LA vs NYC with Diego Mannino

Tattoo artist Diego Mannino was born 1974 in Los Angeles into an evolving story of native moto-culture. Private identification and standing have been formed by time spent driving or driving the expansive six-lane freeway tradition of Interstates 5 and 405.  One’s each day private presentation mixed your experience, its paint and wheels, your sound system, your sun shades, your hair and physique language. With out a set of wheels in LA you have been diminished to complete anonymity – a destiny worse than a head-on collision. Younger LA children realized early concerning the autos of their communities; their histories, what was cool, what wasn’t, and why.

Diego Mannino along with his 1970 BSA A65 Lightning at his storage in Los Angeles. [Mike McCabe]

California developed a novel heart of gravity in the course of the Fifties and Nineteen Sixties, integrating vehicles and bikes into a brand new sense of self.  Younger women and men expressed themselves with their custom-made rides, and this ceaselessly modified the world. The post-war Fifties California industrial financial system nourished the SoCal scorching bike/scorching rod motion. Younger folks developed social and financial prowess after which used it to their benefit. In California the inhabitants exploded from lower than 2 million in 1900 to 10 million in 1950; first from Melancholy Period migration after which from nuclear-family enlargement. Between 1950 and 1960 California’s inhabitants elevated 49%, with a median age round 35 years previous. Younger folks dominated the day.

A younger Diego Mannino on his Vespa in his San Francisco mod days. [Diego Mannino]

In response to the rise of younger folks in locations like California, the cultural {hardware} began to alter; Bike producers observed the demographic shift in locations like California, and responded. Triumph boss Edward Turner re-worked the 27 horsepower 1937 Velocity-Twin motor in hopes of capturing the increasing US youth market. Turner enlarged the cylinder bore from 63mm to 71mm and elevated the stroke to 82mm on the unique 500cc engine. The outcome was the game-changer 34 horsepower 649cc 6T Thunderbird of 1950.  His 42 horsepower 1954 Triumph Tiger T110 opened the subsequent door for efficiency and magnificence within the UK however significantly for the North American market.  It turned the quickest manufacturing bike in 1955 with the collapse of Vincent Bikes, and rocked each Harley Davidson and the European producers with its simplicity and great type, and impressed the younger Japanese producers.

Diego Mannino in his LA storage, engaged on his Harley-Davidson UL flathead. [Francis Caraccioli]

The CEO of Nippon Gakki Co., Ltd (the mum or dad firm of Yamaha), Genichi Kawakami additionally observed the brand new youth market. He retooled his manufacturing services in 1955 to maneuver from making airplane propellers and musical devices to designing and manufacturing bikes.  Kawakami had travelled to Europe and America in 1953 on a fact-finding mission and noticed that younger populations weren’t fixated on work, however have been engrossed with leisure actions. He had a watch on the design and stance of the Triumph as a design template. Yamaha’s first bike, the 125cc 5.6 horsepower YA-1 Brit bike look-alike was launched in 1955 and nick-named the aka tombo (purple dragonfly). Throughout all Japanese bike manufacturers, manufacturing elevated from 10,000 in 1950 to 750,000 in 1954.

One other view of Diego Mannino’s Harley-Davidson UL customized, constructed by Keino Sasaki in New York avenue type. [Francis Caraccioli]

The post-war, two-wheeled private transportation revolution was international; bikes have been greater than machines, that they had turn out to be bundles of specialised cultural data, with discreet codes that communicated sophisticated concepts to younger customers. Youth had the numbers; velocity, danger and hazard eclipsed the considerations of safety-fixated older adults within the UK, America and Japan. The up to date ‘satan might care’ values of the Fifties have been adopted as variables of change. Younger folks in Los Angeles adopted the Brit-youth pattern and turned to inexpensive, simply serviced, trendy scooters and bikes as materials symbols of autonomy, re-defining who they have been.

The shifter knob on Diego’s Harley-Davidson is a classic NYC public faculty doorknob! [Francis Caraccioli]

In the course of the industrial period many younger folks labored at ‘get your arms soiled’ jobs and didn’t shrink back from scraping their knuckles. Wrenching know-how was part of the masculine mystique. Grease and dirt advanced into badges of gritty honor which have transcended time. Younger SoCal folks – however significantly younger males – turned fluent within the names, dates, fashions and bike manufacturers Triumph, BSA, Royal Enfield, Harley Davidson, Yamaha and Honda as new extensions of a way of self. Slogans rang in a younger man’s ears; “Nothing handles like a Triumph”, “You meet the nicest folks on a Honda”, “Till you’ve been on a Harley Davidson, you haven’t been on a bike”.

Diego Mannino is a tattoo artist and classic bike fanatic, who explains each the LA scene he grew up in (and has returned to), versus a thriving NYC bike scene he adopted within the Nineties.  The next is his assertion on these scenes: who impressed him, who he labored with, and the way these wildly totally different cultures examine:

“I used to be raised within the San Gabriel Valley of Los Angeles, Alhambra and Pasadena largely. There have been all the time lowriders and hotrods driving down Valley Blvd, and every now and then I’d see some native bike golf equipment driving by in packs. I bear in mind wanting to purchase a leather-based bike jacket in junior highschool due to how powerful these bikers appeared. Ha ha! I used to be all the time into drawing comics and fantasy artwork. My father used to take me to the Los Angeles Science Fiction and Comedian E-book Conference. I might sit for hours watching the comedian artists draw and chat with us children. I went to the Pasadena Artwork Heart Faculty of Design for a number of semesters earlier than transferring as much as San Francisco in 1994. I completed up my diploma in Illustration at California Faculty of Arts and Crafts round 2003 and instantly began to study to tattoo the next 12 months.

Diego Mannino in entrance of Dare Satan Tattoo NYC. [Michael McCabe]

I used to be a part of the Mod scooter scene in Los Angeles and San Francisco from 1988 to about 1998, and would customise previous Vespas and go on rides with numerous different golf equipment. I believe this was my begin in desirous to experience a bike. After the scooter membership factor dissolved most of my pals within the membership obtained into British bikes. I believed it was a pure transition to go from being a scooter boy to a Rocker! I believe I gravitated to English bikes as a result of I had a number of good pals in San Francisco that rode previous Triumphs and BSAs. One in every of them was my subsequent door neighbor Levon who had a lovely Triumph 500 Daytona. I graduated from driving traditional Vespas in my late ‘teenagers to larger British bikes in my mid- 20s. I had a very good buddy Clint who labored on his personal British bikes. He had a 650 BSA Lightning on the market that was working however wanted numerous work. I bought it for round $2500 and restored it myself over a ten-year interval.

Diego engaged on a consumer’s tattoo at Dare Satan. [Michael McCabe]

I bear in mind driving all the way down to Raber’s Elements Mart in San Jose each few months to get components. I additionally took my bike to Imply Marshalls in Oakland as a result of my buddy Large John labored there and I trusted him. My buddy Jason Steed in San Francisco additionally taught me quite a bit and helped me work on my bike greater than anybody. I broke down on a regular basis, normally due to electrical issues. Finally I changed the wiring harness and added an digital ignition. I tore the entire bike all the way down to the body and repainted, chromed, powder coated and reupholstered every part. I even bear in mind sending my previous gray face speedo gauges to a man in Georgia to have them rebuilt. It was an extended course of that I beloved and later began over with my Harley Flathead.

Driving in San Francisco was difficult due to the hills and visitors. To today it’s nonetheless essentially the most enjoyable I’ve had driving in a metropolis. Every now and then I might take it over the Golden Gate Bridge to experience by way of Muir Woods. A few of my favourite memorable rides within the Bay Space was the Rockers vs the Mods experience that went in an enormous circle round San Francisco. Half manner by way of the experience all of the British bikes met up with the previous Vespas and Lambrettas and we rode collectively and pretended to hate one another! It was an homage to the rock opera Quadrophenia carried out by The Who. [The two groups would meet head-on in the Stockton St tunnel and halt all traffic while performing stunts. – Ed]

Keino Sasaki at work: his tattoo is by Diego Mannino [Michael McCabe]

I moved to New York Metropolis in 2009. Town was a distinct place then: downtown and Williamsburg, Brooklyn have been un-gentrified, low lease and really inventive. I met Keino Sasaki, Paul Cox, John Copeland and Wes Lang inside the first two weeks. I realized Keino and Paul had labored with New York Metropolis bike legend Indian Larry (1949-2004). Paul first met and labored with Larry at Hugh Mackie’s Sixth Road Specials store positioned within the bohemian East Village round 1990. Paul then went on to work with Larry on the historic Psycho Cycles store round 1992 that was positioned a number of blocks south of Mackie’s store on the notorious Decrease East Facet. The look and lay-out of Larry’s bikes advanced from his instinct about what he thought labored greatest for a bike: Commonplace rake, straight pipes, twin carb, small tank. His iconic query mark emblem expressed his world view; Query Every little thing.

Paul Cox at work in his previous Brooklyn storage. [Michael McCabe]

Keino had been raised within the Fukuoka part of Japan. He labored on the road at a Mitsubishi manufacturing unit for 2 years and was then accepted on the Bike Mechanic Institute in Arizona in 1998. He made his solution to New York Metropolis the place he chanced upon the downtown American Dream Machine store and requested for a job in 2000. Indian Larry was the engine specialist on the store. At the moment there was a significant again avenue bike scene in Brooklyn. John Copeland is a acknowledged tremendous artist but additionally builds traditional ‘70s type choppers. For some time Copeland and Wes Lang shared a wrenching storage with different guys on Johnson Ave within the tough Bushwick part of Brooklyn. All this NYC bike backstory was very influential and provoking to me. I used to be fairly jealous these guys all rode killer classic Harleys and needed one instantly. I saved up sufficient cash to purchase my 1939 Flathead UL motor and Knucklehead transmission from a store in New Jersey known as O’Malley’s. The store solely had Knuckles and Flatheads, and on the time I may solely afford the Flathead in order that’s what I obtained.

Diego Mannino along with his customized Harley-Davidson flathead. [Francis Caraccioli]

I came upon later that the bike used to belong to Billy Lane from Florida. Keino and John got here with me to assist information me by way of the sale. From then on it was full steam forward on ending the construct, which took about 4 years to finish. I’ve all the time been into nostalgia and gathering antiques so the Flathead was only a pure selection for a bobber construct. Yearly I might go to the Oley and Rhinebeck bike exhibits to hunt for components. Keino and I did a component trade-part money deal for the construct. I tattooed a conventional Japanese full sleeve on his left arm. Paul Cox made me the solo Panhead seat and matching instrument bag. John Copeland in all probability spent essentially the most period of time with me educating me issues about Harleys typically. We have been neighbors within the East Village and frolicked quite a bit.

Michelle Myles, proprietor of Dare Satan Tattoo NYC. [Michael McCabe]

I realized instantly that driving within the streets of New York Metropolis and Brooklyn is completely totally different than driving in LA. Driving in NYC is unquestionably difficult. The streets are a complete catastrophe of by no means ending, enamel chattering, big pot holes. Maniacs minimize you off and provide the finger. No one cares about or obeys visitors guidelines. You might be completely by yourself. It’s actually nuts. The Brooklyn driving neighborhood is what stored me hyped on desirous to experience as a lot as doable 12 months spherical,” Diego stated. “I organized a weekly experience with a bunch of pals in Brooklyn that may meet up each Tuesday and experience to Coney Island. I additionally helped John and Keino with The Brooklyn Invitational Customized Bike Present that we did for 10 years. I put collectively the tattoo sales space for the present in addition to serving to with establishing and selling the present. It was actually the perfect a part of residing in New York for all that point. I met some wonderful builders, artists and simply cool those who rode.

Diego’s 1970 BSA A65 Lightning. [Michael McCabe]

I moved to New York primarily as a result of it had all the time been my favourite place to go to. I went every year for every week from 1995 till about 2009 after which I moved there. I tattooed at Michelle Myles’ and Brad Fink’s Dare Satan Tattoo. My spouse and I simply moved again to Los Angeles a couple of 12 months and a half in the past to be nearer to each our households however I nonetheless do visitor spots at Dare Satan. I might say that the Covid pandemic is the primary motivation for wanting to return again to California. I don’t have the identical neighborhood of individuals to experience with that I did in New York however I’m engaged on it. At the very least the climate out right here is ideal and the streets are extra conducive for driving 12 months spherical.  I nonetheless miss these Tuesday evening rides ripping by way of the streets of Brooklyn. Now my Flathead is an East Coast bike residing in LA! We’re each settling in to a very totally different vibe! Clean, huge freeways the place everyone seems to be fairly effectively behaved. I can chill out a bit and revel in my experience!”


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 automobile garages within the Metropolis, as fast gentrification put their tradition underneath great stress. He interviewed and photographed New York Metropolis customizers about their private histories and artistic sensibilities.