A Higher Trip – OFF TRACK Bikes

“Go West Younger Man”*            

Southern California Mystique- ‘SoCal’ grew to become internationally well-known within the early Fifties because the avant-garde connecting motor-culture with private id. Sports activities vehicles, sizzling rods, cruisers and choppers grew to become the embodiment of a uniquely West Coast sense of self.  The lure of this legendary moto-culture remains to be sturdy.  That is the story of two males who moved to LA, following the SoCal star.

Lions dragstrip: an OG strip constructed to cease sizzling rodders from avenue racing, and run as a non-profit.

It took some doing, however Sy and Dustin Smart-Tylek adopted their intestine, uprooted their East Coast life, and relocated to the promised land of Los Angeles. Initially from the New York Metropolis space, Sy and Dustin first met round 2016 at Sy’s bike gear store in Montclair, New Jersey.  As their friendship progressed, they observed lots of their East Coast using mates have been within the means of dropping by the wayside and shifting to LA. Round 2018 Sy realized Dustin was heading out too, along with his 1978 Shovelhead. So Sy, too, closed his store and rode his 1979 Harley Davidson FXDLS throughout the nation to have a look. It was a no brainer: hotter 365-day using, easy roads, a various using tradition with greater than 800,000 registered bikes, together with greater than 30,000 customized choppers. To high it off, lane splitting had been explicitly authorized in California since 2016. Sy and his household made the transfer, then he and Dustin re-opened a gear store in April 2020, at 1322 Coronado Ave within the Zafaria neighborhood of Lengthy Seaside.

Sy and Dustin outdoors their OFF TRACK bike store. [Mike McCabe]

Moto Subculture- After the transfer to Lengthy Seaside, Sy and Dustin quickly realized they have been a part of a much bigger story and their space had a deep motor tradition legacy that included historic bike race observe venues, Grand Prix avenue racing, and drag strips. It’s arduous to image right this moment, however within the late 19th and early 20th Century the world round Lengthy Seaside was fully cattle and sheep ranches. Because the ranching economic system shifted to different places, their unused land grew to become a possibility for entrepreneurs to open automotive and bike racing venues.  The general public was fascinated with automobiles and velocity (ladies have been first allowed to get a 4 wheel automobile driver’s license in 1900 and a bike license in 1937), and the Los Angeles Motordrome opened in 1910; this inspired others to strive their hand at creating racetracks.

Moto Historical past– After WW2, a brand new set of racing ovals, and ¼ and ½ mile dragstrips emerged. The Los Angeles Speedway transitioned in 1957 to the Ascot Park dust observe speedway opened by J.C. ”Aggie” Agajanian (1913-1984) that featured NASCAR, Indy automotive and dust observe bike racing till its closure in November 1990. Fifteen miles northeast of LA, the San Gabriel Valley Speedway (recognized informally because the Irwindale Speedway) was a dust observe that operated from 1965-73. A brand new Irwindale observe and drag strip opened close to the unique observe in 1999.

Dustin Smart-Tylek on his Harley-Davidson customized. [Mike McCabe]

The legendary Lions Dragstrip opened in 1957 as a group technique to cease the sharp rise of unlawful ‘Grudge Match’ avenue racing. The native authorities reached out to the Lengthy Seaside space Lions Membership that raised the preliminary $45K wanted to construct the strip. Racing superstar Mickey Thompson grew to become the director of the not-for-profit dragstrip (all income went to native charities) and initiated adjustments that perpetually modernized the game: the primary ‘Christmas Tree’ beginning mild system (amber-amber-green/purple), night time lights for night racing and the worthwhile ‘Date Evening’ ticket that launched the fun of drag racing to ladies.

The Lions strip developed a repute and mystique amongst drivers and followers; recognized by drivers because the ‘Seaside’ the observe was just a few blocks from the ocean and drivers believed the ‘thickness’ of the sea-level ocean ‘uncommon air’ had a mysterious impact on the effectiveness of a drag automotive’s excessive efficiency engine. The grip of the ‘secret combine’ asphalt used to pave the Lion’s strip was believed to provide quicker speeds than different strips.

“Every drag strip had its personal particular character,” mentioned Tom Madigan, a drag racer and drag strip historian. “That was essential to the blokes who ran them. Like Lengthy Seaside – you didn’t have any nerve in the event you didn’t run Lengthy Seaside. It had a mystique about it.”

Sy in OFF TRACK bikes. [Mike McCabe]

Bikes In all places: Sy and Dustin and the historical past of Lengthy Seaside.

Sy and Dustin opened their new store in good firm: notable customized bike builders Go ‘BRAT STYLE’ Takamine and Roland Sands have spectacular retailers close by, and contribute their repute to the world. Dutch van Someren and his bike tradition mecca The Bike Shed is twenty minutes away within the downtown LA Arts District. “Dustin’s spouse discovered the area within the Zafaria space of Lengthy Seaside,” Sy Stated. “It has a pull-down storage sort door that makes it straightforward to stroll bikes into the area for show. We constructed out the area ourselves and stored issues easy. We received inventive and used trucker’s ratchet straps to carry up the cabinets for the gear we promote.”

Sy and Dustin realized using tradition in California is completely different than New York: there are various extra riders in Cali and this may trigger model subcultures; Harley guys trip with Harley guys, Brit with Brit, Asian with Asian. Sy’s first store in Jersey didn’t have this luxurious of rider essential mass and it was open to all riders as a communal useful resource middle. Sy and Dustin wish to proceed this sense of inclusiveness at their new store. “At OFF TRACK it doesn’t matter what sort of bike you’re using,” Sy mentioned. “So long as you’re using.”

Dustin Smart-Tylek along with his custom-made pickup. [Mike McCabe]

Sy discusses his course of:  “I’m from New Jersey initially. Popping out right here to LA, it was the life-style. I keep in mind my spouse and we mentioned, ‘Ya, we’re good right here.’ In fact the using… there’s a sea of bikes right here. Greater than again in Jersey and New York.  In no explicit order, I checked out it in a number of alternative ways: before everything, you will have the climate to your benefit, and having that climate performs into so many various elements. You may trip extra as a result of it doesn’t rain as a lot; it makes it simpler to trip all 12 months ‘spherical; the roads are  rather a lot nicer as a result of they aren’t beat up from the salt; you’ll be able to lane break up over right here – East Coast that isn’t authorized, and drivers there truly attempt to bump you off the highway for doing it. East Doast drivers don’t wish to be reduce off.”

“The freeway scene in LA is so completely different than the East Coast. Yeah, all the things’s open however there’s a sea of visitors –  LA and Southern California is thought for its visitors.  What I like about being right here is the tradition of the bikes. Due to these situations – climate and easy roads – you will have much more bikers right here. Inhabitants… Due to ease of climate and all the good facilities… and on this space (Lengthy Seaside), all the things is in driving distance. You wish to get some snow, it’s an hour away. You wish to get some sizzling climate, it’s an hour away. You need some mountains with some twisties and curves, Increase. You bought race tracks proper there. Every part is close by.”

California dreamin’. The essence of Lengthy Seaside. [Mike McCabe]

“There’s a sea of vehicles in the event you’re driving, however in the event you’re on a bike, lane splitting is allowed and also you get there rather a lot quicker. I take advantage of that to my benefit. If I’ve to go to downtown LA, I take advantage of my bike. So when you will have much more bikes and much more individuals who trip, there’s extra group, there’s a sea of various kinds of bikes, you get to see a tradition of various bikes which are on the market versus what’s on the East Coast. There’s a sure feel and appear about how they customise in LA, how they costume and the way they act. To me, it’s only a wider array of various using kinds.”

“As a result of we’re down right here and there are such a lot of extra bikes, you will have extra teams which are into the completely different subcultures: there’s a Sportster group, a Dyna group, a chopper group… FXRs, that’s a separate group. Baggers are a separate group. And that’s all inside the Harley market. And all these teams are massive,  they’re throughout you. Then you definitely get into the issues which are occurring with Japanese and Italian bikes. Again on the East Coast, we didn’t have that giant variety of teams, so we rode collectively. The restricted using time with the seasons that mess all the things up; we didn’t care what you rode, we didn’t have massive teams. However in LA you might have a bunch of fellows who don’t wave to one another as a result of there’s so many riders. East Coast you will have that ‘rider wave’ to acknowledge, however in LA there’s so many riders, that wave factor is completely different.”

Sy along with his dust bike: SoCal just isn’t fully paved over… [Mike McCabe]

“Right here there are such a lot of bikes and that’s the place I wish to be. Lots of the bike manufacturing firms are right here in California. So it is a great spot to be in. I all the time like to take a look at the group as being as broad as doable. Settle for all riders which are coming in. I don’t need anyone segregated out since you trip a selected bike. If I had a magic wand, we’d have our personal model established, our personal attire, from high to backside, out of your helmet to your boots. To have a brick and mortar vacation spot the place folks can are available and hang around and have all of the gear they want. And if I can have my café too? Yeah, why not? That is the one factor that’s lacking within the bike group. To have a spot to buy and to hang around. I would like you to stay round. Bust out your pc and work on no matter you gotta do to your work. Extra depth, bikes as tradition.”

“Our store just isn’t unique – we’re inclusive. We wish to have group out right here. This sounds so corny- all people desires group however I believe it goes previous the speaking and goes in the direction of what we are literally doing. You see our occasions you learn our evaluations, folks really feel they’re being helped they usually belong right here. That’s what we do. There’s a distinction between us and a number of the different guys. We wish folks to really feel welcome. I believe we’re doing the suitable factor right here.

“I used to be somewhat uncertain about Dustin and me being from the East Coast, the problem of territory and outsiders, however no one appears to care. Everybody could be very open. A part of that is the California vibe, and a few is the place we’re coming from. The vibe right here is actually laid again, and I don’t assume we’re being judged. It’s been nothing however good. We’re in a position to play properly with Roland Sands – we’ve one among his bikes on our stage, and are going to place one other up within the entrance. The Bike Shed guys simply got here up right here. They know who we’re and all the things is sweet.

Dustin using in entrance of OFF TRACK bikes [Mike McCabe]

“I miss some stuff from the East Coast and New York. Driving by way of the East Village with the outdated buildings… using by way of SoHo on the cobblestone streets… we needed to give that up, and the meals. That was an enormous factor… altering eating regimen…. The East Coast is carb heavy, meats and cheeses, pizza… In California is all about more healthy choices. Recent stuff and protein.”

“I’m engaged on a brand new mission to design sure equipment for bikes with our personal aptitude. Bikes are altering and so are the kinds. I wish to have a serving to hand in that. On high of this store, on high of being on-line, on high of designing garments, I wish to have arduous elements that we design. I wish to promote native companies and artist too… for our clothes, I wish to get it from the LA garment district and promote native Lengthy Seaside enterprise. If we’re making elements I wish to get it from a CNC machinist that’s from right here. I wish to assist different folks.”

“Dustin and I selected OFF TRACK as our title for a purpose. We aren’t following the remainder of the opposite guys, we’re off-track. We’re not excellent and we proceed to remain ‘not excellent’ as a result of I believe that’s extra real. We like to tear down the road, we wish to trip, it’s not a entrance.  Folks recognize us for the way in which we’re, it’s not a attain. It’s simply what we do. We went OFF TRACK for a purpose. We’re completely different than different folks.”

Sy and Dustin are settled into exploring the probabilities of Lengthy Seaside and LA bike tradition at their OFF TRACK store. Like so many earlier than them, they adopted their intestine to maneuver west and its proving to be a good suggestion.

[*”Go West Young Man” – apocryphal.  The phrase is usually attributed to Horace Greely, but he denied ever saying it, and no period (1800s) publications include the phrase.  Other authors have been proposed, but the true source of the phrase is unknown.  And yet, ‘Go West’ is part of American folklore, and was used to support Westward expansion of the United States in the 19th Century.  The phrase is, like much American folklore, a convenient mythology. – Ed.]


Michael McCabe is a New York Metropolis tattoo artist and cultural anthropologist. He’s the creator of New York Metropolis Horsepower, Kustom Japan, New York Metropolis Tattoo, Japanese Tattooing Now, Tattoos of Indochina, and Tattooing New York Metropolis. For New York Metropolis Horsepower, Mr. McCabe spent two years discovering and documenting underground customized bike and automotive garages within the Metropolis, as speedy gentrification put their tradition below large strain. He interviewed and photographed New York Metropolis customizers about their private histories and artistic sensibilities.