Chad Reed

Against the Current

Words by Brett Smith | Photos courtesy Fox Racing


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


New South Wales, Australia. Circa 1997

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

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

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

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

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

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

The obsession with motorcycles started in July 1986.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

Over three years passed before he raced another American supercross.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

And if this whole thing really is a dream?

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

The Catalyst

A Message from ATWYLD

Words by Anya Violet

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ryan Cox

Lost in the Details

Words & photos by Todd Blubaugh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Alaskan

Built for the Last Frontier

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

Cruzadores Del Sur

Tacos & Treasure in Mexico

Words by Forrest Minchinton | Video by Cameron Goold

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


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

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


Walt Siegl


Video by Outsider Media | Words by Andrew Campo

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

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

Photo by Daniela Maria

Photo by Daniela Maria

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

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

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

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

Photo by David Goldman

Photo by David Goldman

Laura Carden - Walt’s Wife

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

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

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

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

Typical conversation over morning coffee:

Me: “What are you thinking about?”

Walt: “Boxed swingarms.”

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

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

Chris Hunter - Founder, Bike EXIF

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by David Goldman

Photo by David Goldman

Nicholas Harrison - Customer and friend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paulo Rosas - Pagnol

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by David Goldman

Photo by David Goldman

Bruce Meyers - Meyers Perfomance

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

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

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

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

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

It’s going to get fun!

Photo by Matt Kiedaisch

Photo by Matt Kiedaisch

Aran Johnson - WSM Lead Technician 

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

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

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

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

Photo by Matt Kiedaisch

Photo by Matt Kiedaisch

Jamie Waters - REV‘IT!

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

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

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

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

In This Wilderness

National Parks: Wyoming

Words by Derek Mayberry | Photos by Jimmy Bowron

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

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

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

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

Photo by Ansel Adams

Photo by Ansel Adams

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

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

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

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

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

—John Muir

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

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

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

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

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

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

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

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

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

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

Because in this wilderness lies the hope of the world.

Fragments from the Road

America, America: Precollapse of Capitalism

Words by Justin Chatwin | Photos by Dean Bradshaw

With quotes from Bruce Chatwin’s “The Songlines”, 1987


Seems to me that the most challenging thing to take a trip is a reason.  A purpose.   A yearning for something that symbolizes something bigger than our day-to-day lives. A daydream fantasy. Something that, even when you’re hung over and exhausted from nights of no sleep, you still are pulled forward to get to that place, or person, or fantasy.

Once you have that reason, the rest of the trip takes care of itsself. I once delivered a pair of white motorcycle gloves to a girl on the other side of the country. I once went because a friend bought a new motorcycle. I once went because of a pig roast 2,000 miles away. Or an unseen national park. Or a hot spring. Or a dry lake bed. Or an old miner’s camp. Or a job. Or a funeral. Or that girl ...    

Or simply “for no good reason.”  

In this case, it was a combination of all of them.


June 22nd. 5:45pm  

No cell service.  Hot pipe on upper lumbar. 522 miles today. Three states. Four gas stops. Oil floods the cracks on the white lakebed. Alkali-caked fingernails. Corn nuts in my beard. Still no cell service. Raccoon goggle lines. Used underwear flaps from the end of the Tenkara rod. No rivers round here. Homemade airplane runway. I need to drink more water. Chewing tobacco in my right rear molar. Sand-caked eyes are stinging. Heart rate is uncomfortably low. Shoulders won’t go down.  Humming of a Cessna from the high mesa.


Still no cell service.


“Psychiatrists, politicians and tyrants are forever assuring us that the wandering life is an aberrant form of behavior; a neurosis; a form of unfulfilled sexual longing; a sickness which, in the interests of civilisation, must be suppressed. Nazi propagandists claimed that gipsies and Jews ‑ peoples with wandering in their genes ‑ could find no place in a stable Reich. Yet in the East, they still preserve the once universal concept: that wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe.”  

I could hear the bending groan of aluminum from the wind. My cousin’s airplane. The Airstream. Our motorcycles. And the belly laughter of my strange group of friends echoed. Men from all different corners of the continent. Looking for an escape. To nowhere.  That was soothing. So, I put down my book, closed my eyes, and farted.  

And I finally felt my shoulders drop.


Why must a man with enough money to live on, in happiness in his life, feel drawn to divert himself on long sea voyages. Or to sleep in the dirt? To dwell in another town? To go off in search of a rare goat? Or to go off to war and break skulls? Anarchists were always the gentlemen of the road.  


Gypsies saw themselves as hunters. The world is their hunting ground.

Our nature lies in movement, complete calm is death.  

However, romantic ideas may put you sleeping in a ditch.


America, America. America the great. America the big. America the lost. America the I will not shed a tear nor have regret for our past. Sparkplug America and his broken rodeo. The cracked mirrors. Shiny cars. Crop-top lattes.  And social media ambassadors. We are begging the youth to smash down the current walls. The broken dreams. It was a trap!! It did not work! So let’s rebuild! Rebuild! And ride as far and as fast as you can before the wolf of America catches you. Drinking. Sucking. And Fucking. And licking his pearly chops at your idea of a quick fix into cheap happiness that will rise momentarily then fall into the same hole as the Navajo and the Lakota. All of the cities and wars and selfies and greedy little daydream fantasies that one day I will be OK will not help you sleep better at night.


Bottom of the rucksack. Pebbles. Sand. One switch blade. Origin: Nevada. One Argentinian dollar coin. Origin: Patagonia, 2 years prior. A rosary given to me by a woman in Texas who felt Jesus would come help me one day. An unopened condom.  Origin: my roommate’s toiletries bag.  And a piece of folded rice paper that read:

“Go west young man! Go west! Away from the cities and the government camps. Away from glue, hash, smack, gaol. Out! Back to the desert from which grandfather was hounded” Origin, unknown. 


And last, A little white pin that read

“A journey is a fragment of Hell”

Origin, Hell.

The road is my home.


Read the story in Volume 013