Altamont Fair embraces motorcycle culture

Holding onto his dirt bike for dear life is pro stunt rider Tim Dyson, who will be performing at the Altamont Fair next week. This will be the first freestyle motocross (FMX) show in the fair’s history, and Dyson, 38, guarantees that it will entertain the crowd. The stunt Dyson is throwing here is called a “rock solid.”

No fear: With 13 years of professional freestyle motocross (FMX) riding, performing dangerous tricks is second nature for Tim Dyson, who will be displaying his stunts at the fair next week. Dyson has had his own show for five years, and is on the road for nine months out of the year.

Custom hog: Brian Bagley sits on a bike he calls Phoenix, which Satan Cycles constructed in 2010 at a build-off in the Catskills. It’s a 1979 Sportster made from old raw materials, including the headlight, which is made from an old blowtorch.

ALTAMONT — There may be more black, tattoos, and beards at the Altamont Fair this year. This is just an assumption, but motorcycle art and culture does have its style.

Next week, the fair will have at least three motorcycle themed events — a freestyle motocross (FMX) stunt show, a custom bike-building showcase, and a motorcycle safety simulator.

The fair has never had an FMX show before. Tim Dyson, one of the best FMX riders in the country, will be displaying his high-flying tricks alongside two other riders.

Dyson, 38, battled cancer when he was a young man — nothing much scared him after that. He was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease. Dyson did a year of chemotherapy in Boston.

“After that horrible year of treatment, I wanted to buckle down and ride,” he said. “I’m thankful for every day that I get to ride.”

“It’s going to be a good time,” Dyson said of his Altamont show, speaking from a kids’ camp in Monticello this week. His show is on the road for nine months every year. “It’s all the tricks you see on TV, but it’s way different in person,” he said. “Things can get pretty difficult.”

Dyson and his fellow riding mates will be launching their dirt bikes off of 70-foot gaps, getting as high as four stories in the air.

“Everyone should come see this because we’ve never disappointed a crowd,” said Dyson, who has been a professional for 13 years. “We’ve never heard anyone say, ‘You suck,’ and we’ll hang out after the show until everyone’s gone. We’re here for the fans.”

Freestyle motocross is an alternative to the sport motocross in which riders attempt tricks and stunts to amaze judges. Many of the tricks pulled in FMX today were first performed on BMX bikes. For instance, the back flip, which was first executed on a motocross bike by Bob Kohl in 1993. Kohl had previously landed back flips on a BMX bike.

Dyson told The Enterprise that his first back flip was a scary experience; it’s second nature for him now.

“You have to have your head in the game because it’s a different way of leaving the ramp,” said Dyson of pulling a back flip. “You lean back on the seat, give the bike some gas, and tug on the handlebars. It’s freaky, but I never close my eyes. It’s like you’re frozen in time, very slow. Only a few seconds went by, but it felt like a minute. It’s weird.”

Some FMX riders have landed a double back flip in competition, but Dyson says that he doesn’t mess with those. “It’s not worth it,” he said.

The most challenging trick in Dyson’s opinion is something he calls a “rock solid.” The rider is in a Superman pose off the back of the motorbike, only to pull back onto the seat before landing. “You’re practically floating above the bike,” he said. “You’re way off the bike.”

A dirt bike is a lot heavier then a BMX bicycle, so what made motocross riders want to try crazy stunts?

“I think we got bored of plain old riding, and then everyone started pushing each other,” said Dyson, who got his first gig 15 years ago after a promoter saw him land a trick. “We found a way to make a living, and it can be stressful like any other job.”

Despite a fractured vertebra in his neck, Dyson continued with his FMX career, and now owns his own touring stunt show. He also owns a clothing line, Braaap Clothing, which he says has “taken off” in the last two years. He has no wife or kids because he’s so invested in FMX and being on the road.

Some may say that Dyson is married to his motorbike.

“I always loved riding and doing tricks, and it was my goal to make some money,” said Dyson, who fixes and sets up everything in his show with whatever crew is in tow. “I’m too far into this to quit.”

Building bikes

The name is Satan Cycles, but Brian Bagley claims that his custom motorcycle shop is not satanic.

“We had some naysayers at first, but then we started helping the community,” said Bagley this week. “There’s no association with the devil.”

Based out of Ravena, Satan Cycles will be stationed at the fair next week, building a custom hard-tail chopper motorcycle from scratch. Fairgoers can watch as the Satan Cycles team builds the bike, and also gaze at a half dozen custom motorcycles that have already been constructed.

“It’s something nobody has ever seen,” Bagley said. “You name it, we do it.”

One single person doesn’t own Satan Cycles, in business for six years, said Bagley. “It’s a family of original motorcycle artists,” he said. “We strive for originality, and build around personality.”

Seven years ago, working as a building contractor, Bagley fell off a roof, breaking his pelvis. Upon recovering from his injury, Bagley decided to turn custom motorcycles and parts into a business.

“Years ago, everyone would hang around the garage on a Sunday and build stuff,” said Bagley. “We build with our friends, so everybody is involved.”

These days, Bagley says that the “chopper craze” is over. Reality television shows like American Chopper and shops like West Coast Choppers, which is now closed, fueled the “chopper craze.”

“Nobody is interested in that stuff anymore,” Bagley said. “No one has ever seen our bikes because we build our own parts. We don’t have millions of dollars; we do it old school, like headlights made out of blowtorches. It’s all original.”

Satan Cycles will take something that’s bad, and make it good.

“It’s about helping that next person who needs a fix,” said Bagley. “Every bike has a story and every story has a tale.”

Bagley started building bikes with his uncles, and now runs a shop with his wife, daughter, and two sons.

Nothing satanic about that.

“It’s just a name,” Bagley said. “If we win bike shows, the money goes back to the shop. It’s about family, biker art, and the culture. That’s how it should be.”

Motorcycle safety

With all the dangerous mid-air stunts and classy custom-built bikes at the fair this year, motorcyclists shouldn’t lose grasp on the proper way to ride in traffic.

Stereotypically, motorbike riders aren’t thought of as the most law-abiding motorists on the road. Motorcycles are fast, and small enough to maneuver out of tight situations. Jim Halvorsen, of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, says that these stereotypes are everywhere across the board.

“It depends on who you ask,” Halvorsen said this week. “Most motorcyclists drive a car, too, so, if they’re reckless on a bike, then they’re reckless in a car, too.”

Under a grant from the New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation will educate motorists at the fair on how to be more cognizant of traffic safety. There will be a traffic simulator that takes the appearance of a motorcycle, and participants will negotiate traffic situations while getting feedback from an instructor as well as the computer itself.

The simulation has no cost, and the MSF will be handing out free lawn signs and bumper stickers.

“It’s really eye-opening, like, ‘Wow, I didn’t realize this sort of situation,’” said Halvorsen, who rides a motorcycle. “For example, if you follow too close, then you can’t be seen sometimes.”

The goal of the traffic simulator is to raise awareness. Safe driving is a responsibility for everyone, whether on a motorcycle or in a car.

“I think drivers need to pay more attention,” Halvorsen said. “Motorcyclists can get a bad rap, but car drivers need to do what they can to see bikers. It’s a two-way street, so let’s do our best to look out for each other.”