This brooding Street Bob came out on top as the 2018 Battle of the Kings Grand Champion.

You might assume the biggest custom bike competition in the world is the AMD World Championship, a sprawling event whose next celebration takes place at the 2020 Intermot show. But perhaps you've also heard of a little shindig called the Battle of the Kings?

Harley-Davidson US Custom King
Harley crowned its first US Custom King (the original name for H-D’s dealership custom contest) in 2015, awarding a tricked-out Street 750 motorcycle from Yellowstone Harley-Davidson the top prize for this inaugural competition. The “Next Generation Boardtrack Racer” drew its inspiration from the boardtrackers of the 1920s and 1930s.Harley-Davidson

It's a sanctioned throwdown between authorized Harley-Davidson dealerships from more than 25 countries to see who can dream up the coolest custom, and it also happens to be one of the largest custom bike competitions on the planet. With the 2019 event already underway and with US and Canadian dealers in the mix this year (the US dealer contest in 2015 and 2016 was known as Custom Kings), you can bet this showing will be chock-full of mind-blowing builds.

Sportster Superlow custom
“General Mayhem," a Sportster SuperLow built by Hal’s Harley-Davidson, New Berlin, Wisconsin, was crowned the 2016 Custom King in the US. Conceived as a modern-day dual-sport bike, the General won the second year of the Custom Kings competition where US dealerships were required to use the Sportster platform.Harley-Davidson

It works like this: Dealers must build a custom Harley-Davidson using a budget no bigger than half the cost of the original model with a specific quota of H-D aftermarket parts (50 percent being Genuine Motor Accessories). The builders are allowed to choose from three style categories—Dirt, Chop, and Race—but this year, they can use any model from the range (excluding trikes and CVO). The rules may sound restrictive, but in the end they ensure a level playing field and encourage a good measure of creativity from the builders. Simple, right?

From there fans vote online for their favorite custom Harley as each country’s favorite bike (strictly one vote per login). Each country then declares a National Winner with the five most popular bikes from each region selected, and a panel of international judges picks a finalist from each region. All finalists and their one-off creations are then flown to Milan for the EICMA 2019 show where the Grand Champion will be crowned.

Nyx café racer
Here’s where things get confusing: In 2015, European dealers also had a custom build-off, but called it Battle of the Kings. The winner in the 2016 contest was Harley-Davidson Athens with its Nyx café racer, inspired by the Greek goddess of the night. Two hundred eleven dealers from across Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) entered their version of a customized Sportster Iron 883.Harley-Davidson

In 2018, more than 300 dealers entered, and a seven-man team of judges led by Vice President of Styling and Design Brad Richards made the final call. The 2018 Grand Champion of the Battle of the Kings was Bangkok Harley-Davidson with its Street Bob-based “The Prince,” winning by one vote!

The epic international showdown looks to be bigger than ever in 2019 with more than 350 entries already. This year, US dealers are aiming to inspire the next generation of builders by teaming each build with a trade school and having students wrench along with dealership guys. We’re personally having a blast following the Buddy Stubbs H-D build on Instagram (@buddystubbshd), watching Crew Chief Danny Wilson transform a Fat Bob with students from the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute.

Here's a look at some of the past winners and a few current entries (2019 voting has started in other countries but doesn't open for the US Battle of the Kings until April 15 at h-d.com/botk.

Battle of Kings 2018 winner
Bangkok Harley-Davidson took the 2018 BOTK crown with its super-clean “The Prince,” a lean, ultra-tidy custom based on the Street Bob.Harley-Davidson
Harley-Davidson Farm Machine grand finalist
Bologna Harley-Davidson’s “Farm Machine” was a grand finalist in the 2018 competition, which was for EMEA dealers only. Definitely looks like it’s ready to plow the back 40.Harley-Davidson
Adelaide Harley-Davidson Bike Works custom
The other grand finalist (out of three) in last year’s BOTK competition was Adelaide Harley-Davidson Bike Works for its race-themed H-D Roadster called “Back to the Track.”Harley-Davidson
FXDR 114 custom
Some of the national winners for 2019 have already been determined. In Germany, Thunderbike Harley-Davidson Niederrhein is a finalist for its FXDR 114 custom, “Roar,” which features a Screamin’ Eagle Stage 3 kit, lowered chassis, and Metzeler 260mm tire.Harley-Davidson
2019 UK national winner of the Battle of Kings
“The Crook” from Warr’s H-D is the 2019 UK national winner. Based on a 2019 Street Bob, this clean custom sports a 2-2 upswept exhaust and a modified fuel tank.Harley-Davidson
Yellowstone H-D’s 2015 Street 750 winner,
Another look at Yellowstone H-D’s 2015 Street 750 winner, this time with a different paint job.Harley-Davidson
West Coast Harley-Davidson’s Fat Boy-based custom
With a third-place finish in the UK region, West Coast Harley-Davidson’s Fat Boy-based “Brazen” made a good showing in the Chop category.Harley-Davidson