Where the Rubber Leaves the Road...

...and flesh sometimes meets the pavement, stunt bikers look to go legit

It seems a bit hypocritical that Rush would preach about rider safety in a legal venue when one hour later he helps lead a group of nearly 100 riders for this evening's main event: a street ride. At a nearby Shell station, Rush and a second rider mount a white brick wall so they can brief the assembled about the ride. On other nights, the ride might be a mass run down LBJ Freeway to the George Bush Turnpike or Interstate 20. Some might break off to stunt at a secret spot in some warehouse district where the cops turn a blind eye as long as no one complains or gets seriously hurt.

"We are going around Fair Park," says the thinner, shorthaired rider. "When we get there, you can do all the stunting you want."

"Sit down, you pussy," shouts a face in the crowd.

Carla Ulrichherring, alias Blue Goose Carla, is the Mother Teresa of the local sport bike community. She runs a Web site that keeps riders abreast of the most recent two-wheel news. She also makes frequent hospital visits to downed riders.
Mark Graham
Carla Ulrichherring, alias Blue Goose Carla, is the Mother Teresa of the local sport bike community. She runs a Web site that keeps riders abreast of the most recent two-wheel news. She also makes frequent hospital visits to downed riders.
What with the police and all, finding a legal spot to practice is no easy matter for stunt groups. Neither are the tricks executed by two local groups. Clockwise, from left, Point of Balance's Lee Houston does a tank insane; Phillip Smith does a highchair endo; Brandon Patton does a stand-up wheelie. Strictly Vertical member Chris Perry's personal best for a rolling endo, lower left, is nearly 300 feet, and he has nearly mastered Patrick Stephens' trademark Captain America trick, lower right.
Mark Graham
What with the police and all, finding a legal spot to practice is no easy matter for stunt groups. Neither are the tricks executed by two local groups. Clockwise, from left, Point of Balance's Lee Houston does a tank insane; Phillip Smith does a highchair endo; Brandon Patton does a stand-up wheelie. Strictly Vertical member Chris Perry's personal best for a rolling endo, lower left, is nearly 300 feet, and he has nearly mastered Patrick Stephens' trademark Captain America trick, lower right.

Rush is quick to jump in. "A lot of us buried three people in the last few months, and all for stupidity. Now there will be some stunters up front; let them stay up front. Don't pass the leader. We are not in a hurry to get anywhere."

You wouldn't know it from the way they speed down I-30, running two abreast to a lane and stretching out for more than a quarter of a mile. Twenty minutes later, all have regrouped in a tucked-away East Dallas parking lot. Word has spread, and about 50 cars have joined the motorcycles, bringing together 200 spectators who watch as seven or so sport bikes go up on one wheel. Even if this spot is safer than the streets, even if the cops don't care, the stunting still feels illicit and looks dangerous. Some manage a wheelie for an instant, others for a hundred yards, each looping around, aching for another turn. It takes balance, strength and agility, but daring death while doing something illegal is what gets the adrenals pumping and hooks riders on the sport in the first place.


The bios of serious stunters sound strikingly similar: Kid gets a dirt bike from his parents as a birthday present. It has a small 50cc engine, and he can't push it much past 25, but he learns to jump and corner and fall. The road rash heals, the broken wrist is no big deal and he convinces his parents to buy him a bigger, faster dirt bike, one he can race at an off-road track. He gets good enough to win, but what he really wants is more speed, more power--a sport bike. In the beginning, it's just him and the machine and how fast he can make it run, which is really fast. He goes from 0 to 60 in 2.8 seconds; at full throttle, he can cover about the length of a football field in just over a second. He loves to lean into tight corners, trying to get a taste of concrete without laying it down. Someone tells him there are only two kinds of riders: those who have lost it and those who are going to. But that doesn't stop him from going 150, 160, 180 mph. At that pace, the rush is incredible: His vision tunnels; the speed makes everything go quiet. He feels invincible--no fear of the motorists who flip him off, not of the cops who can't catch him, not even of his own death. Going up on one wheel is no problem. Keeping it up is another thing entirely. And keeping it up at 150, that's when things can get chaotic--the wind, the traffic, the adrenaline. Even the best had better be careful.

Patrick Stephens is among the best. Growing up on dirt, he switched to street in 1997, riding the back roads close to his home in Alvarado just south of Tarrant County. He rode a Honda for a year before he became a road racer, entering sanctioned competitions and winning. To stay competitive, however, he had to race every weekend, and he quit because it was taking too much time away from his job. Buffed and blond, he worked as a personal trainer at an Arlington gym by day and as a stripper at LaBare at night. Although he thrived on the attention ("I think there is an exhibitionist in me"), he regretted handing over 40 percent of his tips to the club's management. So he began his own business, DFW Elite Strip O Grams. Despite managing seven other strippers and being much in demand himself as a cowboy or a cop or a construction worker on the bachelorette party circuit, he never gave up riding his sport bike.

"My friends and I started doing wheelies to see who could go the furthest," he says. "We would egg each other on, try to one-up each other." It seemed as though every time he went riding, the cops were chasing him. But he never got caught; he was too talented, and they were too slow. That the police might file felony charges on him for evading arrest, that they could easily rationalize beating the hell out of him if they ever did catch him, just made the chase more of a rush. "Never once was I scared they might box me in or catch me," he says.

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