New Life for an Old Sportster Words by Kurt Diserio — Photos by Alexa Diserio As chill as ever, Mike Greer fits his bike perfectly—laid back and ready for a good time. As a mechanic by day, he started out like most chopper fans by picking up a bucket of parts and bringing it back to life. It wasn’t long before the wheels started turning in his head, driving him to create a chopper that was unique to his personality. I first saw this bike at Glory Daze in 2019 when he rolled up with the Udder Scum crew. It was completely different then, but with time and help from some friends, it’s had quite the transformation. Let’s get straight to it! Go through the build for the readers.Mike Greer: The bike is an ‘88 Sportster 883 with a 1200 conversion and four-speed transmission. The whole thing started with eight-over forks. Then after riding the bike, I found out it was raked a little too high and the front end wanted to flop all over the place. So, I got everything torn down, and the project snowballed from there. We stretched the frame, used a single down tube, and switched the forks to a fourteen-over Frank’s Forks front end. I’ve always been a big fan of dual headlights from the 1960s and 70s style choppers, so I went with that look. The handlebars are six-bend pullbacks from Zombie Performance. I’m a big fan of these bars, they’re super comfy. It’s still technically a Sportster frame, but only about ten inches of it is still stock. We used a TC Bros hardtail kit on the rear with the TC Bros king and queen seat that was made to fit. It took almost a year for the seat to be back in stock, so when it was available, I jumped on it. The rear brake was fabricated from a 2000s era Sportster. I didn’t care for the look of having the brake hang below the frame, so we got it to fit in the wedge of the hardtail. The sissy bar is a Paughco Captain America style that wasn’t made for a Sportster, so I had to work out some spacing issues. I didn’t want it leaning too far back, and it fought me a good bit trying to get the rear tire centered and the fender to sit so it wasn’t digging into the tire. As far as the paint, the whole bike is actually powder coated. I got inspiration from my old man’s shovelhead. It was a two-tone seafoam blue and black. I feel the thing that catches your eye the most is the tank—the contrast of the old AMF sunburst stripes against the seafoam blue. There’s a layer of clear over top of the tank decals to seal them in. While I’m not much of a fan of the AMF models, I have always liked the stripe designs. Who helped with the frame and fabrication?MG: I don’t trust myself enough to do the frame, so Zack Conway from Diamonds N Rust Cycles brought it up to his place and helped me with that. We had to see how it was going to flow, and Zack figured out the geometry and pieced it all together. He also did the brake stay, the fabrication for the oil tank and fins, and more. Jesse McNeil welded almost everything on the frame. Things went together pretty smoothly, and within a couple of weeks we had the whole thing torn down and chopped apart. The only thing we really had to wait on was the powder coating, chrome, and miscellaneous parts. It was great working with them and just shooting the shit. I learned a lot and would love to do it again. I dig the oil tank. Can you explain why you added the fins?MG: There were a couple of reasons. If you see where the actual oil tank stops, it’s not a true horseshoe. We wanted to give it more of the old horseshoe look and hide the battery inside, which used to sit below. Now it fits sideways in there, and if I ever need to jump start it, I can access it without pulling everything off. Any horror stories with the build?MG: The gas tank—it’s been done twice. The first time was really tedious, making sure everything laid straight. When we were bleeding the front brakes, I took the tank off and set it on the other side of the garage to avoid getting brake fluid on it. We were reverse bleeding them because I used the front brake off of a Ducati, and when the syringe let loose, the fluid somehow shot ten feet across the garage and went all over the tank. I hurried up and wiped it off, but it didn’t stop the decals from starting to peel. I tried hitting it with a coat of clear, but it eventually started to fish eye anyway. I had too much pride to leave it, so I stripped everything off and redid the whole tank. What inspired you to build the bike? Do you have a background in motorcycles?MG: I grew up with it. My old man and all of his friends rode. There were always outlaw bikers and shit around. My brother Mark got into choppers, but I was more into cars at that point. I remember watching him ride his bike one day going up the highway and thought, “Man, that looks fun.” I didn’t get that same feeling in my car and envied it. Shortly after looking, I picked up a basketcase Sportster that wasn’t running and had no wiring. I’ve been a mechanic for a decade now, but I had never built a bike before. It was a new challenge. When it fired up for the first time and nothing caught on fire, it was the coolest feeling in the world. Before we wrap this thing up, what’s the story with your lifestyle apparel line, Udder Scum?MG: Along with my brother, Mark, and our friend Chooch, we started it as a brand built around vans, choppers, and rad people. People called us Udder Scum because we grew up outside of the city in the farming areas. We were the ones showing up to the party and wrecking shit. Our message is to just be yourself and not care what anyone thinks. Have fun with what you do. Featured in Issue 10 1988 HARLEY-DAVIDSON SPORTSTER XL1200 Built by MIKE GREER www.topgreerphoto.com instagram Words by KURT DISERIO Photos by ALEXA DISERIO
A Chat with Carmen Gentile Words by Kurt Diserio — Photos by Alexa DiserioAdditional Photos by Matt Cipollone + Nish Nalbandian + Justin Merriman A few years ago when I received a message from a journalist who wanted to meet up in Lawrenceville to talk about motorcycles and publishing, I had little knowledge of his past or what he was trying to establish here in Pittsburgh. Typically, this type of meeting meant that I needed to activate Business Professional Mode and hide the rough, unrestrained half of my personality in the back of the room until I got to know them better. That wasn’t the case with Carmen Gentile, an eye-patch-wearing Pittsburgh native who lived a life of adventure and chaos so ridiculous that it was actually impressive from a biker’s perspective. For me, it’s interesting meeting folks like Carmen. Maybe it’s because I often feel misunderstood from having to balance between what seems like two different worlds at the same time. We relate on the need to be both disciplined enough for financial purposes while also pursuing what Hunter Thompson called “The Edge” for personal, creative reasons. In 2010, as a wartime journalist in Afghanistan, Gentile came a little too close to that edge when he was struck in the head by a rocket-propelled grenade. Somehow, it did not explode. He survived — but not without having half of his face crushed and losing sight in his right eye. The most shocking part is that even after endless surgeries and trauma, he voluntarily returned to Afghanistan multiple times to continue covering the war. There isn’t enough space in this publication to go through his life in detail, so do yourself a favor and read his book, Blindsided by the Taliban. If you’re a motorcycle enthusiast, there’s a good chance you’ll understand the bold, reckless behavior that Gentile frequently seeks throughout the pages, from start to finish. Copies of Postindustrial magazine. Learn more at postindustrial.com Gentile’s latest project, Postindustrial, is an independent media outlet and magazine based out of Pittsburgh that covers stories from the Rust Belt and Appalachia. These aren’t just stories of triumph, but rather a truthful, modern approach to an area of our country going through rapid changes. Was there something that pushed you into the type of frontline journalism that ultimately led you to the war in Afghanistan?Carmen Gentile: I’ll be extremely generous with myself and say I got into frontline journalism because I have an unyielding zeal for excitement and adventure that sometimes leads me into situations that most right-minded people would outright avoid. Another less generous way of putting it: I have many screws loose. Let’s say we split the difference. Seriously, I do it for many reasons. It’s the most intense form of journalism you can do. More importantly, covering war is hard and doing something hard that is worthwhile is its own reward, no matter how corny or cliche that may sound. That’s the truth. I could wax poetic and profane all day about my unrequited love affair with war reporting. She’s the temptress I just can’t quit. How do motorcycles fit into all of this?CG: I can rattle off the names of more than a dozen men and women I know who ride motorcycles and cover conflict. Maybe two dozen. Now, why could that be? Let’s see. Is it because both riding and war reporting can potentially take you right to, and beyond, that “Edge” of which you previously wrote so eloquently? I’m guessing that’s part of it. Now that I think about it, I started riding about the same time I started covering conflict, almost 20 years ago. Huh. I just had a minor psychological breakthrough in the pages of Pittsburgh Moto. Thanks for the mental assist, Kurt. Can you give our readers a story or two from your time in the Middle East?CG: My first moto experience in the Middle East was way back in 2008. I was embedded with U.S. forces in the Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City, which at the time was a nightmarish maze of narrow streets where shootouts and bombings were an everyday occurrence. So we’re walking through Sadr City and come upon some young kids on small motorbikes. I tell them I like their rides and one offers me his bike to take for a spin. Now, I usually weigh about 210lbs. That day, wearing my body armor and helmet, I’m like 260. I get on this little bike and it feels like it’s about to buckle underneath me. Despite the strain, the bike takes off when I pull back the throttle. I then race a few hundred yards down a street lined with curious onlookers, temporarily forgetting that I’m now completely alone in what is, at the time, probably the most dangerous place on earth. After regaining my senses, I race the bike back to the patrol and apologize for my stupid behavior. My most memorable Middle East motorcycling exploit has to be the great Mosul Ural Caper of 2017. My friend and photographer Nish Nalbandian and I were covering the fighting between Iraqi forces and the Islamic State in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. I don’t want to get into too many details, but simply put, it was the worst urban combat I’ve ever seen. Death and destruction was everywhere you looked. The Islamic State had taken complete control of the city and kept its citizens prisoner for more than three years. Just hell on earth. Nish spotted the Ural and showed it to me. It was riddled with bullet holes, sidecar filled with old, toys, and the gas tank was crushed because a mortar struck his home and a piece of a wall fell on it. We bought the bike for 400 bucks, had it fixed in a nearby shop for a few hundred more. Then, through bribery and the help of some friends, we got it out of Mosul and rode it back to safety in the nearby city of Erbil. We later produced a story about it. I still need to figure out how to get it to the states. Can you explain Postindustrial and your reason for creating a multimedia company that focused on an often-forgotten part of our country?CG: The Rust Belt and Appalachia, what we call “Postindustrial America” has long been mischaracterized by much of the national media, which somehow still thinks we’re nothing more than a collection of out-of-work steelworkers and coal miners hooked on opioids. I started Postindustrial because I want to correct the record and give authentic voice to the region. That’s one reason. The other was the 2016 election, which was a real kick in the groin for me as a native son of Postindustrial America. Watching Trump pander to people from the region with dogshit promises of reopening mills and mines was lunacy of the highest order. You just don’t flip the switch on a steel mill that’s been shuttered for 40 years. Folks here know that, yet they swallowed the Trump delusion whole because it tasted so good. Besides, I’m pretty sure most of the mills have been razed or turned into condos and movie studios. Carmen Gentile on a Royal Enfield motorcycle on Friday, May 22, 2021 in Berry, Kentucky. Photo: Justin Merriman / American Reportage You recently completed a motorcycle tour through Appalachia and the Rust Belt region covering stories for Postindustrial. Did tackling this assignment on motorcycles add a unique perspective?CG: Riding bikes through Postindustrial America allowed us to take in more of the landscape and enjoy the travel in ways you just can’t in a car. For me, motorcycles are ideal for journalism assignments because they allow you that freedom and heightened sense of connection to the story and people. That’s why I try to make riding a part of every story I do these days. What do you feel is the outlook for folks that you talked with in these areas? Is there a sense of hope or optimism after such a turbulent year?CG: Some folks are optimistic, while others are worried about a still-uncertain and challenging future. I get both perspectives and find myself constantly vacillating between optimism and deep worry. Where would you like to see Postindustrial in the future?CG: In the mailboxes of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of paying subscribers. Is that what you mean? Perhaps you mean coverage-wise, in which case, I’d like to spend more time in Baltimore, which is an immensely intriguing city for many reasons, most of them not good, unfortunately. It’s a prime example of how Postindustrial cities have been decimated on so many fronts, losses that trickle down from generation to generation. Yet, like so much of Postindustrial America, there are inspiring stories of hope and resilience coming out of Baltimore. And much of the city is downright gorgeous. Plus, the seafood scene there is insane. I’m salivating just thinking about it. I also want to expand our coverage beyond the 13 states we currently identify as comprising “Postindustrial America.” There are important stories to be told both in the US and beyond. Without giving too much away, I’ve been kicking around some Postindustrial story angles from Europe, the Middle East and Latin America. How could folks learn more about Postindustrial and your projects?CG: By going to www.postindustrial.com and subscribing to the magazine. Subscribers get our print edition, daily digital edition, access to our entire podcast network, invitations to events, and more. It’s inexpensive and by far the best publication out there, only second to the one you’re reading right now, of course. Carmen Gentile speaks with a group of muralists in Tennessee who created a building-sized tableau of the Iraqi city of Erbil, for a story about the Kurdish community in Nashville. Gentile reported and wrote the story in 2019 for Postindustrial Media. Photo: Nish Nalbandian Journalists Carmen Gentile and Jason Motlagh at New River Gorge National Park in Fayetteville, W.Va., on Sunday, May 23, 2021. Motlagh was on assignment for Rolling Stone. Photo: Matt Cipollone Blindsided by the Taliban by Carmen Gentile. Available on Amazon.com Featured in Issue 10 CARMEN GENTILE POSTINDUSTRIAL MEDIA www.postindustrial.com www.carmengentile.com facebook | instagram Words by KURT DISERIO Photos by ALEXA DISERIO MATT CIPOLLONENISH NALBANDIANJUSTIN MERRIMAN
Tombstone Customs Triumph T120 Words by Kurt Diserio — Photos by Alexa Diserio Oftentimes, there’s a lot going on with people under the surface. Similarly, there’s a lot more to a bike than just the bike. As someone with no plans to get involved with two wheels, Jon “Wes” Harrison never planned on building this Triumph Bonneville but was always being pestered to get into motorcycles by his good friend, Mark Marino. They served together on the police force for nearly two decades before Harrison was dealt the heartbreaking shock of losing his friend to suicide. The loss was indescribable, leaving Harrison with grief so heavy that he eventually had to leave his job. One way that he dealt with it was by paying tribute to Marino in a way that would have made his friend proud—by finally getting a motorcycle. How did Mark and his friendship influence this build?Jon Harrison: For sixteen years, I worked in the police force in McKeesport with my buddy, Mark Marino. We were in the same district and department. I watched his kids grow up, and he was the best man at my wedding. We were close. Some people liked him, some people hated him. He was wild but someone you could always have a good time with. Sometimes it wasn’t good fun, but it was fun. At the start of this, I wanted nothing to do with bikes. Mark was always doing crazy stuff and was really into foreign cars and bikes. He had a 1969 Triumph cafe racer and always bothered me to build a bike, but I never would. Eventually, I wore down and was going to get one, but he ended up taking his own life. On September 16, 2014, he didn’t show up for work. The night before, I was up for a domestic and remember texting him but didn’t hear back. I figured he passed out. We were sent up to his place to check on him, and that’s when we found him. I got this bike about a year or so after and basically worked on it in secret. How did losing a best friend affect your job?JH: I pretty much retired early. When you work with someone that long and are involved with crime, bank robberies, and murders, you have a strong bond. I would go to work, and it just wasn’t the same. I let it consume me for a while, so I took almost a year off dealing with depression. I had talked him down before, so I kept thinking what if I had been there that morning to talk him out of it. Then I came to the realization that nothing was stopping him. It was either then or later. Mark lived a hard, fast life, and that’s how it ended. He made a permanent decision to a temporary problem. I don’t look down on him for anything but figured building this bike would help bring closure. Take our readers through the build process and how it all came together.JH: I originally picked the Triumph up from someone in Ohio. The motor was fresh inside when we got it, so there was no need to mess with any of that mechanically. It was fairly stock from what I understand. The goal was to blend a little modern and a little of the old. After tearing the bike apart, I started with the springer front and the rigid back end. I painted the tins, then had Joel Shusta from Shusta Interiors recover the seat. The bike used a ‘69 frame with a ‘58 tank, and one of my big things about Triumphs are the pads on the sides of the tank. They always pucker and fall apart, so I asked Joel what we could do about this. We sat around for a little bit, and he came up with the idea to make a fiberglass mold that he mounted to a piece of metal. Then he made a magnetic plate that he wrapped in a honeycomb leather so it would go together nicely. Once I had everything pretty much painted and ready to go, I needed some help with the assembly. So, I turned to my buddy, Brandon Jordan who runs Jordan’s Auto Body in North Versailles. He and his brother, Kenny, helped finish things up, and we fired it up together. It was finished just before this year’s World of Wheels, and the feedback I got from that show has been unbelievable. How long did it take to finish?JH: The bike sat for periods in between work, but little by little it came together. It took roughly a year and a half before it was finished. Can you explain the Kansas license plate and what’s unique about it?JH: I’ve always had interesting license plates related to Pittsburgh or whatever project I’m doing. I was up late one night, my wife was sleeping, and I’m looking through antique plates online to use for shows or novelty. Mark had a strange taste in music and liked everything from Kansas with songs like “Dust in the Wind” and “Wayward Son” to Neil Diamond, Rancid, Social Distortion, and punk. When I clicked on eBay, there was a 1969 Kansas license plate with his badge number on it. What are the chances of this being a ‘69 bike with a ‘69 plate in a state that one of his favorite bands was named after that also shared his badge number? The plate had never even been on a bike—it literally came in the original package. It was meant to be. Any other little details you’d like to mention?JH: The Woody’s grips are made out of what I believe is teak hardwood. The forward controls are from M&M. I’m using a 21-inch front wheel and a 16-inch in the rear with Coker tires. We used gold wrap on the pipes to match the chain and give the feel of it being old but new, too. Traditionally, nobody wanted these tanks. They were called ‘nut catchers’ because when you wrecked, that’s what happened. The people you saw riding with this type of tank were the likes of Steve McQueen, James Dean, and John Lennon, all who met young deaths. What does the bike mean to you now that it’s finished?JH: It brings closure to a chapter in my life. For a lot of years, I felt guilty because I didn’t finish it. My police career, my friendship with Mark, this brings closure to it all. It’s really a new beginning. Besides bike shows, do you have any plans for what you’d like to do with the bike?JH: I’d like to get out to the Bonneville Salt Flats and take it for a ride. That’s on the bucket list. When we retire, it’d be nice to take a year off and travel across the country. Maybe head down south, then up west for a month or so. I think it’s what I need to do. Any advice to the other builders or enthusiasts?JH: If you hang around like-minded people, people who are great at things and have the eye for attention-to-detail, you’ll get better, too. This whole bike happened that way. Joel did the leather, I did the tank, Brandon Jordan did the assembly, and my wife and I wrapped the pipes. When you surround yourself with talent, you follow suit. It pushes you to excel at what you have an interest in. Featured in Issue 10 1969 TRIUMPH BONNEVILLE T120 Built by JON “WES” HARRISONTOMBSTONE CUSTOMS firstname.lastname@example.org In memory of Mark Marino Words by KURT DISERIO Photos by ALEXA DISERIO
Motorcycles and Art in the Steel City Words by Kurt Diserio — Photos by Alexa Diserio Hey, Pittsburgh! Your annual vintage and custom motorcycle show returned this year on Saturday, September 25 at the national historic landmark of Carrie Blast Furnaces. Glory Daze was back in a big way with a new lineup of custom bikes from builders throughout the country, many of which returned to the Steel City from the last round in 2019 with new creations. After the whirlwind of 2020, this year was off to another uncertain start with a pandemic hangover causing supply and labor problems, a new virus variant, and the unpredictable worry of more occupancy restrictions. Watching the news or scrolling through social platforms caused daily anxiety that impacted planning tremendously, but after having to call off last year's event, the only option was to hope for the best and power forward. People were eager to get back into the bike show groove, so I knew that once the gates opened, the motorcycle community would have our backs and take it from there. Photo by Luke Diserio This year we were treated to an even bigger turnout and perfect late September weather. In addition to the indoor invitational motorcycle show and the bike-only courtyard we had last time, the show was expanded to now include another area with outdoor vendors and swap meet spots. Due to the roadway changes made at Carrie Blast Furnaces, the entryway and exit became a one-way loop that circled around the outside to a much larger parking area near the outdoor vendors. The powerhouse building was filled with groovy motorcycle builds from around the Pittsburgh region and beyond. I like to think of the indoor show almost like an art gallery, with each motorcycle having an impact on attendees in different ways. From the mind-blowing engineering of Christian Newman's stainless, turbocharged 8 valve ULH chopper to the creative use of musical instruments seen on J Shia's pair of 1972 Harley-Davidson Aermacchi SS350s, there was something for everyone. Great art influences us in ways we might not truly recognize at the moment, often creating waves of inspiration for years to come. We can't thank the invitees enough for their dedication and craftsmanship. The show wouldn't be what it is without them. Alexa and I would like to thank presenting partners Iron City Beer and Bell Powersports for having a big presence at this year's event. You could grab some IC swag at their merch table to go along with the cold Iron you were drinking. Bell Helmets had acclaimed painter Skratch set up inside doing live pinstriping and helmet painting during the show. The Trippy Ten helmet art exhibit also returned with ten new artists displaying custom-painted Bell Moto 3, Bullitt, and Custom 500 lids. We'd also like to thank Rivers of Steel for their work in preserving this amazing site and venue. Big thanks to show sponsors Old Bike Barn, Uptahn Metalworks, Lowbrow Customs, Youngstown Cycle & Speed, and ChopCult for their support. Events like this wouldn't happen if it wasn't for great companies helping out and taking part. Check out their websites, follow them on social, and give them some love when you can. Last but not least, thanks to our team of volunteers for keeping things as organized as possible. We truly appreciate your help in creating such an impactful moment in time. Glory Daze is returning on Saturday, September 24, 2022. Mark your calendars, tell your friends, and plan your winter motorcycle projects. We look forward to seeing you all again next year! - Kurt Diserio, event organizer 1971 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead chopper by Chase Chicoine 1951 Harley-Davidson PanShovel Chopper by Larry Collette 2006 Twisted Bobber build by Tim Scates "Sweet 13" Sportster by Rick Reed J Shia brought a couple of interesting 1972 Harley-Davidson Aermacchis Skratch was at the Bell Helmets booth painting helmets Yamaha XS650 by Speakeasy Motors Left to right: Andy and Josh of Uptahn Metalworks, show organizer Kurt Diserio, and Brett Conley of Bell Helmets 1930 Harley-Davidson 8 valve ULH by Christian Newman 1929 Indian Four Electric Conversion by Randy Hayward (right) 1954 Harley-Davidson Panhead by Joe Perrone Skratch presenting Todd Zwicker of Iron City Beer a custom-painted Bell Helmets lid Trippy Ten Helmet Art Show - Jesse Amos Trippy Ten Helmet Art Show - Brad Barnes / Boosted Brad Trippy Ten Helmet Art Show - Seth Chaney / Dirty Gold Customs Trippy Ten Helmet Art Show - Johnny Harris / Johnny A. Kustom Paint Trippy Ten Helmet Art Show - Travis Hess / Kolor by Tuki Trippy Ten Helmet Art Show - Phil Leonard / Syrarium Studios Trippy Ten Helmet Art Show - Paige Macy / Stripe Cult Painting Trippy Ten Helmet Art Show - Andy Meeh / Flyin' Iron Designs Trippy Ten Helmet Art Show - Gerad Poepke / Valley Kustoms Trippy Ten Helmet Art Show - Jeremy Seanor / Lucky Strike Designs 1978 Hell Van by Peep Shaffer 1948 Harley-Davidson Panhead chopper by Evan Favaro Black Dog Tattoo Trailer was on site Black Dog Tattoo Trailer Big thanks to Skratch for painting a custom Glory Daze Bell Bullitt helmet 1968 Triumph T120 by Jessika Janene CT Newman's 8 valve ULH component breakdown 1972 Yankee Z500 2-Stroke twin chopper by Cubby's Customs 1948 Harley-Davidson Panhead chopper by Speakeasy Motors Event sponsor Uptahn Metalworks TE Customs The CROIG "Built for Good" Sportster giveaway was presented to the winner during the show The courtyard was packed with familiar faces 1985 Harley-Davidson Sportster chopper by Peter Stovicek GLORY DAZE MOTORCYCLE SHOW 2021 Presented by PITTSBURGH MOTO IRON CITY BEER BELL POWERSPORTS Sponsored by OLD BIKE BARN UPTAHN METALWORKS LOWBROW CUSTOMS YOUNGSTOWN CYCLE & SPEED CHOP CULT website | facebook | instagram Words by KURT DISERIO Photos by ALEXA DISERIO
Tackling the Desert on a Custom Sportster Words by Kurt Diserio — Photos by Alexa DiserioRace Photos by Geoff Kowalchuk + Cameron Allsop + Matt Collins + Greg Boydston + Austin Rowe Throughout the years, our publication has inherently gone through every type of Sportster there is. From cafe racers to stretched choppers, there’s no shortage in Pittsburgh. The XL train keeps chugging along in issue Number 10 but with another twist—this Sporty is set up for desert racing. You might remember Tyler Valentik and his flamed Sportster chopper from issue Number 006 or at the Glory Daze motorcycle show in 2019. Following our feature on his chopper, Valentik set off on a road trip across the country, enduring many mishaps and learning a few lessons along the way. More recently, after spending some time out west with an off-road style Sportster, the opportunity to compete in a one-hundred-mile desert race in Ridgecrest, California popped up. Valentik jumped on it, and just like our last interview, he took off a few days later to embark on another journey out west. The Biltwell 100 is an endurance race through the open desert, an environment completely different from anything we’re used to in Western Pennsylvania. We talked with Valentik at a private motocross track owned by the generous Hufnagel family, where he was getting in some last-minute practice. This build is much different than your Sportster chopper we featured previously. Can you give us the backstory of the bike and why you went in this direction?Tyler Valentik: This was actually my first Harley, a 2000 XL883 hugger. I bought it when I was nineteen or twenty years old. It had a shorter stance and broke down all of the time, but I rode it everywhere for years. I started working with it a little more after my other Sportster chopper was finished. At the time, I didn’t have a dirt bike, so I figured I’d be that idiot who rode his Harley through the woods. I was super influenced by the Rusty Butcher and Virus Moto dudes out west. I would see them riding in the desert or going through creek crossings on Sportsters, and I wanted to do something like that. You just don’t see people jumping gaps on a Harley too often. How did you go about setting it up for off-road use?TV: I started with the suspension by buying a front end off of one of my buddies. It was a Sportster XL1200S front end that came with adjustable rebound and dampening from the factory, perfect for what I was doing. I’m running heavy-duty fluid, but nothing too special. For the rear, I picked up 14-inch Fox Racing piggyback shocks from Rusty Butcher. I’m using a stock 13-spoke front mag with an old AMF 18-inch rear. Once I had the roller figured out, I took it out to a buddy of mine, Kevin Perry. He’s a technician at Steel City Harley-Davidson and does all of the performance builds. Everything was entirely redone, bumping it up to 1200cc with aftermarket cams, high-compression pistons, new valve and valve springs, and some other fancy racing stuff. He pretty much made all my stupid ideas come together perfectly haha. And the rest of the bike?TV: I’m using a TrackerDie sprocket cover that I picked up in an emergency situation during my last visit to California. The powder coating was done by Eric at FM Powder Coating in Washington, PA. Almost everything was redone from the frame, swingarm, engine cases, and covers. I’m using a Baja Designs headlight that I’m super hyped about. I’ve always had issues with other headlights, but this works great! The handlebars are Rusty Butcher, and the risers are Hard Case Performance. Tyler Elliott of TE Customs did the paintwork. I told him that I wanted it to look a little vintage and roughed up, and he nailed it. I’m also using a Biltwell tail light and cafe seat with a Lowbrow Customs Tsunami rear fender. Did you do anything with the controls for off-road purposes?TV: I’m using a Biltwell Whiskey throttle setup, got rid of all electronics on the handlebars, and switched to a one-finger clutch lever. TrackerDie sells them, and you can literally use one finger. You took this bike to Daytona Bike Week. How was that?TV: I took both the chopper and this down to Daytona. It was wild this year. The people were cooped up from the pandemic and just let loose. At one point I lost my license plate and got a ticket. The past few years were adding up, and they finally got me this time. What made you want to do this desert race?TV: I rode this in the desert last time I was out west, and it was super tough but fun. It was like one giant party with people in trophy trucks, buggies, and dirtbikes. Later on, I saw the post about the Biltwell 100 but missed the signups. Luckily, my buddy Cliff, who was also racing the event, sent a video of mine from the previous desert trip to the guys at Biltwell, and they opened up some more spots that allowed me to get in. What’s your plan?TV: I’ll have a few guys with me and will probably leave shortly after Easter. The race is on the morning of April 10. I have no expectations, I just want to finish. I did a GNCC race last year on a dirtbike, so I have an idea of what it’s like. I’m going to have a Camelback and a gas reservoir on my backpack, so if I run out I’ll have a backup. It’s four laps in 25-mile loops, so I’m thinking maybe two laps, pit, then two more laps. Photo by Matt Collins FOLLOW-UP The best part of this feature is that even with no expectations and zero experience with this type of racing, Tyler Valentik ended up winning his race class! So, we had to do some follow-up questions to see how things went down. Take us through a summary of the race.TV: The race was wild, to say the least. Starting off, my buddy Cliff got some wicked speed wobbles and dished it. Up went a big cloud of dust, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw another rider bump-jump Cliff’s bike, sending him and his bike flying. After that, I had to put my nerves to the side and start hauling ass. I felt good on the first lap, just trying to get used to the terrain and get a feel for the bike. The course was set up super rad. There were markers every mile and course flags, so you wouldn’t get completely lost. After counting down the miles, the first lap was done, and I pulled through the pits to fill up on fuel. Thankfully, I saw Cliff. He was all good after his crash and said to keep rippin. The second lap felt great. I kept a good pace and nothing too wild happened. I stopped at the pits in about the same exact lap time as before, then kept hauling. The third lap is where I definitely started to feel fatigued about midway through. By mile fifteen, my hands were dead, cramping to the bars. It was getting super hard to pull the clutch and brake. When pulling back into the pits, the crew knew I was hurting. I needed to cool down and get some energy. Every pit stop, my dawg Tosh pretty much shoved bananas down my throat, Jason kept my gas tank filled, and Logan kept me cool and filled my water. Our whole SCVM and NOBODY crew were all hollering and kept my spirits high! The last lap was a straight-up survival lap. It took everything I had to hold on to that 500-pound machine for another twenty-five miles through whoops and washed-out turns. I was just in my own head telling myself to get it fucking done. Did you have any bike issues or concerns during the run?TV: I actually lost my oil cap on the first lap, and oil went everywhere. I noticed it at about the 10-mile mark, took one of my gloves off, and shoved it in the filler hole so I wouldn’t lose anymore. I did, however, lose a lot of oil and somehow didn’t blow my bike up. With how whooped out and rocky a few of the sections of the course were, my oil tank/battery tray isolators all broke and were pretty much bouncing off of the top of my primary. Other than that, I kept the bike upright the whole time but did dent up my exhaust a little on the rocky downhill section. That was pretty wicked! How did it feel to make the trip and actually win the race, knowing your original goal was to simply finish?TV: Honestly, coming over the hill and seeing the 25-mile marker was surreal. I was running off of so much adrenaline but was so physically exhausted that it felt weird. Pulling into the pits, I could barely hold onto my bike, but the SCVM and NOBODY crew went fucking nuts. It felt like a movie, haha. I sat my ass down in a camp chair and got three sips into a cold Pacifico before realizing I needed water badly. It felt like I was going to pass out, throw up, or both. About an hour after the race, I finally felt better and enjoyed my time in the middle of the Dirt Diggers Spangler Hills of California, hanging out at the awards with all of my buddies. My dad even flew out to party. Winning first place in my class was wild for sure, but the whole experience was amazing, and I’m stoked that my friends and I got to be a part of it! Anybody you’d like to thank?TV: Thanks to Steel City Harley-Davidson, Thunder Roads Magazine, Crazy Horse Coffee, and Marty Rubio who owns a machine shop that helped me out. Also thanks to Biltwell for hosting a kick-ass event! Photo by Austin Rowe Photo by Gregg Boydston Photo by Geoff Kowalchuk Photo by Cameron Allsop Featured in Issue 10 2000 HARLEY-DAVIDSON SPORTSTER XL1200 Built by TYLER VALENTIKKEVIN PERRY instagram Words by KURT DISERIO Photos by ALEXA DISERIORace Photos by GEOFF KOWALCHUKCAMERON ALLSOPMATT COLLINSGREG BOYDSTONAUSTIN ROWE
To Hell with Traditional Words by Kurt Diserio — Photos by Sara Lease + Alexa Diserio I’ll have to admit, it’s a little odd interviewing my wife, the photographer, for our publication. At the same time, it’s a little odd that we’ve hit a milestone issue and she hasn’t been properly introduced. With the exception of a few contributor features here and there, she’s solely responsible for every single photo you see within our pages and on our website. She’s a master at understanding light and working under high-pressure circumstances. Every day, her work is shared on social media, often with no credit or recognition. So, with this being issue Number 10, it’s time you learned a little bit about Alexa Diserio, a wedding and portrait photographer with an enthusiasm for two wheels. Through our creative venture company, Wild Native, Alexa and I started this magazine in 2017 as a way to showcase our local custom motorcycle community. The plan for the first issue was simple. I would conduct quick interviews while Alexa photographed the bikes. This method continued, and now four years later, her work has been featured in art galleries, motorcycle shows, and other popular publications. Alexa has amassed thousands of motorcycle photos as a side project to her full-time photography job, and things are just heating up. Let’s begin with one of the laziest question that I’ve ever asked. What does riding motorcycles mean to you?Alexa Diserio: Being that I didn’t grow up riding and had to learn later in life, it was a little different. I can still remember practicing in empty parking lots and working up the confidence to take my Sportster down the highway for the first time. In the most cliche of words, riding a motorcycle is freedom. It’s something that I never really saw myself being able to do, and while it’s still sometimes challenging, it’s the most free I can feel. Explain how your career took shape.AD: It was an unconventional path. I grew up in a small town that was haunted by the broken dreams that many American small towns encapsulate. Navigating around bitterness and racism was just part of life. While it left some scars, it also sharpened me in ways I hadn’t understood until later in life. I didn’t go to college and had little job experience, so after leaving a sales job in 2013, I started taking small photography gigs for little pay with entry-level camera equipment. Luckily, I understood how to edit photos and market my work, and within a couple of years I was shooting full time through my business, Wild Native Photography. It was and still is very tough at times, but I enjoy having creative freedom and being my own boss. Everyday I wake up, it’s a new adventure. What do you hope people take away from your work done through Pittsburgh Moto?AD: While most of my career work is around the subject of people, emotions, and moments, shooting motorcycles is almost a break from that side of it. It allows me to slow down, get a little more creative, and focus on an entirely different beast. I’m capturing a form of art in a particular moment that others can then take inspiration from. The goal of this entire project was to build up the local custom motorcycle community, and since starting this adventure back in 2017, we’ve definitely seen a boost in interest. How has social media and the constant in-your-face approach changed things in the photography world?AD: People don’t spend enough time with a photograph—just like most things these days. There’s an untouched value with great photography that should be cherished, and I worry it’s being forgotten since we’re constantly bombarded with non-stop imagery. I get pretty excited when I finally see my work in the physical magazine because I’m so used to seeing what I create live on a screen. This is a reminder to print your photos. Don’t let them rot away on a cloud, friends. What is your approach to shooting features for PM?AD: It’s much less planned out than my weddings and portrait work since it’s done in a smaller window of time. The shoot is rarely over 30 minutes long. As I’m photographing the bike, the interview is also happening. I’m learning more and more about the person while also capturing the details of their creation. It gets me inspired and forces me to think quickly on my feet as I listen to the stories and the whats and whys. Plus, it’s always fun to step out of my normal photographer role in comparison to what I’m used to. I enjoy the challenge of trying to find the best light and backdrops by using whatever is around to not only enhance the image itself, but the view of the motorcycle by the reader. From your experience, what is a common misconception within the motorcycle industry?AD: That motorcyclists have to be rough, uncultured, or crude. What some don’t understand is that a lot of custom bikes are functional works of art. Even though they’re sometimes built in dirty sheds by people that society often overlooks or have forgotten about entirely, these enthusiasts are more intelligent and deeper than what’s seen on the surface. Creativity shows itself in unique ways, and I think it’s time we recognize that our industry is much more sophisticated than what it’s often portrayed as. What would you say to someone who wants to turn their passion for motorcycles into a part-time or full-time role?AD: It’s hard. It’s hard to turn any passion into profit, but it’s essential to hang onto the things in life that allow us to be creative. I’d say start small, maybe even a side project. Get your feet set before taking the leap into whatever you end up doing, whether it’s a bike shop, media source, event, etc. Learn from your experiences, even the difficult ones, and don’t be afraid to lean into change. Featured in issue Number 10 ALEXA DISERIO instagram WILD NATIVE PHOTOGRAPHY www.wildnativephoto.com facebook | instagram Words by KURT DISERIO Photos by SARA LEASE + ALEXA DISERIO
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