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Hagerstown cycle builder's creation given as prize at California show

July 14, 2013|By JANET HEIM | janeth@herald-mail.com
  • Jason Sheetz of Hagerstown sits on the 1931 Harley-Davidson VL that he customized and took to the Born-Free 5 motorcycle event in California. He didn't get to bring it home, because a raffle winner chose the bike as his prize.
File photo

HAGERSTOWN — Jason Sheets recently returned from Born-Free 5, a vintage chopper and classic motorcycle show in California. He was one of 30 guest builders at the show and the only one from the East coast.

The Hagerstown resident and his wife, Jen, took four days to drive cross-country in a rented van with the 1931 Harley-Davidson VL that Jason Sheets restored in the back.

His bike was chosen for Best Flathead Class, Sheets said in a phone interview.

“I saw tons and tons of really neat bikes. Everybody was really nice. We had a great time,” Sheets said.

There is no admission fee to get into the show, so raffle tickets are sold to cover the expenses of putting it on. The guest builders were given the choice of having their bikes included as prizes for the raffle, if chosen by those holding the winning ticket.

Sheets said 18 of the 30 builders agreed, having been given a ballpark figure for what they would be paid for their bikes, if selected. Some brought bikes they built for other people, so weren’t able to participate.

Winners had to be present for the drawing and were given five minutes to select the bike they wanted.

“I was just kind of hanging out in the crowd. I had bought a raffle ticket,” Sheets said.

Winning ticket 1154 belonged to Ryan Hagger of Murietta, Calif., and he didn’t waste any time making his pick.

“I was surprised when he called my name,” Sheets said.

It turns out Hagger had been following Sheets’ progress on the bike through Instagram, where Sheets was posting photos of the bike’s restoration.

“Ryan picked in less than 10 seconds Jason Sheets’ 1931 Harley Davidson VL. Awesome bike and they do not come any nicer than Jason,” said a posting on the Born-Free 5 website, www.bornfreeshow.blogspot.com.

Sheets was nervous about having to start up his bike at the show, which he expected to happen Friday, June 28, the day before the show started.

Instead, the first time he started it up was June 29, when the new owner of his bike asked him to.

“After the guy picked it, he said ‘Let’s hear it.’ It started right up,” Sheets said.

Sheets put in long hours working on the bike until leaving for the show and because it could be temperamental when starting, he didn’t want to risk it not starting for the show, so he rode it very little.

His plan was to enjoy the bike when he got back, after a week of camping with his wife on the return trip.

“I was kind of disappointed in a way because I didn’t get to enjoy it. I was pretty sure I was going to be bringing it back. When they asked if I wanted to do it (be in the raffle), they gave a ballpark,” Sheets said.

The amount Sheets received for his bike turned out to be twice what he thought he would get, though he declined to share the amount.

“They were very generous. I will put the money back in the shop,” he said.

The day he and Jen got back from their trip, he picked up his next project, a bike that was waiting for him in Hagerstown. 

A machinist by trade, Sheets enjoys doing custom car and motorcycle building on the side. The 1931 Harley VL is the oldest motorcycle he’s ever worked on and it proved to be a challenge, he said, because parts were not easy to come by and there was little information available online to guide him.

Sheets said the show’s organizers implied that this might be the last show, but then he got an email asking if he would come back if they had another one.

“I hope they do it again. I told them it would be kinda neat to build a bike from scratch and actually ride it to the show,” Sheets said, thinking of restoring a bike from the 1940s or 1950s.

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