Rusty’s Ninja 250
Starting from an early age, I remember my dad riding his new motorcycle home from the dealership 45 minutes away in the dead of winter. My mom and I drove separate and we had to stop multiple times on the way home because his hands were so frozen he couldn’t keep going. My love for bikes was hooked with that Honda Shadow right then and there. My dad would pick me up from school and let me sit on the gas tank and steer the bike from time to time when I was in elementary school. Of course that’s when problems also happened – the first time I could lift the bike off the kickstand on my own, I dropped it and had to own up to that mistake, one of many life lessons I’ve gotten from motorcycles.
When I was 14 or 15, I got my first motorcycle. Indiana’s unique law with motorcycle permits said that if you took a safety class and passed the written test you could ride as much as you wanted with only 3 rules: can’t ride at night, can’t have a passenger, and had to wear a helmet. Well shoot, that is the best way to ride anyways. So I was off with a 2004 Ninja 250. Which didn’t last long. A few months later we found a deal on a 650 v-twin sport bike in Wisconsin, and that led to one of the most memorable riding experiences I have ever had. We chose to ride our motorcycles to go take a look at my potential new bike and trade in my 250. 2.5 hours each direction in November is quite the long cold ride. And it got quite terrifying when on the way home it started snowing. That was the longest ride home I’ve ever had, and I still wish it never ended cause I was riding my new bike.
Fast forward to more recent years, I began working at Harley Davidson as a technician, and quickly fell in love with the bikes. I modified multiple Harleys and began getting sponsored for stunt riding Harley Davidsons. This was a great hobby, but with how many problems came from finding safe spots to practice, my interest began dwindling.
Those were fun years, but my riding style changed completely when I began working at GritShift. I never really rode off road before that, other than a few quick rides on friends’ dirt bikes and some years racing BMX. That quickly changed. I went riding one time with Bullet, and it was over with. My Harleys quickly got sold, and so began my Sur Ron journey. It was so much more than I had ever experienced and all I wanted to do was get out to the woods and rip gnarly single track all day. Boy, I was slow, struggling to keep up with the rest of the guys from the shop. My first time at Croom here in Florida I smacked 2 trees and was barely able to walk when we got back. Yet, I enjoyed it so much. I continue to try to ride as much as possible and grow friendships, usually over my failures and wrecks, but still riding full pin as much as I can.
All those years of stunt riding led to breaking a lot of stuff, not to mention having to fabricate my own parts a lot of the time, and if you ride and wreck e-bikes as hard as I do things are going to break on those too. These days I take all those fabrication skills and apply them here at GritShift to come up with new parts and improve on what’s already out there. Things like skid plates, suspension reinforcements, mounting brackets, custom tools, and conversion parts for fitting dirt bike and supermoto parts to an e-bike. These bikes are so exciting and it’s such a new space that there aren’t really any rules yet – nobody says you can’t put supermoto and dirt bike parts on these bikes, so that’s what I’m doing. It encourages me to push my imagination and skills every day. Looks like motorcycles are still teaching me life lessons even today.
Rusty at Red Bull TKO 2022. Photo by Roots Rocks and Mud