Motorcycle Boy


The Legendary Tigerman

A film by James F. Coton & Masato Riesser


Step inside the world of Japanese motorcycle subculture, Bōsōzoku.

 

 

Bōsōzoku motorcycle gangs first appeared in the 1950s and popularity climbed throughout the 1980s and 1990s, peaking at an estimated 42,510 members in 1982.  Bōsōzoku style takes inspiration from American Choppers and Greasers and traditionally involves jumpsuits  or leather military jackets with baggy pants, tall boots, Hachimaki head bandanas, surgical masks, and patches displaying the Japanese Imperial Flag. This uniform became known as the tokkō-fuku (特攻服, "Special Attack Clothing"). Bōsōzoku members are known for their wild style, customizing Japanese road bikes with oversized fairings, sweeping handlebars, tall seats and extravagant paint jobs.


Produced by NOSIDE 
In association with PEERMUSIC FRANCE / ALTER K / SONY MUSIC FRANCE & METROPOLITANA
thelegendarytigerman.lnk.to/Misfit 

Cinematographer — Alexandre Jamin
Editor — Zoé Sassier
Color Grading — Robin Risser
featuring Takayuki Kaneoya — Kokoro Tanaka — Kohei Osawa 

Executive producers — Morgan Prêleur & Rémi Sello
Line producer — Aurore Taddei
Assistant producer — Cécile Augé
Japan production service — TOKYO ACT 2
Japan exec. producer —  Kenji Leprêtre Sato 
Japan production assistant — David Dicembre

Sound operator — Edan Mason
Gaffer — Ryuto Iwabuchi
1st assistant camera — Kateb
Flame artist — Francois Londard

Post-production — EVEREST STUDIO
Senior post-producer — Sylvain Obriot
Post production coordinator — Lučka Leskovec
Additional sound mixer — Damien Tronchot
Sound design supervision BMM NETWORK
Japanese translator — Yumiko Seki
Special thanks — THE SPECTER GANG, Gery Bouchez at NOD PARIS, John at KINOU PARIS, Paulo Ventura.
With the support of the CNC and SACEM

The Making of Lotawana


 Behind the Scenes with Trevor Hawkins & Todd Blubaugh

Interview by Ben Giese


 

In our idealistic concept of the American Dream, life should be better, richer and fuller for everyone. Our modern Land of Opportunity provides more access to information and greater tools for creativity than ever before, but somehow it has become increasingly more challenging to live outside the box and carve your own path through life. Society has created a strict set of rules to live by and structured guidelines to follow. But does it have to be this way? Do we have to live by this formula and fall into this trap, or can we rewrite our own rules of modern existence?

 

 

Filmmaker Trevor Hawkins explores these ideas in his beautiful new cinematic masterpiece, Lotawana.  In the feature film starring our friend Todd Blubaugh, empty materialism and the constraints of modern culture have pushed an unfulfilled young man on a voyage of discovery. Escaping to nature by living aboard a sailboat on a rural Missouri lake, he is seeking something more, something beautiful, something real. After setting sail on this journey, he promptly catches wind of a rebellious and free-spirited young woman, and their idealistic dreams align. As they let go, they fall head-first into the ambitious, yet unprepared, idea of leaving their old world far behind. 

This is a very relevant conversation for our generation, and Trevor has poured his heart and soul into producing an inspirational film. He has risked everything to follow his intuition, feed his creativity and bring this movie to life. 

Complete trust in the path you’ve chosen and confidence in your vision is an admirable thing. Our pal Todd is very much the same – a talented photographer, writer, motorcycle builder, creative thinker and ramblin’ spirit who has even published his own book.  I’ve got a tremendous amount of respect for these two and the lives they have chosen, and these admirable traits become self-evident when watching Lotawana.

For Volume 011, I interviewed Trevor and Todd to learn more about the inspiration behind this story, the challenges of independent filmmaking, and how youth, love, rebellion, nostalgia, freedom and wanderlust are woven throughout.

 

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Trevor, what inspired you to want to produce a full-length movie? That’s quite an ambitious undertaking. Is Lotawana your first project of this scale?

 

Trevor: Movies had never been a big part of my life growing up at the lake, aside from casual passing entertainment. Then one week in high school, my buddy Brian Freeborn showed me Donnie Darko, Requiem for a Dream and A Clockwork Orange down in his parents’ basement, and it changed my life. I remember sitting in the dark after each film ended and thinking to myself, “Movies can do that?” They made me feel things I’d never felt before, and I instantly became obsessed with filmmaking and trying to create emotions for other people through film. From then on, I dreamed of making my own full-length movie and being in production of my first by the time I was 30. Then one day when I was 27, I lackadaisically asked my wife, “How long does it take to make a movie?” To which she replied, “You’d better get started now!” So we met up with our friend and producer Nathan Kincaid, who informed me that we couldn’t start without a script. I went home and Googled “how to write a script,” and immediately started writing what became Lotawana.

 

  Trevor Hawkins | Photo by Tucker Adams

Trevor Hawkins | Photo by Tucker Adams

 

Without spoiling the movie, can you guys tell me a little bit about the story, the concept, the location, the characters, and the inspiration behind all of it?

 

  Lotawana slate | Photo by Nicola Collie

Lotawana slate | Photo by Nicola Collie

Trevor: Lotawana is based on the real-life Lake Lotawana, Missouri, where I’ve lived my entire life. It made sense to set my first movie here because we could easily shoot for free, and one of the two main characters, Forrest (played by Todd), is loosely based on a younger version of myself. I used to make great efforts abandoning what I perceived as an artificial materialistic culture in favor of a more natural and adventurous lifestyle – much the way Thoureau and [Christopher] McCandless did. I had a dream to sail around the world with a couple of buddies, but as I got older, I started to realize that my passion for creating art and filmmaking began to outweigh my drive for this idealistic pursuit. Perhaps I’d gotten these adventurous ideals out of my system, but soon it became apparent that if I left everything in my life to sail for a few years, I’d have to greatly postpone my dearest goal: making a movie. My reluctant decision to withdraw from the massive sailing trip was further persuaded by falling in love with the girl of my dreams right before our scheduled bon voyage. As I started to realize my pursuit of art and love made more sense to who I’d now become, it dawned on me: Perhaps there’s a way to do both? Could I live a more genuine, fulfilled life without abandoning everything I know and love for splendid isolation? Lotawana explores this idea. I like to think of this film as a sort of thought experiment and question to the viewer: Can we rewrite our own rules of modern existence or does society operate its way for a reason? And I ended up marrying the girl!

 

Todd: How shall we proceed when society’s playbook has nothing to offer? And what will we become when society attacks our idealism? 

Every generation has a different response to the story, but they all seem to be cheering for these two characters to make their way… A twentysomething couple with no money and no faith in the established system… it’s a very relevant conversation for millennials, who now face an even more polarized society with even less security. 

 

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How Long Did It Take You Guys To Film Everything? 

 

Trevor: We filmed for a frigid week in early February of 2015, and then for over a month in the following late summer and fall.

 

In the movie, Forrest rides a motorcycle and there are several captivating riding segments throughout.  Is the motorcycle element intended to have any greater significance or meaning in the story, or is it simply just part of Forrest’s character?  In my opinion there could definitely be a connection to the overall concept.

 

Todd: The bike and the boat have set Forrest free from the constraints of modern society. This is where he lives and how he moves. When we see him on these vehicles, it feels like he is getting somewhere, or his plan is somehow working… You just want him to keep going. 

 

  The XT500 | Photo by Todd Blubaugh

The XT500 | Photo by Todd Blubaugh

Trevor: Exactly. Many people don’t realize that the sailing and motorcycle culture parallels, and they are perfect analogs for each other. They’re both about freedom and exploration of one’s world and oneself – the main difference being one path perpetually hides grease and oil under the fingernails, while perpetually hides grease and oil under the fingernails, while the other hides salt in the hair. So naturally the motorcycle segments truly completed the free-spirited nature of the movie and fit perfectly with who the character of Forrest is: a person living an alternative lifestyle in search of a more meaningful existence. I just couldn’t imagine him driving a car. When Todd agreed to do the film, it all came together beautifully. We were able to flesh out the motorcycle scenes much more than I originally imagined because he’s such a great rider. The dude shreds! Both Todd and Nic [Nicola Collie] did all of their own riding and stunts.

 

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Did you guys have any financial backing or support?

 

  Trevor Hawkins filming Todd Blubaugh | Photo by Tucker Adams

Trevor Hawkins filming Todd Blubaugh | Photo by Tucker Adams

Todd: Trevor mortgaged his house …  It is actually on the real Lake Lotawana … Isn’t this how all movies get made?

 

Trevor: Ha! We financed half the film with the savings from commercial work through my company, Mammoth, and half with a loan against our house (which we’re still paying on). We had a couple of opportunities for financing, but the film would’ve suffered creative sacrifices. So after considering other options, we decided to do it on our own. 

 

Doing it on your own is very respectable.  What are some of the biggest challenges or hurdles that you have faced as an independent filmmaker?

 

Trevor: So far the biggest hurdle has been finding distribution for the film. We admittedly fit the stereotype of the hopeless romantic creatives that neglected the importance of a proper distribution strategy. We believed that we should focus on making the best movie possible, and that the rest would take care of itself. We’ll see!  

 

Todd: For me – doubt. Doubt is the biggest hurdle. Investing in these long-term, artistic projects really makes me question my vision and purpose. There is no security or guarantee that the work will pay off, but eventually, I do it just to free myself … because until I start working on an idea, it is all you can think about. And that is even harder to live with … when inspiration tells me to do something important, but I choose to listen to the doubt. But it does get easier once I get started. Trevor and I talked about shooting a feature film for 10 years now. I guess we finally got to the point where we couldn’t put it off anymore.

 

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I’m sure there is great freedom and liberation found in doing it yourself.  What were some of the positive aspects of being independent on this project?

 

Trevor: Definitely. This was a very personal story for me, and I couldn’t imagine creating the whole movie with a bean counter armed with focus group reports looking over my shoulder the entire time. But then again, this may be the very reason we don’t have distribution lined up yet. So, who knows? At the end of the day, I’ll always be happy that I made my first film entirely the way I wanted. And honestly, with the help of a great team and some serendipitous luck, it turned out better than I thought it would.  

 

Todd: That’s hard to answer for me because that is all I know. I’ve never had financial support or backing from anyone … just passion and dedicated people. But I will tell you that whether this movie is a success or not, it feels pretty damn good to follow through with something you have been thinking about for over a decade.

 

  Trevor Hawkins prepping camera on car rig | Photo by Tucker Adams

Trevor Hawkins prepping camera on car rig | Photo by Tucker Adams

 

Cheers to that.  I have to say, one thing that stood out to me is the cinematography. It is absolutely beautiful.  The framing of your shots, the light, the color, everything.  What is your background, trevor?  You obviously have an artistic eye.

 

  Trevor Hawkins reviewing underwater footage | Photo by Tucker Adams

Trevor Hawkins reviewing underwater footage | Photo by Tucker Adams

Trevor: Well, thanks so much, man! I first picked up a camera and began filming my friends skateboarding and wakeboarding in high school around the same time I watched those three movies that fateful week with Freeborn. Then I started a media company called Mammoth (MammothMedia.tv) and have been working as a filmmaker and photographer ever since. Shooting, coloring and editing have always been some of my favorite parts of filmmaking, and I guess all my years behind the lens prepped me to shoot and edit my first feature. I did want to hire a cinematographer for Lotawana, though, but couldn’t afford a good one, so I just shot and colored it myself. And I will say, shooting and directing simultaneously can get tough at times. Your director/performance brain needs to separate from your photographer brain, but you need to do both at the same time. Half the time I’d be concentrated on the performance, and the other half I’d be concentrated on the way the light is hitting them. And honestly, it made editing a bit difficult at times, trying to balance the two worlds, because the best performance wasn’t always the take with the best photography. And if there was ever a question, I always chose for performance – ultimately no one in the audience cares about my light as much as the characters. Hopefully, next movie I’ll be able to hire a DP [director of photography] that’s much more talented than I am and be able to focus much more on directing the performances.

 

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How did this cast come together?  Did you all know each other prior or did you become friends through this project?

 

 

Trevor: I’ve known Todd for about a decade and knew he’d be absolutely perfect to play the lead role. He’s originally from here in the Midwest, and ever since I’ve known him, he’s been in pursuit of genuine life experiences, putting lots of effort into living that alternative lifestyle himself. Funnily enough, when I first called and asked him to play the lead in my first movie, he said no. He wanted to be behind the lens where he’s comfortable. Disappointed, the whole Lotawana team held multiple rounds of casting calls, and after failing to find the perfect Forrest, I called him back and told him he was going to do it whether he wanted to or not. He begrudgingly agreed, and it all evolved beautifully from there.  

  Trevor Hawkins | Photo by Todd Blubaugh

Trevor Hawkins | Photo by Todd Blubaugh

Todd: Nicola stepped in and saved us after we lost two different lead actresses. It was rough, because we had already shot all the winter scenes. We were forced to mount a full-scale casting assault, and I actually found Nicola on Instagram … I sent her a DM after she commented on one of our behind-the-scenes updates. She auditioned and was better then anyone … She had not done any acting, either, but that didn’t bother Trevor. Finding her saved the production.

 

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So, neither todd nor nicola have done any professional acting before?

 

Trevor: Ha, nope! But if you’ve seen the film, then you probably agree that they were incredible. I’m beyond happy with both of them, and I’m so happy I pressed Todd to say yes. They were both perfect.

 

  Trevor Hawkins & Ryan Pinkston filming Nicola Collie |   Photo by Nathan Kincaid

Trevor Hawkins & Ryan Pinkston filming Nicola Collie | Photo by Nathan Kincaid

So what’s next?  What is your plan for the release, and when and where can people watch your film?

 

Trevor: Right now we’re currently seeking distribution. We’ve had our local cast and crew premieres and have entered into a few of the top-tier film festivals, but haven’t had any doors really open up for us yet. Honestly, we don’t really know how to answer this question until we get it in front of the right set of eyeballs. So if anyone is interested in helping us in any way, we’d really appreciate it, and we can be contacted through our website, LotawanaMovie.com. We’re also hoping once Lotawana gets picked up, it’ll open up an opportunity to make a second movie, which I’ve already begun writing, The Velvet Elk

 

Todd: Wouldn’t it be poetic if someone sees this interview and wants to distribute it?  That would be one hell of a story.


Featured in Volume 011

Pastrana Goes Evel


Travis Pastrana Is Carrying on the Legacy of Evel Knievel With Three Incredible Jumps

Words & photos by Sean MacDonald


 

Travis Pastrana is currently at a secret West Coast practice facility where he has a week to learn some new aerial stunts on a very different motorcycle. He’s ditching the dirt for the “Evel Live” event that will see him recreating three of Evel Knievel’s most famous stunts in Las Vegas.

Travis will complete a series of three jumps in the three-hour live event. The first is the famous 50 car jump Evel originally completed at the Los Angeles Coliseum in November of 1973. Pastrana is upping the ante two cars, making for a 144-foot, six-inch gap between the nine-foot-tall takeoff and six-foot-tall landing.

The second jump sees Pastrana recreating Evel’s bus jump, only he once again adds two to Evel’s 14 for a total of 16 greyhound buses. The 400-foot inrun on this jump culminates in an 11’11” takeoff, just four inches above the 11’7” tall buses. This jump puts Travis in the air for 155 feet before landing on the fairly short 147-foot offramp.

For this third act of the three-hour show, Pastrana will recreate the Caesar’s Palace fountain jump which left Evel Knievel in a coma for a month following the crash in his 1967 attempt. In this jump, the most difficulty comes from an Indian that doesn’t accelerate as quickly as the dirtbikes Pastrana and most guys use for distance jumps, and the inrun is only 203 feet long.

 

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Travis will complete a series of three jumps in the three-hour live event. The first is the famous 50 car jump Evel originally completed at the Los Angeles Coliseum in November of 1973. Pastrana is upping the ante two cars, making for a 144-foot, six-inch gap between the nine-foot-tall takeoff and six-foot-tall landing.

The second jump sees Pastrana recreating Evel’s bus jump, only he once again adds two to Evel’s 14 for a total of 16 greyhound buses. The 400-foot inrun on this jump culminates in an 11’11” takeoff, just four inches above the 11’7” tall buses. This jump puts Travis in the air for 155 feet before landing on the fairly short 147-foot offramp.

For this third act of the three-hour show, Pastrana will recreate the Caesar’s Palace fountain jump which left Evel Knievel in a coma for a month following the crash in his 1967 attempt. In this jump, the most difficulty comes from an Indian that doesn’t accelerate as quickly as the dirtbikes Pastrana and most guys use for distance jumps, and the inrun is only 203 feet long.

 

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Travis will be making these series of jumps on Indian’s flat track race bike, the FTR750, which has only received minor modifications to stiffen the suspension and make the bike more comfortable for Pastrana’s taller frame and the task of jumping rather than sliding around a dirt oval.

Travis and company only have a week to figure out the kinds of gearing, speeds, and distances they’ll need to complete the jump, which is then followed by a three-week break for other commitments where Travis won’t have any time on the bike. With such a short window, the team is focusing on training Travis’s muscle memory to make sure he’s comfortable when he gets on the bike in July. To do this, they’ve turned every day into a ritual with the same tasks and warm-up exercises and runs so that it all becomes routine.

 

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The longest motorcycle jump is over 300 feet long, making this less about carrying on Evel’s legacy as much as it is paying homage - although he is jumping a bike with a third of the suspension travel and that weighs twice as much. Pastrana’s father Robert raised his son with a famous quote

 

“You aren’t a failure until you fail to get back up”

 

which originated with Evel himself.

 

Pastrana’s entire life has been a continuation of Evel’s legacy which is why the Evel Live event is all about focusing on Evel’s legacy. He’ll even be dressed in period correct riding gear, right down to the boots (though he’ll probably opt for some sort of eye protection this time).

 

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Tune in July 8th at 8PM EST/5PM PST to the History Channel to see Pastrana and the Nitro Circus and Indian team tackle three of Evel’s most famed jumps and watch as Evel’s legacy continues on. 

 

Headed East


A Motorcycle Journey Into the Wild

By Jack Harries & Fraser Rigg


 

Tired of city life and in search of adventure, my friend Fraser and I left London on two motorcycles with a plan to drive to Budapest and back. We wanted to leave technology behind, to wild camp, cook our own food, reconnect with others and importantly ourselves.

The journey took two months, crossed 10 countries and covered a distance of over 10,000km. This personal film shot on 16mm documents our motorcycle journey into the wild.


CREDITS

Shot and Directed by Jack Harries & Fraser Rigg
Edit by Jack Harries
Sound Mix and Design by Sashko Micevski
Music is Corn by Nils Frahm
Lab Services by Kodak Labs London

Shot on 16mm film in France, Spain, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary, Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, The Netherlands. 

With special thanks to Michael Ho, Dieter Deswarte, and Dylan Hewitt


THE BOOK

For the past two years, we’ve been working with the Stanley James Press on designing the Headed East book. 100 pages of 35mm photos, 16mm film scans, journal entries from the road and a pull-out map. We are self-publishing a limited selection of copies. If you’d like to support the project the ‘Headed East;’ book and prints are available in the store. 

 

Immunity


A Film by Dylan Wineland

Starring Aaron McClintock


 

Director's Statement

 

"Aaron and I had been brainstorming the concept to this video for quite sometime. A few years back we had done a film together called MIND WIDE OPEN, along with Connor Barnes, which received positive feedback and we knew that we would want to create something again. We have shared a similar perspective on riding motorcycles and have felt our vision hadn't been expressed in the motocross industry. So, we set out to share our unique perspective in hopes that people would be able to relate to it and appreciate it.

Our goal was to define riding dirtbikes outside of just big hits and half naked Monster girls. More than entertainment, we wanted to make this video an experience for the viewer. The term “I do what I love to escape” is something that Aaron and myself disagree with. We believe it is quite opposite of that. Our belief being that when you are doing what you love, you are completely tuned in and as close to reality as you can humanly be. It’s like a form of meditation. When Aaron is at the bar, he is tuned out. He is having troubles facing reality but knows exactly what he has to do in order to heal himself. That is where we coined the term Immunity. It is an act of healing. So Aaron leaves his demons behind in order to find himself through riding his motorcycle."

 

 

Film Credits

 

  • Director/DP: Dylan Wineland
  • Produced By: Dylan Wineland, Aaron McClintock, Connor Barnes
  • Cinematography/Aerial Cinematography: Connor Barnes
  • AC/Grip: Connor Barnes, Jon Riley
  • Color: Aiden Ulrich
  • Music: “Carved In Mayhem” by Luke Antonio & “Life (Remastered)” by Solar Fields 
  • Supported: WZRD Media, Sheets Studios
  • Rider: Aaron McClintock
  • Thumbnail Photo: Alex Stohl

 

Aperture


Photography by Drew Martin

Featured in Volume 011


 
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Our pal, Drew Martin is a freelance photographer based in southern California with a love for adventure and the great outdoors.  Back in January Drew joined us on a ride up the central coast of California to enjoy the endless beauty that Big Sur has to offer.  As we all became better friends and saw more of his work I thought it would be cool to curate some of his favorite moto-related images from the past few years for our “Aperture” feature in Volume 011.  

Feast your eyes on some of our favorites from the issue!

 

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Featured in Volume 011

Dimitri Coste


A Man Worth a Million Words

Words by Russ Koza


A portrait of Dimitri Coste from his kids, by Thibaut Grevet | Originally published on Nowness

 

I’ve been checking my watch every couple of minutes for more than an hour now. We’re on location, ready to begin another photo shoot, but one thing is missing: our photographer. Suddenly, I see it. Barreling down the road in our direction is The Boogie Van. Behind a miniature Eiffel Tower sitting atop the dashboard, our lensman, Dimitri Coste, steadfastly navigates behind the wheel. 

The Boogie, or Le Boogie, is a late-’80s full-size Dodge van that Coste has used to transport everything he needs to work and exist when he’s staying in Southern California. The van is Coste’s transportation, sometimes his home, and very much a symbol of his love for American culture and the SoCal lifestyle. It’s not unusual for Coste to fly from Paris to LAX, take a cab to the closest In-N-Out, and then hitch a ride two hours south to San Diego, where The Boogie is usually parked, before he’d ever think of renting a car. The Boogie has been the mode of transportation for Coste’s treasure chest of photo equipment, motorcycles, and even some of the most beautiful models the world has to offer. As it sits now, with the usual assortment of crumpled burger wrappers, empty packs of Marlboros, and photo equipment propping up his prized 1967 Triumph, Le Boogie is exactly the type of vessel that a guy like Coste should be captaining.

 

  Photo by Keith Lynas

Photo by Keith Lynas

  Le Boogie | Photo by Dimitri Coste

Le Boogie | Photo by Dimitri Coste

 

After the usual greeting of high-fives, hugs, and “Where the fuck have you been?” it’s time to get to work. But we’re not in the clear yet; there’s always that period of time before the camera starts clicking that Coste takes a few minutes to formulate his plan for the shoot and get in the proverbial zone. As everyone is arranging the final placement of lighting, battery packs, and the set, Coste will often disappear off to the side somewhere. I’ll find him sitting quietly with a cigarette dangling from his mouth, playing out the shoot in his head and finding that creative flow. Although we’re way behind schedule, I’ve learned over the years to leave him alone during this time. It used to stress me out, as I would think, “Why is he just sitting there smoking when we’ve got so much to get done today?” 

But people as creative as Coste don’t function in the same manner that normal people function; they do things differently. This alternative way of operating may not seem to be the most professional by regular standards, but Coste is one of the most creative and talented photographers out there, so it’s best to let him work the way that he wants to work.

 

  Bonneville, Utah | Photo by Dimitri Coste

Bonneville, Utah | Photo by Dimitri Coste

 

It may seem like Coste is some sort of vagabond living out of his van, but he makes his permanent home in Paris. His home, known by his friends as Le Cherry Palace, is where Coste spends time with his family. France is where Coste grew up, and where his lifelong love for motorcycles began.

Motorcycles have been a part of Coste’s life since his days in elementary school (or l’école matternelle, as it is known in France). At the time, his father, Didier, was working at French motorcycle and BMX publications such as Moto-Verte and Bicross. Coste was thrown headfirst into two-wheel culture, and he loved it. It was then, too, that his passion for photography sprouted from his love of moto.

“When I was 4 or 5, I used to spend a lot of time looking through those mags, and since I couldn’t read yet, I studied the images,” Coste explains. “The riding positions and the gnarly actions, because I found it to be so beautiful, and of course racing gear, helmets, paint jobs, stickers, and color combos.”

 

  Photo by David Marvier

Photo by David Marvier

  Photo by Keith Lynas

Photo by Keith Lynas

 

Like most in the motorcycle industry, Didier Coste wasn’t working at the magazines for a simple paycheck. He went to work each day because he had a passion for the sport, a passion that consumed him. It was a passion that stuck with him beyond the nine-to-five life and into the weekends: on any Sunday, one could find Monsieur Coste at the racetrack, and every chance he got, Dimitri and his older brother, Jérôme, were right there alongside him. His father’s all-consuming love for the sport—and, more importantly, his job—left an impression on Coste that helped mold his personality into what it is today.

 

“Seeing [my father] enjoying being a journalist—traveling, riding, and covering great races like the Paris-Dakar—indirectly taught me that you can enjoy working and find a good balance between work and pleasure, and make work a pleasure,” he says.

 

Coste grew up at the races with his family and quickly became a racer himself. Today, he is following in his father’s footsteps, spending his weekends riding dirt bikes with his son, Zephyr, and watching daughter Paz rip up the French BMX tracks. Following the example set by his father, Coste only encourages his children to pursue their passions, be they art or motorcycles. “I never push them,” he says. “My philosophy is that sports like motocross, BMX, or skateboarding need to come with a strong personal desire or need. At some point, I guess just witnessing how much pleasure I got from those sports made them want to try.”

 

  Photo by Nevin Pontius

Photo by Nevin Pontius

 

Growing up alongside an artistic older brother, Coste tapped into his own creative side and began taking photos during downtime at the motorcycle races. Understanding the art of racing a motorcycle, and having the tools to communicate that understanding, put Coste in a unique position.

 

“Photography helped me grow my involvement in moto,” he says. “I was making a living by shooting catalogs, album covers, ads, and stories or reports for magazines, but I always kept a foot in my passions with a few clients in the moto or BMX industry.”

 

His work has since transcended far beyond motorcycling. As an influential creative talent, he’s teamed up with other notable tastemakers for numerous collaborations. His portfolio extends even further into the high-fashion industry and he’s filmed and edited some of the top music videos in France.

But his true passion, along with photography, remains motorcycling. Any time he can tie together opportunities to do both, he’ll jump at the chance. The One Size Fits All (OSFA) project is a way for Coste to bridge the gap and bring his passions for motorcycles, photography, and design into one collective space. It’s a personal mission that he has sunk his heart and soul into, his own version of a race around the world. 

 

  Photo by Keith Lynas

Photo by Keith Lynas

  Photo by Marc Blanchard

Photo by Marc Blanchard

 

“The concept is to race an almost-stock Triumph in all kinds of events, allowing myself to change only tires and handlebars depending on the type of racing,” he explains. “Since I’m a bad mechanic, I thought having a stock engine is the safest and most reliable choice. So I never have the perfect bike, but she can do it all and that’s all well enough for me.”

 

When the famous Catalina Grand Prix was revived in 2010, Coste quickly signed up and arranged to have his 1967 Triumph TR6C shipped over from France so he could race. Coste won his class at Catalina and followed that up by finishing the infamous Pikes Peak Hill Climb in Colorado as part of his OSFA mission. 

For a guy like Dimitri Coste, life is about passion and adventure. Jet-setting from one continent to another is just a day in the life for this photographer, shooting during the week so he can race during the weekend. The tattoo emblazoned across his chest says all that he needs to say: “Life is a rodeo.” Yee-haw.


Read the story in Volume 004


Palm Springs


Behind the Scenes with Aaron Brimhall

Video by Kollyn Lund


 

Go behind the scenes with META photographer, Aaron Brimhall in Palm Springs, California as we produce a feature for Volume 012.  We spent 3 days in the desert, got lost on a hike, experienced crazy winds, saw lots of windmills, almost broke one of our cameras, almost ran out of gas and shot at the coolest house we've ever seen.

 

Volume 012 will be available July 2018!

 

The Grizzly Ride


A Film by Sebastien Zanella

Presented by Wheels and Waves | Photos by Sebastien Zanella


 

Every year, a group of wild humans decide to own the desert for the love of freedom & friendship.

They call it the Grizzly Ride.

 

Homeless Honeymoon


Living Within and Living Without

Words by Bree Monks | Photos by Trevor & Bree Monks


 

My husband yanked the key out of the ignition, and the bike continued to vibrate and sputter. His groans grew into sharply pronounced curse words as the keys dangled from his hand, and the starter continued to whiz. I squatted in the dirt and squinted in his direction, hoping that my willingness to be present would somehow cancel out my complete lack of knowledge and inability to help. 

We had spent the last several days riding south through Laos on our Thai-bought Honda CRF 250, and Cambodia was just beyond the imaginary line in front of us. After enough wires were pulled and screws unscrewed, the engine shut off, and we made our way toward the dusty building that would admit us into the country. Moments later, we were back at the bike, frustrated and hot-tempered with the repetitive echo of “No!” in our heads. We were not getting into Cambodia on our motorcycle, setting this leg of the journey into rewind…

 

 

These defeated days happened more often than we had advertised. Once we got married, we decided to set out on a yearlong “honeymoon” committed to filling each day with countless unique experiences that would inspire ourselves and others along the way. But, after the first six months spent driving through the continent of South America and sleeping in our ’99 Nissan Frontier, followed by five months touring Southeast Asia by motorcycle, we discovered that long-term travel does not elude monotony, routine and failure. 

Along with the typical aim to travel and fulfill unclear desires, we sought to chronicle our epic moments and publish them on social media. We wanted to prove to ourselves and to our family and friends back home that a life like this was not only possible, but also successful. It did not take long before the truth yielded an impression of dishonesty on our side of the WiFi, and we found ourselves particularly annoyed with what we were portraying. Not all days were total bliss, and our highlight reel felt misleading as we attempted to create and recreate an ideal picture of what we thought traveling should be. We were force-feeding ourselves to believe the hype, gagging on all of the omitted details, and then we were not able to stomach the truth.

 

Really, the insane mountain rides and magical jungle roads were only the crumbs of the loaf, and getting to those destinations involved hardships that we thought a honeymoon should be immune to. 

 

The physical and logistical struggles we endured were easy to adjust to, as they occurred daily and often, and that is why we wrote them off as unnecessary stories to be told. The woes and (sometimes unwanted) surprises that a traveler adapts to are expected, but we had quickly decided that noting the painful monkey-butt and ant-infested bungalows could damper the dreams that we were creating for others, and possibly taint our own concepts as to what traveling should be. With those details left behind on the side of the road, we had only our helmets and our brains within them to question what was truly conflicting us internally. Were we looking to satisfy some stereotypical urge to travel, or was it more complicated than that? Our purpose, however silly it was, to ride around the world by our own transportation had become as unapparent as fumes diluted in air.

 

 

Together, we began to wonder why anyone even travels in the first place. There was not a single traveler that we had met who could give us an answer that did not sound like an annoying Instagram hashtag (#wanderlust, #newperspective, #soblessed), and eventually we began to question ourselves and our own intentions. For some reason, we thought that we were unique in the way in which we were exploring, which filled us with a small sense of superiority, as if our experiences would be even more authentic than the average nomad. We labeled ourselves as the “anti-backpackers,” because we had somehow pulled off purchasing a Thai registered bike without a real residence or any kind of more permanent visa. This, we had proclaimed, was above and beyond what other travelers were willing to do, making us genuine culture-seekers. As cool as we had convinced ourselves that we were, we were not the first to do what we were doing, and we could not stake any claim on originality. It became more likely that we would harden into the mold of a pretentious traveler. 

 

 

One time, as we had buzzed by a group of starry-eyed tourists in bicycle helmets lining up to board a giant mammal, my husband turned to me and said, “Riding an elephant is not going to change a person.” His words were probably true, but we could have been wrong to think that we were any different from the anxious folks behind us. Of course, ultimately we wanted to end our adventure changed for the better, but we soon realized that our entire approach could have been misguided from the beginning.

 

Marriage is complicated, and we were boastful enough to think that simplifying our lives to one motorbike and two backpacks would somehow result in a partnership that was unwavering.

 

The first part of our year was a revolving door of conflict, partly because of our rocky past and partly because of the strains of travel, and it was frightening to think that we would pop out of the same door that we had entered. Once we had realized that our journey’s destination could be the entrance to a loop road, and the past could become more rutted and corroded with every lap, we knew that we would have to change the course of our outlooks and quit looking back. 

 

 

Ultimately, I credit the motorcycle for changing the course of our intent. Traveling forces a person to think, and, in the beginning of the year, we sat together in our truck with zero obstructions on voicing our opinions, daily concerns and fears to each other. Slowly, our complicated living situation had transformed the cab into a metal battleground of clashing concepts and undeveloped ideas. There was no escape and no white flags of surrender, as we questioned each other without questioning ourselves first. On the other hand, the motorcycle had a magical way of binding us together physically, but silencing the confused and thoughtless dialogue that had hurt us earlier in the year. Our thoughts were given the time to marinate and evolve with only the sweet background music of a purring motor and the blur of rice fields and blue skies. 

The bike had somehow revealed to us the Buddhist concept of “living within and living without,” which had mystified us in the beginning of our ride. Our relationship glided through foreign places as we were able to be together yet be isolated at the same time, a contradiction that allowed our brains to choose what was important to hold onto, within ourselves, and what to let go of. We began to recognize that change really is a slow process that can elude any human despite how long and tough a journey can be. It was never necessary for us to travel, but, after being bound to the seat of the bike for miles on end, we realized that travel was the implement that yielded the greatest gift: Time. 

 

 

Yes, traveling is an easy way to connect to new perspectives. Without a doubt, moving within and among another culture is effective in humbling and altering the mind of any person who is open to it, but the willingness to take time and be susceptible to change is key. We had spent the majority of our year searching for a single moment that would shift us into new and better individuals, only to reach the end and realize that it was the collection of moments that equated to growth.

What we were eager for was change, but what we truly needed was time. Change does not require a culture shock, a new experience or a grand adventure. It cannot be projected, or faked, or forced. It must be self-provoked. Wherever in the world we were or whatever strange situation we were in, we arrived with the clarity given to us by the motorcycle.

 

As we drove the long, winding roads through adversity and change, it is the bike that can be credited with our new and ever-evolving purity of mind.

 


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Read the story in Volume 011

Against the Grain


When Motorcycles Raced on Wood

Words by Brett Smith


  Photo courtesy Harley-Davidson archive

Photo courtesy Harley-Davidson archive

 

“It is a commentary on American Standards that we take pains to prohibit prize fighting and horse racing in many States, and hold up our hands in horror at the suggestion of bullfights as a national sport, and yet flock in thousands to see reckless young men riding madly around a track sloping at a 50 percent angle glorifying in the thinness of the thread that divides life from death.

—The Washington Post, Sept. 10, 1912

 

 

They saw it coming. They must have. With six motorcycles racing together at more than 90 miles per hour on wooden circle tracks with steep banks, the consequences of board-track racing could not have been a surprise. But the thrills were magnificent. The fascination with seeing and feeling speed was so new in the first 20 years of the 20th century that it led crowds of 10,000 to climb above the courses where only a thin rail made of pine or spruce separated them from the motorcycles that raced counterclockwise on the wooden track below. So scant was the partition between onlookers and racers that young boys often stuck their heads through the opening beneath the guard to be closer to the machines, which were getting faster with every new model. 

 

  Photo courtesy AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame

Photo courtesy AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame

 

In the spirit of putting the action in front of the audience, where the entire race could be seen in one spot—much like the original idea behind supercross—early board-track races were held in small stadiums nicknamed “saucers” and “pie pans,” the latter moniker because of their round shape and continuous steep banks. They were little more than beefed-up bicycle velodromes. In 1908—the same year the first Model T was produced, General Motors was founded, and Jack Johnson became the first black heavyweight boxing champion of the world—the excitement factor of watching a motorcycle do a mile a minute was still very fresh. 

On July 5, match races were held at the Clifton course in Paterson, New Jersey, on a “six-lap track, brand new, of wood, fresh from the sawmill and the carpenter’s hand,” according a five-page account in the July 15, 1908, Motorcycle Illustrated. The course, built by former bicycle racing champion and British expat John Shillington Prince, was one-sixth of a mile. After his own two-wheeled racing career ended in the late 1880s, Prince moved on to building and promoting velodrome races. On the velodromes, high-banked 1/6th- and 1/10th-mile courses, motorcycles were originally employed to pace bicyclists for races and in training. Interest in the possibility of what a motorized machine could do on the planks grew and Prince used his velodrome designs to build what became known as motordromes. 

 

  Photo courtesy Harley-Davidson archive

Photo courtesy Harley-Davidson archive

 

In Clifton, because of the tightness of the course and potential for tragedy, only two riders competed at a time. Nothing tragic happened that day in 1908. Jake DeRosier, the Canadian-born, Massachusetts-raised racer who became America’s first motorcycle superstar, hit more than a dozen speed milestones on a prototype Indian, including the 1-mile record, which he set at 56 seconds (64 mph). Despite the 5,000 open-mouthed and applauding spectators, as Motorcycle Illustrated described the crowd, the magazine wasn’t on board. 

 

“Of course, this is not motorcycle racing,” a separate editorial pontificated. “It takes three to make a race and four are better. But neither three nor four will probably ever be raced together on the Clifton Saucer. To permit it would be criminal.” 

 

Prince traveled around the country, convincing residents and city halls to allow him to build a motordrome in their towns. His design changed to courses one-third of a mile in length, and one of the first he built at that spec was the Los Angeles Coliseum Motordrome, in 1909, which was three and a half laps to the mile. From 1909 through 1914, 21 motordromes one-third of a mile or less were constructed across North America (not all by Prince), from Springfield, Massachusetts, to Brighton Beach, New York; Vailsburg, New Jersey; St. Louis; Detroit; Atlanta; Milwaukee; Denver; Los Angeles; and others. Prince was churning out the stadiums in just a few weeks. The Brighton Beach (Brooklyn) course held its first event on June 29, 1912. The New York Times announced the project on May 7 and said, “An army of men will rush the construction.” The project cost $30,000 and was made with 1.5 million feet of lumber, mostly 16-foot lengths of 2x4s, with the 2-inch face up. The length was one-third of a mile, the angle 53 degrees, and the capacity was 10,000 in the grandstands.

 

  Photo courtesy Harley-Davidson archive

Photo courtesy Harley-Davidson archive

 

The motorcycles were developing as quickly as the courses were being built. They had one gear, no brakes, no clutch, no suspension, and the carburetors were set wide open. The engines were total loss, meaning the oil wasn’t pressure fed. An oil tank fed the engine what it needed to consume. Instead of recirculating back into the engine, the used oil was expelled into the air in the form of smoke. 

 

“They hadn’t yet realized they needed to figure out how to cycle the oil down to the motor and pump it back up,” says Matt Walksler of Wheels Through Time. When riders crashed, oil leaked onto the course, which led to more crashing. Performance was entirely by experimentation, and the 61-cubic-inch (1,000 cc) engines were nearing 90 mph in 1911. And that was at only 7 horsepower. 

Dozens of manufacturers competed for market share in the United States: Excelsior, Indian, Thor, Cyclone, The Flying Merkel, NSU, and many more. Absent from the results columns was Harley-Davidson, which did not officially field racing teams until 1914. Arthur Davidson was staunchly against racing. In a 1912 editorial in The Harley Dealer, he said,

 

“Any dealer who contemplates hooking up with a promoter in the ‘murderdrome’ business, I have found it to be my experience, has nothing to gain and everything to lose. The board track game will work out its own destiny in a mighty big hurry.” 

 

  Photo courtesy Chris Price, Archive Moto

Photo courtesy Chris Price, Archive Moto

 

Murderdromes. Arthur Davidson saw it coming. Engineers were quickly learning how to wring more out of the internal-combustion engines. On Dec. 30, 1912, on a 1-mile board track in Playa del Rey, California, riding a big-valved Excelsior, Lee Humiston tucked into his handlebars to record a 36-second lap. He became the first rider to officially set the record for 100 mph (146.7 feet per second) on a motorcycle. Two years later, J.A. McNeil went 111.1 mph on a Cyclone. The bike used overhead-cam technology, new at the time, and put out 45 horsepower at 5,000 rpm. Unfortunately, the Federation of American Motorcyclists refused to recognize the feat on the grounds that the speed could possibly be 10 percent above the existing record. The increase in speed and power and the steepening angle of the courses, which was hitting 60 degrees and producing enough centrifugal force to shoot riders and machines out of the circle, also increased the potential for catastrophe. 

 

  Photo courtesy Don Emde Collection

Photo courtesy Don Emde Collection

 

On Sept. 8, 1912, in Vailsburg, the first of two such major tragedies was splattered on newspapers in multi-stack headlines across the country. On a four-lap motordrome west of downtown Newark, New Jersey, with 5,000 spectators in attendance, Eddie Hasha’s eight-valve, 61-cubic-inch Indian—at 92 mph—veered sharply upward toward the guardrail and grinded along it for 100 feet, killing three boys whose heads were hanging into the barrier openings, according to newspaper reports. It was about 5 p.m., the final lap of the final race on the card, and Hasha was going for the lead. After hitting a post, Hasha was hurled into the crowd and the motorcycle careened back down the course and into the sixth-place rider, Johnny Albright of Denver. He was thrown from his bike and pronounced dead hours later at a hospital from lung hemorrhaging. 

 

Many papers reported that witnesses saw the sprocket come loose from Hasha’s bike and “literally tore off the skull of a little boy who had been one of the most excited enthusiasts at the race,” according to The Washington Post. Hasha, as described in the Post, “was pitched 50 feet into the air, and must have been killed instantly in the collision. His body was shapeless from broken bones when it was picked up almost at the feet of his wife seated among the men and boys in the bleachers.” Six were killed that day, including the two riders and three boys under 18. Two more men died in the hospital days later. 

 

  Photo courtesy Harley-Davidson archive

Photo courtesy Harley-Davidson archive

 

The New York Times had interviewed Hasha before the race and reprinted an ominous discussion about the dangers of saucer racing.

 

“I suppose it’ll get us all each when his turn comes,” he said. “Oh, I know it’s a dangerous game, but I am stowing my money away in the bank and the wife will be fixed up if I go.”

 

The best racers were reported to have been paid $20,000 a year from their teams, a huge sum of money in the early 1900s. But Hasha was only 19 and turned pro in 1911. No doubt, he wasn’t set for life. His wife, Gertrude, later married Al Crocker, a motorcycle manufacturer whose machines bore his surname. 

 

  Photo courtesy AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame

Photo courtesy AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame

 

Opened on Independence Day 1912, the Vailsburg track was never used again for motorcycle racing. Less than a year later, in Ludlow, Kentucky, Odin Johnson jumped the track and struck an electric light pole at the Lagoon Motordrome. The gas tank exploded after coming into contact with a live wire. Eight people were killed and dozens were burned. “Mothers with babies in their arms were showered with blazing gasoline,” wrote The Washington Post

Board-track racing had a short but explosive life in motorcycle history, but not nearly as short as some have erroneously documented. The discipline didn’t disappear after the widely publicized incidents of 1912 and 1913. Following the Kentucky tragedy, only a few more three- and four-lap motordromes were built. Newspaper headlines decrying them “murderdromes” made business difficult. Harry Glenn, who rode for Indian from 1912 to 1924, was the pallbearer for 19 of his competitors. In 1915, board tracks 1, 1.25, and 2 miles in length popped up in Chicago, Tacoma, Omaha, Des Moines, and Sheepshead Bay, New York, and featured automobile racing too. They were the precursors to modern speedways, but they were still made of wood, which made them impossible to maintain for the long term. Jack Prince didn’t get to see the end of the board-track era. He died in October 1927 at 68. The last major motorcycle races on the boards were held in 1928, and the final board track, Woodbridge Speedway in New Jersey, closed in 1931 after deteriorating beyond repair. It was replaced by a dirt oval. 

 

  Photo courtesy AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame

Photo courtesy AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame

 

Some historians believe it was negative press from the board-track tragedies that put motorcycling in the category of daredevilry and gave it notoriety as a dangerous and foolhardy sport, a designation that two-wheel enthusiasts are still trying to overcome. Board-track racing isn’t remembered for the damage it did to an industry; today it’s revered for the incredulousness it impresses upon the people who take the time to learn about it.

 


Read the story in Volume 004


The Blue Ocean


Staring Down the Rear-View

Words by Andrew Campo | Photos by Drew Martin


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“We see the world through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future.”

 

These words by Canadian professor, philosopher and public intellectual Marshall McLuhan danced around inside my helmet as I departed Carmel by the Sea, a small, picturesque beach community on California’s Monterey Peninsula. In 1964 McLuhan published a book to challenge our assumptions on how and what we communicate, titled Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. Through his writings he proposes that a medium itself, not the content it carries, should be the focus of study. He said that a medium affects the society in which it plays a role, not only by the content delivered, but also by the characteristics of the medium. I had brought McLuhan’s genius along for this ride in hopes of finding influence and greater vision for our future with META.

 

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"Here I will find peace. Here I shall find the strength to do the work I was made to do."

–Henry Miller

 

This journey to Carmel and beyond was a celebration of the platform we have built as an independent publisher over the past four years. It was time for us to slam on the brakes and stare down that rear-view mirror as we wash our souls in preparation for finding a sustained sanctuary in the elusive “blue ocean.” The blue ocean strategy is a business theory that suggests companies are better off gaining uncontested market space than competing with similar companies in a shark-infested red ocean. This luxury time in an incredibly inspiring environment, void of outside communication, helped move our minds into a visionary state.

 

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Heading north from Los Angeles and into the winding Central Coast back roads, we counted off mile after beautiful mile, earnest in anticipation of the beaconing coastal offerings found west of the Santa Lucia Mountains. Mythic in reputation, Big Sur seemed to be the ideal destination for our retreat. Recognized as one of the most beautiful coastlines anywhere in the world, simply put, this place is a motorcyclist’s dream come true. 

Ancient redwoods gently swing above the jagged coastline, casting shadows of enormous stature along the rocks and beaches below. With each twist and turn, the picturesque views never seemed to end. I could spend days going on about how special this region is, and with every stop we made, I could not stop talking about how incredibly grateful I was to be here. Enthusiasm was at an all-time high, and the incredible riding will be remembered in my dreams for years to come. 

 

"It was here in Big Sur that I first learned to say 'Amen'"

–Henry Miller

 

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Influence was abundant along the journey, and our core values surfaced many times throughout the trip. We believe in pursuing a life well ridden, and we stand by our beliefs. Our job is to inspire, relate and connect with our community through documented stories that come to life through our medium. Purpose, meaning and freedom are influences we hope to instill in others by way of example. This is how we measure success. Doing what we love and being able to share this life we have chosen is what fuels our efforts. 

 

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"One's destination is not a place, but a new way of seeing things."

–Henry Miller

 

There is something pure about drawing inspiration and putting it to work. That process is what allows us to keep drifting towards that blue ocean. And it’s something that we hope inspires others along the way.

 


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Read the story in Volume 011


Dauntless Violet


Anya Violet: A Fearless Pioneer for Women Who Ride

Words by Maggie Gulasey


  Photo by Colin Nearman

Photo by Colin Nearman

Within a lifetime, there are limitless paths laid before us, and we often choose (or avoid) the ones we believe to be the most rational, responsible, or admirable.  However, there are some roads we simply cannot resist, and even if we wish to ignore them, it is a guaranteed uphill battle to deny what flows through our veins.  

 

Whether it is the hardware with which we are made, the environment in which we are raised, or maybe a mixture of both, there are some things we are simply born to do, and then there are other talents we develop along the way.  It is how we use those innate abilities and acquired skills in conjunction with one another that chisel us into the individuals we are today.  Anya Violet cannot refute that motorcycles run in her blood – that and a love of adrenaline rushes, a general optimism toward human beings, and an overall appreciation for life.  However, it is what Violet has done with her predispositions that have set her apart from the rest. She has become an entrepreneur in the motorcycle industry, an ambassador for women who ride and an inspiration for carving your own path in life.  Whether she wishes to be or not, Violet is a pioneer for women who ride.  

 

  Photo by Jeff Stockwell

Photo by Jeff Stockwell

 

The environment in which we are born and raised has a way of laying the foundation for who are to become. For Violet, growing up in the small town of Atascadero, California, nurtured her love of the outdoors and optimism in human beings.  She explains,

 

“I think that growing up on the Central Coast played a huge role in making me who I am today.

 

Being a small-town kid, to me, meant spending a lot of time outside. There were no arcades, concert halls or amusement parks near my town, so we spent our time enjoying the natural environment on the Central Coast. My love for the outdoors and my creativity were born in my hometown for sure. There is always this really great atmosphere where everyone kind of knows each other and grows up together. It was a very happy and welcoming environment all together. I am a ‘yes’ person before I am a ‘no’ person, and I consider everyone to have good intentions until they prove otherwise to me. These are two specific characteristics that I think I adopted from where I grew up that I don’t always see outside of small towns.”

 

  Photo by Michael Beck

Photo by Michael Beck

 

If growing up in a small town laid the groundwork for Violet’s desire for being active outside, then it was her family who acted as the catalyst for her motorcycle passion and racing dirt bikes at a young age. She was born into a household that not only embodied an undeniable love for the two wheels, but also an everlasting support system, always encouraging Violet to go after whatever it was that excited her. The fact that Violet was a young girl participating in a traditionally male-dominated sport was insignificant to her supportive family and community – it only mattered that she was pursuing something she loved: “I do think, in general, that women tend to be more careful with themselves than men and not participate in dangerous activities as much. This probably does have biological links that could be traced back, but I am no scientist.

 

There have definitely been adventurous, adrenaline-fueled women since the dawn of time, but they didn’t always get their chance to leave their mark on history.

 

For me, it was never really a big deal that I was a girl that raced motocross. No one ever made a big fuss about it at all. There was a solid group of girls and women that rode and raced in my community. I never gave it much thought as a kid; all I knew was that I loved the feeling of racing and pushing myself as a rider. I am a really competitive person and I do my best when I am on the edge of my comfort zone, so I think I just tried to get to that point as often as I could, and racing was a great outlet for that. 

 

 

Another big factor for me was how supportive my family was. My dad didn’t ride dirt bikes, but he would come to all my races and was super proud of me in all the activities I did. The fact that my mom rode and raced too only further instilled in me that it was just not that rare or special that I was a girl that liked to ride. My parents never pushed me into traditionally feminine or masculine activities.”

Fueled by a mother who raced motocross, Violet could not overlook the fact that motorcycles lit the fire within.  She recalls, “My mom rode dirt bikes as a young kid, and it was her that got me in to it. After not riding for many years, my mom got back into riding dirt bikes with her then-husband. We would all go camping and riding together; my sisters and I all shared this 1980s Z50 and took turns ripping it around the campsites. Neither of my sisters were really that interested, but I instantly fell in love with it. For me, it was the feeling of independence and adventure. My mom and I started racing motocross in a local circuit, and I just really enjoyed the adrenaline that comes with racing a dirt bike. I quickly graduated from the 50cc to a 1989 Honda CR80, then a 125cc.”

 

  Photo by Colin Nearman

Photo by Colin Nearman

 

Growing up racing dirt bikes instilled an unwavering passion for motorcycles, and despite an intermission in her riding, Violet eventually took to the streets. She explains, “I sold my 125cc dirt bike when I moved away to college and did not ride a motorcycle again until I was 25 years old. Those years of going through college and trying to start a career don’t really leave a lot of room for expensive hobbies. I have always wanted a street bike. I will never forget the first time I saw a Triumph Bonneville when I was, like, 16 years old visiting San Francisco. I was in love. By the time I was 25 years old, I was pretty well into my career and was able to afford to buy my first bike: a 1978 Yamaha XS 350. His name was Jimmy, and I outgrew him very fast. But it was buying that first bike that reignited my love of riding. I also had met a great group of people that rode, including my boyfriend, Evan.

 

For me, having a community to ride with was important and played a big role in me getting back on two wheels.” 

 

 

Whether it was the dirt or street, Violet was immersed in a community of riders that cultivated a welcoming and encouraging environment for her.  It is not surprising that she would then return the favor and create a similar space for other women who ride.  Though it may have started as a fluke, Violet took her deep-seated admiration for motorcycles and became the co-creator of what is now one of the most popular women-only motorcycle gatherings, Babes Ride Out.         

“Babes Ride Out started accidentally in October 2013. Ashmore Ellis and I planned a camping trip and thought we would invite the handful of other women we knew rode. One shitty Instagram flyer later, we found ourselves reaching out to a bunch more women and featuring them on a WordPress blog that we made as way of getting to know some of the riders who were coming to the campout. The day of the event, originally called ‘Babes in Borrego,’ we thought maybe 10-15 women would show up, and there ended up being 50 from all over. We were shocked and kind of nervous because the camp spot was a few miles down a dirt road on a dry lake bed in the middle of nowhere, with no bathrooms. Needless to say, we had an absolutely amazing time! It was such a mixed group of amazing women, and they all encouraged us to keep it going. We moved the event to Joshua Tree, and five years later we are looking at nearly 2,000 women. 

 

  Photo by Heidi Zumbrun

Photo by Heidi Zumbrun

 

The idea behind the event has stayed the same. It’s really simple: good times, good friends, two wheels! It’s just about having fun adventures and meeting more riders.

 

As the event and community has grown, we have taken on a lot more responsibility, some we are prepared for and some we are not. It is a learning experience like nothing I could have imagined. It has definitely taken on a life of its own, and Ashmore and I are just here to help it on its way. My goals are to provide a really fun experience for women who love to ride motorcycles, encourage people to become more skilled riders, and for it to be as commonplace to see a woman on a bike as it is to see a man. We are getting there!”

Since its creation, thousands of women have participated in this desert gathering.  Packed full of women who thrive in the community Violet and Ellis have fostered, the event’s success makes it obvious that the founders have tapped into something meaningful for women who ride. Because their event has struck a chord among women all over the world who share a passion for motorcycles, the ladies have been able to expand their meet-up to include an annual East Coast event, as well as a dirtbike faction called Babes in the Dirt.      

 

  Photo by Geneveive Davis

Photo by Geneveive Davis

 

Along with her fondness for motorcycles, Violet was born and raised with the knack for creativity. She says,

 

“At this point I am inspired by the utility and by the versatility of self-expression. I have always been a creator of sorts, and I have always liked to work with my hands. I started sewing when I was a kid and have always loved the idea of being able to wear my creations. I think that what a person wears can be a very important form of expression for people, and I like contributing to that outlet.”  

 

Violet observed there was an area sorely lacking for women who ride: safe, functional and fashionable motorcycle gear. With her creative inclinations driving her and a strong desire to resolve this dilemma, Violet, along with two of her fellow lady riders, created ATWYLD.  

 

  Photo by Michael Beck

Photo by Michael Beck

 

Inspired by the void and built for the voyage, ATWYLD is made for the modern woman who rides. Violet explains,

 

“The inspiration for ATWYLD came from the community of women that we ride with. There were so many riders that simply did not wear gear or protective apparel because there was nothing that they had found that fit them or reflected their personal style in any way.

 

Why should someone be stripped of their personality when they put riding gear on? Myself, Corinne Lan Franco and Jamie Dempsey were on a ride up Angeles Crest, and we had stopped for lunch and got to talking about this issue. We were all three wearing fashion leather jackets and regular jeans with zero protective qualities. There was a clear void in the market, which is why we decided to fill it. There are great options on the top tier of protection but there wasn’t anything that looked and felt like regular streetwear but had Kevlar, armor or leather for protection, especially not for women. And so, ATWYLD was born!”

 

Violet, Lan Franco and Dempsey were not only astute enough to recognize the void that existed for female riders, but ambitious enough to do something about it.  The ATWYLD team is setting a precedent for the way we perceive form and function for women’s riding gear.  

 

  Photo by Colin Nearman

Photo by Colin Nearman

 

On any given day, you might find Violet riding her beautiful Triumph Bonneville T100 or exploring the California trails on her Husqvarna FE 250. Or, she might be working away on planning the next Babes Ride Out event or an ATWLYD project. No matter what she is doing, though, Violet has definitely carved her own path in life.  The way she was raised may have encouraged her devotion to motorcycles, community and creativity.  However, what makes Violet a leader for women who ride is what she has done with her predispositions. With a strong work ethic and positive attitude, she has assembled her passions into inventive avenues that benefit and support the community she loves – qualities of a true pioneer.

 


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Read the story in Volume 011


Always Pioneering


The Release of Husqvarna's Vitpilen 701

Words by Andrew Campo | Video by Jimmy Bowron


 

Every journey starts with the first step and in regards to my recent trip to Barcelona for the global release of the Husqvarna VITPILEN 701, that first step dates back nearly three years ago when I walked through doors of Husqvarna Museum while visiting Sweden in May of 2015. 

We were there on assignment for Volume 004 and would spend a couple of days exploring the brands history, touring the country on new enduro models and spending time with the core of the brand as representatives from across the globe had gathered in Jönköping to focus on the brands strategy and future. 

It was here that I learned of the brands early success in road racing and got to witness first hand the incredible machines that propelled Husqvarna to regular visits atop the podium in the 1933 and 1934 road race seasons. A tradition that has endured over the past 80 years of racing. Witnessing this history first hand coupled with the insight of the brands future vision for the street market by way of the introduction of the VITPILEN and SVARTPILEN concept models resonated deep inside. I had fallen in love with a motorcycle that I would not get to ride for years to come.

The VITPILEN 701 was incredibly simple in its design, reduced of any unnecessary excess and at first glance unlike anything I had seen before. It was simple. It was progressive.

Later that year I was fortunate enough to attend the VITPILEN 701 concept release in Milan and my love for this motorcycle continued to grow. The bike was the talk of the show and beyond as chatter of this mysterious machine began to surface amongst my peers and the motorcycle community alike. It was now just a waiting game that was interrupted from time to time with breathtaking concept teases like the VITPILEN 401 AERO THAT features an aerodynamically-styled fairing that creates a look that is simply breathtaking.

I will make no bones about it, this is a love story about man and machine. A story built upon appreciation for design, innovation, progression, and pioneering spirit that has spanned far past a century.

Barcelona was were we would meet at last and it could not have happened in a better location. A city abundant with history, coupled with incredible futuristic architecture created an apparent parallel with the VITPILEN 701 and Husqvarna’s monumental brand history.

The approach was not to make a bike for a certain type of person but rather to make one for any kind of person; thus, opening up an entirely new gateway into the world of motorcycle culture.

Welcome to the gateway.

 

 

Husqvarna's Bold Return to Street

Story by Ben Giese, originally published in Volume 005

 

 The Husqvarna factory road race team | Saxtorp, Sweden, 1934

The Husqvarna factory road race team | Saxtorp, Sweden, 1934

 

The turn of the 20th century marked the beginning of an exciting new era. The Industrial Revolution of the 1800s had kicked humanity’s flair for innovation into overdrive, and the world around us was transforming quicker than ever. The formative years of the early 1900s were packed with groundbreaking discoveries like Einstein’s theory of relativity, the world’s first motion pictures, and the Wright Brothers’ first flight. In the factories, Henry Ford’s Model T would make way for the first production assembly line, revolutionizing industry across the globe and finally making the automobile an affordable commodity. It was a transformative time in history, as new and accessible transportation had given fresh life to the idea of Manifest Destiny. With railway systems connecting cities across the globe, electric trams, and bicycles, people were moving faster than ever. By 1903, with the pioneering spirit the brand has become synonymous with, Swedish bicycle company Husqvarna would join the movement, unveiling their first “motorized bicycle” and marking the beginning of a legendary journey as a motorcycle manufacturer. 

Throughout the following decades, the motorized bicycle would evolve into a range of motorcycles that were sold for transportation and for military use. Husqvarna’s major breakthrough finally came in 1929, when civil engineer and motorcycle racer Folke Mannerstedt joined the team. Mannerstedt was a pioneer, a visionary with one goal in mind: to develop a four-stroke motorcycle engine suitable for racing. Up until this point, Husqvarna had been using a dated English-style single-cylinder engine. Mannerstedt’s vision was to create a V-twin engine with displacements ranging between 350cc and 1000cc to race in all categories, from the International Six Days Enduro to the infamous Isle of Man TT and everything in between. Mannerstedt’s plan was to further develop the Husqvarna motorcycles through racing and ultimately sell more consumer road bikes. By 1930, he would lead a newly formed race team to the famous TT races in Saxtorp, Sweden, where the Swedish riders would walk away with a respectable third-place finish and Husqvarna’s racing heritage was born.

 

 Ragnar Sunnqvust |  Djurgårdsloppet, Finland, 1936

Ragnar Sunnqvust | Djurgårdsloppet, Finland, 1936

 Folke Mannerstedt

Folke Mannerstedt

By 1931, Mannerstedt had been further improving and developing the factory machines, and the team went on to collect more than 180 victories that year. The factory road-race team was led by veteran Gunnar Kalén, a superstar personality with a successful past in motorcycle racing. Kalén’s teammate was a young gun by the name of Ragnar Sunnqvist. Sunnqvist’s career in racing began at the age of 16, when he stole his parents’ checkbook and bought his first motorcycle. His wild riding style gave him a daredevil persona, and his “win or bust” approach often left him either standing at the top of the podium or getting carried off the track. From 1932 to 1934, the Husqvarna riders established themselves as the world’s greatest race team, and the brand’s international clout followed suit as the Swedish riders continued to dominate over the legendary British teams on the European circuit. The superstar duo of Kalén and Sunnqvist seemed to be unstoppable. 

But the trouble with reaching the tip-top is that there is nowhere to go but down. Murphy’s law came into play on a disastrous day at the 1934 German Grand Prix, a day that will live in infamy forever for Husqvarna. The unfortunate events began in practice, when Sunnqvist hit a patch of oil on the tarmac, slamming him to the ground and earning him a trip to the hospital. The doctor insisted that he withdraw from the race, but of course that simply wasn’t an option for the die-hard Sunnqvist. The race started as Sunnqvist took the early lead with teammate Kalén close in tow. Veteran Kalén would soon work his way around Sunnqvist, but shortly after taking the lead, he made an uncharacteristic mistake that caused him to go down in a devastating crash. Kalén’s injuries were catastrophic, and he passed away in the wreck. The incident made conditions extremely difficult for Sunnqvist to carry on, but he charged onward, racing in honor of his fallen teammate—only to have his motorcycle die 150 meters before the finish line. In a race where only four out of 30 riders finished, Sunnqvist pushed his broken motorcycle down the final stretch. Overcome with exhaustion, he passed out just moments after crossing the finish line. Following the tragic events in Germany, the board of directors at Husqvarna decided to pull the plug on the factory road-race program. Mannerstedt eventually left the factory, marking the end of an era.

 

 Engleska TT, 1936

Engleska TT, 1936

 

The dominance of Mannerstedt’s road-race team was reminiscent of the fighting spirit the Husqvarna brand was founded on more than 200 years prior as a weapons manufacturer. Following the events of 1934, motorcycle sales plummeted in the midst of the Great Depression, and the subsequent outbreak of World War II saw consumer sales of motorcycles drop even further. But it’s that fighting spirit that pushed Husqvarna through the trying decade, and the brand was once again revived by a spark of pioneering innovation. Following the war, Husqvarna hit another turning point with the release of the iconic “Silverpilen”: a small, lightweight machine that would help trigger the sport of off-road racing. “Scrambles” became popular across Europe and England, a cultural revolution that eventually arrived in America with the sport of motocross. 

The 1960s and 1970s were the golden era of motocross, an exciting time for Husqvarna that was highlighted by Mannerstedt’s triumphant return. The racing heritage that was founded in 1929 with the road-race team would see the next chapter unfold as Mannerstedt developed an all-new 500cc four-stroke engine. This new design was the beginning of the brand’s most successful motocross era and led to many prosperous decades as a leader and pioneer in off-road racing.

Throughout the following years, the brand’s street heritage would be overshadowed by enormous success in the off-road market, but after 113 years of development, the future vision is clear. That pioneering spirit instilled by Mannerstedt and his elite road-race team is coming back with a vengeance as new boundaries are broken and the next chapter unfolds with a bold return to street. The next generation of Husqvarna motorcycles is a resounding success, with minimal and progressive engineering designed for a more honest and thrilling riding experience. After witnessing prototypes of the 401 Vitpilen and Svartpilen models, and watching the award-winning Vitpilen 701 come to life in front of us, it’s clear: Perfection is not about more or less, but about precisely enough. There is a fine line between too much and too little, and with the new Husqvarna street bikes, you can finally ride that line. 

 

Lotawana


Independent Filmmaking, Living Creativley & Letting Go with Trevor Hawkins & Todd Blubaugh

Words by Ben Giese


 

In our idealistic concept of the American Dream, life should be better, richer and fuller for everyone. Our modern Land of Opportunity provides more access to information and greater tools for creativity than ever before, but somehow it has become increasingly more challenging to live outside the box and carve your own path through life. Society has created a strict set of rules to live by and structured guidelines to follow. But does it have to be this way? Do we have to live by this formula and fall into this trap, or can we rewrite our own rules of modern existence?

Filmmaker Trevor Hawkins explores these ideas in his beautiful new cinematic masterpiece, Lotawana.  In the feature film starring our friend Todd Blubaugh, empty materialism and the constraints of modern culture have pushed an unfulfilled young man on a voyage of discovery. Escaping to nature by living aboard a sailboat on a rural Missouri lake, he is seeking something more, something beautiful, something real. After setting sail on this journey, he promptly catches wind of a rebellious and free-spirited young woman, and their idealistic dreams align. As they let go, they fall head-first into the ambitious, yet unprepared, idea of leaving their old world far behind. 

This is a very relevant conversation for our generation, and Trevor has poured his heart and soul into producing an inspirational film. He has risked everything to follow his intuition, feed his creativity and bring this movie to life. 

Complete trust in the path you’ve chosen and confidence in your vision is an admirable thing. Our pal Todd is very much the same – a talented photographer, writer, motorcycle builder, creative thinker and ramblin’ spirit who has even published his own book.  I’ve got a tremendous amount of respect for these two and the lives they have chosen, and these admirable traits become self-evident when watching Lotawana.

For Volume 011, I interviewed Trevor and Todd to learn more about the inspiration behind this story, the challenges of independent filmmaking, and how youth, love, rebellion, nostalgia, freedom and wanderlust are woven throughout.


Read the story in Volume 011


Way-Out


Tyler Bereman

Words by Brett Smith | Photos & Video by Sebastien Zanella


 

They were thinking exactly what he thought they might be thinking: “Who the f#ck is this guy?” It was the fall of 2010, and a group of freestyle riders were at Ocotillo Wells, a popular Southern California riding spot filled with cliffs, hips and ledges. The group was led by Jeremy “Twitch” Stenberg, who is now a 16-time X Games medalist. He was shooting for 420%: All Natural, a movie composed entirely of riding natural terrain. 

Tyler Bereman, a blond-headed teenager, showed up with Andy Bakken, then a representative for Answer Racing. Bereman had #653 on his number plates and was still riding the high from a college boy title at the Amateur National Motocross Championship at Loretta Lynn’s that summer. Although he’d grown up as the son of a flat-track racer and didn’t race motocross until he was 10, all he’d ever wanted to do was jump. He’d never, however, ridden anything like this, and that became painfully obvious when he took his first crack at an 85-foot gap known as the Pole Line Step Up.

“He came up so short,” Twitch says. “He cased the step up so hard, and I remember thinking, ‘This kid is going to kill himself!’”

Shortly after, the crew migrated to a different, more technical gap jump. While they were scoping it out, Bereman rolled up and claimed he was going to hit it backwards. “I don’t even want to watch this go down,” Twitch says he said to himself. There was no safety deck around the landing, and if he came up short this time, a price would be paid. After a half dozen runs at it to gauge speed, he committed and landed perfectly.  

“He absolutely greased it. I was a fan of the kid from then on,” Twitch says. Bereman made the film, and subsequently, many more. Still, the question lingers for most people: Who the f#ck is Tyler Bereman?


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Read the story in Volume 011


Accidental Legend


Long Haul Paul: Riding a Million Miles for the Cure

Words by Paul Pelland | Photos by Matt Kiedaisch


 

As I slid down a lonely Arkansas highway just as the sun’s warmth was cresting the horizon, I couldn’t help but think this may not have been one of my better ideas. If I managed to live through the next few seconds, not only would the entire world know I was an idiot, I would have one hell of a long walk home.

I slid on my chest in slow motion, my motorcycle just a few feet ahead of me shedding pounds by the foot, marring the pavement while creating a fantastic light show. Bright, colorful sparks, the likes of which no Japanese bike could ever create.

The bike was veering toward the right shoulder like an obedient pigeon, and I dragged my right boot like a rudder to follow it to its familiar home, the breakdown lane. 

Every believing biker knows tractor-trailers would never be allowed to drive past the pearly gates, so inhaling the mingled stench of burnt asbestos-flavored dust and decade-old recycled tread was a welcome relief I savored as if it were a fresh-baked blueberry pie. The 18-wheeler was the only other vehicle on the highway, and the out-of-tune screeching of brittle rubber composed the string section that accompanied the light show. 

 

The year was 2001, and although I had yet to show any of the progressive disabling symptoms of having multiple sclerosis, I was riding a motorcycle that most certainly did. 

 

 

It wasn’t the first time I shouted, “You Commie bastard!” But this time it was forceful enough to fog my face shield. I realized for the first time in almost two years of planning that my attempt to ride a Russian Ural in the Iron Butt Rally was insane, absurd and appeared to be grinding itself to an embarrassing finale. As the Earth beneath me stopped rotating, the sparks fizzled out, and the music died. 

The show was over. Nothing to see here. My attempt at finishing the World’s Toughest Motorcycle Competition was ending in the gutter. But it wasn’t for lack of trying. 

Within hours of the starting pistol, I had experienced a seized motor and the joy of a 150-mile tow in the wrong direction. A stranger with matching DNA transplanted his personal bike’s engine into my frame to help get me back on the road. Not bothering to do a proper test run on the older engine, I rode all night with a rough running motor and electrical issues, including no taillights. After a half hour’s rest in a dingy truck stop, I wasted four hours just trying to start the bike, alternating kicking and swearing with resting and praying before it haphazardly coughed to life. And now, a series of dips in the road caused the front end of my overloaded combative camel to oscillate into a crunchy wobble that intensified into a tank slapper and spit me off.

 

“If life were easy, everyone would get one.” 

 

 

Although the asphalt-polished motor, now spewing oil from a ripped-open valve cover, had been salvaged from the good Samaritan, I had started the event on a very special, completely redesigned Ural Solo. It was one of only two specimens in the country and the very first 750cc model registered in the United States. It had electric start and electronic ignition. I was a sponsored rider – albeit reluctantly, as my request for support was originally responded to by the head of Ural America with, “We’re sorry, Paul, but no one in our office thinks our bike could actually finish the Iron Butt Rally.”  

I’m not sure why I didn’t see that as a red flag. 

It was my first time riding in the World’s Toughest Motorcycle Competition, and I was able to secure a coveted entry spot only after offering to do so on quite possibly the world’s most unreliable motorcycle. At the time my offer was accepted, I did not own a Ural motorcycle and, in fact, I had never even seen one in person!

The Iron Butt Rally is a scavenger hunt on steroids. It runs for eleven days, and the average rider will log over 11,000 miles criss-crossing the country in search of obscure roadside attractions for bonus points. It is not a race, and winning is never about speed. It is about proper planning, routing, fuel management, and proper receipt and recordkeeping, as well as constantly being able to adjust the plan on the fly. It’s about sleep management, and proper diet. It is a thinking game, with unforeseen choices, challenges and obstacles. Most riders choose the latest high-tech touring bikes and outfit them with all the latest gadgets and electronic goodies to prepare for such a grueling test of man and machine. 

Exactly 100 of us left the starting line with hopes and dreams – a few to win the event, some to place in the top ten, and the rest just hoping to make it to the finish. The grueling event runs every other year and draws hardcore long-distance riders from all over the world. More humans have travelled in space than have finished an Iron Butt Rally.

 

At this particular moment, the finish line might just as well have been on mars.

 

Getting up and dusting myself off, I conceded that my ride, my adventure, my attempt at finishing the Iron Butt Rally was indeed over. With the exception of cigarettes and chronic masturbation, I’ve never been successful at quitting anything. Although I was the butt of every other rider’s joke and even scorned for taking away a coveted spot a real rider could have occupied, I was seriously trying to put forth an honorable effort. I was the only one on the planet who thought I had a shot at finishing, not to mention even making the first checkpoint. Creating a contingency plan was like accepting failure was a possibile outcome, so I had none. I scanned the terrain for a remote area where one could drag a motorcycle, scrape off its serial numbers and leave it to die.

As I checked myself over for missing limbs, I could have sworn on a Bible it had been a week since I left the starting line. The face of my watch joined in the global mockery, as I shook it violently in disbelief. Are you f-ing kidding me?

 

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Just 24 hours had passed since the eleven-day rally had begun. 

 

My esophagus hardened as I swallowed a burlap sackful of cinder blocks. My heart was racing; I felt a wave of anger penetrate every muscle from my ankles up. For my own protection, I don’t carry a pistol. I did, however, have my Russian persuasion instrument in hand and was about to hammer intercontinental bodily harm when I saw the flashing blue lights of the Arkansas State Police. 

The trooper looked at me leaning over my borrowed motorcycle steaming in a pool of oil and asked me what had happened. He listened patiently to my story. Without even asking for identification or papers, he offered a simple suggestion.

 “Why don’t you see if you can fix it, and continue your ride to California.” 

The idea that the heap of mangled metal was rideable never crossed my mind, and certainly the thought of being able to stay in the rally would not have occurred to me on my own. I was doubtful, time was running out, reality was settling in and fear was growing. Fear of what an additional ten more days struggling aboard this antiquated piece of recycled tank turret might do to my body, my mind and my soul. I agreed to give it a try.

My uniformed enabler stayed with me while I picked up the pieces of my motorcycle, duct-taped the windshield and JB Welded the side of the motor. I straightened the handlebars as best I could, and eventually tried to kickstart the bike. It started. I was worried that all the oil had escaped from the hole in the motor and asked the officer if he could radio a tow truck to bring me some oil. I clearly explained I didn’t care what it might cost. 

He took a few moments, but when he returned from his patrol car, I inquired about the oil. He shook his head. “The service station wanted too much money.” I started to argue, but he quickly added, “Oh, don’t worry, I called my wife at home, she’s going to the store right now to get two quarts of 20-50 weight oil and will meet us up here on the highway.” 

I love a man in uniform.

 

 

Just two hours after the crash and an all-but-certain DNF, the Angels of Arkansas had me moving down the road, back in the rally, heading to the West Coast with renewed hope and determination to prove everybody wrong. My progression and digression was relayed to the event organizers a couple of times a day or every breakdown, whichever occurred first. Only after the rally did I understand how my brutally painful experiences were sucking up a multiplying audience, anxiously waiting for my next train wreck. I was the funny pages of the Iron Butt press and the headlines of day two’s official rally report read, “Team Lazarus rides again.” 

The unwilling Ural and I continued to wrestle over the next 24 hours with a second tow off the freeway in California, a stripped rocker arm shaft, a charging system failure, intermittent electrical shorts and loose wires. We were sucker-punching each other, bloody and fighting like brothers, when we limped into the Washington checkpoint. All harsh words were quickly forgiven, as Ural America was meeting me and would be repairing the damaged bike. The only other 750cc motor in the country, the one used for EPA testing, became the third engine bolted into my bike. 

It was day seven, and only the checkpoint in Maine stood between me and the Alabama finish line. With a fresh motor, steering head bearings (which apparently had fallen out, causing my crash) and other repairs completed, I felt I was in great shape and wanted to attempt a few of the bigger bonuses, particularly the ones in Alaska. 

Both my Russian pit crew and the rally staff strongly urged me to head directly to Maine. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. I was informed more people were interested in reading about my misadventures on the Ural than the riders who were actually winning the rally.

 

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“You have to finish, Paul, because some of us are secretly betting you just might.” 

 

It was sound advice. Twelve hours later, my new high-tech, redesigned Russian weapon and I were having words in a pull-off area as I disassembled the left cylinder head for the 56th time in the dirt. I had already lost the luxury of electric start, as it now required removing and banging the pinion gear back into its resting position every time I accidentally used the pretty little button. 

Unfortunately, this unplanned rest break was more serious. A poke at the pushrods explained the jingling noises and loss of power. One of the rods spun in an oblong orbit. Bent rod. The cell signal was weak, but the advice from the Russian head mechanic to remove the rod and bang it straight on a rock with a hammer seemed clearly logical. After removing the rod, I discovered the hardened tip had actually snapped off the aluminum shaft. The intake pushrod was broken in two impossible pieces. I quickly called back Ural’s “Golden Hands” Alex on my cellphone. Again, the factory-recommended procedure for my predicament seemed legit. “No problem,” he said, pausing his stout Russian accent,

 

“Just find metal, make pushrod.”

 

Knowing the odds of finding a pushrod for the new 750CC Russian motorcycle engine on the side of the road in Wyoming were unfavorable, I gave up looking and knelt beside my enemy praying for vodka rain. I was quite a long way from anywhere.  Looking through my 200 pounds of spare parts, tools and prayer beads, I got an idea. I knew duct tape would probably not hold the broken pushrod together, but JB Weld just might. Inhaling the aroma of brilliance as I stirred the two parts of epoxy with a coat hanger, I painstakingly glued together the inner workings of my valve train, crafting my way out of yet another sure-bet DNF. 

 

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The pasted-together pushrod lasted 50 miles before the left jug ceased working again. I was limping along at a top speed of 20 miles an hour, this time praying to be hit by a semi. The drone of the one working cylinder began to take on a very curious verse.

 “GU-HUM, GU-HUM, GO-HUM, GO-HUM, GO-HOME, GO-HOME, GO-HOME!”

Depression, anger, anxiety, fear, spitefulness, a bit of hunger and a serious rash on my ass created a perfect storm that could have resulted in any number of felonious outcomes. Fortunately, it did not. Instead, this rally, this day, this particular moment in my life helped shaped who I am, and continues to give me strength to believe in myself at the most difficult and trying times. It was one of those moments.

I stood up on my foot pegs, raised my face shield, and screamed louder than humanly possible, “I WILL NOT GIVE UP, AND I WILL NOT GO HOME, YOU COMMIE BASTARD!” With a grease pencil, I scribed I WILL NOT GIVE UP across my windshield and vowed that no matter what, I was going to make it across the finish line of the World’s Toughest Motorcycle Competition. I just needed a new plan.

Limping into Rawlings, Wyoming, I devised a plan that didn’t include giving up. Look where you want to go and lean (as hard as possible at 20 mph) into the turns. I charged up and down the aisles of a True Value hardware store with Black Friday vigor. I purchased a couple of long, hardened drill bits, and with the unauthorized use of a grinder I spotted in the back room, I fabricated two brand new Ural pushrods. 

 

“Find metal, make pushrod”  

 

Who says I never follow the factory maintenance recommendations?

 

 

Despite a fistful of additional breakdowns, I made it to Maine on time and eventually across the finish line in Alabama, placing 86th in the incredible Iron Butt Rally. I truly had no idea my finishing such an event on such an unreliable antiquated machine would become such folklore, nor did I realize at the time how valuable the lesson was for me. I now travel the country using the story to explain what it is like to go through life with a chronic disease or disability. It is never the bike or one’s body, but the rider, or inner strength and passion, that will get us through all of life’s potholes. I also use the adventure to inspire people with challenges to never give up and to continue to charge toward their goals, no matter what obstacles get in their way. Disease, illness or challenges in life should never confine or define who we are. 

 

 “You don't have to come in first to be a winner.”

 

Two years later, I found myself in first place in the points pulling into the Lake City Florida checkpoint. It was day four of the 2003 Iron Butt Rally, and I was piloting a dependable BMW R1100RT. I should have felt nothing but victory. Instead, I was scared and confused, was having trouble speaking and my hands were numb, and I couldn’t recall where I had been the day before. The rally staff was a bit alarmed at my condition and ordered me to skip the mandatory rider’s meeting and get some sleep. The next morning didn’t change anything. I was in a fog so deep, I couldn’t locate my motorcycle. I couldn’t write because both hands were still numb, and I had lost all dexterity in my right hand. I was unable to plan a good route for the next leg, so I just took off for a known sucker’s bonus in Key West. It was worth a lot of points, but because of traffic, was hard to make good time. I had no other choice. I hoped time in the saddle would help clear my head. 

I’m still waiting. 

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Despite finishing the rally in the top ten a week later, I retired from competing and withdrew from the long-distance community immediately following the event. I kept telling myself it was the harsh riding and stress of pushing myself that were causing my problems, but eventually I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. My experiences during the 2003 Iron Butt Rally had been my very first major attack. With physical and memory issues that were not going away, I sold my bikes and gave up riding motorcycles altogether. I sold my business, gave up on my hopes and dreams for the future and prepared for the absolute worst. 

Multiple sclerosis is a progressive autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the central nervous system. Damage to the coating surrounding the nerves in the brain and spinal cord interfere with the transmission of signals to the rest of the body, causing a wide range of symptoms.

(Imagine if you will, a Cold War-era motorcycle wiring harness made by a 5-year-old child in a sweatshop and then stored for decades in a mesh bag in the Dead Sea expecting to work properly in the frame of a new post-Soviet Union bike while engaged in an endurance competition. I’m truly not bitter.)

Multiple sclerosis targets more women than men, and is usually diagnosed between the ages of twenty and forty. Symptoms, severity and progression will differ for each person. Relapsing forms of the disease are most common where symptoms flare, then subside. Common symptoms can include fatigue, walking difficulties, numbness, spasticity, weakness, vision problems, bladder and bowel problems, pain, cognitive issues, depression and emotional changes. Although we have developed over a dozen disease-modifying medications that can slow the progression, to date we do not know what causes MS, and we do not have a cure.

 

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When passion and purpose collide

 

Seven years went by, and with medication that is slowing my disease progression, healthy living and a positive attitude, I started to realize I might be one of the lucky ones. My symptoms were manageable and I had learned how to compensate for the cognitive deficits with technology and quick wit. I struggled with finding a way I could help those who were suffering from more severe symptoms and progressing disability from this incurable disease. I heard a doctor tell a group of patients at an educational event that he thought a cure for MS was a million miles away. In my best Jim Carrey imitation, I quipped,  “So, what you are saying is, that a cure is possible?”

The idea struck me like a bug splattering my forehead, and five years ago my mission statement and purpose in life became crystal clear:

 

“I once was told a cure for MS was a million miles away, so I figured I would just go get it and bring it back”

 

Although I was unable to compete in rallies again because of the cognitive requirements, I realized I could still ride the hell out of a motorcycle and decided to make my diagnosis public by documenting a million-mile journey chasing the cure for multiple sclerosis. Convincing my wonderful wife that quitting my job, buying a motorcycle and some assless chaps and traveling the country sharing my story to people living with MS while drinking beers, shooting the shit and attempting dangerous feats on a motorcycle without any visible source of income was a smart idea, well, that took some time. 

By the end of 2013, I was speaking and challenging MS patients across the country to recalculate their own road by continuing to follow their passions and dreams no matter what they may be. I have since delivered over 250 presentations, written for various health and motorsport magazines, have set two world records and raised over $100K for MS research, all while logging 300,000 miles as an advocate across the country. 

My first Yamaha Super Tenere was retired with 172,000 miles on the clock and is on display at Barber Motorsports Museum. Last year, I logged 80,000 miles, quickly wearing out bikes, tires, riding gear and accessories at an accelerated pace. Motorcycle seminars, keynote presentations and fundraisers take up the rest of my time; I hold on to the belief that speaking fees will eventually offset my travel expenses. To keep my journey rolling, I am increasing my social media presence on Facebook, YouTube, and my own website. Stories from the road, meet-and-greets and seminars are all posted online. Like, subscribe, follow or get out of my way, because I am on a mission, a million-mile journey, riding every day possible and raising funds, awareness and a bit of hell along the way as I continue chasing the cure.


Read the story in Volume 011


Jeremy McGrath


The Weight of Perfection

Words by Brett Smith | Photos by Aaron Brimhall


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“At one level he’s a simple study in proportions, but at another he’s the expression of an ideal: a human figure whose body is the world, whose mind is its spirit, and whose being represents the power and order of the heavens brought down to Earth. His spread-eagled figure haunts the circular layout of Roman temples and cities, the full span of the globe, even the cosmos itself.” 

—Toby Lester on Vitruvian Man from his book Da Vinci’s Ghost

 

Even the Vitruvian Man wasn’t perfect. Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic drawing is accepted today as a credible image of the ideal proportions of the human body. Based on the work of the ancient Roman architect Vitruvius, Vitruvian Man—a 13.5 x 10-inch pen-and-ink drawing circa 1490—represents the measure of all things. Da Vinci showed that a well-built man with arms and legs fully extended fits perfectly into a circle and a square. But da Vinci had to manipulate the shapes to make him fit. The center of the circle is positioned at his navel, while the center of the square is lower. 

One spring day in 1996, the ideal man of supercross fell short of perfection, and the rest of the world won’t let him forget it. 

 

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On April 27, 1996, Skip Norfolk blew it. Almost 20 years later, he repeats himself ad nauseam in recounting one of the more sour memories in his career as a race mechanic for Jeremy McGrath.

 

"I didn't do my job..."

“I let the guy down…”

“I wasn't able to…”

“I failed him.” 

 

McGrath only recently learned of this burden Norfolk has carried around for two decades. He had no idea his mechanic blamed himself for the 1996 St. Louis supercross loss, the only blemish in a season where McGrath won 14 out of 15 races, including a fourth consecutive championship. McGrath bristles at being asked to discuss the race. Although he’s most famous for his record seven championships and 72 main-event wins, when the 1996 season comes up, nobody asks him about how he dominated, or how he won Daytona for the first time, or led every lap in the wind and rain at Charlotte Motor Speedway. It’s always about the night that he took (sigh) second place. The philosophical argument about 1996 is this: What was more unusual, the fact that Jeremy McGrath had won the first 13 races or that there could be a night where he simply wasn’t the best rider? 

 

“I made a career doing the things that people thought I couldn’t,” McGrath said. “I was fortunate to be good enough to where that type of race—where I got second—was a miserable race. That’s a weird thing to say.”

 

McGrath dominated the ’96 season, but, as with any sports streak, he caught some breaks. In Seattle, he rebounded from a poor start and was passed by Damon Huffman three times for the lead. Attempting a fourth pass, Huffman stalled his bike and couldn’t catch McGrath again. In Indianapolis, Jeff Emig led comfortably at the halfway point, but, in an unforced error, washed out in a corner. What-if talk won’t change history, but it can be fun for discussion. What’s certain is McGrath was not the best supercross racer that one specific night in St. Louis. 

 

“So many things lined up wrong to go racing that day,” 

 

Norfolk says today. None of the parties involved can offer a detail that specifically caused the outcome of this race, but in a season where nothing could go wrong for McGrath’s team, suddenly there was a series of minute details that collectively didn’t seem right. 

Norfolk believes two types of spectators showed up that cool night at the end of April to what was then known as the Trans World Dome: those who wanted to see Superman triumph once more and those who wanted proof that Superman really was Clark Kent. St. Louis was the closest event Emig had to a hometown race in his professional career; raised 250 miles away in Kansas City, he bought a dozen tickets for family and friends, and the 36,717 spectators in attendance were clearly split in allegiance between the champ and the challenger. The 1996 race was the first-ever supercross in St. Louis, and the crowd was impressive considering that two other major sporting events were scheduled on the same day. Six-tenths of a mile to the south, an early-afternoon baseball game at Busch Memorial Stadium was played between the Atlanta Braves and the St. Louis Cardinals. At the same time as the gate drop for supercross Heat No. 1, the NHL’s St. Louis Blues and the Toronto Maple Leafs squared off 1 mile to the west in conference quarterfinal game six. With 20,777 fans, the Kiel Center was at 108 percent capacity. 

Back in the Trans World Dome, as the first heat race of the night was lining up, 1983 AMA Supercross Champion David Bailey was banging on the walls of the press-box elevator while Art Eckman sat waiting for him in the television booth overlooking the stadium floor. Bailey, ESPN’s supercross analyst at the time, was stuck and alone, and the emergency phone was either out of order or yet to be installed; Bailey can’t recall. What he does remember is that he was involuntarily quarantined for 71 minutes and may have missed the start of the race had it not been for Eckman, who figured it out. After being evacuated from the broken lift by the fire department, Bailey was brought into the TV booth, where Eckman sat with a friend, a gentleman in his mid-50s wearing a blue button-down and gray slacks and who also happened to be wearing a studio headset. 

“David, this is Bobby Cox,” Eckman said.

“Cool,” Bailey said as he tried to get into place, straighten his tie, and don his headset. Then he thought to himself, “Who in the hell is Bobby Cox?”

After the ESPN “Speedworld” opening sequence, the supercross telecast opened with Eckman introducing Bailey and special guest Cox, a casual supercross fan and the general manager of the 1995 World Series–winning Atlanta Braves. On air, Cox talked about how the 1982 Braves had also started their season with 13 consecutive victories, a record that has been matched since, but not broken.

“This streak here,” Cox said of McGrath’s own run of a baker’s dozen, “it almost seems impossible to me.” Cox, now a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, had accurate analysis, because three hours later his foreshadowing proved to be correct. 

 

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Gary Emig was excited. He thought his son’s bike looked faster coming out of the turns. Jeremy Albrecht didn’t understand how the elder Emig could eyeball something like that, but he didn’t question it because the mood at the Kawasaki truck was spirited. Despite being trounced by McGrath for 13 consecutive weekends, Jeff Emig still believed that he could win. Albrecht liked that about Jeff, and, being only 24 years old and in his first year as a factory mechanic, he did everything he could to please his rider and team. That week it was installing a power jet on Emig’s KX250, an electronic piece that shot fuel into the carburetor exactly when the engine needed it, typically when its fuel mixture was too rich. Albrecht said electronics were still very new in motocross and they had been testing the part for only two weeks. In practice, Emig had a minor get-off, but he was still upbeat; the track was rutted, the whoops—admittedly a huge weakness for him—were smaller and wouldn’t be much of a factor, and the support of family gave him good vibes. Emig remembers lining up in St. Louis with a tremendous amount of confidence. 

“I was always emotionally motivated,” he says. “Having [family there] inspired me to feel like I was on a date with destiny. I’m funny that way.”

In Heat 1, Emig took a tight line around the left-hand first turn and led all eight laps, but had constant pressure from Yamaha’s Doug Henry. It was Emig’s fifth heat-race win of 1996. McGrath won Heat 2, but spent the entire race chasing privateer Phil Lawrence while both Mike Craig and Larry Ward took turns poking at the champ. With 150 feet to go, McGrath shot by Lawrence for the win, but since his total for the heat was 7:39.830, he was 1.6 seconds shy of Emig’s victory time and would be lining up second in the main event. Emig set the fastest heat of the night only one other time that season. 

Two weeks prior to the St. Louis round, the AMA’s Duke Finch warned all the teams that parking at the new dome would be limited due to ongoing construction. Promoter Pace Motor Sports rented 14 loading-dock slots where the teams with 18-wheelers could park and work. Everyone else was advised to pack light because they would be pitted together inside an open area and had to carry in all their supplies. Team Honda was in their final season of operating out of box vans, and in St. Louis, Norfolk and McGrath set up their camp—a bike, toolbox, lawn chair, and gear bag—in the dank concrete underbelly of the stadium. McGrath was used to this type of setting from all the European races he’d attended, but in the States, with so much pressure building to earn a perfect season, Norfolk was uneasy because he didn’t feel like he was in control of his surroundings. 

 

“We were standing there naked in a sense,”

 

Norfolk says. In addition to maintaining McGrath’s bike every week, he typically ran interference and tried to make sure his rider had the space and time to mentally prepare each night. As the win streak lengthened, the interview and appearance requests ballooned, as did the number of fans and friends stopping by for face time with McGrath. Coming into 1996, McGrath was already by far the most popular rider in the sport. By the end of the season, his dominance had earned him—and the sport—coverage in USA Today, appearances on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” and “RPM Tonight,” exposure via local news stations and dailies along each stop, and even a moment on “Hard Copy.” The promoters were also reaching out to “The Tonight Show.” Showtime was in high demand and Norfolk was working overtime to make sure his rider had space throughout race day. 

“It wasn’t up to McGrath to say no,” he says. “He was Superman. Saying no was my job. I just tied Superman’s shoes. That’s all I did. Jeremy had an unbelievable ability to focus and turn things off and on. He could mentally talk himself out of arm pump. That’s how strong he was.” The bike ran flawlessly in St. Louis, but Norfolk’s biggest regret from that night was not being able to create an environment where McGrath could mentally prepare. After the heat races, while Emig was sitting in the private warm lounge at the front of the Kawasaki trailer, studying film, McGrath was a sitting duck in the open-air paddock and was asked by Pace officials to meet with executives from Anheuser-Busch. They were trying to close the beverage giant as a series sponsor, and McGrath obliged. He left the paddock to walk, in full gear, to a room that he thought was nearby.

 

“That never happened,” McGrath says of the mid-program request. “It was a rare situation, but I’m a pleaser. I want to help everyone and then some.” The meeting was in a suite on the other side of the stadium. “It felt like 2 miles,” McGrath recalls. Moving around the most popular person at a gathering of nearly 40,000 is a painfully slow process, and by the time he came back to the bike, he had just enough time to change his gear before walking to the staging area for the main event. Norfolk didn’t get time to talk to McGrath about the bike or go over the heat-race film, and he was irked at himself for not trying harder to keep McGrath nearby. The promoters ultimately didn’t close the sponsorship deal, but six years later, Bud Light, an Anheuser-Busch brand, became the title sponsor of McGrath’s race team.

In the main, Emig had first gate pick, and McGrath, in a move that still baffles him, lined up to the inside of his rival. “I must have felt like I needed to be on the inside of Emig,” he says. “That wasn’t normal for me.” Since McGrath typically had the faster heat race, he was accustomed to seeing Emig line up to his left; he couldn’t control that. But when the roles were reversed, McGrath said he usually avoided being anywhere near Emig, who started well and had a tendency to drift out of the gate. Albrecht says that was often part of Emig’s strategy, and he was also puzzled when McGrath pulled into the inside. 

“I remember races where Jeff would cut a guy off on the start on purpose because that was the only way he was going to beat him,” Albrecht says. 

Because of moves like this, McGrath strongly disliked Emig. Although their relationship is cordial today, McGrath doesn’t edit himself when discussing his feelings toward the mid-’90s version of Fro: “His track etiquette was terrible. None of the riders like racing against him. He chopped everyone off.”

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Norfolk believed that McGrath usually had 17 of the other 19 riders beaten before the gate fell. Mike LaRocco and Emig were the exceptions, and Emig remained hopeful even though he still hadn’t won a race over McGrath in his five years in the premier class. “I had it in my mind that he was beatable,” he says. “It was not easy to be rivals. I appreciate now, at age 44, the struggles and having an adversary and challenger that was such a great champion. As painful as it was sometimes, without that intense rivalry with McGrath, I might not have ever reached the success that I did have.” Before the 30-second card went up, Emig sat stone-still on his bike while McGrath clapped his hands, rolled his head in circles, and rubbed his forearms. ESPN hooked up a microphone to Norfolk’s team headset so the TV audience could listen in to anything he said to McGrath. After the bikes had fired up, Norfolk reminded his rider that he needed only a holeshot and four hard laps and then he could coast: 

 

“You know who is on your right. You know where you need to be when the gate drops. Forget about your heat race.”

 

 

When the gate fell, Emig jumped out well and immediately shot to his left. Exactly as he did in the heat race, he hugged the inside of Turn 1 and rounded the bend in the lead. McGrath was about 10th around the first corner, but was fifth coming into Turn 3. He spent nearly the entire first lap trying to pass Ezra Lusk for fourth, and that was the last outright pass he made for the rest of the race. McGrath sat in fourth place until Lap 9, when Phil Lawrence, who was nipping at Emig for the lead, bounced awkwardly into a hay bale when he cross-rutted on a roller. On Lap 10, McGrath was third and trailing behind two of the most difficult riders to pass: Emig and Suzuki’s LaRocco, a rider who rarely started near the front. 

By the halfway point, Norfolk was in the mechanics’ area with a knot in his stomach. The fact that McGrath had sat in the same position for almost half the race—a position that wasn’t the lead—was foreign to him. He could see that his rider wasn’t on the balls of his feet, was making double foot dabs in the corners, casing small double jumps, losing traction coming out of the turns, and not riding like a four-time champion. Norfolk recalls,

 

“That was not Jeremy out there. You could see it in how he rode. That’s what hurt the most.” 

 

On Lap 12, the lead trio tightened up and McGrath blasted by LaRocco on the start straight when he picked up momentum in the corner after the finish line. LaRocco stayed close, pulled even over the triples, and McGrath glanced over from the inside. In the next corner, McGrath went for the middle of the 180-degree turn while LaRocco darted toward his front wheel. McGrath was slammed so hard by “The Rock” that both feet flailed off the pegs and he weaved to the other side of the track. LaRocco doesn’t remember the specific pass, but says, “Sounds like something I would have done.”

How McGrath’s night didn’t end right there is impressive. LaRocco then passed Emig in the same corner with a similar block, but led for only 150 feet. Two laps later, LaRocco hit Emig from the inside again, this time in a 90-degree corner, but came in at such a severe angle that his left leg popped off the right side of the bike. He remounted without falling, but McGrath swept by. McGrath had about six laps to pass Emig for the lead, but every time he came close enough to make a move, he’d case a jump or cross-rut and miss a double. The track was deteriorating and was heavily rutted and choppy. McGrath’s analysis is that Emig won a fair fight, but he feels that nobody rode very well that night. “It was a survival deal,” he says. 

While being interviewed, Emig pulls up the race on YouTube and offers a different take. “I didn’t make any mistakes from what I can see,” he says. “I didn’t let the emotions of the race affect me in a negative way.” Today, Emig feels loss aversion—the economic theory that people prefer avoiding loss rather than acquiring gain—can sum up his entire supercross career: “I was riding good but conservative out front because I had something to lose…again. I had been in that spot so many times.” 

For the final six laps, while McGrath yo-yoed in second place, Emig appeared not to notice what was going on behind him, but he says he’d be lying if he didn’t admit to keeping an eye on McGrath: “Why would you not? The guy has just won every race. Of course you’re looking out for him.”

 

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After losing his first AMA race since July 30, 1995, McGrath remembers feeling relief, but he was pissed that it was Emig who beat him. He wanted it to be anyone but Emig. Even though he tried to downplay the pressure of the perfect season, in his 2004 book, Wide Open, he said, “It was starting to get to me.” One of McGrath’s greatest qualities as an athlete was that he was confident enough to expect to win every single race, but when he didn’t, he wasn’t upset. Expectations, he says, can sour a career, and he made sure that winning didn’t become a burden. 

 

“At a certain point you get so tired of the expectations that you wish they would go away,”

 

he says of his observations of great champions in motorcycling and other sports. “You like winning, but you get tired of the expectations and retire. That’s about the only way that you can push the reset button.” 

Emig didn’t win another AMA race until May 26, the High Point National. In 1996, the supercross and motocross seasons still overlapped, and Rounds 2 and 3 of the MX series fell between St. Louis and the final round of supercross in Denver. McGrath won all three of those races, and Emig still remembers being on such a high in Denver that he didn’t care where he finished. “That one victory in St. Louis meant the world to me. It’s just one race out of hundreds, but it’s a race that I am very proud of.”

The perfect season was over; Cycle News was finally off the hook from conjuring clever headlines and Fox didn’t have the pressure to keep designing creative butt patches about the streak (“Str8,” “9 Lives,” “Hang 10”). But for Norfolk and former team manager Dave Arnold—being employees of Honda—the pressure to win was always prevalent. 

 

“If we didn’t win everything every day, even if it was a good excuse, I remember hearing about it,” Arnold says. “I’m not exaggerating. [Honda was] tough. They wanted to bitch slap the other manufacturers back in time.” 

 

McGrath doesn’t remember feeling that pressure to be perfect, but the team personnel were careful to shield him, and he also won more races than he didn’t. Norfolk, however, was devastated after St. Louis and he remembers nothing in the seven days between the checkered flag and the morning of the Hangtown National outside of Sacramento, California. The week was a complete fog, and at Hangtown he was directed to park on a camber that required him to do some digging for his truck to be level. It was Sunday morning—race day—and he completely lost it. Standing in the sun with a shovel in his hand, he fumed at the fact that he was being asked to park on a hill in the first place. Why wasn’t there more-level ground? 

 

“I felt like I needed to be perfect,”

 

he remembers, “and if I have to be perfect, everyone needs to be perfect. I remember losing it on a guy that was just trying to help me level my box van.”

 

 

By examination of the record books, the residual effects of the win in St. Louis were huge for Emig. The day before the final race in Denver, he did a video shoot with “MTV Sports,” an irreverent sports program that was interested in featuring the guy who finally beat McGrath. Emig went on to win 16 major AMA races through the end of 1997. He also won all three championships: the ’96 and ’97 250cc (now 450) Pro Motocross titles and the 1997 Supercross Championship. The next-highest win total was McGrath: nine wins, zero titles. 

McGrath chuckles about how the race Jeff Emig is most famous for winning is the same race he’s most famous for losing. He doesn’t blame anyone but himself for what happened in St. Louis, and he doesn’t believe there’s a hole in his résumé. The man already called Showtime later became the King of Supercross, probably the most honorable title anyone anywhere could have bestowed upon him. But kings are still human, and for one night, even this symbolic monarch of sport couldn’t force the cosmos back into order.


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Read the story in Volume 004


Steve Caballero


In the Blood

Words by Eric Shirk | Photos by Evan Klanfer & Eric Shirk


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When we as humans think of the word “addiction,” we tend to have a bad habit of immediately making a correlation to the abuse of potentially destructive substances such as drugs and alcohol. However, for a select few individuals in this world, addiction will be encountered in a form that could never be bought or sold. For these risk takers, soul seekers, life livers, or whatever you’d like to call them, the mundane is not an option. Maybe at one time they could have easily walked slowly and carefully toward their own demise, but not now. No way. That’s no longer an option. Because these select individuals are now hook, line, and sinker on what is possibly the most pwerful drug of all: the pursuit of radness.

Earlier this year I attended an event called “Skatercross” at Milestone MX in Riverside, California. In their own words, Skatercross is “a fun day of riding that welcomes pros from all walks of skateboarding to jump on a motorcycle and have some fun at the track”—basically “just a practice session filled with arm pump and bench racing.” As I pulled in through the gates, I began searching for the man who organized this event: Steve Caballero. 

For those of you who aren’t familiar with this name, at age 12 in the year 1976, Steve Caballero began his own lifelong pursuit of radness as he picked up a skateboard for the very first time. From that day forward, nothing would be the same.

 

From inventing tricks (the Caballerial) to being sponsored by one of the most influential skate brands of all time (Powell-Peralta) to creating one of the longest-lasting and most popular professional skateboarding shoe models of all time (the Vans Half Cab) and even just revolutionizing the style and finesse of riding a skateboard as a whole, Cab was hooked from day one and is one of the most legendary skateboarders of all time. 

 

So, that being said (and as much as I hate to admit it), I was definitely nervous to even approach the guy—especially since I was about to ask him if he’d be interested in being a part of the magazine that we all work so hard to put together. I mean, this dude has been one of my idols since I was a dirty little skate rat flipping through old Thrasher mags during middle school algebra class, cutting out the pictures to hang up in my room. Hell, just a few months ago I was skating the local pool by my house in Pennsylvania with my homies blaring “Skate and Destroy” by The Faction (the punk band that Caballero played bass and guitar for). What if he said no? Was I about to be denied by the same dude that I used to have a poster of on my wall when I was younger?

 

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Alright, so I’ll quit fanning out and get to the nitty-gritty already. As you can obviously imagine—considering you wouldn’t be reading this if it went the other way—Cab was rad. Not only was he immediately stoked to even be asked about being a part of the magazine, but he took the time to give me a Skatercross shirt and his contact info, then show me cell-phone photos of some of the art he’d been working on. The dude even kicked it with me and talked skating. So yeah, I was hyped, and we ended up making a plan to head out a few weeks later to shoot some photos for the mag and talk about the feature.

 

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“I took a six-year hiatus from mx, then caught the bug again,”

 

Cab told me as he took a break from riding during our photo shoot at the recently reopened Pala Raceway in Pala, California. Cab started riding moto in 2000 and ended up stopping in 2005, shortly after starting a family, out of fear of getting gravely hurt. “Stuff changes when you become a dad, and after seeing multiple people get seriously injured, it definitely worried me,” he told me. However, in 2011 Cab would break out the boots yet again and take on a fresh start to the same exact thing that he thought he’d quit for good. “My best friend, Salman Agah, encouraged me to get back into it, and by that time my wrist was itchin’ to twist some throttle!” Cab told me.

 

“Whether it’s skateboarding, riding, art, music, or anything I’m passionate about, I don’t think it’s possible to just quit completely. Not for me, anyways.”

 

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Even during the short amount of time I spent shooting photos with Caballero out at Pala Raceway, you could just tell how invested in and passionate he truly is about the sport of motocross. All day long he was saying things like, “Dude, did you see that guy whip? I want to learn to do that!” and “Man, I want to learn to hit corners like that guy over there!” So let’s put this into perspective: Here’s a 50-year-old man who has done pretty much everything there is to do on a skateboard, is viewed as an absolute legend across the entire skate community—and he’s worried about dragging bar in a corner or throwing a whip? “I’ll teach you how to whip if you teach me how to do 10-foot-high lien airs out of the deep end of a pool,” I told him jokingly. He just smiled, though, then laughed, and continued to study each and everyone’s riding technique as if he were hypnotized by the riders’ modus operandi.

Sooner than later, though, the day had come to an end. I’d gotten my photos, he’d gotten his shred on, and we’d both gotten covered in dust due to the dry California weather that can leave its track conditions less than perfect, to say the least. As he loaded up his KTM 350 into the back of his pickup truck, I noticed the skeleton graphic on his shrouds that appeared to be crawling out of the abyss. I’d obviously seen this logo before, and I immediately knew what it meant: Bones Brigade. The Bones Brigade was a 1980s misfit skate crew that had included who would go on to be some of the most legendary skateboarders in history, including Tony Hawk, Rodney Mullen, Lance Mountain, and obviously Cab himself, just to name a few. But it wasn’t the crew that got me thinking; it was the graphics. This logo being on his motorcycle finally got me to realize after all this time that skateboarding and motocross are one in the same.

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I felt like an idiot. All my life I’d been skateboarding and riding motocross with the mindset that they’re two completely separate things. But, in the end, whether it’s a sport, hobby, art form, or anything that we are passionate about, they are all connected by the exact same thing. All of these things are linked by that one addiction that we all have to our passions. Through trials, tribulations, and difficult situations, once you’ve found your passion, there’s no letting go—no matter what it is. For Cab, whether it’s skateboarding, motocross, painting, or making music, it’s these portions of his life that continue to leave him compelled to keep learning as long as he’s still with us on this Earth.

 

He’ll never quit dreaming, he’ll never quit learning, and he’ll damn sure never quit living.

 

That’s why at 50 years of age, Caballero continues to live for that one pursuit that’s been impossible to let go since he first picked up that skateboard 38 years ago: the pursuit of radness. 

 

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So, this being said, thank you, Steve Caballero. Thanks for keeping it up after all these years, and continuing to inspire us all to never let go of what we’re passionate about. Because just as you’ve said so many times before,

“Once it’s in the blood, it never leaves you—no matter what.”


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Read the story in Volume 003


Dreams Prevail


Roland Sands

Photos by Brandon Harman | Words by Donny Emler


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Perhaps the only thing typical about Roland Sands is the passion he has for riding motorcycles. But Sands is certainly not typical;

 

in fact, the best way to describe him would be “a fucking loose cannon with a knack for designing some pretty amazing shit.”

 

He sees the world through his own unique perspective, and his creative nature allows him to do incredible things with that. 

 

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I met Sands about 10 years ago, and even though I was from the off-road industry and Sands worked more on the street side of the spectrum, our love for motorcycles and shared enjoyment of cold adult refreshments made for an instant bond between us. After our first Daytona Bike Week—where he continuously abused my rental car and slept in my hotel room because of some complications with his own room (he got kicked out)—I realized that this could be the start to a great friendship. When Sands joined in on our annual FMF Baja Bonanza ride, I was excited because I knew he would add some fun flavor to the already awesome group of guys. That was until I remembered how reckless he could be—one broken leg later (from attempting to follow Jeremy McGrath off of a rock jump at the beach), his inaugural Baja Bonanza had come to a screeching halt. 

 

 

Hanging out with Sands is like riding a roller coaster that you have never ridden before: It’s all fun and games until that coaster ratchets all the way to the top and then you see just how high that first drop is.

 

Before you have a chance to back down, you are whirling down the coaster with your head spinning, but when it’s over, you’re ready to do it all over again. A prime example: In 2009, Sands and I had the bright idea to participate in the Red Bull Soapbox Race in downtown Los Angeles in front of 111,000 people. We thought it was genius; with Sands’ design instincts and FMF’s manufacturing capabilities, ours would be a racer like no other. We rolled up to the race with a Delorean-replica soapbox racer and Back to the Future costumes to match, in 100-plus-degree heat. In full character, Marty McFly and Doc Brown descended the steep L.A. street. I felt like we definitely were going to win this race; with Sands at the wheel and me sitting shotgun, we passed the radar speed check heading to the massive bowl turn at the bottom of the hill doing 47 mph. 

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It was then that I realized Sands had no plans for utilizing the brake system we had installed. In that very moment, I had had enough Sands for the day. Luckily for the judges who were propped at the top of the massive 10-foot caged metal berm, Red Bull had been wise enough to have built a three-foot safety wall, because two grown men hitting a berm at 47 mph on bicycle wheels is likely to spell destruction for anything and anyone in range. After a massive rail slide on the safety wall—and somehow not plummeting to the asphalt floor for a cement nap—we made it. Against all laws of physics and nature, we made it.

 

After taking in all the adrenaline, I realized that this is just how Roland lives his life. The creative process necessitates risks, and Sands welcomes these risks in turning his mind’s craziest concepts into reality.

 

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Roland Sands has been at the forefront of the modern-day motorcycle garage revival. Nestled away in Southern California, Roland Sands Design (RSD) has been evolving over the last decade into not just a performance design shop, but an eclectic hangout as well.

 

Sands has laid his skin into the earth in the name of motorcycles, building his own style and brand. Be it asphalt or dirt, Sands has raced it on two wheels. His pedigree is deeply infused with motorcycle culture.

 

His father, Perry Sands, is the man behind Performance Machine—a design shop that also helped usher iconic style and design into the aftermarket world—and growing up around him, Sands always displayed an eye for style. A former AMA 250GP national champion, Sands is no stranger to racing, winning, and setting track records. This has all played a huge role in shaping Sands as a person and as a designer. Over the years, Sands has built some unbelievable custom machines—bikes that can actually be ridden and ridden fast—for a number of A-list celebrities and other high-profile clientele. 

 

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But building custom bikes is just a small piece of the puzzle that is Roland Sands Design. Sands has diversified his business into product design and consultation for the motorcycle OEMs; RSD works with major motorcycle manufacturers to design concept and prototype motorcycles and promote benchmark product in the motorcycle industry and beyond. The company also promotes its own full line of custom apparel.

 

As a proponent of living life to the beat of his own creative drum, even Sands can get in his own way sometimes, and that’s oddly enough when some of his most amazing designs surface. 

 

Motorcycle culture is flourishing right now, and as so often happens in American society, the motorcycle has come full circle from the early years and once again sparked a major trend, exemplified by Red Bull Media House’s revival of the classic motorcycle documentary On Any Sunday with the major 2014 release of On Any Sunday: The Next Chapter. It’s a trend that Roland Sands and his band of misfits have helped influence by making their mark in style, design, and function. Now is a great time for garage tinkerers to show off their creations. In the past, bikes and going riding were much simpler; the motorcycling of yesteryear was characterized by maintenance-friendly bikes and days of riding right from the garage. Machines of today are the most advanced forms of production motorcycles the world has ever seen—fully equipped EFI, air forks, traction control, and even ABS braking.

But riding a motorcycle is about the inevitable adventure that follows throwing a leg over the seat and twisting the throttle. Enthusiasts all over the world love to ride; it’s a visceral feeling ultimately accompanied by a spark in the soul and a smile on the face.

 

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Roland Sands was born to shift gears and pop wheelies and has been doing so since he was 4 years old. Parents tell their children to dream big and do what they love; for Sands, starting a successful design and manufacturing business was no easy task, but sometimes dreams prevail, and a little bit of recklessness can catapult one idea from mediocrity to pure genius.

 

Sands continues to share his passion with fans and friends by racing Harley nights at his local speedway, even building custom Mad Max–inspired bikes to compete at and help promote the IV League Flat Track, a “run what you brung” event that encourages racers of all types to come out to the track. RSD has also dedicated countless hours to helping promote the Kurt Caselli Foundation, a group whose mission is to promote safety in the world of off-road racing.

Roland Sands has put his heart and soul into creating a brand with a vision that hasn’t lost track of the simple things that make riding a motorcycle fun. So here’s to Sands and the creative nut jobs of the world. Cheers! I am always ready to ride that roller coaster again!


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Read the story in Volume 003