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You can ride your bike to every letter of law, but nothing is unavoidable. You can’t prevent an accident from happening, only minimize the risk of it happening. There’s risk involved with everything in life, even driving a car.

When it comes to riding a motorcycle on public streets, being safe will always be more beneficial than being skilled. Even MotoGP class racers will agree on this.

A lot of young riders get into the lifestyle thinking they’re invincible until life inevitably shows them that they’re not. Seeing my leg hanging from a muscle definitely made me aware of my own mortality, but I consider myself lucky because a lot of my riding brothers and sisters don’t ever get to wake up from a crash.

Riding safely on the street involves a deep understanding of traffic, psychology, and the driving forces of human behavior at large.

On the smaller scale, riders need to understand that they are on motorcycles, and a padded suit and helmet helps if you slide off your bike or make contact with a stationary object, but not if you end up under a minivan. Understand that drivers are human beings, and just like us, they will try to find shortcuts. Driving sucks, can you blame them? Identify when they will take those opportunities, and make sure you are clear of their path.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s useful to have some awareness of your geographical location, and the social dynamics at play. I live in San Jose, California. In the heart of the Silicon Valley, drivers here are aggressive, and more dangerously, in a hurry. People who are not in a hurry do not run red lights.

Motorcycles offer an unparalleled feeling of freedom, but it’s easy to forget that as a rider, you are at the mercy of traffic, you do not dictate it.

When life puts you in a helpless circumstance, you’re given time to think. Not many circumstances are more helpless than being immobile in a hospital bed, so I had my fair share of thinking to do.

I discovered that I had a massive support system that I had built over the years just by being who I am. From close friends and family to strangers that I’d shared one good conversation with at a party, everyone reached out in various ways to remind me that I wasn’t alone. I put my thoughts on all of my social media channels to discover that I had not only awoken a new way of thinking in my own mind, but in that of others as well.

I realized that I had been looking at life like it was a destination. As if I were an imperfect version of myself on my way to where I was really supposed to be. And I shut myself out from everyone so I could focus on getting there to show them that perfect version of me that I was sure existed all along. I lost sight of who I was because I was too busy thinking about who I was going to be.

I didn’t realize that the real me, perfect or not, had the power to change people’s lives. I could influence them to think, and feel. And if I could do all of that from the confines of a hospital room, I reveled in possibilities of what I could accomplish the day I walk out into the world.

One of the most dangerous survival reactions we encounter as motorcyclists is target fixation. When we lock our eyes onto a central object, we forget to deeply analyze a situation before making a decision. In the world of motorcycles, and in life, doing so is bad for your health.

Always keep your eyes open, scan the road, and enjoy the ride. As the age-old motorcycle adage says, “Happiness isn’t around the corner. Happiness is the corner.”

Creating custom motorcycles is like crossbreeding the majesty of art and the precision of science. It’s the duality of sacrificing functionality or fashion for the overall improvement of a final product. Sure, all bikes have quirks that make t916hem memorable (SV650, I’m looking at you), but building a custom to me is about getting back to the basics. Before all the bells and whistles, not that accessorizing is discouraged, but prioritizing instead on just making a good bike that’s balls to the wall fun to thrash around on with your buddies.

All of this passion comes from someone whose mechanical experience doesn’t extend outside of oil changes, cosmetic tweaks, and basic wiring. I bought a 1976 Honda Rebel 250 from a friend for under $200 bucks. It was taken apart, but he told me the engine had good compression (because the Internet told me that was important), so I bought the thing and started aimlessly tearing it apart.

After I took everything apart, I realized I hadn’t the slightest clue on how to put everything back together. I didn’t label any parts, take any pictures, and I ended up with a completely parted out bike. I left it out in the backyard where it was abused by a long rainy season, and finally decided to drop it off at a junkyard. In hindsight, I probably could have made my money back by selling the parts.

But! It wasn’t in vain. By taking the bike apart piece by piece, I learned a little bit about “what makes it go”, and really that’s what it’s all about. Learning how parts works with each other to make the bike move. I observed microinteractions, like how throttle cables interact with the fuel delivery system, or how cotter pins held certain bolts in place. It’s been an entire year since then, so I’d probably have to tear another bike apart to reacquaint myself with the process, but with structure and a community (LNSPLTBLVD, represent) I hope to learn enough to become a builder in the future.

I am an ambitious person, and the only reason I want to do anything in life is to do it better than everyone else.

At 25 years old, I know there are guys who have mechanical chops that would take me decades to learn. People who can weld better than me, people who can repair better than me, who have trade skills that I do not possess. But when you’re at a disadvantage, the best you can do is search for ways to make that disadvantage work for you. Kind of like getting sympathy from girls when you break your leg in a motorcycle accident.

I think I have the other half of what it means to build a custom motorcycle. I have the art. I have the eye. It’s such a labor of passion that shapes what a bike could really look like. How to express your observation of style and show it through choices you make in your product design. And it’s so achievable without breaking the bank. I feel all I need to successfully start building bikes is the know how. Ironically, the hardest part, no big deal.

My favorite builders include Rough Crafts, Hazan Motorworks, and Walt Siegel. All of them radically different from each other, but I’ve crafted a style inside of my head just by taking design cues from them.

Based in Taiwan, Rough Crafts specializes in building V-twin bobbers. Their style is refined in a sense that their bikes always look well put together. It’s a combination of their use of space and confining it all within long, cradling pipes that contributes a signature secure look. Edges are always polished for style. It’s that attention to detail that makes the company so balanced with regard to style and functionality.

Hazan Motoworks borders on the extreme sides of that balance scale. Cosmetically, his bikes intelligently use negative space. Anything that isn’t an integral component isn’t there, but the empty housings remain. His bikes feel visually organic, because you can see where the vital organs are. And by default, his bikes are forced to take a simple mechanic route. Nothing fancy, just something that works. It’s extremely minimalistic, which is an important when designing anything.

Lastly, Walt Siegel just wakes up the inner Ducatisti in me. This one is admittedly a guilty pleasure. The man is all about style, and it bleeds through his work. Powerful color schemes complement and contradict his builds, and the bottom line for him seems to be, “just make the bike look like a bikini-clad supermodel on the beach”.

With all of these in mind, the style I’ve created in my head is an industrial look. My philosophy is that we dress up motorcycles to look a certain way, and in the process we anthropomorphize them, even giving them names. Not that it’s a bad thing, but after my accident, my priorities shifted and I realized that my life is still in tact, and the bike is just a machine. And so I would design them mechanically—to make them look like what they are. I’d build them methodically as well, taking design cues from all three of my favorite builders to contribute to my vision of style and art.

The beauty of bike building is that the guidelines are rigid. With tools and know how, anything is possible. But, as they say, just because you can doesn’t necessarily mean you should.

The pain was instant. Time didn’t slow down. I didn’t have any flashbacks. I felt my leg snap before I even touched the ground. I hit the pavement on my chest and skid across the wet gravel. My helmet stopped just before hitting the sidewalk. I couldn’t breathe, and I had to wrestle my gloves and helmet off in a desperate attempt to provide some kind of relief. I screamed and screamed hoping the pain would go away, but it only amplified with every passing second.

I looked over at the intersection to find the driver who had just hit me parked in the middle of the intersection. His wheels began to turn, and my heart stopped. He nearly took my life, and he planned to leave the scene. I screamed, “YOU MOTHERF—-R!” Knowing full well I was in no position to follow him or grab a license plate number. It must have awoken something in him, because he stopped and got out of the car.

There were two drivers perpendicular to where the crash happened, and I looked over at them. They made eye contact with me, so I know they saw me, but their lights turned green, and they drove away. It was without question the loneliest moment of my life.

Eventually, my howls woke up the neighbors and they came running out to help me. Even with the situation at hand, I remained socially aware and put on my public face as they arrived on the scene. I slowed my breathing, and answered their questions with the understanding that cooperation would only expedite the process of getting me into an ambulance.

When the paramedics arrived and hauled me into the van, I snapped right back to my usual personality. I poked fun at people in the ambulance and made jokes where I could. I wasn’t going to let some broken bones stop me from self-medicating with laughter.

I remember the paramedics were cutting the pants off my leg to identify the wound when I stopped them and grabbed everyone’s attention. “Hey!” All eyes were on me. I said, “It’s really cold and rainy so don’t judge me on the size.”

They did their jobs professionally and gracefully, and we laughed all the way to the hospital. I like to think that it was the most fun anyone has ever had in the back of an ambulance.

When I started riding bikes, I quickly fell in love with it as it gave me an activity to stimulate my mind during one of the most boring moments that life has to offer: driving in traffic. It was fun. I could wave at strangers, direct traffic, and flirt with girls. Riding a motorcycle to work provided me with a method of endless physical expression.

As a result, I abandoned driving altogether, sold my car, and started riding everyday. Rain or shine.

I’ve had a total of four crashes in my short two years in the saddle. Some say I’m a slow learner. The first three did not involve exterior traffic, and they all occurred due to my own miscalculations of weather and road conditions. I walked away from all of them scratch-free. The fourth involved another driver, and was exponentially more painful.

I was on a large upswing in my life. I had just graduated, received a salaried promotion at work, and my love life became simpler as I switched from monogamous to casual dating. Life was good. But, life is also full of colorful ironies. I learned in an instant that you don’t always go just because the light is green.

It was my first day at my new job and it proved to be a tiring but exciting experience. I had the power to throw my weight around as a supervisor, while remaining cognizant that the only thing that changed was my role in company. I put in eight hours just to shadow a supervisor (who had pulled for me to get the job) and clocked out at around 11 O’ Clock P.M. I had every reason to leave the building and go home, but I decided to stop and talk to my new boss. I’m the type of person that understands the importance of establishing relationships, so I popped into his office for no real reason other than to chat and thank him for the position.

Then, I got on my bike and rode home completely high on life. Everything was right in the world. I had my headphones in and I was swerving the bike left to right with the music whenever I hit dry patches on the highway.

I watched bewildered drivers stare at me in disbelief while I passed them with my super fashionable high visibility rain suit. Drivers always watched as if I was teetering on the verge of catastrophe at any given second, but riding in the rain never presented any real danger to me. And I’ve ridden through some pretty gnarly torrential downpours.

Eventually, I exited the freeway and meandered through some residential intersections when I saw a silver Corolla in the lane to my left. A small part of me wanted to grip the throttle and blow past him to avoid having to merge after the next light, but the roads were wet so I opted to ride more conservatively and merged behind him. We coasted at a reasonable speed, and I tailed him to the next intersection where I followed him through the green light, when a Mini-Cooper in the opposing left-turn lane decided to blow the red. He pulled into the intersection thinking he could save a couple seconds after the Corolla had passed, but surprise, surprise, my happy ass was right there waiting for him.

I swerved right, but saw the concrete median and light pole and realized, “That’s going to hurt a lot more.” So I straightened the bike, took the hit, and went flying.

It kills me to think that this wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t just pop in to say hi to my new boss.

The idea of a build off came to me when I chillin on my dad’s hammock in the backyard. Directly across from me was Ruby (my CB750) that was now in oblivion. Ruby was stripped off paint, fenders removed, and left lifeless of what was supposed to be a “Cafe” build that I once anticipated. Bought on Christmas day in 2015, I was stoked to take on a new project. A bike that I always dreamt of having.

As you can see above, the bike was mint, a classic, but it was missing something. My personal touch. I didn’t want to ride something that was done by somebody else. It was like dating a girl that still reeks of her ex boyfriend. So into the chop shop it went, aka my garage.

I took Ruby to Elk Grove, where I currently work and live. Bars were the first to come off, then fenders, then paint, the whole 9. It was good progress. Everything went as planned until I saw an article on facebook titled “The best roads to ride in California”. The article sparked an idea and months later we were riding Hwy 36 and the Avenue of the Giants. Because of the epic ride, Ruby was put aside to make space for Rusty. Rusty needed a makeover and had to be prepped for the 700 miles round trip up north.

Once the trip was over, it was time to work on Ruby, SIKE! While surfing the net, aka craigslist, I found a great deal on a project that I also dreamt of having. A couple texts back and forth and I was a proud owner of a 1930 Ford Model A. As you can see, I am now running out of time and space for Ruby. So what did I do? I brought it back to my parents house and left it to collect dust until that day…that special hammock “chillin” day.

“Let’s have a fucken build off! Cafe racer/brat style, no rules, no budget, only catch is your bike gotta start and pass the test run.” I told the guys.

“Down, Down, Down” everyone was on board and the fire under everyone’s ass was lit!

Can you describe your recent accident? What was going through your mind?

I was riding with my dad out to Santa Cruz for Father’s day, while my sister, brother-in-law, and nephew took my dad’s truck. Just as we were getting out of Hollister we hit a stop light. My brother-in-law was at the front of the light with the truck so I started to split lanes to join him. When I hit my rear brake it locked up, the pedal stuck, and my bike started to fishtail. My first thought, as I was fishtailing uncontrollably through a line of cars, was not to hit any of them.

When I realized I wasn’t going to be able to get the bike under control, and that an accident was imminent, I had to make a split second decision. That decision was to crash into the back of my dad’s truck. So as my bike fishtailed towards the truck I just let go, essentially launching myself head first into the bumper. After lying on the ground for a few seconds, and realizing that I was still alive, I stood up and immediately looked for my bike. It was a busy day out because of the holiday and several bystanders stopped and got out of their cars to check on me. I spotted a good Samaritan and my brother-in-law pushing my bike out of the middle of the road. By this time my sister was frantic and jumped out of the truck barefoot to check on me. Her maternal instincts went into overdrive as she checked over me to make sure I was okay. Of course, my main concern was my bike. I walked over to my bike, put it back into neutral, and like the ever elusive loyal main chick, she started right up.

Unfortunately air got into the brake line so my front brake wasn’t working. That was the only mechanical issue. Cosmetically, the handle bars were a little loose and my tank was dented in two places. Knowing that the handle bars were an easy fix and that I was currently waiting on Young “The Prez” Khong to make me a custom Sportster style tank I wasn’t too worried. My dad urged me to load up the bike into the bed of the truck (although we had no ramp and no straps) but I convinced him that I would be able to ride back to his house.

When I had my first accident 10 months earlier I had to ride through the mountains for two hours with a fractured hand and foot just to get back to civilization; so I figured a 20 minute ride, with what I originally thought to be very minimal injuries, wouldn’t be a problem. My dad sent my sister and the truck home and then he and I flipped a u-turn and sat at a red light. After about 20 seconds I felt the blood drain from my head and knew I was going to pass out soon so I rode the bike to the side of the road. My sister and brother-in-law came back with the truck, and two good Samaritans helped them load my bike into the bed of the truck. As we were heading back, my sister was constantly checking on me. I soon began to sweat profusely and my vision went blurred to the point of only seeing white. Apparently my eyes rolled into the back of my head. I just drank as much Gatorade as I could to re-hydrate myself until I came back to normal. Although I was able to walk away I suffered a minor concussion, a sprained thumb, road rash on my upper back, a deep muscle bruise on my thigh that, over the course of the next two weeks, would grow exponentially, and I pinched a nerve in my upper back. After resting for a few hours at my dad’s place, I tightened the handlebars, bled out the front brake, adjusted the rear brake, and made the hour ride back to San Jose.

The accident happened before your Born Free trip, was it still worth it to go and why?

The accident literally happened four days before we were supposed to ride down SoCal for the Born Free show.  My main concern was whether or not my bike, and my body, would hold up. Logistically speaking, I wasn’t even sure if I’d have the option to ride down because we were short drivers.  Luckily one of the guys that doesn’t have a bike anymore decided to go with us.  He was able to drive the support truck, giving me the chance to ride the whole way. Similar to last year, a group of us split the trip into two days, stopping off at San Luis Obispo to camp for the night.  This definitely allowed my bike and body to get some much needed rest.  Unfortunately, as we were heading out of Hollywood and making our final run towards Anaheim, Vu “El BBQ” Phan had a spill right in front of me. It was an unsettling thing to witness, especially since I had to swerve to keep from running over him, and then swerve again to stop from getting into an accident with his bike as it slid across the 101. Luckily, he only suffered some road rash and a sprained ankle, and his bike was still mechanically sound. The trip was definitely eventful. I’m glad I went, but my body wasn’t. By the last day I could barely get out of bed.

There’s a reason for every time you change your bike’s appearance, can you tell us about your recent makeover?

The first major makeover took place after my first accident.  I have OCD and riding around with a scraped up bike really bugged me. So I went to an all-black theme, lowered the front, and went to clip-ons. But because I ride so much it was really hard on my body. It was extremely uncomfortable. Vu asked if anyone wanted some new bars because he was going to start making them and I showed him an idea that I had in my head. He was able to build them just as I pictured and that was sort of the first step in the makeover. I knew I wanted to do something different with the color theme and I wanted to be original, but I still wanted stick with black and orange colors. I had this idea to do paint splatter and asked my boy that painted my original tank orange if he could do it.  He said he had never done something like that so I researched ways to go about it.  I ended up doing it myself by spraying a little bit of orange paint into the cap of the spray can and just flicking it.  I’ve received a lot of compliments about the paint splatter and I’m happy with it.  I think it makes the bike look really cool.  Then Vu said he was going to start making exhaust pipes, so, again, I gave him an idea that I had and he was able to build them. I added the Jack Daniels coolant overflow reservoir because coolant was spraying everywhere on the ride to SoCal.  It looked like the thermostat housing assembly might have been damaged from the accident so I just replaced the whole thing.  The last piece of the puzzle was the Sportster tank, which was made by Young. I think it fits the theme and style very well.  Everything just flows perfectly. I don’t think I’ll be changing anything on Dynasty anytime soon.