Women Can, if She Will

The Van Buren Sisters

Words by Shelby Rossi | Photos courtesy AMA Hall of Fame


Some people never feel the urge to leave their house. They’re content staying in the city they were born in, the couch they sit on, and the 360 degrees that immediately surround them. Then there’s the rest of us—the people who can’t sit still, who want to witness new places, to discover foreign cultures, and who always have a map handy.

Researchers have traced this inherent urge to explore back to one gene, DRD4-7R, a derivative of the gene DRD4, which is associated with dopamine levels in the brain. This gene has been named the “adventure gene” because of its correlation to increased levels of curiosity and restlessness. Studies have found that 7R makes people more likely to take risks; to explore new places, ideas, relationships; and generally to embrace movement, change, and, most importantly, adventure. Augusta and Adeline Van Buren, sisters, must have carried this gene.

In 1916, the Van Buren sisters were the first women to each ride her own motorcycle across the continental United States. They rode 5,500 dangerous miles from Brooklyn, New York, to San Francisco, each on Indian Power Plus motorcycles. In hopes of encouraging others to embrace change and new ideas during World War I, their mission was to convince the military that women were fit to serve as dispatch riders, a job seen as suited only for men.

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Augusta was the elder sister, born in March 1884; Adeline was born in July 1889. The sisters inherited the “adventure gene” from their father, Frank, who raised their family in New York City along with their brother, Albert. Despite losing their mother at a young age, Frank offered an energetic and athletic upbringing characterized by swimming, skating, canoeing, wrestling, and sprinting. It’s no surprise the Van Buren sisters naturally took up motorcycling during their early adult years. It was this free-spirited childhood that would shape two of the most inspiring women that motorcyclists have known to this day.

 When the sisters decided to make their motorcycle journey across the States, women were suffering from extreme limitations placed upon them by Victorian society. They didn’t have the right to vote, nor were they considered equals to men. Men of the early 20th century believed women were too occupied with domestic duties to consider political debate, and that women weren’t smart or strong enough to handle the responsibilities of voting. Another notorious argument declared that women should be denied a say at the polls due to their lack of participation in military efforts and because they weren’t risking their lives for their country.

Not only were Augusta and Adeline members of the suffrage movement—organizations of women across the nation fighting for women’s right to vote—but they were also involved in the National Preparedness Movement, a campaign started by former president Theodore Roosevelt that began prior to the United States’ entry into World War I. The movement was started to convince the U.S. of the need for American involvement in worldly affairs and that the country must prepare itself for war.

The sisters’ ride had a dual purpose. The National Preparedness Movement was an effort to get the United States ready for the inevitable. Augusta and Adeline believed women could directly help the cause by becoming dispatch riders—which had transitioned a year earlier from men on horseback to men on motorcycles—freeing up men to give combat support. This would eliminate one of the arguments for denying women the right to vote: that women were historically non-participants in war efforts. They would have to prove this point by showing that a woman could handle the difficulties of motorcycling over long distances and tough conditions. Being a dispatch rider was a dangerous job. Performing basic maintenance was unavoidable, navigating difficult trails was a given, and, most importantly, staying clear of opposing forces was a matter of life or death. Most would see such obstacles as defeat, but Augusta and Adeline saw them as opportunities to define their mission. Thus, their plan was conceived...

To prepare for the trip, Augusta and Adeline immersed themselves in riding and started accumulating long-distance rides in New York. Their intent was to use their vehicles and newfound skills as riders to push the envelope for women’s contribution to society. At ages 32 and 26, respectively, Augusta and Adeline were determined to prove that they were just as patriotic and deserving of the vote as men.

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On July 4, 1916, the eve of the nation’s entry into World War I, the Van Burens set out on their journey. They packed their motorcycles with tools, tents, and tenacity as they charged ahead to make a point: that women were capable, strong, and fearless. They left Sheepshead Bay Race Track in Brooklyn and started their route on the Lincoln Highway, which ran from Times Square in Manhattan to Lincoln Park in San Francisco. Their first stop was the Massachusetts manufacturing center that produced their motorcycles.

Indian Motorcycles provided two 1916 Power Plus bikes to Augusta and Adeline in return for the publicity that they were getting for their ride. The Indian Power Plus was the top-of-the-range bike at the time. It was Indian’s first flathead, v-twin engine, and was called “Power Plus” because of its 16-horsepower output. The engine drove through a three-speed, hand-change gearbox with a foot-operated clutch and all-chain drive. Selling for $275, the Indian also ran Firestone “non-skid” tires and a gas headlight that would allow riding through the darkest nights. The downside? The bike had no suspension, no shock absorbers, and poor fuel capacity. 

The roads weren’t any better. Most routes were dirty and muddy, some merely cow paths, and fuel was difficult to find. Broken chains and flat tires were left to the sisters’ own ingenuity and know-how. The weather ranged from heavy rain for days to unrelenting desert sun. With no helmets, just a leather cap and goggles, Augusta and Adeline were truly exposed to the elements. Yet weather and murky maps weren’t their only obstacles.


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Just outside of Chicago, the motorcycling pioneers were pulled over by police—not for speeding, but for the way they were dressed. In some states it was still illegal for women to wear pants. Though women’s fashion was shifting from corsets to more casual attire, dresses were considered the standard. The Van Burens’ military-style jackets and leather riding breeches, covered in grime and dead bugs, got them arrested again and again by confounded cops. Between ridiculous arrests and bad-weather delays, the sisters’ one-month journey extended into two.

By August they reached Colorado’s Rocky Mountains and became the first women to reach the 14,109-foot summit of Pikes Peak by motorized vehicle, earning their first record. On Aug. 6, 1916, the pair shared their enthusiasm with the Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph. “We didn’t really feel that we had achieved anything wonderful until yesterday,” Adeline told the paper while writing a telegram to her family in New York.

Because the sisters were running behind schedule, they abandoned their plan to ride north through Wyoming and chose a more direct path through the Rockies. They endured relentless rain that turned the mountains’ dirt paths into heavy mud that trapped their tires. After mercilessly trying to free their wheels in the freezing weather, the exhausted duo was forced to leave their motorcycles behind and seek out help on foot. Hours later, the sisters found the small mining town of Gilman, Colorado. The miners offered them food and rest, then walked back with the sisters to help free their bikes.

The pair continued their trek, but unfortunately another misadventure came 100 miles west of Salt Lake City. The heavy winds whisked away the desert trail, and eventually it disappeared entirely. Low on fuel, water, and energy, Augusta and Adeline were closer to defeat than ever. Again, fate smiled upon them. A prospector came along who not only had a horse-drawn cart packed with supplies, but also a keen sense of direction to get them back on their way.

With so many remarkable trials and tribulations, news outlets had endless inspiring stories and victories to choose from to share with the world. Unfortunately, much of the media coverage they received was negative. Leading motorcycle magazines focused on the bikes, not the bikers. Others ignored the purpose and historical significance of the Van Burens’ journey, criticizing them for forsaking their roles as housewives. Worse yet, The Denver Post accused the sisters of exploiting World War I to abandon their duties at home and “display their feminine contours in nifty khaki and leather uniforms.” Despite the negativity in the papers, the sisters received nothing but support from the people they met along the way. Everyone they ran into helped them in some fashion, and Augusta and Adeline were never bothered or accosted by anyone. It was this support and motivation that gave them the extra push to get to their end goal. 

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Reaching their two-month mark, the sisters arrived at their destination in San Francisco on Sept. 2, having traveled 5,500 miles in 60 days. Proving that women could ride as well as men, the two earned their second record and became the first women to ride solo cross-country on motorcycles. They continued south and completed their journey on Sept. 8 after arriving in Los Angeles. Still they pressed on, traveling across the Mexican border to Tijuana.

After succeeding on their record-breaking journey, both sisters were still intent on joining the military. But even after they’d proven their abilities and courage, their applications to become dispatch riders were rejected by the U.S. Army. Women would wait another four years for the right to vote and another World War for the chance to serve in the military. But that didn’t hinder the Van Burens’ spirits nor tarnish the magnitude of their accomplishments. Instead, the two persevered in a male-dominated world and succeeded in even greater feats.

Adeline went on to earn her Juris Doctor degree at New York University during a time when it was unheard of for a woman to be practicing law. Augusta learned how to fly a plane and joined the Ninety-Nines, an international organization of female pilots established in 1929 by 99 women, with Amelia Earhart as their first president. Coincidentally, the organization played a significant role in the women’s-rights movement, something both sisters were still passionate about. 

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With one goal in mind, these women didn’t take no for an answer. They were bright, enthusiastic, and broke the stereotypes of their time, proving that a woman could do anything a man could do. In the words of Augusta, “Woman can, if she will.”

While their trip across the country didn’t deliver the impact the sisters had hoped for, today they are remembered as pioneers for women and motorcyclists alike. The sisters’ courageous spirit and extreme independence are celebrated by family members and admirers who have kept their legacy going through similar cross-country rides that traced the Van Burens’ path on the trip’s 90th and 100th anniversaries. Because of the historical significance of the Van Burens’ efforts, they were inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2002.

Both Augusta and Adeline lived their truth. They took risks, they fought for what they believed in, and they enjoyed full lives with careers that thrilled them. Having a family that loved them and still cheers them on decades after their deaths at ages 59 (Adeline) and 75 (Augusta), is what carries this legacy forward.  

Now it’s time to live our truth, in honor of the Van Buren sisters. 

Endless: Mexico

A Film by Shift MX

Starring Jimmy Hill


Filmed in Mexico during the Día de Los Muertos festival, Shift MX presents its second film as part of its four-part destination series ENDLESS. Showcasing Shift rider Jimmy Hill, the edit takes you through the open agave fields of Jalisco to the bustling streets of Guadalajara. The film introduces Shift’s corresponding limited edition collection of gear sets and lifestyle apparel. The gear set was worn by Shift’s Geico Honda Supercross team this past weekend in Atlanta and is now available for sale at ShiftMX.com and select retail partners.

Athlete: Jimmy Hill
Edited by: Ryan Marcus 
Filmed by: Ricki Bedenbaugh and Ryan Marcus
Art Director: Rob Donegan 
Colorist: Patrick Woodard 
Music by: Colourmusic "You For Leaving Me"

Photography by: Derrick Busch & Gordon Dooley

Motorbikes Saved My Life

A Letter from Travis Newbold

Words by Travis Newbold | Photography by Aaron Brimhall


As I pick up the tipped-over $150,000 motorcycle from the loose gravel, I am completely spent, gasping for air from my burning lungs and soaked in sweat from the prior 10 minutes and 14 seconds, having just crossed the finish line of the last real road race in North America. 

This is the end of the story I am about to tell you. Actually, the end happened immediately after picking up the bike and unstrapping my helmet, when I told a newspaper reporter what I thought about the Pikes Peak International Race Committee. It was enough to ban me from further racing up America’s Mountain—ban me from the race up a mountain I grew up with and had spent the last eight years dedicated to, climbing its 156 corners faster than anyone in front of me.

As with many great motorcycle stories, this one begins with dirtbikes. Dirtbikes have been and probably will be the one thing that keeps me out of prison and on a somewhat straight and narrow, or at least a wholesome sweet and tacky twisting singletrack. When I was 10, my single mom bought me a used CR80 and I started racing local Colorado motocross races. I was straight-up C class all the way through high school. Later, the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute in Phoenix was as good a place as any for a college dropout with an empty box van and a love for fifth gear pinned wide open in the desert. This led me into a job throwing wrenches for my local dealership back home in the Colorado high country. A customer with some money wanted to experience Baja racing, so together we raced several times on the majestic Mexican peninsula. 

As things often go in Baja, we met adversity, death, and broken-down race bikes. After an awkward 50-hour drive home from Cabo, we went our separate ways. I was left without money to race and a large speed freak of a hungry monkey on my back. The XR650R that I built with an unchecked credit card and had spent a lot of time on gave me a ferocious appetite for high-speed thrills. It only made sense to try my hand at racing my dirtbike at the mysterious and alluring Pikes Peak Hill Climb. I knew nothing of the race but pictures of dirtbikes pitched out sideways on a loamy gravel road that climbed up a steep mountain. “I got this handled,” I thought as I sent in my entry into “The Race to the Clouds.”

Ignorance can be bliss…or it can scare the living crap out of you like that one exploding monster at the Halloween haunted house, catching you off guard and making you scream like a little schoolgirl. My first day of practice on the hill was like that—and also a bit mixed with my first bad trip. Right before race week, I was informed by a local racer that the proper setup was 19-inch dirt-track racing tires, so I laced up an old rear rim with a bit of a Wang Chung flat spot to my front and shipped some Maxxis CD-5 dirt-track tires to the campground where I would spend my race week. I spooned them on the night before the first practice day. 

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Race week consisted of three practice days of the course broken into thirds, so the only time a start-to-finish run is made is the one made on race day. Oh, yeah—and on practice days the road had to be open to the public at 8 a.m., meaning we got up at 3:30 and started making runs at 5, just as the easterly sunlight started to radiate out across Kansas. I can vividly remember my first morning on the hill, rubbing sleepy dirt out of my eyes in the race pit as I heard what sounded like a dragon being tortured in a dark dungeon. I later found out it was a Yamaha Banshee on ’roids being wrung out on a dyno inside of a race hauler. Say what you will about quads, but the memory of the premix smoke and sonic waves echoing through the trees still brings me goose bumps. 

That morning’s practice was the bottom-third section of the racecourse, and it was all pavement. My knobby mind could not grasp the fifth-gear flat-out foot-peg dragging. It was beyond terrifying. I was all ready to pack it in and go home after that. I realized the dangers of 100 mph mishaps into nothing but trees, boulders, and massive drop-offs. Luckily, that first night I met some old-timer motorcycle racers in the campground with twin-cylinder Yamaha vintage flat-trackers, big-twin Harley-Davidsons, and CR250R two-strokers. They said tomorrow was all dirt, no pavement, and I was about to find out what those dirt-track racing tires were all about. They then started to pass around an old coffee can containing some very potent booze and proceeded to do a rain dance. No joke. These petrol-head long-hairs beckoned the God of the Mountain for hero dirt.

From then on, I was hooked. Sliding decomposed granite pea gravel was the best thrill I had found. It led me to start racing flat track all around the country and making it on the podium six times at Pikes Peak. But the 11.46 miles of racecourse on the mountain once proclaimed by Zebulon Pike to be impossible to climb by any man was in a drastic period of change. We would start one at a time; no longer would we race five abreast and battle each other. The spectators were fenced into corrals; no longer would we brush our handlebar ends on them and no longer could I kick at GoPros left too close to my race line. Every year I returned to race and found more and more tarmac covering what was perfect grip-holding gravel. As racers do, I adapted and found myself lacing up some 17-inch rims. By that time I had tasted the lower steps of the podium, but not the top. I decided I would have to do more than just swap the wheels on my CRF450 that I used for off-road racing. I built a Pikes Peak special CRF450, all from junkyard salvage. Cut the motor mounts on a beat-to-swarf 450X frame and welded the motor mounts with an oxyacetylene torch to accept a Craigslist ’08 450R engine—an engine that I did some heavy breathing on, using everything I had learned about porting and flowing a head, beveling transmission gears, and polishing rotating mass. The junkyard-poverty-built bike put me on top of the podium the first time it raced the hill, in 2012, beating some of the world’s finest supermoto bikes. It earned me the 450cc class record and enough purse money to beckon me to do more than just make another Vegas-style beer run. I decided to pack up my tools and my dog and move to the city, where I would use the money to open up my own motorcycle service shop. I might add there was a rather special girl involved. As with all good stories involving dirtbikes, of course there is a girl involved. With just what most business owners consider pocket change, and the moral support of a good lady, Newbold’s Motorbike Shop was born. 

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After a few more years of threading the asphalt needle on my trusty 450 up the hill, I could see the tarmac writing on the wall. I needed a faster bike for the now completely paved course. I befriended Carl Sorenson at the first all-paved year. He was the chief of tech inspection for the local road-race series and also an instructor for new racers. I started racing an old SV650 at local closed-course short-circuit road races. With their safe, huge runouts and gravel traps, they are nothing like a real road race, where curbs, signposts, trees, rocks, and cliffs are mere inches away from the race line, just waiting to take your life. But I learned some about how to handle a purpose-built tarmac race bike. Carl was the best instructor and friend I could have asked for. On the hill we were almost always running identical times. 

In the spring of 2015 I approached Denver-based motorcycle manufacturer Ronin Motorworks about competing in the hill climb aboard one of their bikes. A local company racing a local race with a local rider: it was a plan of awesomeness. Shit, I was used to racing on takeoff tires, and now I was to race a real factory bike. A small factory, but a real factory nonetheless. And the effort put into building the bike knocked my dirty socks clean off. The front brake alone was more expensive than any bike I had ever owned. The bike, based off of an EBR 1190, had something like 160 horsepower. The Ronin ripped, shit, and get! I was full of respect for how fast the beast was, but it caught me off guard in one practice session; I was a bit late on the brakes coming into a hairpin above tree line. I skidded sideways into an Armco guardrail and made some photographers dive for cover as I slid broadside to a brief halt. My inner motocrosser took over as I dumped the clutch, burmshotted the guardrail, and roosted out of the corner. I ended up making the third-fastest run of the morning.

The Thursday practice was the top section. It starts at what is called Devil’s Playground, named so because the lightning will dance from boulder to boulder. The top section is more beautiful and scenic than any road in Colorado, and that is saying something. It is also home to the Bottomless Pit corner, Boulder Park, and Olympic. Needless to say, it is not a place for a mishap. When punching the envelope, things can and do happen. What exactly happened, I don’t know. But what I do know is that near the summit during practice, my dear friend and mentor Hot Carl went off the edge. He lost his life doing something he loved. He also went off on a corner I was talking with him about minutes before I saw him launch away, grabbing gears and giving his Ducati the beans. He had just got done laughing at one of my corny jokes when I said, “Might as well.” He beat me to getting his helmet and gloves on. Away he went. At the summit, the word went out that #217 had gone off. Everyone quietly waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, an ambulance drove by…but slowly and without its lights on. Sitting atop that beautiful mountain that morning, I felt something inside me break. Something I had loved and given myself to had broken my heart. 

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The final morning of practice was also used for timed qualifying to determine start position and, more importantly, to measure Johnsons. Every run saw a tight battle between the American Honda HRC–supported CBR1000R ridden by a legit former AMA pro, the factory-supported Victory RSD Project 156, the fast French veteran Bruno, and, surprisingly enough, yours truly. The Honda and I were at the top with less than a second separating us on every timed run we took. He left in front of me and I was sure I smelled blood. As I passed Rookie’s Corner, I saw the skid marks, and upon returning down after my run I could see the mangled CBR1000R hanging upside down in a tree—another reminder of the severe consequences of pushing a bit too hard. I was still coming to grips with what had happened 24 hours before this. I am still, to this day, coming to grips with what happened. Thankfully the rider was OK, but I still smelled blood. I knew he would have a backup bike ready, but I wanted to beat him. I wanted to win for Carl; I wanted to win for all of our friends, and to try to make some light of such horrific outcomes of something we choose willingly to do and expect our loved ones to stand by and watch. Most of all, I wanted to win for my own reasons that I can’t even begin to understand. Glory is precious, it is good to do what you do well, and life is short.

On race-day morning, I waited in staging, inching closer to the start line and mentally preparing to give the course my everything. Carl’s widow, Lacy, was there to send me off, standing with my newlywed wife. I hugged them both with all the vigor and sensitivity that I was about to grasp the Ronin with. We knew overheating on the completed race run was a potential issue for the Ronin, so we did not warm the engine up. As the flag man gave me the signal, I fired the bike up and locked my visor. More than ready, I engaged my launch. The bike sputtered and would not even lift the wheel. The pig was cold and its computer kept it in a limiter mode. I was ready to take every inch of the course as fast as I ever had and the up-until-then-flawless motorcycle was not even giving me half of the RPMs. I tried to hold every bit of speed through the corners, and then, in an instant, it woke up. Coming out of a fast corner, the back end snapped out hard. I corrected and was tossed out of my seat as the handlebars did a tank slapper. Somehow I ended up back in the seat and totally pumped on adrenaline. Go! Go! Go! 

“It is time to shine,” I thought as I linked the corners together with everything I had. The tire grip was a lot less than it had been on early morning practice runs. I could feel the back end track out on the gas. On one big, tightening horseshoe corner, I felt the slide and knew I could possibly narrowly avoid running wide and off the road or embrace my inner dirtbiker. I straightened the bike up and throttled straight off the edge of the road, landing in a ditch littered with skull-sized rocks. I kept the throttle on and jumped back onto the tarmac without missing a beat. After the zigzagging switchback section known as The W’s, the bike did overheat, putting itself in limp mode. As I approached the Bottomless Pit, it cooled back down and gave me full power again. Go! Go! Go! 

As I passed broken-down race bikes, I stood up on the pegs and caught air as I pinned the throttle through the subsiding bumpy road surface. As I passed Carl’s corner, I fought so hard to not give the throttle any slack with only three corners to go. The back end stepped out again, and again I saved it. I let my eyes take in the glimpse of the checkered flag like a trailer-park hobo takes in the last swig of hooch. I had gotten the bike to the summit. 

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After the finish line is the only remaining dirt on the mountain, so I grabbed a handful and pitched that bitch sideways. Immediately the steering lock was found and I had to finally let go of the grips as I flopped it over the high side right in front of the TV cameras, where reporters were interviewing the HRC Honda rider who ended up winning by a near 14 seconds over me. It had been an exhilarating eight years of competing on America’s Mountain. What shall I do next? Perhaps go race on the Isle of Man? How about going for some epic backcountry shralping on my trusty old dirtbike?

Worlds Collide

Two Wheels, One Love

Words by Ethan Roberts | Photos by Aaron Brimhall


“Among creatures born into chaos, a majority will imagine an order, a minority will question the order, and the rest will be pronounced insane,”

author Robert Brault once wrote. I came into this world as the nephew of Gregg Godfrey, the man who brought Nitro Circus to life with Travis Pastrana and who has spent his entire life mastering the art of reckless fun. Safe to say, I was born into chaos, and by definition I was destined to be pronounced insane. By the time I could walk, I was also thrown onto (and off of) bicycles, motorcycles, scooters—anything dangerous with wheels. As I grew up, I gravitated toward downhill mountain biking, but motorcycling was in my blood. 

For most of my life, I’ve dreamt of a way to connect the two worlds. It would become my mission—an obsession to find space where none exists, to create an experience that melds the feeling of motorcycling with the deep natural connection of mountain biking. 

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Determined to combine these factions, we conceptualized a rack-mounted MTB on the back of a motorcycle. The convenience of instant overland shuttle capabilities gave way to the realization that we could get deeper into the forests than ever possible in the search for the sacred, untouched backcountry lines that existed in our minds. Our first obstacle was to find the right motorcycle—the perfect mix between dirt and street with go-anywhere capability. While vetting virtually every model in current production, we discovered our timing was serendipitous: Husqvarna had just released the all-new 701 Enduro, and at first glance, we knew we had finally found the ultimate machine for the job. 

We scoured the web for bike-rack designs, off-road mounts, and anything we might be able to modify or pull inspiration from to make our own moto mount. After hours of combing for ideas, it became clear that the only real way to find out if it would actually work or not was to just go for it and make something. We were flying blind on this one. 

My first call was to Uncle John. (I know—really getting lucky here in the uncle department.) John is an engineer, specializing in automated conveyor systems, but he has watched us ride from the beginning and understood our idea perfectly. What would likely take me two full weeks to create, he helped us design and build in two days: a fully functional aluminum frame with space to strap all our camping gear and bags. Prototype in hand, Husky 701s in the garage, this concept turned into a mind-blowing reality. 

Drawing a line on a digital map of where we wanted to go was simple. But getting there was a whole ’nother story. We skipped any sort of testing or R&D, opting to head straight to the backcountry and into the unknown. It was questionable whether our setup would hold up to the challenges ahead, but our lack of foresight made these questions burn less in the midst of impulsive, adrenaline-fueled action. I was confident that we had the right crew to make this trip successful. 

Joining me on this journey was my older brother, Josh Roberts, renowned photographer Aaron Brimhall, and talented filmmaker Kollyn Lund. Thankfully, these boys are also talented motorcycle riders—a trip prerequisite for sure —and on balance, there’s nobody else I would want joining me on this trip. There was no trailering to a drop point on this mission; we were rolling out straight from the garage. As we geared up and made a few last-minute adjustments to the bikes, we eyeballed the setup and were off—all four of us, packed to the brim with bags, cameras, tents, and mountain bikes. If there is a trial by fire in this world of chaos we call Spaceship Earth, we had just approached the bench. 

We rode 75 miles from Salt Lake City and stopped for fuel at the mouth of Spanish Fork Canyon. Towering black clouds soon rose over the horizon, gaining momentum and swallowing the canyon behind us. Sunshine ahead, danger behind, our blissful cruise became a flat-out run to escape a wall of water and a 40-degree drop in temperature. Thirty miles deep into the canyon, the clouds enveloped us in a torrential downpour, turning to massive flakes of snow as we gained altitude to the canyon summit. For the next 75 miles we pressed on through the fringes of hypothermia, smiles frozen to our faces all the while in the happiest bit of misery one could experience. 

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Finally making it to Price, Utah, we huddled in a gas station, trying to thaw our frozen limbs. We felt resilient and proud, but the daunting realization that we still had 100 miles to go before reaching our camp spot kept us from resting on our laurels too long. Layering up with everything dry we had packed, we rode out into the middle of the desert, guided by the stars and the beating hearts of the 701s beneath us, brothers-in-arms who overcame the worst weather Nature had in store, pushing on to the real prize, way out there. 

Riding up to our campsite and scaring away lingering cattle, we circled quickly for a level patch of dirt to call our home for the evening.

“Home” never sounded so good after this opening day of adventure. Pitching our tent over the smoothest spot we could find, we fixed a campfire to warm our bones and settle into the kind of sleep you can only find outdoors.

Josh fell asleep fireside; Aaron harnessed an inspired second wind and captured stunning long-exposure shots of the night sky over the campsite. Nestled in the hills of this wild desert, we were just a group of wanderers in search of the next frontier. As we lay in our tent, I couldn’t help but think we were in the same desert that Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid once ruled, hiding in the hills with loot they had just stolen.

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Waking up to the sound of raindrops bouncing off our tent had never been so disheartening. We listened as the rain seemingly crushed our dreams of riding that day. As the pounding rain stopped, we ripped the tent fly open and couldn’t believe what we saw. It looked like we woke up on the moon. The Utah desert was still absorbing the rainfall, popping, gurgling, and shifting as it ingested all the moisture. With a pastel desert backdrop, these huge gray hills, steep chutes, and perfect dirt were untouched, ready and freshly groomed by Mother Nature herself. 

This story was playing out exactly how we had envisioned it, and now it was time to take our mission to the next level. We picked a line up a mountainside that could have been decorated by Dr. Seuss and wasted no time getting to the top. Parking the motorcycles, we unloaded our mountain bikes, spotted our down lines, and it was on. Josh and I pulled on our helmets, threw up a fist bump, and yelled “Dropping!” to alert Aaron and Kollyn that it was time to speed the film: It’s getting real. In a dreamlike sequence, we released the brakes and tucked, ripping down a wide-open face, finding new lines in perfect chocolate-cake dirt with nobody around to witness.

In that moment, grins wide and my best friends cheering, I realized that this was it; this was exactly the reason we set out on this adventure. 

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I looked left to see my brother, Josh, side by side with me, carving matched lines down virgin dirt, each action unfolding seamlessly in slow motion into the next. Locked into a total state of flow, time dilates. Your actions lock into sync with others’. Your focus is in hyperdrive as your brain recruits every ounce of resources to the task at hand. It’s a magical, beautiful thing, on the verge of gaining superpowers. After carving up gorgeous faces like Thanksgiving dinner, my appetite shifted; I had to find a jump. Creativity pulsing at a level 10, I found a line near the top that set up perfectly to jump my mountain bike over my Husky 701. With no time to soak it all in, our fun was cut short as another round of downpours and flash flooding chased us out of the desert and back to the safety of the open road. Heading south, we hoped we could escape the rain and find some red rock and sand somewhere near Moab. Rolling into our second campsite, we narrowly beat the weather and hunkered down for the night. Still surprised that the storm had chased us this far, we were hoping for better luck in the morning.

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As the sun came out from behind heavy gray skies, we had to kick Josh out of bed to hunt for that perfect morning light. Eyes half open, we were back on the prowl, riding our 701s and looking for a new zone suitable for both motorcycle and mountain bike. After a few hours, we came across a massive natural arch carved from sandstone, formed over thousands of years of erosion. On the trail leading up to it, there was a fun downhill line ending at the top of the arch. Layers upon layers of sandstone mountain gave infinite depth to the shot and framed out a perfect stage for the action that was about to unfold.

Perched on top of a 3-foot-wide sandstone bridge, with 60-foot drops on both sides, I couldn’t help but do a wheelie across the top. It was an incredible way to finish a mountain bike ride. 

While we were enjoying the awe of the natural wonder surrounding us, the rain had started once again, but this time with more intensity, each passing minute progressing from an inconvenience to a definite problem. In the desert, water moves at a rapid pace, and before our eyes, our exit trail turned from a stream into a small river—then our tracks were washed away entirely. Swallowing down the bitter tightness of panic in the midst of a life-threatening situation, we managed to navigate our way out of the deadly desert labyrinth back to high ground, defeated and retiring our tents once again. 

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Wet and cold, we endured a brutal night only to wake up to the sun on our faces. The sun’s rays brought us back to life like butterflies emerging from their chrysalises—barely stirring at first, but soon peeking out from our tents with a smile at the weather having turned in our favor. Itching to find some red-rock riding for the moto, we left the mountain bikes at camp and set off for the sandstone dunes. Looking around and seeing red rock as far as the eye could see, we kept going. The farther we went, the more unbelievable the scenery got. Our theory proved correct: Beyond the roads and parking lots we access by car lies another world, pristine and rarely explored, in the natural folds of Utah’s vast landscape.

Finishing our final day with a bang, we loaded up and started our trek home holding the unique satisfaction that comes with knowing you just broke new ground. When we began this mission, we had a hunch. And, like archaeologists, we started to dig in the face of doubt and emerged victorious, finding our prize and proving the theory undoubtedly true. The ride home was filled with thoughts of the next adventure—our new addiction that pairs man with our favorite forms of two-wheeled misadventure.

Membah

Salt & Sand in Indonesia

Words by Ben Giese | Photos by Tom Hawkins


As the sun sets over the Indian Ocean and pastel skies fade to black, the humid tropical air comes to life with a swarm of bats and the sound of insects. A salty ocean breeze billows up the Indonesian coastline onto the pristine motocross track that we just spent the evening riding. Sitting here on this peaceful beach in Southeast Asia, I am stuck in a daze trying to comprehend the heavenly beauty that surrounds us.

Bali is an esoteric land, riddled with ancient spirits and a haunting sense of magic you can feel coursing through your veins. It’s a celestial region of the world where man, machine, and surfboard exist as one, amongst the gods, and flow together in perfect harmony with Mother Nature.

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Dustin Humphrey—world-class photographer, filmmaker, and the driving force behind the Deus Temple—welcomed us with open arms. He graciously hosted us in a charming villa nestled in the heart of Canggu, a small village located at the southern tip of Bali and composed of an eclectic mix of surfers, expats, and Balinese locals. The humid air in Canggu is rich with the smell of incense and a smoky haze that lingers from the various religious burnings. With an estimated 20,000 temples and shrines located on this small island, Bali is sometimes referred to as “Land of the Gods.” It’s been said that when you fall asleep here, you’ll often experience strange and vivid dreams due to an uncanny spiritual presence. While lying in bed that first night amongst the barking dogs and chickens, I listened to the looming sound of prayer as it radiated from the neighboring temples, echoing through our alleyway and dissipating into the darkness.

Anticipation built for what crazy images my imagination might conjure up once I fell asleep, but I soon discovered that the most profound dreams would take place in real life over the next 10 days.

The first 48 hours of this dream were a bit of a culture shock. The human connection to two wheels is vastly different here in Bali, and our first glimpse into Indonesian life gave me a completely different perspective on what the motorcycle can mean to different cultures across the world. As I witnessed daily life unfold, I saw bikes packed heavily with massive loads of miscellaneous objects ranging from crates full of chickens to large bags, bundles of leaves and brush, giant blocks of ice, and boxes stacked high and strapped to the fenders. There were full families of four or five riding on a single scooter, sometimes even carrying the family dog. I would even see parents driving to school in the morning as the kids lay dead asleep on the handlebars. It was apparent that motorcycles are by far the most efficient means of transportation and quite possibly the most important tool for everyday life in Indonesia—a far cry from what the motorcycle represents to our culture in America.

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Back at our villa in Canggu, we were lucky enough to stay with newfound friends and Deus Ex Machina ambassadors Zye Norris and Forrest Minchinton. Norris is a talented and well-rounded surfer from Queensland, Australia, and Minchinton is a surfboard shaper and motocross rider from Huntington Beach, California. “The boys,” as they refer to themselves, are regulars at the Temple, spending several months out of the year in Bali utilizing it as a home base to do what they do best: Surf and ride.  From the moment I met and felt the positive energy radiating off these two, I knew we would soon become great friends.

Each morning, the boys would wake up before the sun, strap a collection of boards onto the surf racks mounted on their bikes, and journey out to the coastline for a sunrise session. Joining Minchinton and Norris on this morning ritual would help open my eyes to the fact that motorcycles are not only a vital tool for the local Balinese people, but equally useful for the surfers. It’s how they get to the surf spots, and when they’re not surfing, riding motorcycles is what they enjoy doing for fun. Surf and moto just kind of exist as one here; there is no disconnect. It’s like a flashback to a time during the late ’60s and ’70s in Southern California, when most surfers rode motorbikes and the moto guys were also surfers.

It seems as if the boys are reliving that era, their lives like a snapshot from the iconic Bruce Brown surf and moto films of the time, The Endless Summer and On Any Sunday

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Our first few days in Canggu had come to a close, and although I had enjoyed the dreamy evenings spent ripping wheelies down the beach, there was a calling for something greater—an itch to expand outward in search of a solitude that could be found only in landscapes more remote and majestic. After tossing around some ideas with the Deus crew, we decided to head north toward the Ring of Fire to get lost in time on an ancient sprawl like nothing we’d seen before. Legend has it there is a hidden paradise, born from a violent volcanic eruption almost 29,000 years ago, beckoning to be ridden. A three-hour trek across the island found us cresting a massive caldera overlooking the sacred volcano, Mount Batur, resting peacefully below. Toward the base of the volcano, nestled between a vibrant lake and a field of lava rock, we could see the tiny village where we would stay the night.

A soft formation of clouds lingered toward the top of the volcano just above the vast expanse of black volcanic sand that would act as our ultimate moto playground for the next 24 hours. We had found what we were looking for. 

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That following morning, we woke up at 4 a.m. like bright-eyed children on Christmas morning, dying with anticipation to explore this magical place. We geared up and ventured out under the stars riding up a rugged trail, bouncing off rocks and branches, guided by nothing but a faint light cast by the moon. Darkness gave way to sunrise as the sky burned red, igniting a fiery luminance that would slowly begin to reveal the field of jagged lava rock we were riding through. Such a foreign terrain, it almost felt as if we had traveled back in time millions of years to a period when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. As the fog lifted and we approached Mount Batur, the landscape quickly transformed from large formations of lava rock into steep, rolling hills of gritty volcanic sand.

It was like a gigantic skate park built for our motorcycles, perfectly crafted over thousands of years for our enjoyment. 

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We spent the day wandering back and forth across the mountainside and it didn’t seem to matter whether we were hitting jumps, berms, hill climbs, or riding high atop the ridgelines; the fun factor was at an all-time high and this unique landscape provided limitless potential for creativity and expression. As the midday sun baked down on us, I found some shade and took a quick break to drink some water and watch Minchinton ride. His style is so smooth and effortless, I couldn’t help but notice how strikingly reminiscent it was to watching Norris surf. Poetically flowing, like a choreographed dance carving perfect lines, they seem to be completely in tune with themselves and the terrain—another  demonstration that although surf and moto might seem vastly different, they are very much connected. It doesn’t matter whether you’re on a board in the water or on a bike in the sand; the essence of flow (membah, in Balinese), and the intimate connection with the landscape and Mother Nature, is virtually the same. 

The dust had settled on an epic day of riding, and as the golden light faded and the sun began to set over the caldera, we made our way back down the mountainside. We arrived back at the truck just before the dying light of dusk, and much like our early-morning trek up the hillside we were left loading up the bikes and equipment in the dark, under the light of the moon. I was worn out and dehydrated; my blistered hands and sunburnt neck were the trademarks of a day well spent. A few local children from a nearby hut curiously watched us take our helmets off, staring at us as if we were aliens from another planet. I guess that to them, that’s exactly what we were.

As I peeled the layers of crusty gear off my salty skin, I sat there quietly in content, my dirty teeth smiling with the knowledge that this was an experience I will never forget.

And although the day had come to a close, I found peace knowing that this journey was far from over and we would only be expanding farther outward in search of landscapes more isolated and alluring.

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The next morning welcomed a much-needed day of relaxation and recovery. As we sat around the pool cleansing our battered bodies and exchanging stories from the previous day’s adventure, Norris was packing his bags before heading to the airport later than evening. Unfortunately, real-world obligations summoned him back home to the Sunshine Coast. We were going to miss him, but our sights were set on the next destination and it was time to venture back out into the unknown, beyond the coastal boundaries of Bali.

Our bikes were ferried across the ocean onto the larger, neighboring island of Java. Upon arrival, we quickly escaped the chaotic streets and traveled deep into the rural Indonesian countryside. After another four-hour drive, climbing almost 7,600 feet in elevation, we crested the top of the mountain well after dark, arriving in the quiet little village of Bromo. A breath of cold, crisp air was a refreshing change that felt like home as we stepped out of the car to stretch our legs and unload our luggage. We were quickly welcomed with a large plate of nasi goreng (Indonesian fried rice with chicken and a fried egg) served to us by an old lady in the neighboring house. As we sat around enjoying dinner, sipping on some Indonesian whiskey, Minchinton and the crew from Deus shared legendary tales of past trips to Bromo. The excitement was building for the final two days of this adventure and I went to bed early in anticipation of the morning ahead.

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Another 4 a.m. wakeup call came quickly as we geared up and rode out to the edge of the Tennger Massif—a large valley in the planet’s crust containing an active volcanic complex—to watch the sun rise. The stars began to fade as the sky turned a deep purple, revealing an endless, majestic landscape below. A vast and barren desert referred to as the Segara Wedi (Sea of Sands) surrounds the fire-breathing mouth of Mount Bromo, one of the region’s most active volcanoes. Mount Bromo billows ominous clouds of dark ash that ascend from the Earth’s core up into the atmosphere, composing a perplexing backdrop both haunting and beautiful. A group of locals on horseback pointed us in the right direction, and as the sun began to peek over the ridgeline and the thin layer of fog that covered the valley below began to fade, Minchinton and I made our way down the hillside to begin our exploration. The dream continued.

As we entered the valley floor, the colossal landscape seemed to multiply in scale. We rode across the long, desolate stretch of sand that makes up the Segara Wedi and my eyes were in disbelief of the contrasting surroundings. Encompassed by a luscious green cliffside to our left, the billowing volcano of Mount Bromo to our right, and a lingering fog above us, these contradictory backdrops painted a unique panorama like nothing I’d experienced before.

This endless, untamed landscape placed at our fingertips resonated as the single most awe-inspiring location a motorcycle ever has taken me (and probably ever will).

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Clouds of ash fell over a large expanse of dunes that encircle the base of Mount Bromo, and the beauty of this environment only increased as we began to see all the potential this terrain had to offer. The fun began as these natural formations started to appear more like an endless array of perfectly formed jumps, berms, and trails. It’s crazy what the planet can offer your motorcycle when you open up your imagination to its possibilities. Minchinton and I followed each other for hours, back and forth across the caldera, testing ourselves on an array of natural obstacles. Launching off rocks, snaking through the dry riverbeds, and balancing our way up the steep and narrow ridgelines in the dunes, we were smiling from ear to ear. 

We took a break to discuss and contemplate a large jump connecting the gap between two massive dunes, and with a gulp of confidence Minchinton decided to go for it. I watched him fearlessly launch off the face of the jump, flying through the air with perfect form, and it appeared as if he was going to make it. I was wrong. He came up a few feet short and his tires sank into the soft landing, almost sending him over the bars, where he would likely land face first at the base 20 feet below. With Minchinton’s experience comes a level of composure, and luckily he was able to save it, completely unfazed. But with this near-catastrophe a heavy sense of reality sank into my gut. In the midst of a place so remote and massive, the risk associated with the smallest mistake multiplies significantly. Mount Bromo is a magnificent sight for those lucky enough to behold it, but riding here will quickly put you in your place if your actions are anything less than perfect.

Much like big-wave surfing, this is a landscape of heavy consequence that demands an immense level of respect. 

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Unfortunately, all good dreams must eventually come to an end. It was time for us to ride back up the massif, pack up our luggage, and begin the 48-hour, 10,700-mile journey back home. It’s obvious that Humphrey and the crew at Deus Temple have something special happening in this sacred corner of the globe. This magical region of the world is a unique place where flow is the tie that binds man, machine, and surfboard with Mother Nature. This trip had been a spiritual journey of bliss and self-discovery with the strong realization that everything truly is connected—a once-in-a-lifetime experience composed of the pure and honest happiness that can be found only by pushing outside the lines and pursuing new boundaries. As Humphrey and the boys like to say each time they say their goodbyes,

“It’s just the end of an episode. It’s been good, and we can’t wait for the next one!”

Chad Reed

Against the Current

Words by Brett Smith | Photos courtesy Fox Racing


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Tampa, Florida. Saturday, February 24, 2018. 10:45 P.M.

The checkered flag stopped waving an hour ago, but in a grassy parking lot in Tampa a crowd swelled, the Coors Light flowed and a team member passed out commemorative T-shirts. Aside from one subtle clue, the scene looked like a championship celebration: The person responsible for the party—the reason for the gathering—struggled to have a good time. Chad Reed just wanted to go home.

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Three dozen people gathered around Reed’s Team CR22 truck as his four crew members packed up, working around the revelers. Children played, running with the elated enthusiasm one possesses when fighting the urge to fall asleep. Selfie-seeking spectators loitered with their screens aglow, ready for the chance to grab a moment with Reed. He obliged every request. 

Wearing street clothes—dark work shorts, a navy blue T-shirt and team hat—his smiles revealed both gratefulness and grimace. For a professional motorcycle racer, a two-time Monster Energy Supercross Champion in the middle of his 17th consecutive season in the series, the 2018 Tampa race wasn’t a good night. He seeded in 19th, transferred through the last-chance qualifier, and didn’t finish the main event because of an electrical problem. After his bike cut out for the third time, he pulled into the mechanic’s area and handed the motorcycle to Mike Gosselaar. Instead of heading back to his truck in warranted frustration, Reed stood in the dirt and watched the rest of the race. 

Maybe he wanted to study the lead riders who, in better circumstances, he believes he can still beat; maybe it was just because he loves motorsports and wanted to watch the battle between Eli Tomac and Marvin Musquin. Maybe he wanted to spend a few more moments absorbing the one positive moment from the night. Competing an hour away from his adopted hometown of Dade City, Florida, in front of 42,411 spectators, Reed became the new ironman of supercross by starting his 228th premier class main event, surpassing a record Mike LaRocco owned for 12 years. 

Winning the last-chance qualifier, he gave the crowd a nac-nac over the finish line and then stood on the podium, where the event announcer whipped up the crowd in recognition of Reed’s long—and continuing—career. Ninety seconds later, the moment ended. He went from genuine joy and thankfulness right back to preparing for the one record he truly has his heart set on: oldest supercross winner, which is 33 years, 11 months. Reed turned 36 on March 15. 

The post-race party gave Reed’s fans, friends and family a chance to observe a rare achievement, put life on pause and appreciate the two-decades-long journey. “That’s what 228 meant to me,” said Chad’s wife, Ellie, from her dining room table less than 12 hours after the party ended. “You reflect on how much you’ve actually done, but you’re in the zone and [sometimes] you forget to stop and look up and go ‘Hey, what did we do?’ And that’s because [looking at Chad], you’re so head down, ass up, go, go, go. Nothing is enough for you. But he’s always been that way.” 

When Reed showed up in Anaheim on January 6 for the opening round of 2018, he hobbled around on a bum right ankle. The two fractures he suffered in October to the talus bone had not fully healed. Medically speaking, he had no business racing a motorcycle. The talus sits below the tibia and fibula and forms the lower part of the ankle joint. It bears the entire weight of the body and, for Reed, that body was nearly 20 pounds over his preferred racing weight of 170 when he started the season. 

The injury notwithstanding, Reed could not have chosen a more difficult path to go racing in 2018. He had no team, and he came out of pocket for the Husqvarna FC 450s he rode (he bought five of them). Chad and Ellie hastily assembled Team CR22 between Thanksgiving and Christmas, an effort that measured up far shy of the $4.2 million annual operating budget TwoTwo Motorsports (2011-2015) had. One of his primary sources of funding was a $1,200-a-person VIP fan experience open to 10 people a weekend. The money went to pay the travel expenses for Team CR22.

“I mean, we came into the [2018] season where I was like, ‘How are we going to pay our mortgage?’” Ellie said. Their inner circle had shrunk. Friends who said, “He doesn’t know when to give up” or “Doesn’t he know when enough is enough?” were clipped. When his agent appeared to give up hope, they parted ways.  

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Despite an uninspiring season, by far the worst complete season in his 20-year professional career, Reed scored points at all 17 rounds of supercross, one of only six riders to do so. He finished 13th in points with a best race of seventh. As his ankle healed, the speed and intensity he’d been known for didn’t return, and he plodded through the season as if in a [bad] dream. Yet, in August he spent one day testing with JGR/Suzuki and gelled so well with the bike and team that they asked him if he wanted to finish the rest of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross season. He agreed to run the final round in Indiana on August 25. Off the couch, and 38 months after his last AMA Motocross, Reed went 5-8 for 8th overall. 

“There’s so much more there,” Reed said. “I honestly believe that I can still win. That feeling of going out and riding and going at the level, like when I see—and I’m around it—nothing special’s getting done. These guys, the Tomacs, the Andersons, they’re not doing anything that hasn’t been done before. And I don’t believe they’re doing anything that I can’t do.”

The Reeds have always felt like they were in a school of salmon, fighting to swim upstream to survive, shouting “can” when others said “can’t.” What they are doing is perceived as going against the current, and they are OK with that. But why? Why is Reed still racing at 36, 10 years beyond his last championship, four years beyond his last win? If he qualifies for any main event in 2019, he would become the oldest of all time. 

To answer this, it’s important to understand how he got here.

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New South Wales, Australia. Circa 1997

Jay Foreman had never seen so much drive in one kid. The team manager for Suzuki Australia, Foreman couldn’t believe how quickly Chad Reed thrashed bikes. He destroyed a clutch a day on his RM 125s; the countershaft sprockets sometimes came back to the shop missing teeth. The bikes got no rest. At a natural riding area called Crazers, Reed often rode 10 minutes through the bush with a 20-liter drum of fuel between his legs. When it was empty, he rode home, filled it up and came back. He developed this habit when he heard a story about how Ricky Carmichael didn’t stop riding until he had burned through five gallons of gas a day. It could have been a tall tale, completely fabricated, but this was Ricky Carmichael, and Reed had a poster of the guy hanging above his bed. What he knew for certain was that Carmichael, only two and half years older, was already winning championships on the other side of the Pacific, so Reed told himself, “Yup, that’s what I gotta do.” So, he burned through as much fuel as he possibly could. And he took full advantage of the fact that Foreman’s shop was 20 minutes away from home. He’d ruin a bike and simply take it back for another one. 

“It didn’t matter who was around helping him, he was going to make it,” Foreman said, dispelling any notion that Reed caught lucky breaks. “Nothing was going to stop him. He wanted it so bad.”  

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Foreman watched Reed grow up on the local motocross scene in New South Wales and picked the kid up to compete for Suzuki in the Australian Junior championships. When it was time to turn pro, however, Reed made it clear that he wanted to bypass the 125cc class completely. He found the displacement gutless, and he’d been riding 250s since he was 12. It was a highly unconventional move. “And a hard thing to convince my bosses at Suzuki Australia,” Foreman said. In New Zealand, riders could move to the senior (pro) division at 15. In October of 1997, Foreman sent him to Australia’s neighbor to compete in their professional motocross season on 125s and 250s. Foreman said the deal was that if he could beat rising star Josh Coppins (who was 20), then he could bump straight to the 250 class in Australia. 

Reed doesn’t recall racing in New Zealand as being a “tryout period,” but he was definitely dead set against racing a 125 and viewed it as an opportunity to race pro. “When I make my mind up, it’s going to happen,” Reed said. “I wasn’t intimidated, nor did I look at those guys, such as Cameron Taylor, Andrew McFarlane, Michael Byrne, Peter Melton and say, ‘Oh my gosh, these guys are gnarly.’ My cousin (Craig Anderson), who was the Australian champion, would kill them, and I got to see everything he did, and I rode with him all the time. In a naive, overconfident manner, I didn’t believe I had to worry about anything, and the 250 class was where I needed to be.” 

In one of many examples of growing up fast and finding his own way, Reed went to New Zealand alone. A man named Dave Craig looked after him, but they couchsurfed their way around the two islands, practicing whenever and wherever they could. It was during these months that he blossomed into a young adult. Reed didn’t beat Coppins, but Foreman granted Reed’s wish to compete on a 250 in Australia’s 1998 National Motocross series. The fact that a 15-year-old could go to a foreign country alone and adapt well enough to stay in the championship hunt was impressive on its own. 

Figuring it out is part of the Reed fabric. His parents never mollycoddled him. They couldn’t. They were too busy breaking their backs and blistering their fingers to provide for their three kids. Robyn Reed cleaned the schoolhouse, often leaving her own home by 4 a.m. Mark Reed, a concreter, left around 5:30 a.m. In West Wallsend, New South Wales, Australia, the Reeds lived across the street from the K-6 school. Aunts and uncles lived nearby. but Chad remembers he and his younger brother, Troy, getting themselves out the door in the mornings. 

The obsession with motorcycles started in July 1986.

An uncle on his mother’s side raced locally, and he introduced four-year-old Reed and his aforementioned cousin Craig Anderson (four years older) to motocross. One of Reed’s earliest memories was the horse truck arriving and taking away Fern. His parents sold her so they could buy him a Yamaha PW50. Within a 45-minute drive, Reed and Anderson had five different racetracks to choose from, including the Cessnock Motorcross and Lake MacQuarie Motor Bike Clubs. Reed can still hear the heavy metal clunk of the forward-falling starting gate at his first race. “When it dropped, it literally just scared you, scared the hell out of you,” he said. “It was a daunting experience, but I remember deciding that motorcycles were what I wanted to do.”

Anderson said they often rode every day, straight into the bush until sunset, and then came home through the dark. Progression came quickly. “We didn’t get taught. We just figured it out,” he said. “And both of our families had little money. Our bikes looked like shit and our tires were always bald.” Anderson knew his little cousin had a special desire to succeed at six years old and, despite their age difference, their competitiveness pushed one another to be better. Reed wanted to both be like Anderson and beat him. Being four years younger, Reed always had a displacement disadvantage. It just meant he had to ride that much faster. 

Racing in America wasn’t just a goal; he talked about it constantly, and he wore the heads off a friend’s VCR watching videotapes of Jeremy McGrath. At 13 he moved to Kurri Kurri, where Mark purchased 25 acres. The first track they built was crude, filled with tight corners and long, fast straightaways about the width of a skid steer. Blowing the corners meant getting tangled in the shrubs and tea trees of the bush. 

In Kurri Kurri, Reed excelled and picked up support from Suzuki. He’d finish a full day of racing, come home and continue riding on his own property. He burned nearly 200 liters of fuel a week, and at $1 a liter for avgas, affording his dream became a stretch. The Reeds lived in a trailer for two and a half years while Dad built a modest 1,000-square-foot home. Affording handlebars even required creativity. Suzuki had a large supply of stock takeoff bars and grips from the team’s stable of race bikes, and Mark scooped them up and put them on Chad’s practice bikes. He went through them like tear-offs. 

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“I picked up Chad’s RM125 once to prep it, and it had bent-up stock bars and a left-side grip stretched over the throttle tube,” said Kristian Kibby, a mechanic for Team Suzuki Australia who now works for GEICO Honda. “To top it off, the grips were wired on with some old fencing wire, similar in gauge to a coat hanger.”

When Reed was around 14, he learned of a development tour that gave young Australian talent the opportunity to travel to the United States to ride and race. It had an expensive price tag, and Reed can’t recall if he actually got an invite—but he knew he couldn’t afford it. What he does remember is being a young teenager and “realizing that it’s a very political world we live in, and it’s not all based on talent,” he said. Kibby once asked Reed why he didn’t go. The amount of spite-filled cockiness in his reply is burned into his memory: “I don’t care, because I’ll kick all their asses when they get back,” Reed told him. The kids came home with enviable amounts of swag, including helmets painted by Troy Lee Designs. 

“Of course, he would have been slightly jealous and had a chip on his shoulder,” Kibby said. “These were Australian kids with money that probably didn’t have the burning desire Chad did, and they were the ones going on the trip. I bet he stayed home and practiced even harder.”

As if the sting from not being able to go to America wasn’t enough, his high school math teacher told him to stop dreaming when the subject of racing came up. “You think you’re going to go out and do what Jeff Leisk did?” Mr. Rumford would ask Reed. Leisk’s accomplishments included several podium finishes in AMA Supercross and runner up in the 1989 FIM 500cc World MXGP championship. “I remember looking at him and saying, ‘No, I’ll be better,’” Reed said. After a few years of racing in the United States, Reed received an apology letter from Mr. Rumford.

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Even though Reed skipped straight to the 250cc class in 1998, Suzuki Australia’s introductory salary for young rookie motocross riders was still only $5,000. To save money, he co-piloted a team van with Kibby while his teammates jetted in to the races. Only 16 and still on a learner’s license, he couldn’t legally pull trailers, but they shared driving duties. Reed enjoyed the process, which included pumping gas on the side of the road from a metal drum stored inside the trailer, because of the barren mileage between fuel stations in South and Western Australia. They ate sausage rolls, meat pies and other mystery foods from stores along the way; Reed’s beverage of choice was chocolate milk, while Kibby enjoyed Jolt Cola. Reed had no music preferences—still doesn’t—and when Kibby’s CDs weren’t spinning, they talked about racing and life. Kibby once asked what he thought about Carmichael, the 125-class champion in the United States. “I remember Chad saying,

‘I have two hands, two feet and a heartbeat and so does the next guy. I can do whatever that guy’s doing.’”

Reed simply echoed what his father had taught him: that no one is above anyone, that all can be beaten. 

Reed had extreme confidence, but still harbored some doubts. At 16, his siblings and friends went to school, his parents to work and he sat home, bored. One can ride only so many practice laps, and he didn’t enjoy training in a gym. Still doesn’t. For his favorite non-riding routine, he pulled on a set of board shorts, rode his BMX bike three miles to the Kurri pool (“which felt like so much longer”), swam 20 laps and rode home. 

“It was a huge shock,” Reed said of adjusting to the life of a professional athlete. “Here I am, it’s 1998 and I’m a kid, really kind of lost, and I didn’t know what to do. I was like, ‘Do I go back to school and try to do them both [racing and school]?’ I ended up sticking with the motocross thing.” Today, he chuckles when he sees a teenager whose life and routine are under constant scrutiny and surveillance via various handlers. With that kind of pressure, it doesn’t surprise him that so many careers end at 26. “You’ve got to figure some things out on your own.”

In August, at the end of the 1998 MX season, Reed broke his lower leg while trying to pass Andrew McFarlane and secure a 1-1 finish. It happened on the final straightaway of the final lap at Hervey Bay, a rough, sandy course in Queensland, 12 hours north of Kurri Kurri. His leg required surgery and six screws, and he used a Suzuki scooter to get around town and see friends. With forced downtime, he stepped out of his racing bubble and lived the life of a normal teenager. 

On August 30, he rode his scooter to a birthday party about a mile from his house. Many of his friends and former classmates were there (he had dropped out of 9th grade in October 1997). One was Ellie Brady. He had seen her for the first time two years earlier, on the first day of school. They made eye contact from across a room in the library. She had brown hair and lively dark-brown eyes, but it was those teeth that struck him. “Smiley-teeth Ellie,” he called her. The daughter of a school teacher and a coal miner, Brady had spent her whole life in Kurri Kurri and planned to become a teacher like her mother. 

At the party they connected. Brady sat on his lap, and they joked about how Chad’s cast stuck up from his knee like a fake leg. She finally had the chance to really study him and noticed his stunning blue eyes. “When I want to have children, I’m going to come find you so my kids can have blue eyes like yours,” she told him. Today, she laughs about how bizarre and bold that sounds, but she remembers being completely sincere and nonsexual about it. 

When the party wound down, the boy with the broken leg kissed her before he left. He was cocky but cute, and she liked his infectious personality. If he’d been healthy, he wouldn’t have been at that party. It was the best broken bone he ever had.

Brady quickly learned that her dirt-bike-racing boyfriend had a dream to relocate to the United States. She knew of his profession in theory, but didn’t know exactly what it all meant—and she didn’t consider herself part of the plan. “It was never like, we got together and we’re going to be together forever,” she said. “It was like ‘OK, we’re just having fun and dating.’ But it kept getting more serious.”

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In late December 1998, Reed went to America as part of a contract clause he’s still particularly proud of, because he fought hard for it. In addition to a $25,000 salary with Suzuki of Australia, he wanted to try a few races in America before the Australian Supercross season began in late January 1999. Foreman greenlighted the request and joined Reed. They arrived just before New Year’s Day and picked up a flogged and battered factory RM125 that had been used as a dyno bike. It didn’t even have graphics. Reed spent the entire month sleeping in the living quarters of a horse trailer owned by Allen Knowles, a friend of Foreman’s who often took visiting riders into his Rowland Heights, California, home. Reed spent his spare time mountain biking in the hills above Anaheim, eating at Marie Callender’s restaurant (chicken and pasta, every night) and watching WWF with Danny Ham (another Australian rider) in the living room until the wee hours of the night, “laughing like schoolchildren while my wife and I tried to sleep,” Knowles said. 

At the Suzuki test track, he watched Greg Albertyn flail through the huge set of whoops. “This is impossible,” Reed told himself. Then Larry Ward rolled out on the track and smoothly skimmed across them. Impossible changed to, “I could do this!” Reed can still hear the sound Jeremy McGrath’s YZ250 made when the defending champion turned laps on the Yamaha test track across the canyon. “I couldn’t wait to get done riding so I could drive over there and watch Jeremy.” 

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The trip suffered a setback when he caught a hairline fracture in his right thumb at an annual warmup race. He rode practice at the supercross season opener at Anaheim, but was still too sore to race. He lined up a week later in San Diego with a throbbing thumb and won his daytime qualifier to transfer into the evening program. 

In a rented Penske truck that carried a sad assortment of plastic totes and cheap lawn chairs, the 16-year-old blended in with the rest of the privateers in the back of the Angel Stadium parking lot. He couldn’t even grab the attention of the very man who had loaned him the motorcycle: Team Suzuki’s Manager, Roger DeCoster. 

The media completely overlooked Reed. His name got a mention in the body paragraphs of Cycle News, but only in the context of listing the riders that qualified for the main event. On ESPN2, Art Eckman said “Reed” when running down the list of riders in the Suzuki Starting Grid, but Reed’s actual name didn’t appear in the on-screen graphic. A Harold Hageman #874 showed up as the 22nd rider on the gate, but Hageman didn’t actually race in San Diego. Hageman finished 17th one week prior, so the most logical explanation is that the TV crew pulled the template forward and didn’t delete Hageman’s name. Reed, running #967 or #997—nobody involved can quite remember—never got a single second of television time. He finished 17th. About five years later, after Reed started winning championships in America, Foreman had a conversation with DeCoster about the apparent 1999 snub. “I should have taken more belief in your word about how good he was,” Foreman remembers DeCoster telling him. “I made a mistake. I couldn’t see it in him. I just thought he was arrogant, and I didn’t like that.” 

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Reed likes to joke that he wasn’t “French enough” to turn heads. Today it seems ludicrous that a future champion was nearly invisible at his first race in America. Many forget that Alessio Chiodi, the two-time 125cc World MXGP champion, was on his own three-race American tour at the same time. He finished fifth at round one in Anaheim—his first-ever supercross in the U.S.—and backed it up with a fourth in San Diego. Later that summer he won his third world title. Reed went back to Australia without ever making a ripple in the States. 

Over three years passed before he raced another American supercross.  

He returned to Australia and pounded laps on the supercross track he and his father built on the Kurri Kurri property. Thick with tea trees, the family cleared the land by hand, often leaving behind the small stumps that proved arduous to dig out. Friends who rode there still speak of the little landmines that gave them flat tires or ripped their feet off the pegs. Mark and Chad did their best in building the course, but their amateur shaping skills left them with landings as steep as the takeoffs. Riding the track well required more-than-precise timing.

The 1999 Australia Supercross Championship opened in late January at Newcastle Speedway. The first professional supercross in Australia for Reed was also the first race Ellie attended. Her whole family came, and her sister and their friends wore shirts that spelled “R-E-E-D” with the letters sandwiched between thick black lines (as in, “Reed between the lines”). 

Reed crashed twice and sat seventh on lap 15, but still pulled off the win against his cousin, Anderson, the defending champion, and Peter Melton, whom he passed on the final lap. In a post-race protest, officials ruled that Reed had cut the track and docked him to fourth place. According a Transmoto magazine article by Andy Wigan’s article, Reed confronted the officials and the protesters: “I won fair and square and you’re all scared to admit it. You know what? I don’t even care, cos I’m going to whip you all so bad next week. And you all know it!” Reed had plenty of speed and showed acumen for the discipline, but he spent a lot of time on the ground—and the media didn’t let him forget it.

“I’d tell him, ‘Don’t let it worry you. You’re pushing the boundaries. You’re going to crash,’” Foreman said. “The magazines would say, ‘This guy is never going to do anything until he stops crashing.’ He took massive offense to that.” Even with the round-one setback, he won the championship, becoming the youngest to do so. 

In 2000 he moved to CDR/Fox Yamaha, but had to learn even more independence because the Melbourne-based race team was over 10 hours from Kurri Kurri. He managed his parts stock and maintained his two practice bikes, changing tires and top ends on his own. He looks back on this fondly, believing it helped him grow up a bit. His relationship with Brady flourished as well, and when she wasn’t in school, she helped in the garage, which had formerly been a toilet block container. Ellie cleaned filters and held the tire irons. “This garage was the shittiest thing you’ve ever seen,” she said. 

“It was literally an old shitter,” Reed said, laughing. In 2000, Ellie was 18, a high school senior, working part-time at a grocery store, and she had been accepted to university. Late that year, Reed got an offer to compete for Jan de Groot’s Kawasaki team in the 2001 250cc World Motocross Championship. He went to Japan in the fall to test with the team, and he raced the Bercy Supercross in France. When he came home, he knew he had a big decision to make. At the time, he didn’t know it would be the most difficult decision of his life, one that deeply affected his relationship with his parents. 

Reed couldn’t take either of his parents to Europe; they had to work and raise his younger siblings. His first instinct was to take Brady, whom he had been dating for nearly 18 months. His parents suggested he take a friend instead. Two teenage boys alone in Europe? Reed knew that would turn into a “shit show.”

The issue over the companion escalated into an argument, and Mark tried to barter, offering to pay for the flight of anyone else he wanted to take. Finally, a line was crossed; Reed said his father told him, “If you take Ellie, I wipe my hands of you.” The hurtful words left scars that remain today and put a heavy strain on their relationship. 

“I’m trying to contemplate it,” Reed said. “So, I said, ‘All right, I’m going to make this call.’ I took it personal. All these years later, that’s what’s so badass about what we achieved [is that] I made huge decisions on my own.” Reed absorbed the blow on his own and elected not to tell Brady. She didn’t know the full details until much later, but she could sense the tension. 

Next, he asked her if she even wanted to go. He knew about her schedule to attend university, and he worried about her getting homesick because she comes from a tight-knit family, which includes two sisters and a brother. Brady liked the idea, and they spoke with her parents, who gave the teenaged couple their blessing. Like any concerned parent, Brady’s dad opened the Q & A portion with, “How is he going to support you?” 

Reed’s Kawasaki contract—sent Down Under via fax—was worth $80,000 (USD), with expenses paid in Dutch guilders (physical euro banknotes didn’t go into circulation until 2002). They would be living on their own in Belgium, driving through foreign countries and managing their own logistics. It wasn’t a simple backpacking-across-Europe excursion. Reed looked Mr. Brady in the eye and assured him he’d take care of his daughter. Brady deferred her education for one year and prepared to leave her home country for the first time in her life. 

“And as much as I wanted to—or at least as much as I had confidence in myself—I never saw myself failing, right?” Reed said.

“It was just [telling myself] ‘You’re going to make it.’ That was the only option.”

In late January 2001, Reed won the first two rounds of the Australian Supercross championship, beating his cousin on night one and Peter Melton on night two. Days later, with just two gear bags full of personal items, they left behind their humble homes, their friends and families, and took on the world.  

Brady cried first. They connected in Hong Kong, and Reed thought to himself, “Oh no.” She chalked it up to a combo of homesickness and facing another 10-hour flight when one had just ended. She recovered, and they continued to their new (temporary) home in Lommel, Belgium. “Everything we bought, everything we purchased, everything we did, was the …”

“Bare minimum,” Brady cut in. “We tried to save our money.” 

Australia held the only event outside Europe that season, and they drove to the rest of the races—Belgium, Germany, Austria, Sweden, France, Switzerland, etc.—in a little motorhome. That alone provided a lifetime’s worth of stories. A day or two before Reed’s 19th birthday, they got to the end of their driveway and didn’t know which way to turn to go to round one in Bellpuig, Spain, about 15 hours away. Remember, this was 2001; the cell phone they shared did nothing more than make phone calls. So, they went to a gas station and Brady bought a map and learned how to read it. “The amount of fights and arguments we had over directions …” but Brady interrupted: “I think we did pretty good! We’d do well on The Amazing Race.”

On April 1, Reed cried. At that moment, Brady discovered her true role. Round two took place in Valkenswaard, Holland. Reed came into the weekend exhausted after hammering moto after moto at a local sand track. In the race, he crashed three times and struggled in the deep, sandy ruts that were unlike anything he’d ever seen. He finished outside the top 15. When he came back to the truck, he removed his helmet, sat on a bike stand in the back of their camper, and sobbed. Brady saw him, steeled herself, and laid into him. 

“WE DIDN’T COME ALL THIS WAY FOR YOU TO BE SITTING IN HERE AND CRYING IN THE TRAILER AND RIDING LIKE SHIT!” she yelled. Seventeen years later she retells the scene with the exact emphasis and tone she used in the Netherlands. He felt like a failure, and Brady wasn’t going to let him do that. They had both sacrificed too much. “Ellie bought into the goal, and that was to make it to America and do whatever it was going to take to do it,” Reed said. “And I think that made us stronger. That brought us closer. We worked as a team.”

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Reed spent the early part of the season outside the top five while Mickaël Pichon ran away with the championship. After five rounds, Reed sat 11th in the standings. At round six, on May 27 in Spa, Belgium, Reed got his first podium, a third. Before the season’s halfway point, talk of Reed’s heading to America spread, and nobody tried hard to keep it a secret. 

At round 12 in Lierop (September), he became the second Australian to win a World MX GP (Jeff Leisk, 1990). By that point in the season, however, Reed had already signed with Yamaha of Troy to race the 125cc (now 250) class in the United States in 2002. The move surprised de Groot, who wanted to keep Reed so badly he told Pro Circuit’s Mitch Payton that he had already re-signed Reed for 2002. Reed said he would have given MXGP one more year in exchange for a guaranteed spot with Team Kawasaki USA in 2003 in the premier class. They wouldn’t do it. 

In October, Reed returned to Australia and won the final two rounds of the Australian Supercross Championship (beating Travis Pastrana, the 2001 125cc East SX champion).  Later that fall, Reed and Brady arrived in the United States just like they had arrived in Europe less than a year earlier: wide-eyed, with only a couple of gear bags in tow. With little money and a tight budget, they spent six weeks in Sharon Richards’ two-bedroom condo with Richards and her then-21-year-old daughter. The director of client services for the agency that orchestrated Reed’s contract, Richards remembers them as two sweet, impressionable and excited kids, happy to be living a dream come true. She helped them navigate purchasing insurance, an automobile and a small house in Southern California. 

Yamaha allowed Reed to race the first three rounds of the 250cc supercross season while he waited for the eastern regional series to begin. On January 5, 2002, he finished 6th in his first-ever premier class attempt. On February 9, he won the first of six-straight 125cc races. In his no-filter, love-it-or-hate-it manner, he let the crowd know that A: This was his lifelong dream, and B: He didn’t really want to be in this class, and C: “I expected to win tonight.” 

A little over two years later, he won the premier class championship. 

“Those early memories are probably the ones that make me most proud, because we were so young and made such huge decisions and things like that, and you don’t realize that it could have went one way or the other back then,” Reed said. “I feel like all these years later, that’s the core of who we were. And here we are.”

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Dade City, Florida. Sunday, February 25, 2018. Morning. 

The morning after the Tampa Supercross, there is no sign of life outside the lakeside golf community home of Chad and Ellie Reed. All four garage doors are closed, and no vehicles sit in the tiled circular driveway. Spanish moss trees form a natural privacy barrier around the property. The neighborhood is so quiet at 10:30 a.m. that it feels abandoned. Inside, kids in pajamas race around the living room, tumbling over couch cushions and gymnastics blocks. Ellie is vacuuming while her three children—Pace, Kiah and Tate (age range 3-7)—play. They’re especially happy this morning because it’s rare when Dad is home for breakfast on a Sunday in winter. Still sporting bedhead, Chad makes a pot of oatmeal. Pace eats his so fast everyone wonders if he threw it all on the ground or fed it to the dogs; his face is covered in chunks of cooked oats. But Lulu the Shih Tzu and Milo the French Bulldog puppy are loitering on the other side of the kitchen, and the floor is clean. Pace grins and laughs. Chad smiles. 

This is Chad Reed at home, the Chad that only family and close friends get to have. He’s a father who shows up at school functions, soccer games, gymnastics practice, who rescues turtles, helps with homework and puts kids to bed every night he’s home, where they talk about their day before turning out the lights. At home, Chad perfects his baking skills with a damn-fine chocolate soufflé and cracks open cookbooks to try something new. The kids especially love Daddy’s eggs. And, in case you’re wondering, the two boys did get Daddy’s piercing blue eyes. 

“He is the sweetest, happiest childlike adult I know,” Ellie said. “I hope one day the other layers peel off and people get to see that. But, of course, it’s the other side of him that helped him get to where he got professionally.” 

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The kids’ lives might be very different from how their mother and father grew up in Kurri Kurri, but Reed knows there’s plenty of value to pass on from his own humble upbringing. “My dad wasn’t an athlete, but I remember him coming home and his hands were red and raw from being a concreter. I want my kids to know that you have to work for it, and I want them to have their own dreams.”

At the races, he balances Chad the racer with Chad the dad, turning one persona off and operating in another. But he doesn’t hide it when he’s upset or frustrated. They don’t want their kids to be satisfied with performances that are less than their best. “The way I grew up, I’d be more disappointed in them if they come off and they’re OK with losing and average. I don’t think [being OK with losing] is a healthy thing. Maybe people will frown upon that but …” he said, trailing off.

Reed struggled in 2018, spent most of his season in frustration, and was not at all OK with his results. Fans grimaced. Watching a legend like Reed (whose 131 supercross podium finishes and 44 wins are the all-time first and fourth) struggle in 2018 was painful. But his fan base didn’t shrink. It grew. Autograph-seekers lined up an hour before the official signing sessions begin. Maybe they want to see a champion one last time before he’s gone. Maybe they’re like Reed, and they just haven’t had enough. 

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Foreman, the Suzuki Australia team manager, said he’s never seen a rider that likes riding a dirt bike as much as Reed. And his ability to adapt—to a new country, a new brand, a new setting, a new way of life—has made him even more special. As a professional, Reed has had moments, years, bikes and teams that he didn’t gel with, that made him wonder if it was time to move on. There was a period when he thought 26 or 27 years old was his time, too, just like it was with Jeff Stanton, Ricky Carmichael, Ryan Villopoto, Ryan Dungey … But then something reignited the passion. 

The thought of not racing anymore seems nonsensical, especially since Chad and Ellie feel like they’re still arriving. “That’s always been our thing,” she said. “You never arrive. It’s not all of a sudden, ‘Good, we’re here, yes!’ No, it’s like you’re constantly trying to get somewhere.”

Maybe Chad Reed is still dreaming. He’s dreaming of another podium, another win, another title, another year of doing the one thing he’s loved more than anything since he was four.

2019 is his 22nd year as a professional athlete. And it doesn’t matter what he wants to do next. Because he hasn’t reached this finish line yet. Because right now he’s still swimming upstream. 

And if this whole thing really is a dream?

Well, he doesn’t want to be woken up.  

Dram

Foraging in the Colorado Rockies

Words by Maggie Gulasey | Photos by Aaron Brimhall


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Today the forest is enveloped with an unusually thick blanket of fog, swallowing the towering mountaintops and illuminating the multitude of greens splattering the woods. So gently the rain falls that when it comes to rest upon a blade of grass, it barely bows. There is, however, enough moisture that it turns the rocks lining the trail into a glistening, slippery surface and constructs miniature ponds at every dimpled point along the terrain. These mountains are undeniably majestic, teeming with brilliant plant and animal life. To hike to this elevated splendor on foot, particularly with today’s weather, would be unreasonable and entail an entire day or more. To travel via auto would guide you only a short distance, as you would quickly encounter trails too narrow and especially intricate and unyielding for any four wheels. 

If you wish to access the botanical bounty near tree line, then a degree of creativity must be applied. Brady Becker and Shae Whitney of DRAM Apothecary have achieved exactly that, utilizing a tool that grants them unique passage to forage untapped regions of the abundant Colorado mountains: a motorcycle. 

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If you are fortunate enough to discover Silver Plume, Colorado, it would not be unusual to experience a sense of enchantment upon arrival. This “living ghost town” is lined with charming Victorian homes, dirt roads, and a gentle creek that slowly meanders through town. It is the kind of area that would fully ignite your imagination with its rich history and 150-year-old architectural remnants that still haunt the streets. In the 1880s this area would have been swelling with over 2,000 residents, mainly composed of silver miners and their families. Legend says silver was so plentiful during the time that much of it lay in feather-like formations—a plume—giving Silver Plume its name. Though present-day Silver Plume is home to less than one-tenth of its peak population, it still retains plenty of mystery and magic. One of the more enigmatic buildings still standing is the Knights of Pythias Lodge (the K.P.), where a secret society once held their private meetings and where an episode of “Unsolved Mysteries” was filmed. While some may call this structure haunted, DRAM Apothecary just calls it home.

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The K.P., located 9,114 feet above sea level, is where DRAM crafts their exquisite bitters, syrups, sodas, and teas. In 2011, motivated by their passion to create a healthy, sustainable, and completely natural product, Becker and Whitney moved to Silver Plume and founded DRAM. The area’s surrounding plant life fuels the pair’s creativity as well as the ingredient list for their bitters. A high concentration of medicinal herbs, roots, or flowers in either alcohol or glycerin, bitters can be incorporated into your daily diet for vibrant health and agreeable digestion or as a flavoring component for cocktails. 

Today, Becker is going to prepare a batch of their Wild Mountain Sage bitters. Although the sky is ominous and the rain is drizzling, it does not stop him from venturing into the woods on his dirtbike in search of the main ingredient: wild sage. 

Becker’s KTM 500 EXC vastly expands his foraging grounds and provides him access to areas that would otherwise be too remote to reach. As a proficient motorcyclist of nearly 20 years, Becker is just as connected to his bike as he is to the environment that surrounds him. Raised by a mother who is a master gardener and florist, Becker has an uncanny understanding of and respect for plant life and knows precisely where to take his motorcycle to uncover the sage.

A brief jaunt down a frontage road and Becker is at the trailhead of Grizzly Gulch, located between two magnificent 14,000-foot peaks being devoured by fog. Swiftly moving through the freshly made ponds and rushing rivers, Becker effortlessly maneuvers his bike higher and higher up the trail. Though the rugged terrain is daunting to tackle on foot, the two wheels glide over it with ease. The trail becomes steep and covered with wet, shifty boulders. Unfazed, Becker coasts up the ice-like surface without even the slightest wobble. What would be an all-day adventure to set about afoot Becker accomplishes in less than an hour on his motorcycle as he finally reaches the secluded haven. 

As if Mother Nature were expecting him, the rain ceases and the fog dissipates, unveiling the impressive mountain peaks still capped with snow. There is an incredible silence blanketing the woods, with the occasional chirp from a bird or splash from a water droplet meeting the ground, interrupting the peaceful quiet. An imaginative brain isolated in these woods could conjure the most terrifying scenarios; every rustle amongst the trees could be a mountain lion stalking you, a hungry bear lurking about, or even an giant bigfoot fuming over your intrusion on his territory. With no time for such head games, Becker sets off to gather wild sage for his bitters. Luckily, the field is generous today and there is more than enough sage to fill Becker’s large bags, which fit perfectly on the back of his bike. 

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A mere two hours later, Becker is back at the K.P. ready to produce a batch of Wild Mountain Sage. Becker and Whitney carefully handpick most of the ingredients for the bitters, intimately connected to every bottle they create. They both boast an extraordinary understanding of their environment and how to artfully utilize the plants in their own backyard to create a delicious and healthful product. Equally impressive is Becker’s knowledge of the land and crafty use of his motorcycle to source the ingredients. This batch of Wild Mountain Sage will contain glycerin, water, sage, orange peel, gentian, and a dash of love provided by Becker and his rainy day adventure on his motorcycle into the foggy Colorado woods.

Endless

Jimmy Hill: Iceland

A Film by Shift MX


Introducing our first ENDLESS project: The Iceland Collection.

Endless represents the limitless opportunities from new products, to new moments that will define the culture, to the endless places to ride a dirt bike. We were inspired by Iceland's black sand beaches, abundant glacial masses and grey overcast skies and it is reflected in the design of this gear set. But our inspiration didn’t stop at just color. More importantly, knitting in Iceland is a traditional craft that has shaped both the lives of locals and the culture that surrounds it. We incorporated this purpose-driven construction in a way specific and beneficial to moto. The end result, our completely redesigned 3LUE Label 2.0 chassis now utilizes engineered knit in our jersey’s and premium materials throughout the rest of the kit. The Iceland gear set: as unique as the craft, the people and the island that inspired it.

The Catalyst

A Message from ATWYLD

Words by Anya Violet


People find their way to a life on two wheels for many different reasons. For some of us, it is not a choice, but an absolute necessity that is deeply engrained in our DNA. It takes a certain genetic makeup to find joy atop a machine propelling you through space at a high velocity. 

It’s easy to wonder why someone would do something that is considered to be so dangerous. Why do people climb mountains, jump out of airplanes or go to the moon? The answer most certainly is: Because we can. The thrill of the ride outweighs the fear of death. What is life without challenge and risk? Within everyone there is a drive to explore and experience, but it is up to the individual to feed that drive or not. Some of us need a little motivation and inspiration.

Think about the first time you saw someone on a motorcycle. Something clicked in your brain. The aerodynamic curves of the bike shaping perfectly around the human body. The power of the machine placed right in the palm of your hand. The motor growling and beckoning to be pushed further and further. The allure of the bike draws you in, and if you allow it, that can introduce you to a new world.

As motorcyclists, the love for the sport resides in our very souls — an almost primal instinct to reach far beyond our comfort zones to the edge. The machine is the catalyst, forever an inspiration to pursue the unreachable and explore the boundaries of what is possible with human and machine.

You can feel the adrenaline build with the twist of the throttle. The day blows off you in the wind as your mind becomes clear and focused. The person that you are away from your bike is gone, and the ride has taken you to a new level. A version of yourself that you did not know was there emerges as you become one with your machine. 

A motorcycle can ignite a drive and passion within you that may otherwise lay dormant for an entire lifetime. Giving in, and letting the thrill wash over you, provides an entirely new way to see life. All of the senses are heightened atop this perfectly built machine as you escape the norm.  A bond grows with every mile and every turn. Whomever you are in the world can be enhanced with a motorcycle. 

Ryan Cox

Lost in the Details

Words & photos by Todd Blubaugh


As I studied his motorcycle before shooting it, I couldn’t help but notice how much it spoke to what I know of Ryan Cox as a person: He is a calculated man who considers many decisions before making one.

The first time I saw this 39 was in Palm Springs at the Paradise Road Show. It stood out among the usual suspects not because it was loud (visually), but because it quietly held my attention over the rest of the noise. I knew immediately who had built it. 

Ryan has always impressed me. His bikes are concise – he designs them without gimmicks, and every detail has a noticeable function. This 39 is thus far my favorite, so I called him on a Friday night and asked if I could shoot it. Thirty minutes later, he was at my office dropping it off after a long day of work. Ryan is a wardrobe stylist here in Los Angeles, which makes a lot of sense if you are looking at this bike – he does not cut corners when it comes to the smallest detail. Although his bikes are custom, he builds them to production standards … taking the time and money to find the proper vintage for all his components. Ryan tells me that he can’t help his OCD, but it clearly has its advantages when styling a job or one of his bikes.

His introduction to motorcycles started in the dirt: He was born in Astoria, Oregon, where a lot of his family still resides. Motorbikes were a household item, and his father used to ride Ryan around on his gas tank at age 2. Ryan had a mini bike by age 6 back in 1986; after mowing lawns all summer, he bought a brand-new XR 80 for $1,200 from the Honda dealership. 

Most of Ryan’s formative years happened in Southern California after his family moved to Thousand Oaks. He fell in love with racing dirt bikes, but always kept an appreciation for Harleys  (his father had been an enthusiast since the ’60s). In his 20s, Ryan started turning his attention toward Choppers. After building a pan, a knuckle and even a Triumph, he started looking at side valve motors. A friend he knew and trusted was selling an 80” 1939 UH. Ryan decided to start this project the moment he saw the motor. It took him a year and a half to collect all the parts and another 10 months to build.  He finished the night before David Mann Chopperfest, where the bike received the David Mann Memorial Award (the most prestigious honor of the show). Since then, the 39 won Best in Show at the Paradise Road Show and Best Flathead at Born Free 10. In September, the bike will head to Milwaukee for the 115-year Harley-Davidson anniversary party.

He told me it was never his intention to build a celebrated artifact.  But that’s just what happens when Ryan gets lost in the details.

By the time I finished shooting his bike, I felt like I knew him a little more deeply. I still consider Ryan to be quiet, but now I understand why. Who needs to explain themselves when their work can do it for them?

First Ride

A We Went Fast Production

Written & produced by Brett Smith | Cinematography by Spencer Grundler


Do you remember the first time you rode a motorcycle? Your first bike? That magical moment became a lifetime memory.

Kids today are not discovering motorcycles at the rate their parents and grandparents did. The motorcycle industry needs new riders. The dealerships need more youth coming in their doors and the local race tracks need more kids signing up to compete.

When the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame asked for a video to kick off the Class of 2018 ceremony, I pitched a concept that aimed to inspire a future hall of famer rather than celebrate the present inductees

“First Ride” acts out the imagination of one boy discovering motorcycles. One child whose life is forever changed.

The Alaskan

Built for the Last Frontier

Words by Alex Earle | Video by Chris Thoms | Photos by Boyd Jaynes


Exploration. What does that even mean in a time when everything has been Google-mapped? Maybe it’s as simple as getting out of your own headspace and challenging yourself in some less familiar game, eschewing the comforts of the routine. And so you enter the Wilderness. And what a place! Powerfully flowing rivers, vast mountains, glaciers, large animals, bush planes: Alaska. Dramatic weather changes favor the well prepared. The endless summertime daylight encourages movement.

An inspirational landscape matched by the lore of the many rugged individuals who have gone before. An opportunity to get off the grid and truly stretch your legs.

A year prior, I came to this place with Michael Vienne on a scouting trip. Seeking routes and identifying what is required to comfortably disappear for a time. We encountered mid-August temperatures as low as 39 degrees and six straight days of driving rain that turned every track into a slimy river of mud. We never saw McKinley, as its 29,000-foot summit was constantly hidden by the clouds. It was a grueling rental bike marathon, but plans were laid and the course was set.  

Returning to my temporary shop space in California, I began to strip down the Ducati Desert Sled that would be transformed into the “Alaskan.” A very simple and robust machine that proved a worthy foundation for the concept. The great distances between fuel stops demanded increased range, so I set about hand-forming larger tanks. The broken terrain demanded taller, super-aggressive tires. The anticipated rock strikes and inevitable get-offs required skid plate and crash bars, and so on. Months of late-night flogging followed by ridiculously limited testing, and the thing was done. Shipped, unproven, to Anchorage.

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Dan Trotti, Chris Thoms, Boyd Jaynes, Nathon Verdugo, Robie Michelin and I converged and collected our bikes. Not one of us has a great deal of experience off-road with fully loaded bikes. And my bike has never before been completely outfitted. It’s all strapped down. New waterproof riding gear zippered up, and we are off. It’s not until an hour of riding has passed that I start to shed the normalcy and thrill at what is to come. 

A few hours later we are on a glacier. The beautifully marbled, glowing ice is compelling, and I am euphoric like a dog let off the leash, hopping across floating ice blocks. The team scatters across the flow. 

Chris expertly pilots a drone above the team as we cross a deep gorge. Quietly capturing the expanse and just how small we are within it. This new tool reveals weather beyond our earthbound line of sight.  

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Unlike the previous year, the weather is ideal. Never any real sense of menace. Raining only long enough to produce a spirit-lifting rainbow. Combined with the endless daylight, you quickly lose all sense of time. You ride longer, eat later and drink a lot of beer. It doesn’t take long to revert to being a limitless, feral animal. Sitting cross-legged in the dirt, well provisioned and happy — grateful for the wall of campfire smoke that is keeping the mosquitos at bay. 

Day Two, and Nathon is wheelying my fully loaded Alaskan through a massive puddle for the camera.  Looks fantastic splashing past at speed.

The bike is resplendent covered in mud and finally has some trail cred. I am elated! It’s holding up to some serious abuse and sounds great. Very comfortable, but still raw enough. I don’t wish to be isolated from the elements — I want to master them.  

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As luck would have it, Nathon’s mom, Kathie, was spending the summer in a camp near Denali National Park.  Kathie is an accomplished rider herself who could certainly still outride any one of us. I’ll never forget how disappointed she looked while inspecting the tracks we left in the mud leading to our camp. “I don’t see any roost!?”   She hooked us up with cabins, hot showers and a chance to make some required repairs to the bikes. My bike was suffering from a split fuel line. Replaced and rerouted, we carried on.  

The next destination was Manley Hot Springs to the north. Of course, we already had been experiencing mosquitos, but in this place they were truly outstanding. So many mosquitos. We beat a hasty retreat into the surreal tropical greenhouse enclosing Japanese-style tubs of naturally heated water. Amazing.  Refreshed, we spent the night drinking at the bar, while helicopter flight crews kept watch on a nearby forest fire, before returning to our tents. We arrived just in time to watch an immense moose and her three calves swim across a slough and clamber up the bank on the far side. 

It was at about this point that I lost all track of time.  

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We headed south towards Talkeetna and Petersville Mining Road. Dan was occasionally trying his luck with the fishing reel. Robie was on a mission to ride every singletrack bypass, and Boyd tirelessly captured images of everything. We established camp on a hilltop surrounded by low, vibrant green shrubs with Mount McKinley looming high in its own atmosphere to our north. This place was heaven. No deadlines or reception. We were in the middle of a network of mine access roads, river crossings, mud and snow. This is where I fully realized the capabilities of the bike I had conceived and assembled for this very purpose. We spent days just exploring various tracks, and I grew to appreciate the machine. Not merely as a motorcycle, but as a conveyance that affords us an experience such as this. It does not shield us from the elements, but rather plunges us more deeply into them. 

Cruzadores Del Sur

Tacos & Treasure in Mexico

Words by Forrest Minchinton | Video by Cameron Goold


Lace up your boots the same way every time. Laces tight, jeans over the boot. Much like how you saddle your horse. She’s made of steel; her tires got air and the chain seems tight. Grab a jacket to keep you warm and the sun off your back and a helmet to catch your brains in case you crash and don’t end up right. Pack some gloves, a pair of shades, and a bedroll for when the sun goes down. Surfboards strapped to the side of your horse and a bar of wax that’s gotta last ya’ ’til you turn home, if or when you decide it’s right. You’re not the first, nor will you be the last. And as soon as the dust settles across the valley, there comes another rider with the same plight. We’re off in search of gold, diamonds, tequila and maybe a nice woman to rub our feet if she will. You might become distracted as the wind blows you to sea, from the shore and into the ocean. Here everything is real. Try it yourself and see how you feel. The waves will make you dance if you do it right. Swell, wind, the land, everything must be just so. It takes a man a lifetime of searching and waiting to really know. Eventually you will forget why you have started south, but then you paddle back out. Washing away the dirt, the dust, the bugs, and if you’re lucky maybe catch a buzz.  It may just stick around and that’s all right.

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You forge on because nary an idle man has ever found what he was after. The next town south.  It faces the great Pacific. She has weathered many a storm and not much is there except a watering hole. From the distance you’ll hear laughter, fishermen, and ranchers. They’ll give you a long, hard stare as you enter…Who the hell are you? And what is it you’re after? De donde eres? Y porque estan aqui? A motorcycle, a surfboard, and not much else to offer. With that you will become friends when they learn it’s just good times thereafter. Neither the fisherman nor the rancher have any interest in the waves you are searching for. It is not a commodity to them. They cannot box it, they cannot sell it, and their children, these men won’t let go hungry. And so the waves, they can be yours forever after. 

For 1,200 miles the Pacific Ocean kisses this rugged peninsula. The wind is relentless, the desert harsh and unforgiving. Fresh water is scarce, and the farther south you go the worse it becomes. That is, until it doesn’t. Eventually it gets better, the ocean begins to warm and worries of home fade with every sunset and every mile. Tacos get cheaper and your appetite grows stronger. You learn and you adapt. Your motorcycle is made of steel, but not even she will last. So you take it easy and only give her as much as she can handle. The road is rough and long, and you can’t afford to be stranded. You ride long enough until the next bay, the next swell, and when the wind hits just right, take off your boots, and paddle out. You’re headed south and there’s something you’re after. I think it was gold or maybe it was diamonds or tequila?  Once you get there you might realize it’s really just freedom that you have come to master.

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The Chase

Racing Trains in Moscow

A film by Daniel Kushnarevich


Andrey Essaulov is a coach who trains enduro riding in Moscow and he is a close friend of filmmaker Daniel Kushnarevich. They have produced several projects together and Andrey is always willing to help Daniel with his crazy ideas, but this time it was the other way around...

Daniel received a call from Andrey early one morning. He told Daniel that he found a great spot to fulfill his old idea of racing a train. They only had two days before Andrey had to leave Moscow and were only able to shoot in the early morning when the trains run. So two days in a row they woke up at 4am and standing at the first station by 6 waiting for a train. The first day was a "test" day. Andrey and his friend Alex were checking the road, speed, spots where you can go closer/further from train. Daniel shot some footage on a drone and the next day decided to bring a second cameraman, Sergey. As the guys were chasing a train Daniel was riding a Honda CL400 with Sergey on the back at the speeds of 25-30 mph. For the last train ride Sergey sat on the train and filmed the whole ride from the window.

Good times in Moscow. Thanks for watching!

Walt Siegl

Enigma

Video by Outsider Media | Words by Andrew Campo


Upon first sight, I stopped and stood back a few feet. I was nervous to get too close, and admittedly was overwhelmed in its presence. It was an instinctive reaction that could be compared to an encounter with something rare and exquisite in stature. As if I were in a museum eyeing down an eminent piece of art. I needed the space in an effort to begin taking it in; there was a lot to pore over. As my eyes wandered, and I soaked in the color system, the chassis and the bodywork, I hastily fell in love.

Standing before me was a Walt Siegl Motorcycles Leggero that belongs to a close friend of mine. After spending a few minutes in a trancelike state, I began to ponder putting together this story. I wanted to learn more about this enigma of a man and the intellect behind the remarkable design and execution unique to his brand. I wanted to share my findings with our readers and dress our pages with images of machines worthy of revisiting time and time again. Walt is a craftsman and an engineer, and his bikes are a tangible expression of both passion and artistry.

Photo by Daniela Maria

Photo by Daniela Maria

At age 19, Walt left art school in his native Austria to join a road racing team. He later worked in France as a shunter in a train yard and as a toolmaker and welder throughout Germany, Austria and Italy. A job with an Austrian steel company took him to Moscow, where he eventually joined the Austrian Foreign Service.

In 1985 he transferred to New York City for a position promoting contemporary Austrian art and culture for the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Walt spent his free time building motorcycles for himself and friends out of a basement across the river in Long Island City.

In 2007 he moved his workshop and his family to an old mill town in southern New Hampshire to build motorcycles full time—and the rest is history in the making.

Success can often be attributed to the people with whom you choose to surround yourself. We turned to one of Walt’s close friends, Paulo Rosas, to help pull together insight from Walt’s cadre, peers, family and esteemed clients, all in an effort to take an outside look into the life of one of the most respected and intriguing people in motorcycling.


Photo by David Goldman

Photo by David Goldman

Laura Carden - Walt’s Wife

My husband, Walt, is a true artist and craftsman of motorcycles. His vision, and then the precision of his implementation of that vision, knocks me out every time. 

I love the sketching phase of a new model design. To see what has arrived in his brain, like magic, fully formed. I like it also because he’s home for that part. He’s at the kitchen table, with our son’s colored pencils spread around him. 

If I could use only one word to describe Walt’s work, I think it would be “pure.” 

Walt takes profile pictures of projects at every stage and then pores over the images at home. He says looking in two dimensions is the only way for him to get the lines right. 

Typical conversation over morning coffee:

Me: “What are you thinking about?”

Walt: “Boxed swingarms.”

At the workshop, Walt will call me from my bookkeeping desk to stand with him at a certain spot, to look at a motorcycle, to get my opinion on the line made by an exhaust pipe held a half inch up or down, for example, or for my opinion of an overall profile. Or at completion, he will ask if there is absolutely anything at all that my eye is tripping on. I love that he really wants to know. These days it’s rare I find anything. Final completion is always breathtaking. 

I love working with Walt and Aran and Brian at the shop—being around these guys who love what they are doing, who have lived and breathed motorcycles their entire lives. I think it’s a dream for all of us!

Chris Hunter - Founder, Bike EXIF

If there’s a phrase that springs to my mind whenever I think of Walt, it’s “class act.” He’s a gentleman with an unerring sense of taste and style: an elegant Paul Newman, rather than a loutish Steve McQueen.  

It shows in his work. There are maybe five builders in the world who consistently hit the mark with every new creation, and Walt is one of them. Generally, when a builder gets in touch with us to say, “I’ve finished a new bike,” we’ll say, “Send us the details and we’ll take a look.”  But when Walt drops us a line, we say “Yes” automatically. You just know it’s going to be well designed, beautifully finished, and carefully photographed.

I suspect Walt’s success comes from the rich experiences he’s had in life. He’s lived in France, Italy and the Soviet Union. His family has a history of artistry. He’s raced bikes. He’s what you might call a well-rounded man.

Last year, I judged the best custom show in Australia: the Machine Show in Braidwood. There were some stunning bikes on display, from vintage British cafe racers to old-school choppers. I noticed a group of people milling around a bike parked just outside the showgrounds, away from the official show area. After squeezing my way through, I realized that it was a WSM Leggero. It was exquisite—as good as any of the machines in the official display.

I’ve seen a lot of custom builds in my time, but since that moment, I’ve wanted a Leggero in my garage more than any other machine.

Photo by David Goldman

Photo by David Goldman

Nicholas Harrison - Customer and friend

In 2012 I realized that I wanted a more personalized motorcycle experience. I started researching builders and saving images of builds that appealed to me. After two years, I noticed a common recurrence. Many of my saves were Walt Siegl-built bikes. 

Walt and I connected in 2014, and our first conversation lasted more than half an hour. We had actually briefly met at a track day in Canada two years earlier and had more in common than I expected. We agreed to move forward with a Leggero build, and my wife and I flew to NH to discuss the details. 

Walt met us at The General Store before taking us on a tour of the shop. We immediately felt comfortable and were happy with our choice of builder. What we didn’t know then was how special our friendship with Walt and Laura would become. 

Our Leggero build took a detour as we met the first WSM MV Agusta Bol d’Or at the inaugural dinner hosted at the shop in 2015. I agreed to buy one. This made it the first WSM bike I would take delivery of. Simplicity, form and balance at its best. This truly was a work of art. 

The experience of the build was flawless. Having the opportunity to design the livery with Walt that paid homage to Agostini was a dream come true. What I didn’t anticipate was the riding experience being as visceral as it was. This bike made every other motorcycle in my garage expendable. 

My donor bike for the Leggero build had already been delivered to the shop the same weekend as the inaugural dinner. On one of my visits to finalize details for the Bol d’Or, Walt mentioned that he was developing an idea for a new build that would be different from his Leggero builds. I decided to wait, and the Superbike that was just unveiled at the Classic Car Club in Manhattan turned out to be breathtakingly beautiful. 

The way Walt sees shapes and is able to put them together, keeping them simple yet beautiful and functional, is magical. There are too many special features on this build to list. I am very excited to ride this bike in anger at the track. 

Just recently, I was lucky enough to also add a Leggero to my collection. This bike is truly a combination of all of the best bikes I own and then some. The weight and handling are incredible. The sound, the clutch, the transmission—all perfection. Wow, just wow!!! I cherish every moment I have riding these incredible, functional pieces of art. 

Walt’s desire to always stay true to the process and still please his clients adds tremendously to the overall experience. His patience and gentle demeanor bring added class, and these experiences are indelibly etched into my memory.

Paulo Rosas - Pagnol

I met Walt and his right-hand man Aran Johnson at the Austin GP in 2015; they were both super easygoing, and we just hit it off. It was such a pleasure to meet one of my design-inspired heroes, but it was also great to see that Walt was equally nice to fans throughout the weekend. He proved to be a genuine and very approachable person who carried a sense of mystic unique to his character.

At the end of the weekend, I asked him if he would like to be a part of the Pagnol creative riders features, and he said that it would be his honor. A friendship was built, and in time Walt introduced me to one of his best friends and customer Nicholas Harrison, and a circle of friends had come to life.

I was always eager to do livery design work in “the new customs scene,” and better yet, with a WSM bike! The opportunity finally came when Walt asked me to do this for one of his MV Agusta Bol d’Or series bikes built for competition at the Barber Vintage festival.

His persona is that of an elegant and tasteful guy, but this might come across as somewhat “serious”—but he has  a great sense of humor and often is very funny.

WSM’s latest series is the stunning SBK bike, for which Nicholas ordered the very first one, and my pleasure of working a livery for a WSM bike was repeated when collaborating with Nicholas—with Walt’s eye alongside on the process for his blessing. 

Photo by David Goldman

Photo by David Goldman

Bruce Meyers - Meyers Perfomance

Part of why I do this is to keep my mind focused on continued learning and to keep exploring new things. I feel very lucky in having worked with some very talented people and advanced companies over the years. Walt is right up there with the best of them!

Back in the ’90s, Walt became a customer of my shop. The good old Ducati 916 brought us together. We became close friends over the years. When he set up shop here in New Hampshire, Susie and I got involved with his new venture. We really want Laura and Walt to be successful.

WSM engines have evolved quite a bit over the years. He has a good eye for colors. The new coatings are very nice, but until a few heat cycles, they are easy to damage, so the process is a delicate one.

I don’t think the guys who bought the early bikes likely understand what a great buy they got.

The new Superbike has made the specs higher again. Now there are some advanced, very high-end builds going on. Especially with the first air-cooled bike.

It’s going to get fun!

Photo by Matt Kiedaisch

Photo by Matt Kiedaisch

Aran Johnson - WSM Lead Technician 

When I first started working with Walt in the spring of 2014, he almost seemed nervous and cautious of my ability to produce the final product he was looking for. He had a way he had done things for a long time that had worked to that point. It was an interesting beginning, but it didn’t take long for us to get into a groove and work seamlessly with each other. 

Over the last four years, our relationship has become very symbiotic; on a daily basis we will bounce ideas off each other, and try to always innovate and improve the bikes with things other builders aren’t doing. Walt has a great imagination when it comes to designing bikes, and I try to always take his ideas and make them a reality, or at least come to some kind of compromise. My background is much more technical when it comes to motorcycles; I love advanced mechanical and electronic features and have been able to incorporate a lot of these types of things into our bikes.

I consider Walt a friend first and a boss second; we have a relationship that allows us to speak freely about design and functionality, sometimes disagreeing, but always respecting each other.  We are not a reality show; we actually like one another and are both focused on the same goals. Anytime I find a new way to improve performance or the process, Walt is on board. He is very enthusiastic about trying something different; even if it doesn’t work out, we’ll give it a try. 

One of the things that sets us apart from some other builders is the fact that Walt genuinely cares about the clients and their input. We always strive to go above and beyond with the vibe they are looking for. That being said, we don’t build things just for a “theme”; it has to function. We talk a lot about how things function at the highest level and inherently look good. Sometimes simpler is better. Clean-looking bikes with the highest level of detail are our priority.

Photo by Matt Kiedaisch

Photo by Matt Kiedaisch

Jamie Waters - REV‘IT!

Walt’s Leggero series bikes are modern-day Fabergé eggs: Each one shares major common design elements, but the results are still somehow wholly unique and special. 

It was obvious from the first few I laid eyes on that he’d essentially perfected the frame/tank/seat/fairing aesthetic, while also allowing enough personalization potential to still achieve machines of differing character. Walt’s experience as a fabricator and racer, in combination with his sculptor’s hand, yields bike of incomparable overall capability and beauty. 

Working with Walt on my bikes was an absolute pleasure. The final product distilled my core wants into a cohesive package, while keeping me from pushing for design elements that would have ultimately hurt the overall design. 

Every time I look at one of Walt’s bikes, I am reminded of the old adage “price is what you pay, value is what you get” ... and then I smile.

In This Wilderness

National Parks: Wyoming

Words by Derek Mayberry | Photos by Jimmy Bowron


Countless unread corporate emails, an obsessive boss, my loving family, and the Denver skyline — all slowly disappeared in my rearview.  Ahead of me, six riders from different walks of life, all with a common focus; the Wyoming National Parks; and the miles ahead of us on a collection of Triumphs.  It wasn’t long after breakfast in Fort Collins that we diverged from the original plan of taking a beeline route to Thermopolis for the first leg of the journey. No one muttered the words, but we all shared the same opinion: Damn the timeline; let the road guide us as it may.  Avoiding the mundane miles I-25 had in store for us, we opted for an indirect route to the Wyoming border by way of a winding ribbon of asphalt that snaked its way through the river valley of Poudre Canyon.

With a timetable as the least of our concerns, we stopped often to soak in colorful characters across sparse Wyoming towns. Split Rock Bar and Café in Rawlins, Wyoming, was an unexpected time warp back to a place before free Wi-Fi and a trendy latte selection were pretentious expectations.  A bar lined with dusty whiskey bottles that have probably been around since Evel landed his first jump back in 1965, and a pool table that had more miles on it than the rusty pickup truck out front. We could hardly pull ourselves away from this timeless Wyoming watering hole.  Across the street at Monk King Bird pottery, a disheveled Byron Seeley eagerly showcased his peculiar handcrafted clay creations.  His skin had a terracotta patina only decades of UV exposure and pottery dust could replicate.  Seeley embodied an authentic connection with the Earth that only Mother Nature could fully grasp.  After a brief stop in the welcoming town of Lander to sync up with a couple of old friends, we carved our way through Wind River Canyon as the sun set, and wrapped up Day One in the novel town of Thermopolis, known simply as the Gateway to Yellowstone Country.

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As we crested the Continental Divide on the second day, catching our first glimpse of the jagged Grand Teton, the rider ahead of me raised his arms as if to give praise to the glory of these natural wonders.  Although tucked away inside a helmet of my own, which meant having no way to communicate with him, I knew what he was feeling at that exact moment: reverence.  With our odometers clicking off the miles, we eventually traded steel skyscrapers for metamorphic crag towers.

Arriving at what would be our home for the next few days at the Pacific Creek campground just outside of Moran, Wyoming, we scouted the river bank, constructed our tents, and lit the obligatory campfire.  Stories of past adventures flowed as effortlessly as the whiskey, and when the laughter eventually dwindled with the last few burning embers, we were left with sounds of nature and an abyss of stars overhead.  

Photo by Ansel Adams

Photo by Ansel Adams

I found myself alone, staring immensely into the majestic star-filled sky. I had anticipated this moment for some time now, but was hardly prepared for the grand display overhead. My thoughts drifted roughly ten miles upstream, as the crow flies, and 76 years back in time as I recalled a photograph Ansel Adams had taken back in 1942, known simply as “The Tetons and the Snake River.” The photograph is one of 115 image files located on the Golden Records aboard the Voyager 1 and 2 interstellar spacecrafts launched in 1977. 

The phonographic records containing image and audio information were made as a message in the hope that any intelligent extraterrestrial life forms might be affected by humanity and its position in the universe, even if the likelihood of this is extremely low, and humanity may no longer exist by the time it is discovered. With an estimated lifetime of 500 million years, the records should at least bear witness to the fact that we existed on a planet that I find incredibly beautiful.

These records are somewhere out there deep in the universe, and as I lie in the valley cradled by the Tetons, I remind myself of a quote by General Omar Bradley that truly hit home: “...we steered by the stars, not by the lights of each passing ship.” The meaning is simple: It is meant as a reminder to set goals according to things that remain constant and that we can for sure rely on. If we set a course based on moving targets, we’ll never reach our intended destination. 

I let this sink in and say a prayer or two in hopes of warding off a bear attack before closing my eyes in anticipation of tomorrow’s ride. At that moment, I was unequivocally connected with the Universe. 

“Wherever we go in the mountains… we find more than we seek”

—John Muir

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As dawn broke against the Tetons the following morning, and we shook off spirits from the night before, we hustled to get our bikes pointed toward the Yellowstone South Entrance. We had a full day of riding ahead of us, and the sense of exemption that a motorcycle can provide had never been stronger. Throughout our tour of the Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks, it was as if I had clicked down through the gears of time and slowed to appreciate what has always been here, this grand landscape and the way our national parks system has framed it so well.

Struck by the sheer vastness of the nearly 4,000 square miles these national parks encompass, I was reminded of an Eckhart Tolle piece in which he analyzed how we identify with an object through the illusion of ownership: “The absurdity of owning something becomes even more apparent in the case of land. In the days of the white settlement, the natives of North America found ownership of land an incomprehensible concept…They felt they belonged to the land, but the land did not belong to them.”  This resonates even more so after experiencing these parks in person.  Studying the route on a two-dimensional map filled with borders and boundary lines provided a very limited perspective.  But standing there, at the foot of the Tetons, I quickly realized the absurdity behind the concept of owning such a boundless creation.  In awe, I willingly surrendered myself to the mountains’ omnipotence.

Human history of the Grand Teton region dates back at least 11,000 years, when the first nomadic hunter-gatherers began migrating into the region during warmer months pursuing food and supplies. Grand Teton National Park is an almost pristine ecosystem and the same species of flora and fauna that have existed since prehistoric times can still be found here.  Having this knowledge helped me to see this landscape from a unforgettable point of view. Out here, life is neither long nor short. This place is freedom, and this grand show is eternal.

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“I declare this world is so beautiful that I can hardly believe it exists.” 

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Experiencing it all behind the bars of my Bonneville couldn’t have been more gratifying.  From the caustic aroma of sulfur pools to the crosswinds sweeping into Hayden Valley, the sensations came at nature’s will, unfettered and pure. Witnessing the connection between this wilderness and humanity was even more apparent through the expressions of wonderment on the faces of both young and old as the crowd’s collective attention focused on Old Faithful erupting yet again, right on time. 

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This was the first journey of its kind for me, and it presented an interesting dichotomy.  On one hand, there’s an undeniable sense of individuality when you’re on a motorcycle, a solo pilot in full control of your own personal destiny.  At the same time, there’s that common thread among fellow riders, stitching together a unique tapestry of the visceral experience shared across each and every person in the group.  At times, the pack would stretch out, seven riders in tandem equally spaced over a quarter mile; the gap between us was physically apparent as the road would sweep and bend around the Wyoming landscape. However, I knew we were all there in the same space, ever present in the moment. 

Today’s civilization continues to migrate to these places, but to get our souls fed, instead. Many who have come before us have so eloquently captured the grandeur, whether through the lens of Ansel Adams or the words of John Muir. We are reminded of our connection with what’s existed for millions of years and will remain long after we’re gone.

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A few days into the excursion, it was time to begin our return trip back to Denver. Back to life as we know it. The road home provided ample time to reflect on the national park experience, with a renewed sense of gratitude and appreciation we headed out through Wyoming’s southern plains and into the Colorado night.  

Seven of us had come together to venture out with our sights set on a temporary reprieve. We all know that we have a finite time here, yet we have a difficult time living that way, struggling with the transitory nature of our lives. This was an opportunity to put those difficulties aside and to focus on the now, to remind ourselves of how grateful we are to live in this land and in this moment.

Because in this wilderness lies the hope of the world.