Where the Rubber Leaves the Road...

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

"I need a truck," Fox yells.

"He busted his shit up bad," Tree says.

"Don't go over there; it's gross," says the girlfriend of another stunter. "There is blood everywhere."

Thursday bike night at a Sonic Drive-In is a diverse meet-and-greet for local sport bike riders, some of whom have been tagged as "hooligans" because of their extreme street antics. Patrick Stephens, below, is widely considered one of the top five professional stunters in the country.
Top photos: Peter Calvin
Thursday bike night at a Sonic Drive-In is a diverse meet-and-greet for local sport bike riders, some of whom have been tagged as "hooligans" because of their extreme street antics. Patrick Stephens, below, is widely considered one of the top five professional stunters in the country.
Tim Barnes, president of Point of Balance, lower left, without helmet, hopes to promote a more positive image for stunters, elevating the street spectacle to a fully sanctioned extreme sport. Point of Balance member Phillip Smith, top, does a circle burnout, a big crowd-pleaser among the growing stunt-show audience.
Photos this page: Mark Graham
Tim Barnes, president of Point of Balance, lower left, without helmet, hopes to promote a more positive image for stunters, elevating the street spectacle to a fully sanctioned extreme sport. Point of Balance member Phillip Smith, top, does a circle burnout, a big crowd-pleaser among the growing stunt-show audience.

But broken bones are a badge of courage; bulging discs, separated shoulders and torn ligaments define the level of risk stunters are willing to take.

Amos is placed in the bed of a pickup, his pain evident and extreme. His girlfriend cradles his head in her lap, but that doesn't soothe his moaning. "What's the fastest way to the hospital?" someone shouts.

Matt Fox grows frustrated. This is what he gets for letting nonprofessionals into his practices. Then again, he feels obliged to teach new riders in a controlled setting. There's no better way to legitimize and grow the sport. "That's it. Everybody outta here," he says as the pickup speeds away. "Fun's over for today."


The crowd seems older and definitely tamer on Tuesday nights at the Blue Goose Cantina in Addison. The parking lot is still lined with about 100 sport bikes and their riders, some of whom feel uncomfortable revealing their identities. "I am a doctor, and I am not going to tell you my name," says one Kawasaki rider. But no one can refuse the gentle interrogation of Carla Ulrichherring as she greets arriving riders with a Hollywood hug--kicking her leg back--and asks for the latest bit of biker news for her Web site, www.bluegooseriders.org.

"If people come out here, they are going to get a hug," she says. "This is a community that's in the hospital a lot."

Blue Goose Carla, as she is known, is the Mother Teresa of the North Texas sport bike community. She loves everything about sport bikes but driving them. "I like my men to be the ones in control," she jokes. At 43, she has logged more than 250,000 miles on the back of bikes, countering her prim California upbringing, which included ballet lessons and fox hunts, with a "passion for speed."

Her self-appointed mission is to offer those sharing her passion a sense of community, a forum where they can learn about the latest bike, the latest ride, the latest death. She also sees herself as the moral conscience of the community, proselytizing for safety and legal street riding, while working for better relations with the police. But her greatest challenge is to see stunting--or freestyle, as she would prefer it being known--make it as the next fully sanctioned extreme sport complete with mega-corporate sponsorships, a uniform point system and insurable events. "Stunting is the easy part," she says. "The hard part is teaching these guys how to live morally. At 18, the biggest thing they have going is one-upping the next guy because it wins girls. But as they get older, those same girls get tired of bailing them out of jail."

Other extreme sports gained legitimacy despite their outlaw chic: Stock car racing traces its roots to moonshiners who attempted to outrun the law; skateboarders in search of their next rail were busted for destruction of property; and many snowboarders were banned from ski slopes until they turned into a huge revenue stream. But each of these sports had to downplay its bad-boy image before corporations were willing to sponsor them. Companies such as Subway and Taco Bell have shown no interest in their products being endorsed by riders who are willing to risk their lives, their reputations and their medical insurance for the freedom to play in traffic. "Stunt groups want the sponsors and the motorcycle industry to accept them, but some of them don't want to conform to the industry standard to let that happen," says the XSBA's Ken Abbott. "Others are trading in the street hooligan thing for the right safety gear and press kits and videos that move 10,000 copies."

Last year, the XSBA held five sanctioned events, which were part of its national championship series that crowned its national stunt champion Thew Blankstrom and awarded him a paltry $2,500 in prize money. Although the events were shoehorned into its Formula USA road racing series and many prominent stunters refused to participate, Abbott claims the sport is exploding (more riders, more video sales, more magazines, more fans). But his events feature only one class--individual freestyle--although other events such as the longest endo and team freestyle are being considered. He says he has purposely "tried to somewhat suppress the sport" because many of the riders are not ready to be professional athletes. "They don't know how to present themselves to the public and the media. They are good at showing off what they've got, but not good at polishing it up and putting it together in a format that is entertaining to a lot of people."

Blue Goose Carla believes she has found the right mixture of moxie and maturity in Point of Balance, the stunt group she manages. The group hopes to cast itself in a more positive light, shattering the Biker Boyz image through its G-rated Web site www.pointofbalance.com and its not-yet-released G-rated video (no highway stunts, no women in thongs).

Tim Barnes, the president of Point of Balance, is a former dirt biker with enough business savvy to recognize entrepreneurial opportunity. He manufactures several safety devices that protect the sport bike from the beating it takes from stunting. Point of Balance members have taken their act off the road and put it in controlled venues, working the drag strip circuit as a sideshow during intermissions.

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