DESIERTO

Magic in the Spanish Desert

Words by Ben Giese | Film & photos by Sebastien Zanella

With quotes from John C. Van Dyke | The Desert, 1901


“Nature never designed more fascinating country to ride over than these plains and mesas lying up and back from the desert basin. You may be alone without necessarily being lonesome. And everyone rides here with the feeling that he is the first one that ever broke into this unknown land, that he is the original discoverer; and that this new world belongs to him by right of original exploration and conquest.” 

The desert is a strange paradox of terror and beauty.  An arid wasteland that has been scorched and forsaken, riddled with death and decay.  The haunting silence and desolation found in the desert provides a right of passage for the troubled mind and a refuge for the wandering spirit to get lost with no intent on being found. In the early days, venturing out into these merciless badlands was surely a death wish.  Skeletons buried in the sand are a ghostly reminder of the desperation seen by nomadic desert travellers who have traversed this forbidden terrain on horseback for hundreds of years.  If migrants weren’t killed by natives, outlaws, bandits, gunslingers or one of the many venomous creatures lurking on the desert floor, they would likely succumb to the suffering of dehydration, starvation, delirium, heat exhaustion, or even freeze to death beneath a cold and merciless moon.  It’s a grim environment, deprived of water and lavish with danger; but amongst all the unrelenting cruelties that define the desert, there is a great deal of majesty and solitude to be found here, and no better way to experience its ominous enchantment than from the seat of a motorcycle.

“The desert is our troubled state. It is the dwelling place of our demons. This is a land of illusions and thin air, the vision is so cleared at times that the truth itself is deceptive.”

Craving an escape with a magnitude of desolation, I linked up with my friend Nathon Verdugo from Ducati USA, and we decided to make our way across the globe to visit the driest region in all of Europe.  Located about 100 miles north of the Moroccan coastline, our destination would be the southeastern province of Almería, Spain.  Greeted by a surprisingly cold wind blowing up from the sea and passing through the white-stucco buildings of Almería, we spent the first evening of this trip planning and preparing our pair of Scramblers for the beating they were about to endure in the coming days.  The hot skies and torn valleys of the Spanish desert show mercy to no one, so being prepared and knowing that we had machines capable of handling the conditions was crucial. 

The following morning we emerged well before the sun and fired up our Scramblers to depart the city and head inland toward the wild desert basin.  As we left Almería, the crumbling pavement roads quickly transitioned to dirt, eventually leading us into a deep, rocky sand-wash snaking through a narrow canyon.  Naturally, you would think a 450lb street bike would quickly meet its maker when faced with miles of sandy riverbed, but I guess there’s no better way to put these motorcycles to the test than throwing them straight into the fire.  I knew these Scramblers would be off-road-capable machines, but I was very surprised at how effortlessly we were able to glide through the deep sand and over all the rocks and boulders.  It quickly became apparent why they named this bike the “Desert Sled.” 

Half an hour after departing downtown Almería we found ourselves passing through an Old West-style town called Fort Bravo.  Clapboard buildings featuring a saloon, a blacksmith, a jail and gallows rested alongside a Spanish pueblo and cathedral.  Two Spanish cowboys were patrolling the dirt roads on horseback, and at the edge of town we could see a group of Native American tipis resting in the valley.  Like a real-life cowboys-and-Indians scene, it was funny to be halfway across the world and feel like we were riding motorcycles in a Clint Eastwood film based in the American Old West.  In fact, we learned that Fort Bravo is often used as a movie set and has been the backdrop for many famous spaghetti-western films dating back to the Sixties.  Quite a sight to behold, this would mark the last sign of civilization before entering the devil’s playground, a country of madness known as the Tabernas Desert.

“The waste places of the earth, the barren deserts, the tracts of forsaken men given over to loneliness, have a peculiar attraction of their own. The weird solitude, the great silence, the grim desolation, are the very things with which every desert wanderer eventually falls in love.” 

Lying ahead in the desert basin sat miles upon miles of splintered peaks scorched dry by the hungry sun.  This was the Wild West at its finest, and it felt like we were the original explorers, pioneers about to concur a great new land full of illusion and mystery. Inspired by the colossal majesty our eyes were absorbing in that moment, my mind couldn’t help but visualize an endless blank canvas – a desolate sanctuary beckoning our motorcycles to create their masterpiece.  

Nathon and I spent the next two days dancing with the devil, wandering back and forth across the eternal wasteland of Tabernas.  Climbing the jagged ridgelines, riding wheelies through the open plains, and roaming in circles with no plan or sense of direction was the essence of why we came here, but what we found during our displacement was something entirely different.  the sense of oneness, clarity and solitude that we experienced in the Spanish desert is something one could only feel by immersing themselves in the sublime silence of these lonely hills.   There’s an unexplainable magic to be found getting lost here, chasing your demons and finding what’s hidden deep within.  The daily stresses and worries of the outside world are quickly forgotten, and the sad state of humanity begins to fade away like a mirage hidden within the purity of this landscape.

At home in their natural habitat, our Scramblers were at peace, and so were our hearts.  I will forever have a special place within for the desert, and those of you who have experienced a motorcycle escape like this know exactly what I’m talking about.  Riding motorcycles in this desolate paradise is very cleansing, but unfortunately, all good things must come to an end.  Sadly, the ghost of reality came knocking yet again, and it was time to go home.  It’s never easy coming down from such a high, but at least we can find comfort in knowing that the desert will always be there, waiting for our return.  For now, we’ll keep it in our dreams, patiently waiting for the next great escape.

“Mystery – that haunting sense of the unknown – is all that remains. It is time that we should say good-night – perhaps a long good-night – to the desert.”

El Solitario

Motorized Creativity

Words by David Borras | Photos courtesy El solitario


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El Solitario is not a company; It's a way of life.

From the depths of the Galician forests, El Solitario has been challenging the status quo since its birth in 2010. We are best known for our wild and unadulterated storytelling, the emotional power and raw energy of our motorcycles, and the romantic but determinedly contemporary nature of our collections. El Solitario breathes Galicia, but we are not Spanish. We are a global entity. Our roots are in Spain, but we are English, French, Japanese, Korean, Mexican, American, German—you name it! Our lack of nationality has been crucial in our growth and allows us a greater deal of freedom of thought and speed in our decision processes. 

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Fundamental to our culture is the juxtaposition of contrasting elements: fragility and strength, tradition and modernity. We are neither a fashion brand nor a motorcycle company. El Solitario is just the helmet under which we develop our creative ethos. The only constant is change. We step outside our front door to find nothing but mountains, medieval towns and farmhouses, and the overall sensation is one of timelessness. This is exactly who we are.

Almost 10 years have passed since we quit our planned lives and jumped into the unknown in pursuit of our dreams. Within that 10 years, we have experienced all kinds of feelings—highs and lows. However, as someone I admire once told me, 

“Feelings are overrated and they just tend to get in the way of what's really important in the end.”

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People will tell you that you should never work with friends, and we couldn’t disagree more. Friends are exactly with whom you should surround yourself, especially in the most important aspects of your life. I am chaos, Val is common sense, and Pico is order. We have been friends for over 20 years, and we have succeeded at creating a system to solve matters that we care about. Our doors are always open, and our kitchen is a gathering point where we find inspiration and synergy. We’ve always been convinced that by surrounding ourselves with creative and talented people, and having the faith to follow our own path, we could come up with a more dynamic and imaginative line of products. Above all, we wanted El Solitario to be a leader—a company that takes chances—and we focus our energy into producing goods that accurately reflect who we are. 

Riding motorcycles is the epitome of speed, a genuine modern revelation. Innumerable great men and women have succumbed to the allure, and felt the fire in their bellies, propelling through adversity on nothing more than a skinny-motored artifact. Shredding any semblance of mundanity from their lives, El Solitario connects riders with the sense of awareness and strength that develops with the inherent risk, fragility and outsider spirit that defines our way of life. 

And with that, we’d like to showcase a few of the bikes that have defined our journey.


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The Winning Loser

It was 2010, and the Winning Loser marked the beginning of El Solitario. We had the need to communicate to the world our vision for a bike and its culture, as well as all the paraphernalia, clothes and accessories that make it a way of life more than a hobby. It took us three wonderful months to complete, and we did it under the influence of Megadeth. Working directly on the metal without sketches or templates, it was child’s play. These were times of innocence and illusion. Little or nothing existed outside of the transformation of the American bikes, and we moved with the impetus and courage of those adventurers who tread unknown ground. The bike itself, a crossbreed between a mini dragster and a tetanus shot, marked its teeth, and without our even noticing it, set the ideological and stylistic path of the brand.

When remembering these years, I still reminisce on the clarity of thought that guided us in the beginning. We were a holy tribe under a divine mission. There were no doubts, just forward motion. We learned that as you mature an idea, the original fundamentalism vanishes, and you inevitably walk into a sea of uncertainty. The Orwellian idea around the residence of fortress in ignorance would become stronger every day.


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Baula

With practice and time, we began to understand that every revolution takes its toll. The hater phenomenon took off. In the meantime, in our studio, imagination was empowered, and along came Baula. Almost 20 months of hitting blind spots paid off. By that time, we had discovered that coincidence does not exist and is nothing more than the result of preparation meeting opportunity. For the first time, these neophytes from the far Spanish West had managed to give life to an inert piece of iron in their garage. It was our Prometheus!

In Baula, there is no definitive line. The chaos is total, although the cohesion of its ensemble gives off a celestial harmony. The great turtle is as extreme as it is useful, and it excites tenderness and delicacy in the attentive observer. Of course, this endearing two-wheeled creature awoke the wrath and fury of the guardians of motorcycling chastity, or whatever the fuck we might want to call the hordes of uneducated and intransigent people that populate the bike world. For the first time, we had broken a taboo, or secret rule, with our longing for real communication, and tested the fire of the angry public. Stupefied, we took some time to recover, but we knew there was no turning back.


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Petardo

The next irreversible step toward our revolution was in 2012 with the construction of Petardo. ESMC’s 10th bike, it reflected our vision at this stage: Destroy the prevailing trend that dictated a minimalist approach to electronics and other components in a custom motorcycle. We believed that hiding all of the necessary equipment that makes a motorcycle fast is a cowardish, hideous, pointless job—all organs such as the gas tank, switches, pumps, coils, regulator, cables and hoses are on the outside and linked in Dadaist disharmony. We wanted to embrace and empower the veins and arteries that move the body! We approached the instrumentation and lightning equipment in the same way. Lambda sensors that calculate the air/fuel ratio on each cylinder, fuel pressure, oil pressure and temperature, voltmeter, exhaust gas temperature … Petardo is wild, overpowered, over-informed, over-blacked, oversized. In sum, it is EXCESSIVE.


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Imposter

Under the name Impostor and anticipating the reaction of the public for such collaboration with corporate giant BMW, the next El Solitario creature was destined to reign even if this was in the realms of evil. References covered the studio walls, including stories about old pirates, photos of the wind tunnel and numerous complex metal structures threatening to become true. It is wonderful to work when the idea is clear. Impostor was a path in solitude during which we lost any link to reality. A metal Beast was brewing in our dark garage, oblivious to the controversy it was going to unleash.

We had created an icon for good or bad, and the hangover was immediate.


Big Bad Wolf

Almost two years had passed since the Impostor phenomenon, and the desire to get involved in a new exercise with the face of a beast had returned. Under the acronym BBW (Big Bad Wolf), we started the transformation of an XJR1300. Its immense four cylinders made our jaws creak and didn’t give us a clue. It was not easy, and after months of frustration, the monster bike asked us the right question: What do we fear most? This would be the key to the development of BBW. Power and technology were the answer. Embracing the Achilles heel of this company turned out to be more rewarding than we thought. Hiring Mauro Abbadini of Classic Co. as technical director of the project turned out to be providential. We wanted a motorcycle that would win races. Mauro’s experience ensured the viability of the project and fulfilled our wildest dreams. BBW was presented at the famous Glemseck races in Leonberg, Germany, and returned with the trophy and a big grin.


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Desert Wolves

At El Sol, we have an authority problem, and we can’t deny it—the intensification of controls and idiot laws concerning the use and modification of motorcycles have made us desire to be turned on by football or table tennis. Unfortunately, we breathe and love motorcycles, and so turning toward off-road felt good. Freedom and self-reliance instead of traffic lights and parking laws. Deal!

Our friend Paul D’Orleans, after encountering the Desert Wolves, defined it as Gesamtkunstwerk, and after we became familiar with the term, we think he nailed it. Gesamtkunstwerk, translated as “a total work of art,” was a term used by some architectural writers to signify circumstances where an architect was responsible for the design and/or overseeing of a building’s totality: shell, accessories, furnishings and landscape. In a world like this, the quality of your final output will be that of the worst of your components. 

Grenade

Featuring Dax Bennick

A Film by Open Fire Media + Visual SZN


Production Company: Open Fire Media + Visual SZN

Director: Parker Foster

DP: Levi Arnold

Aerial + Chase Unit: Ascending Works

Black Arm Op: Keaton Bowlby

1st AC: Zach Youngberg

Grip: Zach Bishop

Editing: Levi Arnold + Parker Foster

Sound Design + Grade: Open Fire Media

Camera System: RED Gemini + Scarlet-W

Glass: KOWA Anamorphics from LensWorks

Chase Unit: Black Arm + MoVI Pro

Aerial Unit: Inspire 2

Score: Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken

The King Killer

A Custom Indian Springfield by Carey Hart


Former freestyle motocross legend, turned custom bike builder, Carey Hart got his hands on a 2018 Indian Springfield and created a custom bike that can flash on the road and on the track –The King Killer Indian Motorcycle. Hart brought together a team of professionals and friends to reimagine a modern Indian motorcycle back to its original race track roots. 

Built for the One Moto Show in Portland, Hart’s team emphasized the simplistic feel of the old school race bikes. Sporting classic red, white and black race colors and a sleek, slimmed down trim, the King Killer took home the Red, White & Blue award for “Best American Build.” 

Vicarious

From Tragedy Comes Love: A Real-Life Motorcycle Fairy Tale

Words by Eric Hendrikx | Photos by Jeff Stockwell


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On August 3, 2017, I was riding a motorcycle in the magnificent Swiss Alps with a newfound friend when suddenly my back tire bottomed out on the cold asphalt. With little time to react, I tried to put the bike down on the road and save myself from going off the edge of the mountain. Instead, I high-sided and went into a horrific tumble with the bike before I was hurled like a ragdoll through a wooden guardrail and 75 feet off the mountainside. Helicopter rescue hoisted me off the mountain and brought me to Kantonsspital Graubünden, where I was placed in a medically induced coma. Days later, I woke up in the intensive care unit, where X-rays and MRI scans revealed a dozen fractures in my spine, a broken hand, a smashed hip, broken ribs, a snapped collar bone and a shattered scapula. Within an instant, my life had changed forever. But, as time would reveal, it was one of the best things that ever happened to me.   

I’m a journalist by profession and a motorcycle rider by enthusiasm. And while my journalistic endeavors for Rolling Stone, Playboy and Revolver Magazine have taken me to the far reaches of the planet, this particular trip to Switzerland was not an assignment. Each summer, my son, Stone, and I take a trip to visit our Swiss family and explore new places. For the summer of 2017, we rented a chalet in the alpine village of Arosa to enjoy the celebration of Switzerland’s independence day while lighting up the sky with fireworks and eating as much cheese as humanly possible.

Just a few weeks before our trip, I matched with a beautiful girl named Nikki on Raya — a private, membership-based dating app. She was a lovely brunette with great taste in music, an eclectic vibe, and an evident affinity for cooking — beautiful, talented and could run circles around me at the barbecue? Sold! It wasn’t more than a few messages about common interests later that we switched to chatting on the phone. Nikki explained how she was a private chef living in Los Angeles and, along with participating on Food Network cooking shows, had worked as private chef for Robert Downey Jr., P. Diddy, Jared Leto, and Kim Kardashian. More importantly, she was lovely to speak with, confident but not self-absorbed, and gave off a creative and positive vibe that I instantly connected with. I wanted to meet her right away, but as luck would have it, I had several publishing deadlines that kept me busy until Stone and I left for our trip to Europe. I promised that I would take her to dinner upon my return in a couple of weeks. 

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There is something magical about the fairy-tale Swiss Alps. Once you arrive, it grabs you, captivates you and, chances are, holds you forever. And there is no other way to experience the meandering roads of the Swiss Alps than on a motorcycle. To do otherwise might be to miss it entirely. Fortuitously, on this trip, I would have such an opportunity.

One afternoon, I landed my ass in a seat on the deck of Provisorium13, Arosa’s most charming lakefront hotel and restaurant. Over a toasted käse-schnitzel washed down with a few crisp German pilsners, I met the proprietors of the establishment — Sascha Buchser and his lovely girlfriend, Iva Pilipova. In short time, I learned that Sascha and I share an enthusiasm for motorcycles. And Sascha happened to have two customized bikes parked next to the restaurant: a 2006 Harley-Davidson Street Glide and a 2004 chopped Dyna. We swapped stories about the places around the world we had both ridden and, despite our just having met, Sascha and I became fast friends — kindred spirits. 

Not long into our conversation, Sascha invited me to come back the next morning for a ride down Arosa’s celebrated “road to Chur” — a serpentine road featuring 360-degree hairpin turns that cut through the scenic Walser region of the Swiss Alps. Filled with excitement and anticipation, I accepted his generous offer and looked forward to our ride the next day.

Nikki and I stayed in touch during my trip, sending text messages and photos to each other. I’d send her a selfie with the majestic Swiss Alps behind me, and she’d send me a stunning selfie from the beaches in Malibu. On the early morning of August 3, I sent Nikki a text message before my ride with Sascha — “Hi lovely girl... I’m off for a motorcycle ride in the Swiss Alps. Have a nice day and will text you when I get back.” I gathered my things and hiked down from our chalet to Provisorium13.

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Sascha had laid out a spread of protective gear for me to choose from. I kept it simple — Rokker riding jacket, gloves, and an open-faced helmet. After all, it was supposed to be a mellow ride. I climbed onto the Dyna and fired it up. Just before we took off, a drifting thought swayed me to quickly go back into the hotel to put on a spine protector — something I’ve never worn before. Moments later, we tore off down the sinuous mountain. 

Corner after corner, I felt like a titan, a centurion of the Alps. Sascha and I rode through the twisted roads, past timeworn residences, flanked by vibrantly green farms. I wore a smile on my face that joy couldn’t match. The landscapes were breathtaking and left deep impressions — Claude Monet comes to mind. 

An hour later, we made it to the bottom of the mountain, arriving at a small café, where we stopped for coffee. Sascha and I spoke about our shared attraction to motorcycles of all kinds; in my optimism, I couldn’t help but share my excitement about meeting Nikki on my return to the United States. “That’s it, Eric! Find a good woman and keep her,” he said. I agreed.

Before ascending back to Arosa, Sascha offered to swap bikes so that I could experience each of his bikes on the mountain. I snagged the keys to the Street Glide, suited up and off we went, riding back from the city into the alpine bliss — a beautiful contradiction between society and nature. Sascha led the way, while I just thrived in the moment, passing through dozens of S-turns on the centuries-old road. I recall peering over the edge at one point and seeing the sheer rocky cliffs seemingly hundreds of feet to the bottom. A dozen more turns — our speed was moderate; my spirit was high. 

About halfway up the mountain, I cornered into a shaded left curve when my back tire bottomed out. In a mad panic, I tried to throttle through, but the mountain’s wry sense of humor bested me — my bike slid toward the edge of the road. I laid the bike down on the road, willing to take my chances with a nasty tumble, but instead, the left exhaust pipe hit the ground and caused both tires to come up off the ground, sending me into a chaotic spin and tumble with the bike. I slammed into the asphalt and was dragged toward the cliff’s edge. In a split second, I was launched through a wood-beamed guardrail and pitched over the mountainside. 

I experienced my flight over the edge in slow motion, with plenty of time to think. One thing was certain — I was going to die. I had seen over-the-edge-of-the-cliff moments before, and knew that survival was impossible. And just in that moment, while preparing myself to greet the unknown, I was overcome with a warm and loving sensation. Suddenly, everything was okay — I felt ready. I had time to think about Stone and of my family. I had recognized and accepted that part of my journey was at its end. I relaxed and yielded to the final moments of my story. The last thing that I remembered was wondering what it was going to feel like when I hit the ground — would it hurt or would I just black out? 

Sascha never saw the accident. He didn’t see me tumble across the road while his Street Glide turned into scrap metal. He didn’t see me roll with the scrap metal like some kind of science fiction meatball. And he didn’t see me get pitched over the edge of the mountain. A witness in a car stopped him and told him what had happened. He raced back to the wreckage, jumped off his bike and climbed down the mountainside to find me lying on my back in a small patch of dirt and grass, unconscious and convulsing like a fish out of water. 

Eric, the helicopter is coming,” Sascha said as I slowly woke. “I want you to answer some questions for me, okay? Can you move your legs?” His concern was obvious — whether or not I was paralyzed. I couldn’t speak yet, but was able to move both of my feet a little. “Eric! That’s really good!” he exclaimed.

But I couldn’t really move at all, and my right side felt dead. I just lay there, trying to answer Sascha as best I could; trying to recall what had gone wrong just moments before. I attempted to respond, but couldn’t breathe. I gave a heavy cough and spewed blood all over my chest. A broken rib had punctured my lung, and I was starting to drown in my own fluids. Sascha’s expression changed from confident to something drastically otherwise. 

The medics rappelled down from the H145 helicopter and started working on me. They carried me to an area clear from beneath the trees, strapped me into a basket stretcher, and hoisted me up into the sky. The last thing I remember was Sascha’s voice: “Eric, I’m going to meet you at the hospital. Stay strong and don’t give up.” Swiss Air-Rescue Rega brought me to the Kantonsspital Graubünden in Chur, where I was placed in a medically induced coma and on life support. Surgeons worked tirelessly to stop my internal bleeding. Pint after pint, I was losing blood faster than I could hang on to it. The outlook was grim, and my survival was doubtful. 

Back in Arosa, Sascha tracked down my family. They rushed to the hospital, where I would remain in a coma for days. Stone sat near, nauseous and pale with the ominous possibility that I might die in front of him. At the same time, he handled all communications between the hospital and my friends and family back in the United States. And luckily, my mom took over as liaison between my insurance company and the hospital; a critical task, since my hospital bills quickly surpassed six figures — clearly, alpine helicopter rescues and Swiss critical care accommodations don’t come cheap. Word spread rapidly back home. “Please pray for Eric. He’s on life support and hanging on by a strand,” my family posted on social media. My dear friends, Kelly Tribolet and Ben Harper, and my brother Brandon got on a plane from Los Angeles to Zurich. 

Meanwhile, Nikki hadn’t heard from me in days, since the morning that I had chosen to go for a ride. Ghosting her seemed out of character, so she looked me up on social media, only to find the Facebook post about my accident. In spite of only having recently become acquainted, Nikki felt very connected to me — she burst into tears. 

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Three nights later, after so many bags of blood that I could probably claim Swiss nationality, my condition took a turn for the better. My blood pressure stabilized, and I woke up. I was covered with tubes and wire — my hips and wrists, a drain tube coming out of my ribcage, EKG wires all over my chest, a feeding tube up my nose, and a ventilator supporting my breathing. I was totally fucked up — bruised, smashed, and broken-boned. The nurse saw me stir and came to me with a smile. I pointed to a small dry erase board at the edge of my bed, since the ventilator and tubes down my throat prevented me from speaking. In my best left-hand writing, I wrote, “Am I going to die?” 

No!” she responded. 

You were in bad shape but now it’s looking better.

Can I have a beer?” I smirked from behind my ventilator.

I think you’re going to be okay,” she laughed. 

If you can joke, you can heal.”

Where is Stone?” I asked.

An hour later, Stone and my brother Thomas walked into the intensive care unit. With my left hand, I pointed at my dick and gave the Okay sign. “Asshole!” Thomas exclaimed with a concerned, but also relieved, grin. Sure, it was crude, and maybe wishful thinking, but my nurse did say that humor was healing.

A few days later, Stone and Thomas brought me my iPhone. I sent Nikki a text. “So sorry I haven’t responded, I’ve been in a coma.” Of course, she already knew. “Are you okay? I’m so sorry. I feel helpless so far away,” she replied.

The following morning, a team of specialists, including my shoulder surgeon, Dr. Sommer, surrounded me in the intensive care unit and explained my situation. The fractures up and down my spine were negligible enough to let them heal on their own — I took this as a gift for putting on that Dainese spine protector before our ride. In fact, Dr. Sommer said that without it, I would most likely be paralyzed or dead. My broken hand and the cuts, scrapes and bruises would all heal without surgery. But I would require a titanium collarbone plate and several titanium plates on my scapula. They would do their best to reassemble the puzzle pieces of my shoulder blade. 

“Okay, so, when can I go home?” I asked Dr. Sommer. 

“You cannot fly for at least two months because of the hole in your lung,” he explained. “We have to make sure that you are fully healed after we remove the drain tube.” I devised a plan with my family where I could be away from home and work for the next few months. Nikki was disappointed. So was I. It seemed our momentous meeting would be postponed for the foreseeable future.

My surgery was a success. I woke up in the post-operating room with new titanium hardware. “Eric 2.0,” as my friends started calling me, was rebuilt and ready for recovery. But my return came with a new set of challenges: sitting, standing, walking, and taking a shit by myself. There’s nothing more humbling than having someone else wipe your ass. Let’s just say that the medical assistants at Kantonsspital Graubünden are doing God’s work.  

Ketamine is an interesting drug. It’s used as an alternative to opioids for post-operative pain, but comes with heavy hallucinations. One night, I became convinced that Switzerland’s Federal Intelligence Agency had intentionally caused my accident in order to install a surgical implant by which they would control my thoughts and central nervous system. In some kind of Jason Bourne conspiracy, Dr. Sommer had installed micro-hardware into my back that would soon make me their agent. Fortunately, I was one step ahead of the Swiss Intelligence — I had a solution. 

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I sent a text to my dear friend Rodney Mullen, known for his genius thinking and computer-hacking enthusiasm. If anyone could get me out of this situation, it would be Rodney. I asked him to hack into the Kantonsspital computer network mainframe and slide in a virus that would release me from their monitoring system. I knew that Rodney could quickly develop a super-neurotransmitter that would free me from the clutches of my conspirators. Once installed, my escape from the Kantonsspital Graubünden would be easy. Rodney entertained my conspiracy theory, but was less optimistic about my plans for escape. “Eric, this is PERFECT. Best freakin’ text I have gotten since I don’t know when. And something tells me you are their favorite patient. But please don’t escape the hospital. In the meantime, I’ll get to work on a psycho-digital porthole.” 

Despite these sporadic hallucinations, my conversations with Nikki were more temperate. Our early-morning and late-night talks had become the embodiment of hope, an urgency to stay positive and strive to recover. I really wanted to meet this woman, and I knew I had to put the pieces back together for that to happen. Nikki must have felt the same sense of urgency that I did. One night, she asked me, “How would you feel if I got onto a plane and came to see you?” 

Was it too soon? Was this a bad idea to invite someone to circle the globe and meet me in my most vulnerable state? I had a shoulder full of staples, a right arm that didn’t work, and I was barely capable of making it to the bathroom on my own. But my hesitations didn’t last.

I’d love to meet you here. Come in September, once I’m out of the hospital and back in Arosa,” I suggested. 

Sascha and Iva had graciously welcomed Stone and me to stay at Provisorium13 to rehabilitate as long as I needed. I suggested Nikki meet me there, high up in the Alps. At the very least, I thought, after making the long trek to Switzerland, she should visit one of God’s most beautiful creations. 

September came quickly. For weeks, Stone looked after me, getting my prescriptions filled, bringing food to our room, and helping me get out of bed and around the small village. Fortunately for him, I was back to wiping my own ass. I went to a physical therapist twice a day, rode a stationary bicycle to increase my healing time, and walked along the small lake a little farther each time. And then the day finally came when I would meet her. 

It was cold and rainy in Arosa. Nikki had flown a dozen hours from Los Angeles to New York to Zurich, and then took a three-hour train ride up to Arosa’s small train station. It was an incredible leap of faith — to fly around the world to meet someone who had just been through a horrific accident. A few glasses of wine on the flight and train were paramount in keeping her nerves at ease. I walked in my pajamas from Provisorium13 to the train station and sat on a bench to wait for her. When the train arrived, I got butterflies. 

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Nikki exited the train with her luggage and walked right up to me with a smile that expressed joy, nervousness and fatigue all in one gesture. I greeted her with a bright smile and a big bear hug. My first impression was that she was more beautiful in person than in her photos — her eyes captivated me, filled with sincerity and compassion. In that moment, after all of our conversations, late-night texts, early-morning FaceTime conversations, and hopeful thoughts, I knew that her long journey wasn’t for naught — it was the right place, and the right time. I offered to carry Nikki’s bags. She looked at my slinged arm, giggled, and produced a shirt that she had brought from Roland Sands’ shop. On the front of the shirt were two words — “CRASHING SUCKS”. We laughed and walked together through the light rain back to Provisorium13. 

We spent the next several days going for walks, sitting on benches along the Obersee, and getting to know one another. For my birthday, Nikki treated Stone and me to Lamm & Leu (Lamb and Lion), a top restaurant in Arosa. What I loved was how well they got along. Nikki and Stone joked, spoke candidly, and despite just meeting under highly unusual circumstances, seemed to hit it off very well. 

After a week in Arosa, and a side trip to Lugano and Lake Como, it was time to leave the Alps. Thomas drove up to Arosa to bring us back down to Hettlingen, where we would stay with family until it was time for Stone and me to fly home. We said our goodbyes to Sascha, Iva, and the staff at Provisorium13 who were so good to us. To this day, I’m humbled by and grateful for the generosity and warm welcome during one of the most vulnerable times of my life. Without Sascha’s quick reactions that day on the mountain, I certainly would have died — an act that I can never repay, but I will always be grateful for. 

My Swiss family loved Nikki, and she was wonderful with them. Nikki and Gabi cooked together, and the twins — Loris and Sven — included Nikki in their games, and Thomas gave me his approval. We visited for a week before Nikki had to fly back to Los Angeles for an event. She cried at the Zurich airport. I held my tears back until after she left. It had been an emotional trip for me and would be two long weeks before Nikki and I could see each other again.  

Nearly three months after we had first arrived in Europe, the hospital cleared me to fly home. It was time — a bittersweet departure. I had become very attached to my Swiss family, but I also knew it was time to return home. Nikki picked Stone and me up at LAX and drove us back to my house in Trabuco Canyon. Fortunately, she didn’t have any pressing work that would take her back to Beverly Hills, and so she stayed with me. 

I spent the first few weeks of October reacclimating to being home, visiting doctors, and getting physical therapy. I had lost 40 pounds from the accident, surgery and hospital stay. My running joke was that this was my new “crash diet” — the only stipulation was that you had to ride your motorcycle off a cliff. We can laugh about it now. 

Nikki and I became inseparable. I never wanted to be without her. Half-jokingly, I started calling her my security blanket. In October, I took my first Rolling Stone assignment since the accident — a trip to the Riviera Maya with Tony Hawk. Nikki came with me. After my assignment was complete, we made our way to Tulum, where we borrowed some bicycles to ride beneath the rainforest canopy. Still trying to gain control of my right arm, I crashed into a parked car. Luckily, I dusted off a few scratches and we could laugh this one off.

On Halloween, Nikki and I flew to London. I had been invited by Royal Enfield for the launch of their new twin-engine motorcycles. We arrived a few days early to visit London and Paris. We visited Jim Morrison’s grave at the Père Lachaise Cemetery. I brought a bottle of wine to share with Jim, spilling a bit onto his grave before we dusted the bottle in his honor. When the guards came around to clear the cemetery for the night, Nikki and I hid in a mausoleum built in the 1800s. It was spooky and cobwebbed, but didn’t stop us from having sex inside the creepy enclosure. We giggled like kids in high school. We thought it was spontaneous and hysterical — until we ended up locked inside the cemetery for hours in the dark before finding a security guard to let us out. 

For the remainder of the year, Nikki and I hosted holiday parties at my house — Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve. After my near-fatal experience in the Alps, it became even more important to be surrounded by family as much as possible. On New Year’s Day, I fired up my Harley-Davidson Road King to take my first ride since my crash. Nikki insisted on going with me, so she suited up, hopped on the back, and we went for a ride through Silverado Canyon.

In February, we found out that Nikki was pregnant. I couldn’t have been more excited — elated actually. Everything happened very quickly, but in a perfect way. We started looking for a new place to live, to move in together and start planning for our family. We eventually found a beautiful Montauk–style home in Newport Beach, California. We gave our landlords notice and packed up our respective homes, making way for our new beach-city lifestyle.

In May, Nikki and I visited the Big Island of Hawaii, staying in Hapuna on the Kohala Coast. One afternoon, we hiked down the Waipio Valley to the black sand beaches. I set up a couple of cameras, telling Nikki that we were going to take a selfie in the river that flowed into the Central Pacific Ocean. I set the camera timers and walked to Nikki in the shallow riverbed, where I took a knee, pulled a ring out of my pocket and proposed to her. I had found my soul mate and after a whirlwind of traveling, sharing, loving and good living, I was certain it was for keeps.

We married on July 15 in front of family and friends who had embraced our story and been supportive throughout my accident. Stone was my best man. Sven flew in from Sweden. Thomas, Gabi and the boys joined us from Switzerland. And Rodney Mullen became an ordained minister and delivered a wondrous and compelling wedding ceremony. Smiling at Rodney, I had a quick epiphany that my previous ketamine-infused plot to escape the Kantonsspital hospital may not have turned as well as things had. Then I steered my attention down the aisle. Standing proud and enchanted in front of my friends and family, I watched my beautiful Nikki, adorned in silk and lace like a fairy tale princess, walk down the aisle to Ben Harper’s “Forever”. Minutes later, we sealed our union with a kiss. I honestly thought that at this point in my life, I’d never find someone I loved enough to marry, much less have children with, but that evening, we returned home as Mr. and Mrs. Hendrikx, looking forward to a new adventure ahead.

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On October 24, after nearly two days of labor, Nikki and I welcomed our beautiful daughter, Isabella Moon Hendrikx, into the world. The past year had been about new experiences, and this would be no different. No one can prepare you for childbirth. There are books, classes, and information online, but once you’re in that moment when a baby takes that first breath — it’s a miracle. And as I held our tiny daughter in my hands that night, and she had the faculties to stare back at me, I knew that all I had been through — the accident, the surgeries, rehabilitation, moving homes, getting married — all came with a deep recognition of purpose, and a renewed appreciation of family. 

When I tell people the circumstances under which Nikki and I met — the accident, the train station in Switzerland, our Parisian romance, proposing in a Hawaiian riverbed, our fast-track marriage and beautiful baby girl — they often say our story sounds like a real-life fairy tale. And while it’s true, we do have an amazing story with magical beginnings, relationships aren’t always like a fairy tale. In fact, they almost never are. The reality is, Nikki and I will face the same struggles as any other married couple raising a child. But as I sit here typing these final words in our Newport Beach home, while baby Isabella gently coos in her bassinette and my beautiful wife, scantily clad in lace-edged lingerie, comes to me with a platter filled with sizzling Niman Ranch bacon, I just have to wonder — maybe I did end up in a fairy tale

The Armega

Unparalleled Dominance for the Modern Racer

A groundbreaking new goggle by 100%


The ARMEGA offers unparalleled dominance for the modern racer: bringing ULTRA HD lens clarity to motocross.  Experience definition and subtlety never before viewed through the lens of a goggle.  Add to that our proprietary HiPER contrast-enhancing lens technology and you’ll feel the depth of terrain as you’re commanding past it.

This premium technology is injection-molded into a shatterproof lens that boasts an enhanced field of vision and impact protection.  The 6-point locking-tab integration secures the lens and works in unison with a quick-change system enabling you to switch between lenses with a couple of simple clicks.

A bonded, dual-injected frame incorporates a next generation sweat management system that collects sweat as your ride intensifies and forces it away from the lens and out of the goggle through an integrated channel in the frame.  Force air intakes in the frame promote increased airflow to ensure fog-free vision, despite heated efforts overcoming sub-par competition.

Want a goggle designed to give it 100% deep in the battlegrounds of motocross? Look no further than the ARMEGA

ULTRA HD

Our signature 100% ULTRA HD lenses are the result of decades of passion, design, craftsmanship and research.  Through extensive development and testing, we’ve engineered category defining technology bringing unmatched optical clarity to motocross.

As the lens of choice for the worlds best racers, ULTRA HD integrates with a shatterproof and impact resistant polycarbonate material molded specifically for zero optical distortion.  The result is a lens that’s engineered to maximize protection while maintaining the clearest, most accurate vision on the track.

ULTRA HD.  The next revolution in motocross vision technology.

HiPER Lens

It’s simple. Humans see three primary colors – Red, Green and Blue.

Human vision begins to distort where these three colors overlap.                

100% HiPER Lenses proprietarily filter out these crossovers, resulting in greater contrast and even more vibrant colors.

By ramping up contrast, riders experience depth-defining vision with unmatched perception to feel every detail of terrain before commanding past it.

Features

  • Category defining ULTRA HD lens provides unmatched optical clarity

  • Quick-release system offers simple lens changing capability 

  • 6-point locking tabs integrate with quick-change system maximizing lens retention 

  • Injection-molded 2mm impact-rated, shatter-resistant lens 

  • Bonded, dual-injection frame construction maximizes strength and durability

  • Force air intake ports increase circulation and maximize humidity evacuation

  • Contouring compression seal technology to keep goggles in place

  • Next generation sweat collection management and drainage system

  • Perforated triple-layer face foam manages sweat and increases ventilation

  • Ultra-wide 48mm strap with thick silicon bead for maximum grip

  • Removable nose guard for extra deflection against roost and debris

Tom DeLonge

The Suburban Kid Who Traveled to the Stars

Words by Maggie Gulasey | Photos by Jeff Stockwell


Tom DeLonge is best known as the guitarist and vocalist in the legendary band Blink-182. For nearly 20 years, he wrote popular Blink songs while amusing the fans and disturbing parents with his often X-rated stage antics.  Never one to settle and always seeking the next creative challenge, he formed more experimental bands like Boxcar Racer and eventually his present-day art project, Angels & Airwaves.

It is obvious DeLonge is a talented musician, but less visible is his long history as a successful entrepreneur. He has founded several companies, including his current and most extraordinary undertaking, To The Stars Academy of Arts & Science, an aerospace company with a multi-faceted entertainment division. 

Building his company and playing in a band have offered no shortage of stress. To combat the daily pressures, DeLonge has found riding his motorcycle provides the perfect therapeutic escape. His enthusiasm for the two wheels has translated into a hobby that is both functional and enjoyable, and grants a temporary escape from his busy life. 

At this point in DeLonge’s life, it is hard to keep track of everything he has going on. It would seem as though everything he has done up to now has been preparing him for his most recent ventures. To anyone else, his ambitions may seem crazy and far-fetched. But to DeLonge, he is just a kid from the suburbs who dreamed of going to the stars.

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“When I started Angels & Airwaves, I was thinking about creating an art project, not just a band.”

“The idea of coming out of Blink-182 was insurmountable. There was no way in my mind that I was going to be able to create another rock band that could ever compete or be anything close to what Blink was. Blink was such a cultural phenomenon, and I didn’t want to try and repeat that.”

As the formation of Angels & Airwaves was in its early stages, DeLonge started noticing where the art and music industries were going. As a result, he created Modlife, a business that would benefit the artists and fans alike. At a time when file-sharing companies like Napster were popular, Modlife created new revenue streams for artists such as Pearl Jam, The White Stripes, Nine Inch Nails, and Kanye West. 

It was through this experience that DeLonge gained a comprehensive understanding of how to monetize music and applied those lessons to his new band—and eventually his aerospace company.

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“With Angels & Airwaves, I thought it was great because, if you look where music is going and understand the economics, it was not just about music; it was more about transmedia. Unlike multimedia, transmedia is more one theme across different types of media, but they all work together; they’re all saying the same thing. 

“For Angels & Airwaves, it was, how do we take a theme about the human race and communicate those in a motion picture and on an album and in a book? It became an art project. The band was simply one branch of the tree.”

While utilizing music, film and literature for his creative endeavors, it was—and still is—important to DeLonge that they all effectively communicate his ultimate objective: to have a positive impact on the world.

“It is super-important to stay true to the message and the ethos of what Angels & Airwaves was doing. I remember when I left Blink, we were always like, ‘Fuck you, fuck you, rebellious this, we’re kids that don’t care about anything.’ 

“And then I did Angels & Airwaves, and it was like all of a sudden we are naming records ‘Love’ and writing songs about changing the way you see yourself and changing the way you see the world. 

“Some people thought it was pretentious, and I am sure it was misunderstood, but I knew I was not the first artist to sing about love. I knew that’s where society needed to go. I know that’s who I really am. It was really interesting to me, especially because we got into a lot of stuff with consciousness when we created Angels & Airwaves.”

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Fueled by his passion for music, writing, film and Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP)—combined with his diverse background from prior business efforts—it was only a natural evolution for DeLonge to start his most arduous company to date.

 “It seems like I created Angels & Airwaves as a way to set up building an aerospace company. That would be absurd probably for any other musician, because why would anyone ever want to do something with the amount of work, the amount of resources, and the amount of stress involved? But leave it to me to want to do something that wild. 

“I think we have to stick true to doing all the things we are doing at my aerospace company—to be an extension of what I want to do with the band, which includes how we interact with our environment, with the people around us, our intentions, and how we can come from a place of compassion and love versus ego, and just normal human desire to conquer and become famous or rich or want control. 

“We really wanted to be a band that stood for something more than just hating where we came from, hating politics, and wanting to rebel. This was more like, okay, let’s actually change the world. That’s the goal.”

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In 2017, DeLonge captivated the world when he revealed his latest and most demanding project to date, To The Stars Academy of Arts & Science (TTSAAS).

With science, aerospace and entertainment (To The Stars, Inc.) divisions, TTSAAS was created to explore the outer edges of science and generate meaningful discoveries through its research. 

As president and CEO, DeLonge has teamed up with an impressive roster of accomplished individuals who have worked in or with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Department of Defense (DoD), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), just to name a few. 

No longer working under a veil of secrecy, the team at TTSAAS works with and for the public to promote education, transparency, sustainability and community. Unconstrained by government motivations, this privately owned company believes in responsible public disclosure when it comes to UAP. 

In collaboration with their entertainment division, TTSAAS takes the science and aerospace division’s discoveries and employs them across an array of media to make the controversial topics engaging and easier to digest.   

“The name ‘To The Stars Academy of Arts & Science’ is great because of what it represents. ‘To The Stars’ was chosen because it is aspirational. When you’re looking up and wonder, how far can you go? To the stars! Which star, the nearest star? Or the ones we can’t see? It’s kind of infinite. ‘Arts & Science’ is another way of saying science fiction, and turning science fiction into reality.  

“Having an entertainment division and an aerospace and science division works wonderfully well because, for example, we have a set of stories called Sekret Machines. We take real facts about the UAP, and we are making movies and write books like Sekret Machines based on that. 

“We also take the observed technology from the classified videos and U.S. government documents with the DoD or the CIA, and my co-founder Dr. [Hal] Puthoff then works his way back into the physics of how the UAPs are operating. 

“Now we can start dabbling in and building that stuff and make science fiction become a reality. It is bringing about a technology that can transform mankind, and then continuing to study the phenomena that has been interacting with mankind for millennia.”

Depending on the person receiving the information, the topic of UAPs can be met with a gigantic eye-roll, absolute fear, or an enthusiastic hunger to learn more. In any case, to the believers and skeptics alike, the subject matter is notoriously saturated with disinformation and falsified videos. Standing out as an authentic source can be a difficult task.

To combat this, TTSAAS strives to work with information that has been verified under the scrutiny of science. Ideally, only substantiated data is disclosed to the public.  

“My partner Jim Semivan, from the CIA and one of the co-founders of the company, says we are only going to stick to real, certified, verifiable science. Just real stuff.

“That’s why the declassified videos that TTSAAS brought out were so important. We know who the pilots are, the systems that captured it, and the type of plane that they were flying. It is completely verifiable, which goes a lot further when you stick to things that there is no argument about. I didn’t think there was going to be a lot of that stuff out there, but there really is. 

“We have already provided evidence that the UAP is real. That’s part of what we did when we released the declassified videos and when one of our partners, Lou Elizondo, came out about the Pentagon’s Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program [AATIP] last year.”

Elizondo’s secret program was first made public in December of 2017. With over $22 million dollars in government funding, the AATIP studied UAP from 2007 until 2012, when the program was officially dissolved. It was Elizondo who was responsible for releasing the compelling video footage of a United States fighter jet capturing a UAP performing incomprehensible maneuvers. 

Though the footage captures a UAP, the unidentified aspect of it means that it has not been verified as extraterrestrial. It could very well be something manufactured by humans, as its origin is still unknown. 

“We have already brought the evidence forth, and there is more that’s coming. There’s some big stuff that we have planned that’s really going to take this conversation straight into everybody’s living room. How will people react to it, and how will they absorb it, and how are they going to deal with it?” 

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So, how does a person go from playing punk music in front of thousands of people for decades to speaking in top-secret facilities with high-ranking government officials? two seem to be on different ends of the spectrum, DeLonge explains that he has been groomed for this his entire career. 

“When I started To The Stars Academy of Arts & Science, I was literally just a musician.”

“A lot of people ask me how I go from performing on stage to speaking with people from the CIA, the DoD, or the world’s biggest aerospace companies. It is crazy. But the thing that really prepared me was I already felt like anything was possible. 

“When Blink exploded, to being a part of that ride, you’re already thinking that anything can happen—because I was living in my parents’ garage. So, when you go from living in the garage to something like that, you kind of already open the door to believing anything is possible. With that experience, I realized that there aren’t barriers on really ambitious, big ideas. 

“The next thing that prepared me was already being an entrepreneur.  I have already been in thousands of meetings with people that knew a lot more than me, that were a lot more professional, and a lot smarter.  I have already embarrassed myself thousands of times when pitching my company and not knowing any of my shit—I had a lot of failures, but through those experiences, I learned how to hold myself. 

“The third thing I learned that helped prepare me was that you absolutely must execute what you say you are going to do. If you say you are going to do something, don’t let months pass, and don’t forget about it. You follow up when you say you’re going to follow up, and you show them progress, listen and take their advice when necessary. 

“Those types of things are what helped me earn the trust of people and then eventually create a giant mechanism to do something that has never been done. To this day I remain very much out of my league. 

“More than anything, though, my team, they’re the guys that really do that stuff. They’re the ones that their whole lives and careers have been in those kinds of environments, so I really lean on them to do most of the heavy lifting.”

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Taking a hard look at DeLonge’s resume, it would be tough to challenge his credibility as an entrepreneur. As the founder of several successful bands and businesses throughout his life, it’s obvious he does not lack motivation or the desire to challenge himself. 

But as a public figure, it can be easy to pigeonhole him. Absorbing only superficial snapshots of his life, it would be no stretch (and not completely inaccurate) to stereotype him as merely a punk musician who tells raunchy jokes and chases aliens like a crazy person.

Digging beneath the surface, however, it becomes apparent that DeLonge and his team are anything but crazy. Doing their best to utilize substantial evidence and apply a scientific approach to their work, it seems as though TTSAAS could generate significant research. But that does not mean it won’t be an uphill battle for people to take DeLonge seriously. 

“I do get all these headlines that I am ‘chasing aliens’ or left my band to chase Unidentified Flying Objects or has a tinfoil hat on my head and I’m crazy. I look at those comments and think, if you only knew what I knew, if you’d only been in the meetings I have been in, if you’d only had the discussions that I’ve had, if you’d only seen the shit that I have seen. Not only would those comments stop, but their hair would turn white, and they would lose sleep the way I have lost sleep. 

“That’s not something you can just tell everybody. Most people go, ‘We want to hear those songs where you ran around naked and told dick jokes.’ That’s still a big part of me; it really is. My humor, friends, and the music that I like hasn’t changed—I still listen to punk rock almost daily. 

“But as far as what I need to do for the planet and what I feel like I have been chosen to do, I have to see it through.”

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Starting an aerospace company, recording music with Angels & Airwaves, writing novels, producing and directing films, and so much more, is a large undertaking for just one company.

To say a lot rides on DeLonge’s shoulders is an understatement.

“There is a lot of pressure. We are kind of like five entertainment companies in one—the way Disney is, but we are tiny. Then on top of that, we are building technology that is extremely revolutionary and difficult and takes years to bring to fruition. So, yeah, there is pressure.  It is super-ambitious, ridiculously difficult, but so insanely rewarding.”

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In order to combat the considerable amount of pressure, DeLonge has found something functional and fun to ease the daily stressors. Reminiscent of an obsession that began in his childhood, his newfound passion takes him away (literally and metaphorically) from the daily burdens. 

“You know, I had a really difficult year. A lot of things came into my life this past year, like starting a company, and it has been really stressful. When I got into riding bikes in a big way this past year and half or so—I toyed with it in my 20s—with everything going on, it reminded me of when I was a kid in a broken family; my parents hated each other, and I hated my parents. 

“I had just started Blink as a punk rock band, and skateboarding was my life. Every time I got on the skateboard, I felt the vibration of the street through the board, and I felt the wind, and I felt the motion. The faster I went, the farther away from home I got, with everything disappearing behind me. 

“The motorcycle is the first thing that reminds me of learning how to skateboard. It is the first thing that reminds me of that freedom, of feeling that motion, of feeling like you’re flying.”


“It has been an absolutely wonderful way for me to get on and go up the coast and get away from some of the things that I am dealing with. 

“I’ve always wanted to get into it in a big way, but I never thought I would like it this much. It’s like anything else that people get into; once you get into it and understand it, then you realize what people have been talking about.” 

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DeLonge has three motorcycles: a Ducati Monster, a BMW R nineT, and a BMW R 1200 GS Adventure. Because the Monster has been at the shop for almost a year, the R nineT and GS Adventure have become his main bikes. 

“While the Ducati was away, I was pissed because I really wanted a bike. So, I went and I bought the BMW R nineT. I got a limited-edition one; it’s got the big 21 number on there, representing when BMW first started making motorcycles in 1921. 

“It has all these intricately carved aluminum and titanium pieces. We changed the seat, exhaust, headers, and the wheels. I mean the whole thing looks steampunk. It’s funny; I wanted to make it much more industrial looking, and now it’s so shiny and showy. I was like, whoa, I didn’t really plan that part out. I thought it was going to look a little rougher around the edges. 

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“The R nineT is the most incredible thing, and I ride it every day around town. That’s what I ride to work and what I ride up and down the coast highway and along the ocean. It’s just my everyday bike. 

“But I noticed that the traffic has been getting so bad to get to Los Angeles. We are only a couple of hours from there, but it can take five hours sometimes! It can be ridiculous, so I needed a bike that was safer, bigger and more comfortable for the trip.

“So, I bought the huge R1200 GS Adventure. I remember at the time I had a Ford Raptor, this big, off-road truck, and this was the same thing as the Raptor, but as a bike. 

“It can go anywhere and do anything. You can pack it up for long trips; you can ride it up to Alaska if you want. It doesn’t matter if you have to go over a mountain and through a river or all along dirt roads, this bike can do anything. 

“It’s just as comfortable on the freeway with cruise control and heated grips as it is riding off-road. I got the GS for those trips, and it now keeps my commute to LA around 90 minutes both ways, just cutting through traffic and splitting lanes. 

“Until I get my Ducati back, my two bikes are the R nineT and GS Adventure. I really want to buy a bunch of R nineTs right now. That’s really what I want. I do like all of the Triumphs and Nortons and all that—they’re so stylish—but something about these BMWs and the way they do the boxer engine just looks cool. I am kind of into German engineering. They’re mad scientists over there.”

Motorcycles are a well-deserved reprieve from the slew of never-ending projects he takes on. Though it can be overwhelming at times, DeLonge would not have it any other way. 

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“Outside of having my family, the only two giant things I have cared about were music and the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena. Music was the dream, and the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena was this unattainable, fascinating hobby of mine. But the fact that I am playing such a big part in both is like, oh my god, how did that happen? 

“I can say at this point in my life, TTSAAS is tremendously more satisfying than being in a band. But that’s only because I have been in a band for so long. Being in a band is the best job in the world, but you are still playing the same 15 songs every night, and you’re still exhausted waking up in a parking lot, and you’re still waiting around for 24 hours of the day to have one hour of a lot of adrenaline.

“Things become very monotonous for me. But this kind of a company at this stage in my life is a blend of all the things I love: producing films, directing films, writing novels, working in aerospace, working in science, working with the government, and still playing music. 

“Angels & Airwaves is recording right now. We have big plans for that band next year. So, I still get to do all the things I love, but I have broken into other areas that really keep me satisfied at this point in my life.

“If you look at what I’ve done and who I am, I honestly feel like I have been molded to do this. That doesn’t mean it’s not the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. It feels harder than breaking a giant rock band. I just know that I am supposed to be here.

“I just know it with every ounce of my being that I am doing exactly what I was meant to do.” 

Cycle Zombies

Bringing Old Bikes Back From the Dead

Words & photos by Todd Blubaugh


Scotty Stopnik

“Cycle Zombies is a family that was born and raised in Orange County, CA.  It was never founded, it just happened.  Surfing, skateboarding, building and riding old motorcycles, is a life we live and breath everyday, it’s not a club or a gang, but a brotherhood of family and friends who ride together and care for each other...

Digging up old bikes and bringing them back to life with a new look.  We’re not trying to re-invent the wheel, but only make them turn again...”

Scotty Stopnik

You’ve probably seen or heard of the Cycle Zombies by now. Their exposition is consistently present at events and between the pages of most magazines like this one. But even though I’ve been familiar with their reputation for over a decade, when asked, I could not confidently define them beyond their imagery of sunny surf and rusty bikes. So, I introduced myself to Cycle Zombies’ own Scotty Stopnik, and we arranged to meet at their shop for an afternoon ride the following week.  

Big Scott

I arrived in Huntington Beach, California, just before 11 a.m. on December 11. The address took me to an industrial maze of shipping containers somewhere on the west side of town.  Scott Senior, otherwise known as Big Scott, greeted me at the garage door and helped to remove the honeybee stinger that had been stuck in my face for the last 10 miles. Although I had seen Big Scott at many different events, this was the first time we had ever met. 

He was welcoming and kind. I noticed immediately that his step and posture were light, and he spoke with a youthful syntax. I found it hard to believe when he told me he is 60 years old. The garage was well organized, and Scott showed me the lineup of each bike on the floor—explaining where it came from and the work he had yet to do. The garage door adjacent to the Zombies was open, and from it, in walked a man wearing a CZ T-shirt named John Moss. Scott introduced us and explained that John was a skilled fabricator and artist who had been in this spot longer then they had. John was quiet and accommodating, and it was obvious that he was a close friend of the Zombies’. He rode an aggressive, full–rigid cone-nosed shovel and accompanied us the rest of the day. 

Taylor Stopnik, Scott’s youngest, arrived moments later on a 1965 pan with 1980s shovelheads—the displacement was 96 inches. Like his dad, he explained to me many of the subtle details and the history of the bike, including the dual thunder-jetted Super E that carbureted it.  Taylor spoke with deliberate calm, but I could tell he did not like to explain himself. He had an anxious undercurrent that he governed well with graceful conversation. Last to arrive was Scotty, who showed up with a dripping wetsuit and apologized for his tardy entrance: He had been enjoying the waves this morning. 

I walked around and photographed the shop while listening to Scotty talk about his morning. Scotty felt strangely familiar to me, and I realized then that it was his voice; he and his cousin Chase Stopnik sound almost indistinguishable. I had just met Scotty, but I’ve have known Chase for years—he now lives in Los Angeles just blocks away from me, but this was where he grew up—and I could hear the years of influence in Scotty’s voice as he explained the surf to his brother and his dad. 

Taylor Stopnik

Though I have come to recognize them through their motorcycles, I am well aware that they have another dynamic about them: Surfing and skating is as much, if not more, a part of their DNA as the bikes. And when they were together, they did not speak like bikers; they sounded more like surfers, which I found refreshing. It seems that all too often there is a very machismo energy to these shop proceedings. But here with the Cycle Zombies, there was a physical energy to their discussion—devoid of ego and full of excitement as they spoke of surfing—which I should mention I know nothing about.  

Everyone was hungry, including John from next door, so we devised a plan to ride the coast down to a sandwich shop on Seal Beach.  Everyone grabbed a bike, someone locked down the shop, and we headed out for lunch. 

I’m unfamiliar with Huntington, so I rode in the middle, shooting and framing where I could. Traffic was not busy and frantic like in L.A., and we had, by comparison, plenty of road to ourselves. We had a moment of typical mechanical mutiny when John’s clutch linkage snapped, but we fixed it with a short length of bailing wire and my Leatherman. Once we were along the waterfront, it was interesting to see the Zombies change their proverbial ”gears.” They did not speed as they did through city blocks, but maintained a consistent pace at which they could divert all their attention to the surf. They watched it as prey—and like pack animals, would occasionally herd together in one lane and discuss their observations.  

We parked our bikes in a line outside of a classic little deli on the Pacific Coast Highway called John’s Philly Grille. On the east-facing porch, I listened to Big Scott talk about growing up in Huntington. It occurred to me that this was the true origin story of the Zombies, when Big Scott was befriended by the Hessians MC 1% club in 1959; he was 12 years old and grew up next to their clubhouse/garage, where he learned how to customize bikes. He applied their taste and stylings to his bicycles, and the Hessians helped him in exchange for sweeping the shop and polishing chrome. They even took him around to custom motorcycle shows.

He started building motobikes as soon as he got his license. Then his priorities shifted to his family and career for a term (I should mention that Scott has seven kids—three boys and four daughters), but as soon as his sons were old enough, they took an interest in bikes, too. Huntington was the perfect place to incubate their lifestyle, and the Cycle Zombies’ legacy began to take its shape. The name evolved a little later as their reputation grew and it became necessary to define themselves. “Zombie” is a descriptive reference to the once-dead aspect of the “Cycles” they now ride.  

There was no tone of authority as I listened to Scott Senior and Scotty describe Huntington; there was very little evidence of father and son.  Instead, their communication was much more like close friends. Hearing their stories, it seemed as though I was sitting with two long-invested collaborates.  Taylor, however, spoke less but listened contently. He seemed to be quieter by comparison, or at least a bit more guarded in his conversation. So, by the same limited comparison, Taylor seemed more in the manner of his other brother Turk Stopnik, whom I have had the pleasure of knowing for a couple of years. Turk is the middle Stopnik and now works as a firefighter in the forests of California—Big Scott spoke of him proudly. I could not help but wish he were here for this conversation, but regardless of the distance, it was obvious they remained a close tribe. 

There was no tone of authority as I listened to Scott Senior and Scotty describe Huntington; there was very little evidence of father and son.  Instead, their communication was much more like close friends. Hearing their stories, it seemed as though I was sitting with two long-invested collaborates.  Taylor, however, spoke less but listened contently. He seemed to be quieter by comparison, or at least a bit more guarded in his conversation. So, by the same limited comparison, Taylor seemed more in the manner of his other brother Turk Stopnik, whom I have had the pleasure of knowing for a couple of years. Turk is the middle Stopnik and now works as a firefighter in the forests of California—Big Scott spoke of him proudly. I could not help but wish he were here for this conversation, but regardless of the distance, it was obvious they remained a close tribe. 

After lunch, we rode back along the waterfront toward the container yard. At a red light, I saw Scotty watching the ocean with intimate focus.  I could recognize the power it had over him (as can any man recognize the pull of passion when it is near), but I could not identify with this dimension of the Cycle Zombies. It was a different language to me, but they understood it thoroughly—and it clearly shouted at them over the sounds of their own bikes. When we got back to the shop Scotty admitted that he would have much rather been surfing than riding today. 

We kicked tires in the sidelong light of later afternoon. Scotty did burnouts and pushed around on his skateboard until he had to go pick up his youngest boy, Sid. When they returned, I saw three generations of Stopniks in motion; one-and-a-half-year-old Sid played about the garage with definitive pleasure, just like his father and grandfather.

It is a long road that eventually reaches the place in life where we no longer need to define ourselves—a place where our purpose is simply understood. Only after countless dead ends and detours (if time favors) do we arrive at such a point. Further along even still is when that definition is passed on and secured beyond our mortal time. Many do not make it this far. But, after one ride with the Stopniks, it is clear to me that they have indeed arrived—and they call it the Cycle Zombies.

The Future(s) of Supercross

Supercross: Past, Present & Future

Words by Brett Smith |

Archive photos by Dave Dewhurst | Supercross Futures photos by Eric Shirk


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It started as a one-race invitational in 1972. Then it became a springtime warmup series, a three- to four-race dash through the month of March. The first race was called the Super Bowl of Motocross. The first championship received the name Yamaha Super Series of Motocross. Magazines later referred to it as a completely new discipline of dirt bike racing: stadium-cross, then Super-cross and, finally, supercross.  

At first, riders wore the numbers they earned from the previous year’s motocross standings. The Super Series title didn’t seem to hold much weight. The early races at the Astrodome hosted the Texas High School Motocross Championships on the same track that Jimmy Ellis and Jimmy Weinert had blasted around the night before. Was supercross the future of dirt bike racing in America, or a watered-down version of motocross? Opinions depended on the persons asked. Whether they liked it or not, the riders continued to show up, and so did the spectators. Nobody knew where any of it was going, but they knew they didn’t want to miss it. 

In 1972 at the Los Angeles Coliseum, Pete Szilagyi of Dirt Bike magazine watched a group of spectators walk up to the ticket gate with beers and coolers full of, probably, more beers. “What do you mean we can’t come in with these?” the dumbfounded revelers asked the agent at the turnstile. “This is a motocross race!” But was it? 

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“It’s motocross but it’s not,” wrote Michael A. Brown in the July 1975 issue of Cycle World. In the early 1970s, American dirt bike enthusiasts were still absorbing the thrills that this European imported activity gave them. At some point, the series stopped being thought of as a warm-up, the champion wore his own No. 1 plate, and the whole thing stopped being thought of as motocross in a stadium. Supercross is supercross. Motocross is motocross. Yet, since 1974, the Monster Energy Supercross and Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships have co-existed, exchanged calendars and shared talent. They’re the same but very different. The sports are like parents who love both of their children equally but differently. 

The supercross championship turned 45 in 2019, and while the tracks have changed, the bikes certainly have evolved and the racing format has been tweaked, the spectacle, the vibe, the “show” stayed consistent. In 1978, Dave Hawkins titled a Cycle article, “Circus Time at the Stadium” and used his 4,000 words to interview riders and teams about the evolution of this new series that, by that point, had hit 11 rounds in eight cities. It’s fitting that in 2009, Feld Entertainment, operators of the Ringling Bros. Circus, took over as the promoters and producers of supercross. 

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Dave Prater started out in 2000, and one of his many tasks included getting the teams parked outside the stadiums. Now the senior director of two-wheel operations for Feld Entertainment, he has worked about 320 races, watched the sport change, and even implemented some of that change. He chuckles when people take umbrage at new rules or altered formatting and cry,”‘But that isn’t supercross!”

“Well, what is supercross?” he asks back.

To not accept change in supercross is to not accept supercross at all.

“I think our format was something that was ahead of its time,” Prater said of an evening filled with short races, all between approximately 8-20 laps. “It’s still relevant today. I used to say kids don’t have the attention span that they used to, but the reality is none of us have the attention span we used to.” 

Supercross is a uniquely American invention, a Hollywood-ized version of motocross. It exists solely because people who loved motocross wanted to share it with, and make it accessible to, more people. And, of course, make money. But a lot of money is shelled out before any is made. At the first Super Bowl of Motocross, promoter Mike Goodwin detailed his costs to several reporters: $28,000 to truck 4,000 cubic feet of dirt in from 15 miles away, $35,000 on promotion, $40,855 to complete the course. Curiously, the rental fee for the LA Coliseum was not a part of any of the conversations.  

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For 45 years, promoters have spent time and money trying to entertain beyond the racing. Supercross sideshows have included a daredevil with a hang glider attached to a motorcycle, wheelie experts, dog races, blindfolded foot races, the sphere of death and a woman who climbed into a Styrofoam box and blew herself up; she called herself Dynamite Lady, of course.

The longest running exhibition/sideshow, however, is easily the KTM Jr. Supercross Challenge, a 50cc race featuring 15 kids aged seven or eight on identical KTM 50 SX mini bikes.

This proves something significant. Spectators might appreciate a guy who can ride a wheelie around the entire track or a woman who blows herself out of a box, but what they really want to see is good racing. The exhibition with the kids is endearing, but it doesn’t provide a path to winning 450 main events 15 years into the future. To be fair to KTM and Feld, that isn’t the intent of KJSC. In 1987, with Jeff Ward and Ricky Johnson looking on, I rode my Kawasaki KX60 in a two-lap intermission race at the Pontiac Silverdome. The wall-like jump faces and the tire-eating whoops scared the hell out of me, if anything. 

Photo courtesy KTM Jr. Supercross Challenge

Photo courtesy KTM Jr. Supercross Challenge

In 2011, Feld Entertainment introduced the Monster Energy Cup, a one-off race on a hybrid supercross/motocross track (in and around Sam Boyd Stadium). The format tested out a three-main-event structure, each 10 laps in length. Lowest score after the three races is declared the overall winner. In between those main events, amateur kids in two different classes (Super Mini and All-Stars) competed, as well. The All-Stars division featured promising young riders on full-size 250 four-stroke motorcycles. This class exposed a developmental hole in the sport that most people already knew about but didn’t act on.

Racers are eligible to turn professional in dirt bike racing at 16 years old, but very few have the necessary experience and maturity at that age. The 2011 Monster Cup was a light-bulb moment for Prater and his co-workers. “Seeing them actually out there made it blatantly obvious that we should try to do more and try to get them more experience prior to stepping into the pro class,” Prater says. “There weren’t very many opportunities, and there still aren’t very many opportunities for younger riders to race a supercross track. So, I don’t think we were paying as much attention to it until we introduced the Monster Energy Cup.”

In 2018, Feld introduced “Supercross Futures,” a series of Sunday amateur races on a tamed-down course in the same stadium where Ken Roczen and Adam Cianciarulo raced the night before. In 2019, the top three riders from each of the 26 classes will be eligible to compete in the Supercross Futures AMA National Championship on Monster Cup weekend in October. 

Feld shut down the Amsoil Arenacross championship last May. A series that’s often called a minor league feeder system, it really wasn’t. Going back to 1986, the inaugural season of the championship, not a single rider “graduated” from arenacross to become a supercross champion in either the 250 or 450 divisions. Not a single Arenacross champion scored even a 450 main event win. Arenacross provided an intense racing experience but had a very out of sight, out of mind feel. 

Seeing the young riders at such an early age allows Feld to better asses the talent that will come to them as young adults when they turn professional. “It’s 100 percent a future play, no pun intended,” Prater said. “We may not see any benefits for five or six years, but I think we’re going to start seeing kids come into the sport and are way better prepared than they are right now, in every way. That’s the goal.”

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Supercross Futures is the first true feeder system for supercross, a series that has chewed up good talent—especially riders raised exclusively on motocross tracks—with early career injuries and an inability to quickly adapt and learn the craft of racing in a stadium.

At $105 a class to register for SX Futures, $30 for a mechanics pass and $25 a ticket if the rest of your family wants to spectate from the bleachers, it looks like an easy money grab. But the math doesn’t support it. 

Glendale, the opening round of 2019, had 712 entries and 425 unique riders. The second round in Anaheim had 784 entries and 484 unique riders. Many factors play into renting major sports stadiums. One executive in the Bay Area said, “A general rule of thumb is $150,000 every four hours.” Another said $250,000 for a full day. Add up the entry fees from Glendale and, assuming every rider bought one mechanic’s pass and estimating that 1,000 spectators paid $25 to sit in the stands, the revenue comes out to $112,510. Do the math for round two: $121,840.

Representatives from Feld would not say if they are losing or making money on Supercross Futures, but they are building, literally, toward a better future. “It’s definitely not a financial play,” Prater said. “It’s a play for the long-term health of the sport.” Feld is the largest live event producer in the world and has the longest running partnership with the Walt Disney Company of any other company (Disney on Ice, anyone?). 

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An internal anecdotal tale goes like this: Once, Disney’s then-CEO Michael Eisner watched a live event with Kenneth Feld, founder of Feld Entertainment. Eisner liked what he saw but had a lot of recommendations. Not demands, just recommendations. They watched another show together a year later, and Eisner was stunned that every single one of his ideas had been implemented. He gave Feld a 10-year deal to continue licensing the Disney name and properties. 

Feld is already looking 10 years into the future of dirt bike racing. They will continue to focus on branding and industry cooperation, but the Futures series is the first major push into developing talent and giving amateur riders more than just the experience of racing on a supercross track; they will now have a clearer path to racing professionally.

In return, Feld gets the opportunity to keep their eye on, get to know and mold their future stars.

Baseball didn’t get Little League until 1939, 70 years after the earliest professional team—the Cincinnati Red Stockings—first played. The Junior Football Conference, later rebranded as Pop Warner, started with just four teams in 1929, more than 45 years after the sport went through myriad regulation changes to evolve from a form of rugby into what we now know as American football. 

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Supercross is wholly American, and it’s only 45 years old. To be getting a youth-based developmental system now is on par with other major sports. The sport probably won’t look the same 45 years from now. Rules will change, formats will change, machinery will evolve, and better-prepared talent will make for better racing. Not every change will be met with acceptance. People will say, “But that isn’t supercross!”

Well, what is supercross?

Black & White (& Yellow)

The Story of WLF Enduro

Words by Keith Culver | Photos by Drew Ruiz


It’s interesting when you boil things down to their simplest form. 

Take relationships for example. The BLACK & WHITE simple facts of relationships and how they are formed, besides family, could probably go something like this: People have a common shared interest. People become friends. People do said common interests together to gain experience, enjoyment and fulfillment. This is soundly and perfectly applicable to motorcycles and the people who ride them. 

WLF is no exception to this basic forming of the relationships that have created and shaped this global community W.E. know today.

This is WLF in BLACK & WHITE (& YELLOW). 

Ultimately, the entire idea of WLF was started long ago when our past generations taught us that being a “grown up” shouldn’t be taken so seriously. Constant journeys to the ocean, lakes, mountains and desert fueled this fun. This generation also taught us that setting out on explorations with family and friends is more fulfilling than doing it alone. In the 1950s, the Smith family homesteaded land in Johnson Valley, California. The originals eventually got bikes and trail rode all over JV and the high deserts and mountains of South California. Skirting around the goat trails and up sand washes at what felt like lightning speeds, they formed a bond that has stood the test of time. They were the original WLF founders, even though they didn’t know it at the time. Fast-forward 40 years later, their sons with their friends and families are doing the same thing in the same places and getting the same joy from it, and sharing it with their grandchildren. 

Funny story: WLF started like most pure things do — by chance. 

A little over a decade ago, late in the eve around a campfire with a crew of lifelong friends, an idea was sparked. It was simple. We were a pack. 

It all got started with a sense of urgency for freedom and a bit of the unknown. “See that point on the map, W.E. can get to there from here like this …,” throwing our leg over the kind of bikes that could take us from point A to B, and everything that happened in-between is was what made the memories. Our shared love for the group we have, coupled with the passion for two-wheels, led us to taking on longer rides, more challenges, more snacks and trail amusement. No matter what it was, thick and thin, W.E. always were in it together. The fact is, we rely so heavily on each other that our actual mantra is “FURTHER TOGETHER,” and it’s more than just words on paper. It’s the whole pack’s mentality. 

WLF’s founding six is one — of brothers, by blood, by marriage and by a shared love of different activities and experiences together over the course of the last 25 years. W.E. have known each other in one form or another for almost all our lives. Growing up in the ’80s, ’90s and ’00s with a love for anything on boards or bikes, everyone tried each other’s favorite pasttime and was forced to flounder and prevail in the ocean, desert, mountain or lake at one time or another. Everyone’s lived through it and gotten a chance to learn, grow together and enjoy every adventure along the way. 

Brothers Jake and Mike Smith grew up riding dirt from birth and connected with me all the way back in grade school. Chaz Reta came into middle school and onto high school. Chaz Reta came into middle school and on to high school, making sure everyone was in the water at all times. Spending all our free time in the water, building mini-ramps, tearing down mini-ramps, going night boarding on black ice, riding 50cc around the river banks of Blythe chasing down wild horses to film the on Hi-8 because it looked amazing. Luke Takahashi rolled in the crew right out of high school, always surfing and hanging together. After his first ride, Luke was bit by the bug so hard he couldn’t sleep, the singletrack bug, images of endless trails and his friends ripping through them kept him up at night — and still to this day keeps us all motivated to ride. Greg Schlentz lived down the road from everyone, all growing up doing all the same activities and never knowing anyone existed until a happenstance meeting and marrying into the family. 

This rounded out the original six. Too many stories to remember, so many laughs we can’t count — still to this day, every time we ride any object on land or sea, you’ll see endless smiles. If friendship were traded on the stock market, we’d all be the richest men on Earth. 

W.E. are a ragtag, blue-collar crew made up of everything from teachers and salespeople to welders, creatives and construction workers that has become a global community of riders connected from around the world. There are so many people that make up this amazing movement, whether you ride with us every week, month or year — or we’ve never even met you — we thank you, you are WLF! 

W.E. ride trails, mountains, rivers, deserts, rocks, fire roads and anything else you can think of with our friends. Riding in groups doesn’t come without its costs, constantly putting each other in and dragging each other out of tight spots, fixing flats, or getting lost to get found, time and time again. We bring all our own tools to fix our own issues, and others who ride with us can attest that we’d fix theirs in a heartbeat to keep everyone happy and rolling. There’s never a dull moment with the pack. W.E. take our own images of each other, and others that come along with us, and try to spread the love of riding in the best way we know how, through the bliss of motor speed and shutter speed. 

WLF constantly works to foster community. Creating events, attending and helping friends’ events, supporting charities and participants that are in the two-wheel and off-road community. Creating an annual military appreciation ride event called MISSION,  with the premise that every vet should be simply thanked for their service, with a small token of gratitude. This year will be three years running with the support of the team @HusqvarnaMotorcyclesUSA; they bring vets from all over the U.S., from every branch of military, to come out and ride bikes and enjoy a weekend away on WLF and industry brand partners. Proceeds from this event go back to various charities that tie back to the riding community, such as @VeteransBack40. 

Always striving to give back, W.E. are now seven years in on @RideForKids trail ride, raising funds for Children’s Pediatric Brain Tumor research and foundation. Collectively raising over $15K from our community alone to help fight this disease that plagues thousands of children each year. We love supporting the females in our pack, as well, the #sheWLFs, as we coined them. You can find us out at the @BabesInTheDirt running “dad camp” and trail support for all the amazing ladies that are getting out and pushing themselves and their community. Anya and Ashmore have been a huge influence in empowering the ladies, and we love being able to attend and help contribute. Best thing about our community now is that it’s the WLFamily, no matter what year, make or model you’re on; Dual Sport / ADV / street bikes to technical Off-Road Enduro riding.

Our mission is simple: Unifying riders around the globe with a common passion of two wheels and a throttle to go FURTHER TOGETHER. W.E. all start and work together to finish in the same spot and love it every step of the way. 

Our goals for the future are to provide a platform for the families and the community that make up WLF, keep our focus on the worldwide community moving forward and helping us help people have more enjoyment in life. We want a place where people feel safe to learn and connect and grow as humans and riders. The connectivity of amazing people with each other, working with incredible brands, and helping grow and invest back is something that has given us all such a sense of purpose. Raise our families, be with friends, travel and RIDE MORE.

The industry that we love has supported us and continued to show us just what it means to be part of the two-wheel family. W.E. can’t thank them enough for all the support and letting us grow in our own way with our own vision. These brands and the people behind them are all one of a kind and deserve a standing ovation for their commitments to the dreams that all of us have to ride a bike. @FMF73 @DeusCustoms @AnswerOffRoad @SeatConcepts @IMS @BajaDesigns @AHMfactoryServices @GiantLoop @Stance. 

It’s interesting how simple it is: 

It’s black & white, it’s two-wheels, it’s a throttle, it’s some friends, it’s family, it’s riding. 

It’s passed on from generation to generation, and everyone gets to enjoy the stoke in their own way. Activities are funny that way — in one way or another, trends and fads come and go, but the root of the thing you do stays the same. Strip it all away, and you still have the people, the relationships and the passion for what brought them together. 

W.E. started around a fire. It’s evolved into WLF, a global community of riders with a shared passion. Ride with your friends because you love it — simple as BLACK & WHITE (& YELLOW).

DIY

Make It Your Own

Words by Ben Giese | Photos by Dean Bradshaw


With almost 8 billion people in a world that is more interconnected than ever, individuality is at a premium.  With our increasingly busy lives and the constant stream of media and information being fed to us, it’s easy to feel lost in the rat race, which is why creativity and self-expression are so important. It’s why the recent revival of “makers” and DIY creators is so refreshing.  It feels good not only to make something, but to make it your own. And I think when you get down to the core of it, beyond Instagram and the trendy motorcycle builder culture, the sense of fulfillment gained from creating something with your own two hands is what makes customizing bikes so special. 

That natural desire for self-expression (and my obsession with motorcycles) is what drove me to spend three cold winter months in my father’s garage turning wrenches and grinding metal. I knew this would be both an enjoyable and therapeutic project that would get me away from the computer screen, but what I didn’t anticipate was the genuine satisfaction I would feel from the entire process.  It was not only an exercise in design, but putting my hands on every nut and bolt of the machine enabled me to become acquainted with all the hidden corners of my motorcycle from the inside out. Through this process I formed a stronger bond with my bike. It became a part of me more than ever before.  Or maybe it was the other way around.  Either way, it became more than just something I owned; it became a reflection of myself. 

I wanted to transform my air-cooled Triumph Scrambler into a true “scrambler” that could take me well beyond the paved city streets of Denver and deep into the mountains and deserts of the Southwest. So, once the overhaul was finally completed, I headed out to the California desert to put it to the test on the rugged back roads and sand washes of Joshua Tree. The only thing I was looking forward to more than the process of building this bike was actually taking it out and getting it dirty. And it rode like a dream, just like I had imagined.  


I am not a professional bike builder by any means.  I’m simply a graphic designer with a vision for what I want and the tenacity to figure it out.  Which means you can do it, too. And I guess that’s the message I’m trying to get across. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty.  Make mistakes. And don’t hold back on your creative ideas, because the world could use more self-expression and individuality.


Learn more about the build at BikeEXIF

The Wild Ones

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

Words by Maggie Gulasey | Photos by James Minchin


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Twice in my short life I have found myself immersed in the potent butterflies of love, doused with nervousness, excitement, and a fleck of fear—but not for another person. Rather, it’s been for the extraordinary and profoundly authentic passions in life that have illuminated my simple existence. 

My first love affair came to fruition when I encountered live music at a young age. Some astute individuals sang, “When you fall in love, you know you are done.” Though lacking the talent for mastering an instrument, I eagerly devoured the music, and I indeed knew I was done; music was forever going to be a part of my lifeblood, even if that meant supporting the melodic experts from the business or the avid-fan side of things. 

The second time my heart was kidnapped occurred the moment I first rode a motorcycle. Nothing can match how those two wheels make me feel. I truly came alive with the world at my side, experiencing life in a unique and more gratifying way aboard my beautiful vintage two-stroke. 

Both music and my motorcycle enable a mental departure from the tedious rigors that often swallow daily life, allowing me to recall and enjoy the simple magic this world grants. Once in a blue moon my two lovers delightfully harmonize, creating a motorcycle and rock ‘n’ roll utopia. I have found this elusive nirvana in the band Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. 

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Since 1998, Robert Levon Been, Peter Hayes and, later, Leah Shapiro have been composing intelligent, honest, and soulful atmospheric vibrations. Their music makes me want to fall in love, fight, dance, or ride my RD400 while it blasts in my ears. After watching the 1953 classic The Wild One, directed by László Benedek and starring Marlon Brando, Been and Hayes derived their name from the gang led by Johnny Strabler, called “Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.” 

The band had to grow into the name a bit. Been recalls thorny moments during their early gigs: “The first couple of tours were little bars we would play, and different motorcycle clubs would come and they would invade the space and were really intense and aggressive. There were no physical altercations, but it was kind of a ‘Who are you to call yourself a motorcycle club when you are just a little pissy three-person rock band?’ They mostly just wanted to make sure we knew the history of the name and had some respect for it. Once we proved we know where it comes from and we are not just cashing in on the fad of that, then we would buy them a drink and hang out, and all they really want is just a good time. We ended up making strange friends along the way that way. We fell in love with riding later, and we have not really wanted to play it up too much. It is more of a meditative, spiritual, personal thing. It’s the one time you can kind of find that space of your own, and it should be. Sacred is probably too big of a word, but it’s just something personal of your own, which is probably different for each person. It is nice having it be just that and learning that motorcycling is not the clichés you think it is about.” 

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For nearly 20 years, BRMC has played all around the world, performing at various festivals and on long, arduous tours. In the midst of these concerts, when time allows, the band might sneak in an excursion. Their art has enabled them to ride in Africa, Cambodia, New Zealand, and Japan, to name just a few. 

Been says, “You have a short amount of time to extract something out of this magical place that you might never be back to in your whole life. So you can truck around in a taxi or by foot, but all of a sudden when you are outside of a screen—car, glass, iPhone, or a TV screen—you are a part of the scenery and environment versus protected in a bubble. It is a sense of freedom to explore wherever your mind wanders; it is a gift when you can get away with it. You reach these places where you just stop and wander off into the forest and realize where you are and then hop back on and go again. We generally keep it to ourselves. It has been our own little thing we will do whenever we can steal some time. It was great discovering that a lot of countries are pretty lax about requiring a driver’s license. You can just show up, put a few bucks down, and take a bike. That was how I learned to ride. It was in Portugal, and I did not even have a license, and I learned that way.”

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During one of their sparse gaps between shows, the band can finally enjoy a jaunt on their personal bikes at home. As vintage motorcycle admirers and owners, Hayes and Been know all too well the love-hate relationship that often accompanies them. Hayes reveals, “I had a Sportster for a while and broke the clutch on that and was looking for another one, and a friend was selling a CB550. It just so happened that I took it for a test ride and the clutch cable broke, and it was so fucking quick to fix; I was sold. I was used to working on old cars, and it is kind of like an old car.”

Been adds, “I got lucky with my first bike, also a Honda CB, because Pete was the most experienced and knew how to put it back together if it fell apart, so I thought that will be good in case of emergency. But our old tour manager had this 1972 Triumph Bonneville that he stripped down and café’d out, and I inherited his mess to some extent. This was really not the right bike to start on, because half of the time or more you are working on it. It just always felt like a high-maintenance girlfriend who was really beautiful, and every time she was nice to you, or running, it’s like you fall in love with her again, but most of the time she is just beating you down and taking all of your money. But it was the seduction of every time it was back; I would think, ‘Oh, I cannot get rid of you, I cannot break up with you.’ The CB is great for daily riding, but the growl of the Triumph, that old engine, kills me every time. I just cannot let go of it. The sound, the feeling.”

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Like a lover you simply cannot quit, vintage motorcycles certainly require a high degree of devotion and passion to stay committed—or maybe we are just crazy for continually falling for their mighty allure. Unconditional love must truly prevail, particularly when the rubber side does not stay down. Been and Hayes are not strangers to precarious moments on their motorcycles. Been describes an accident that occurred far from home: 

“I totaled a bike on an island in Greece. It was my first time that I really pushed my limits. The problem with the island was you were always zigging and zagging; it never really opened up. But there was this one stretch that I did not even know the island had. I came around this corner and it was as far as the eye could see, and I was like, ‘This is it. This is my moment.’ And I just gunned it. I had the visor open and sunglasses on and a bug flew in right in between my eye and the sunglasses. It was enough of a moment where my hand reached off right when the road started curving, and I did not catch it in time. I had this split-second moment of ‘Do I go for this super-maneuver that might make everything fine, but will kill me if I try? Or should I just make the most out of the wreck?’ 

“I made the most out of the wreck. It taught me a good lesson. You have to get one under your belt as long as you can walk away.”

Having had his own shaky moments, Hayes recalls, “It was actually awful. I looked left and saw green, hit the gas and then looked a little further left and saw a car was going through a red. I hit the front fender. It was nasty and hurt. It was eight years ago and I still feel it in my elbow.”

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The most baffling incidents, though, can happen during the most unremarkable, routine moments. Been remembers, “Two of our friends that we ride with joined us for a coastal trip. It was that thing where we went for a couple of days and it was four boys and everyone is trying to edge each other out, so we were riding a little competitive, a little psycho and mostly dangerous. But when you got home, you were like, ‘Oh my God, we survived so many brushes with death; we ran with the devil for a while.’ And then the next day we hear that our friend who was with us just took a stupid, small left-hand turn in Los Angeles going like 15 miles per hour, and some idiot hit him and he was in the hospital for a month. After all that crazy riding.”

Having a profound passion for something means never quitting despite experiencing setbacks. Having a substantial fervor for music and motorcycles can also mean utilizing one as a tool to enhance the other. For example, Hayes has employed his bike as a therapeutic apparatus to color the words to a song. He admits, “There is a lot of yelling and screaming lyrics into my helmet. Last record I was flying up and down the road every night. Part of it is just primal scream. It is the only way you can really be alone and do it; it is getting out things one way or another on your motorcycle. You are getting out ideas and thoughts. A lot of it is soaking up what is in front of you in a different way than usual.”

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However, though music and motorcycles can go together like peas in a pod, Hayes also found that it was helpful to separate the two at times. He mentions, “I honestly saw it as, there is a freedom to the road and being in a band and driving ourselves and all of the messes you get into in those days, that goes hand in hand with motorcycles; you just have more air with a motorcycle when you are doing it. I found a way to put a guitar on the back of a bike at one point in time, but even then it is better to kind of leave the music behind a little bit and just ride.”

We all possess various passions that add an extra oomph to our dreary days and make life worth living. For me, aside from people, music and motorcycles are the things that light my fire. Even more intoxicating is finding an exceptional band that treasures motorcycles in their own yet relatable way. Whether BRMC is telling a story about one of their riding adventures or captivating an audience from the stage, they are doing so drenched in a substantial amount of enthusiasm and love for what they do. Taking some advice from the band, I am going to get on my motorcycle and scream their songs into my helmet while isolated on the open road, because there is nothing in the world that would make me happier in this moment. 

Women Can, if She Will

The Van Buren Sisters

Words by Shelby Rossi | Photos courtesy AMA Hall of Fame


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Endless: Mexico

A Film by Shift MX

Starring Jimmy Hill


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

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

Photography by: Derrick Busch & Gordon Dooley

Motorbikes Saved My Life

A Letter from Travis Newbold

Words by Travis Newbold | Photography by Aaron Brimhall


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worlds Collide

Two Wheels, One Love

Words by Ethan Roberts | Photos by Aaron Brimhall


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Membah

Salt & Sand in Indonesia

Words by Ben Giese | Photos by Tom Hawkins


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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