Building Buffalo Chip Family History

By Cody Ertman

The old saying that “you don’t get to pick your family” is a bunch of B.S. Just ask Zach Lenning of Angry 1 Garage.

This custom motorcycle builder from Tea, SD has an intense passion for family, both for blood relatives and for the chosen family he has found at his home away from home––the Sturgis Buffalo Chip. This passion led Zach to build two custom tribute motorcycles for the Chip in the last two years, as well as a host of custom Strider bikes, all without being asked.

Spending shop money on projects that aren’t under contract would probably seem like a wild business decision for most builders, but not to Zach. In the case of these bikes, there was no hiring, sponsorship or contract, just a man with a passion for building bikes and honoring the Buffalo Chip. Zach and his crew chose to build the only two Buffalo Chip tribute bikes ever built, which makes them important parts of Buffalo Chip history. Why?

“I’ve done my own commitment because I love the Buffalo Chip,” said Lenning. “I have taken every part of me and my shop to bring my designs to the Chip to add more attraction. They gave me a platform and never asked me to do anything. It’s honestly like having one big family.”

Zach had been doing the Sturgis thing for a long time. He tried out different campgrounds and venues until he came out to the Buffalo Chip a decade ago and found his forever rally home. Ever since, he has considered the Buffalo Chip family, his family, and inspiration in doing what he loves for a place that he loves.

“If you can dream it, you can do it” is not just some cheesy motivational poster for Zach; it’s how he operates his business. All inspiration for his builds starts with a dream. So, when the first Chip bike came to him in a dream in 2020, he knew he had to build it, even though it was only three weeks until the rally.

He made a quick call over to the Buffalo Chip to see if it was alright to use the Chip logo, and the build was off.

Working around the clock, Zach and the rest of his shop outfitted a stock 2020 Road Glide with all the aftermarket parts they could get their hands on amid pandemic delays. With only one week remaining till Sturgis, the talented Mickey Harris gave the bike the ultimate airbrush treatment. The airbrushing incorporated some amazing moments, sights and personalities from the Buffalo Chip including the bikini bike wash, the iconic Chip sign, concerts and the face of The Best Party Anywhere itself, Rod Woodruff.

The masterpiece Road Glide debuted at the 39th annual Buffalo Chip festival. The energy and excitement surrounding this bike strengthened the ties between Angry 1 Garage and the Buffalo Chip, which led Zach to decide immediately that he would build another tribute for the Buffalo Chip’s 40th anniversary in 2021.

This time around, Zach wanted something that screamed “history.” He didn’t want a modern big-wheel bagger or something futuristic; he wanted a classic styling and something so unique that people walking by would do a triple-take. After an original try on a 2021 Fatboy frame that just didn’t work out, Zach and his crew landed on a ridged hardtail bobber frame, and they built the classic stylings around it.

The focal point of the Chip bobber is the engine. Built from custom fabricated and rare antique Harley parts, the engine features a 1930s carb, old-school open Crocker tops and a set of heads so rare that they’re likely the only of their kind left in existence. Zach estimates the value of the engine alone at $55,000 and credits a lot of people with its creation. Most of the body parts on the bobber are antiques or one-offs aged to give the bike that antique-South-Dakota-barn-find look.

On display side by side in the Buffalo Chip’s Big Engine Bar, the two Chip bikes awed tens of thousands of visitors during the venue’s 40th anniversary. But now, the two bikes are seeking new homes by hitting the Mecum Las Vegas auction block on Jan. 29.

Also hitting the Mecum block are four custom airbrushed and upholstered Strider Bikes by Angry 1 Garage. Each Strider is custom airbrushed with a different cartoon theme–Paw Patrol, Sponge Bob, Bubble Guppies and Scooby Doo to appeal to the next generation of bikers.

100 percent of the proceeds from the custom Striders is going to St. Jude to help end to childhood cancer, a cause important to both Angry 1 Garage and the Sturgis Buffalo Chip. The dedication to helping St. Jude end childhood cancer is so strong that moving forward Angry 1 Garage is going to donate 10 percent of each build that goes out their door to St. Jude.

Just because the Chip tribute bikes are being sold, doesn’t mean that the Buffalo Chip family has seen the end of Zach Lenning and Angry 1 Garage–far from it, in fact. This August, Zach will unveil “The Dirty Angel” to the world during the Buffalo Chip’s 2022 music and motorcycle festival. Not much can be revealed about The Dirty Angel yet, only that Angry 1 Garage has partnered with world-famous metal sculptor Kevin Stone to create a one-of-a-kind piece of rideable art.

To own a piece of Buffalo Chip family history, don’t miss the Mecum Auction Las Vegas Jan. 25 – 29, 2022. Both Chip bikes hit the auction block on Jan. 29. Find more information here.