramps.

While neither Fox or Warner particularly subscribe to a ‘judged’ event, both say participants have requested, even demanded, the recognition. So, a rather loose form of judging does take place for categories including: Best in Show, Crowd Favorite, Best of the Street and Travelled Longest Distance.

“What’s funny about that is both Tim and I have the least desire to put a ‘this is the best’ label on something,” Fox says. “We have our favorites certainly, but motorcycles are super subjective and everyone loves their bike. For me if I’m riding something … that’s the best bike in the world at that moment. The experience is very visceral.”

Trophies have a homemade quality, and have in the past been created, rather fittingly, out of old bowling pins.

“It was like, ‘Okay guys we’re going to do it, but don’t get too excited’,” Fox says.

Last year at The Lot show, one winner just left their trophy at the venue.

“That was their opinion of it … and he was a friend of ours,” Warner added with a chuckle.

Part of the original premise in creating SL&DG was education, Fox says, “teaching youngsters in our neighborhood about where their bikes come from.”

“I realized quickly in the first hour at the first show we’re not going to teach anyone anything,” he said. “But if they want to know more about bikes, this is a great opportunity for them to talk to an owner about an old bike. All that stuff’s there … we’re not preaching it, but you can talk to whomever you want … it’s all there."

the event's artwork legacy has been continued by local moto illustrator daniel irons

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  Seeing a young family from Williamsburg, or whomever, just milling over and looking at a bike … their seven-year-old daughter standing by, Daddy asking if she can sit on it. Often (but not always) the owners will say yes … it’s an exciting moment.   

-- Tim Warner, Basket Case Productions
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Warner said display bikes have placards with the models, makes, years and owner’s names.

And owners, who hang around their bikes, will often bring supporting history of their rides … scrapbooks of photos, awards, articles. But it is those conversations that are priceless, opening a window into motorcycle history.

“I’m really looking forward to this year,” Warner says. “… seeing a young family from Williamsburg, or whomever, just milling over and looking at a bike … their seven-year-old daughter standing by, Daddy asking if she can sit on it. Often (but not always) the owners will say yes … it’s an exciting moment.”

Adding to the show’s atmosphere, tintype portrait photographer RJ Gibson – known for his Civil War re-enactment photos and images from the annual Sturgis Festival and TROG – will be on hand with his 1950 Harley Panhead and 1938 Package Truck, dubbed ‘The World's Fastest Darkroom’, to take period photos for participants and guests near the entrance.

Organizers are hoping to have a Harley and sidecar with leather helmets and goggles for people to be photographed with.

“We will have DJ Bob Walles spinning Rock, Soul, Punk, Garage, Surf and more for the entirety of the show, some great visuals looping on the big screens throughout the house, some food and drink specials,” Warner adds. “We are lucky in that we know and are friends with some really amazing artists and photographers, and we considered adding a photography aspect. But we ultimately decided that despite the sheer size of Brooklyn Bowl, the amount of useable wall space wouldn’t allow us to display the photographs in a way that represented the artists or their subjects in the way they deserved to be.”

While moto gems abound inside the Wythe Street venue, outside, where organizers have closed off the block between N 11th and N 12th streets for motorcycle parking, a separate, somewhat more spontaneous show has evolved.

“The first year that caught us a little by surprise … the sheer volume,” Fox says. “It definitely makes it less of a dry museum show.”

Warner adds the scene is frenetic: “People are constantly coming and going … spots opening up … it’s sports bikes, café racers, modern bikes, choppers, old bikes, and the occasional hotrod car.”

There’s even a crew with tricked out bicycles, making the scene truly about two-wheeled culture.

girard fox and tim warner | rahoul ghose

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  Why I love motorcycles is the feeling you have when you’re on the bike … I don’t care if I’m borrowing my friend’s 2011 Vulcan or if I’m riding Girard’s ’46 Indian tank shift, or if I’m on a fucking four-cylinder Honda that’s only firing on two cylinders. I don’t care, as long as I’m riding something … that feeling is free therapy. That’s our show … it’s bringing knowledge and history, but it’s really about what’s going on, on the street, who ends up showing up.   

-- Tim Warner, Basket Case Productions
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For both Fox and Warner, simplicity has been the event’s hidden success.

Fox recalls the comments from one ‘Best in Street’ winner – Peter Foster and his ’37 Harley Davidson UL with a sidecar: “He just randomly told us why he liked the show … because it’s so all-inclusive with no attitude about the different factions in the motorcycling world … it was just a simple joy of bikes.”

Warner added: “I think that’s what we strive for … it is all inclusive. There’s enough divisiveness in the world and in this society. We don’t care what you’re riding, we don’t care what you look like. Why I love motorcycles is the feeling you have when you’re on the bike … I don’t care if I’m borrowing my friend’s 2011 Vulcan or if I’m riding Girard’s ’46 Indian tank shift, or if I’m on a fucking four-cylinder Honda that’s only firing on two cylinders. I don’t care, as long as I’m riding something … that feeling is free therapy. That’s our show … it’s bringing knowledge and history, but it’s really about what’s going on, on the street, who ends up showing up.”

How the event, which has often just been called ‘The Bowl’ show, got its lengthy name was itself a mishmash of ideas which culminated in a rather clever double entendre.

“Our first thought was how the hell do we tie a motorcycle event with a bowling alley,” Fox said. “I don’t bowl so we labored it over a bit … it didn’t just roll off the tongue.”

Warner adds: “We ended up with a brilliant play on words, a double meaning.”

Bowling terminology aside, Splitin' Lanes & Dodgin' Gutters could simply describe an average ride through some of the rougher, pot-hole strewn areas of Brooklyn, police bike-only checkpoints notwithstanding.

Whatever method and route you choose to get to Brooklyn Bowl on Aug. 19, get there. You won’t regret it. Two-wheel culture will be on full show.

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