At 30 years in Oceanside, tucked away on the dead end of Oceanside Road, leather production and distribution company First Manufacturing doesn’t typically raise much of a commotion in the community. But on Sept. 5, as hundreds of motorcycle enthusiasts descended on its local warehouse, the noise was unmistakable.
The Harley and Indian riders had come for the kick off of the first leg of Hot Bike Magazine’s annual Hot Bike Tour, which this year ran from Sept. 6 to 10. Starting in Oceanside and ending in Johnson City Tenn., the event is a chance for custom motorcycle builders from across the globe to show off their hogs in action.
“This is a celebration of people who love and ride motorcycles,” Hot Bike editor in chief, Jeff Holt said. “The bikes are an expression of themselves.” And the tour, he added, is an opportunity for the motorcyclists, who have spent so much time and effort crafting their machines, to actually use them.
“It has some of the best riding in the United States,” he said of the roughly 780-mile route south with stops in Gettysburg Pa. and Roanoke Va. He said he chose Oceanside as the starting location after befriending First Manufacturing Brand Manager Aaron Hartless who participated in 2016’s tour.
Hartless said his relationship with Hot Bike began when, as part of his effort to revamp First Manufacturing’s internal brand, he started advertising in the magazine. His company provides leather clothing and products to dozens of companies, but First Manufacturing’s first-party merchandise caters primarily to the biker crowd.
“I want people to walk into a local dealer, see our logo from the magazine in the corner of their eye and think, ‘that must be a quality product,’” Hartless explained. He and his team of four, including Oceanside native siblings Alex and Mike Domanico, are working on building the brand’s web and social media presence, as well as expand beyond the motorcycle accessories market.
The Domanicos, who handle graphic design, photography, videography, social media, marketing, web design, order processing and more for First Manufacturing, play many roles in the company’s brand revitalization effort. “We all have to be a sort of Jack-of-all-trades,” he said of the job requirements, but added that despite his hectic schedule, he would be going on the tour himself.
Turnout was high for the kick off, with nearly 200 bikes and their riders lined up in multiple rows, and chefs Salem and Imran Mashriqi provided refreshments from their Hamza & Madina Halal Food cart.
Oceansider Sal Totino, who came with his black 2015 Harley Davidson Sportster Forty-Eight, said he had heard about the event on Instagram. The five-year rider noted that although he wasn’t heading to Tennessee, he was happy to attend the kick off, which was nearby his house.
While not all of the attendees would participate, riders of all levels and experience are welcome on the tour Holt said, because the true value of the trip is in the journey. “It’s about the ride in general,” he said. “Where you eat, and who you meet.”