I rode in a group of 20 or more through the middle of Baja California nearing the end of May. The sun beat down over my black helmet with temperatures well over 110 degrees. Sweat ran down my face and evaporated before it could burn my eyes. Mountains loomed over the horizon to the right and white desert sands stretched as far as I could see to my left; utter beauty in every direction.
I looked into the distance behind me and noticed that my wife, Kat, aka Lady Wolf, was missing. I began to have a small panic attack and wondered what the hell could have happened. Thoughts raced through my mind faster than the speed I was riding at. “Hit the brakes and go find her!” my brain yelled at me. Without hesitation, I did a u-turn right in front of some policia, and flew back the opposite way from our destination of San Felipe. I was worried about running out of gas, since the stretch of highway we were on was without gas stations for at least 100+ miles and I only had so much left in my reserve can.
Thankfully, she was only a few miles back. She was sitting on the side of the road with our friend from Biltwell, E-Z. We could smell burning fumes from her clutch. The gears weren’t engaging, no matter how much gas we gave the bike it just wouldn’t go. E-Z and I looked over everything we could, but couldn’t figure it out for the life of us.
So, we waited next to our bikes, trying to get shade from the beating sun. We became delirious as our water ran out. Our close friend Meeka & Kat swore they saw the ocean in the far distance. E-Z was leaving messages for the chase truck that we hoped wasn’t too far behind. Groups of bikes passed by slowly with a thumbs up to see if we were ok and we graciously gave them one back because we thought the clutch was toast and nothing anyone could do would help.
When the chase truck finally arrived over an hour later, there was luckily one spot left on the trailer and we couldn’t have been more excited to load Kat’s bike on. We grabbed the first liquid we saw in the coolers, which was ice cold beer, and we got back on the road to San Felipe.
When we finally arrived, our friend, Pat from Led Sled Customs, came over and instantly knew what was wrong. The fastener was too tight! Her clutch plates overheated from the extreme heat and long miles. You could smell the burning fumes when we pulled her inspection plate. So simple and dumb and yet we couldn’t figure it out in the heat of the moment. The bike ran perfect again and Lady Wolf was able to ride the rest of the Mexican adventure we call EDR!
We live, we learn, we grow wiser, and the community we all love will do anything and everything to make sure no one is left behind. This story was just one of many that happened that weekend on Biltwell’s El Diablo Run aka EDR 2015. This run was probably one of the hardest runs Kat and I have ever been on, yet we loved every minute of it. I thought what better way to highlight this amazing run than to sit down with Bill Bryant from Biltwell Inc. I asked him about the history and the community aspect of the whole thing. I got some great insight on the run, his personal memories, and some ice cream fun. Hope you enjoy it!
Photos By Mikey Revolt from Lowbrow Customs.
How did the El Diablo Run start?
B: I had a CB550 back in 2002 and I rode to San Felipe to meet up with some Honda Chopper dudes from Vegas. I got bored after a day or two, and a few of the guys were interested in seeing more of Baja. I knew the route from years of racing and pitting for off road teams down there. So, we crossed the peninsula, partied for a couple days in Ensenada, and then rode back up the coast. When I got home, I wouldn’t shut up about it. My friends at the time only had dirt bikes and thought I was kinda dumb for doing it, but they were intrigued.
I was in the National Guard then and deployed to Iraq in early 2004 where I spent the next year constantly thinking about this route, reading the Horse magazine, and dreaming about riding a chopper through Baja. My friend and business partner, McGoo, won a gnarly football bet while I was gone and decided to build a chopper. He bought a Flyrite kit and was working on final assembly when I got home. We finished that thing off and not long after that some friends and I piled in a truck and followed him along the route.
That was our first official “pre-run”. In McGoo’s words, “If a pussy like me can do this, anyone can”. He did it, and we all loved the contrast of the different riding environments, the sleepy beach town of San Felipe, and the more energetic and urban Ensenada. We put an open invite up on the Jockey Journal in fall of 2005 with some photos and a brief description. The first run was March of 2006 and about 45 people showed up. We had a blast and made friends for life.
Who came up with the name for the run?
B: I don’t really remember. What I recall is that we insisted on having the word “run” in there because we wanted it to be the exact opposite of what the custom motorcycle scene revolved around at the time: trailering bikes to parking lots where you shop for trinkets and listen to .38 Special cover bands. We wanted to ride motorcycles and have fun, and that was it.
How many years have you guys been doing the run?
B: First one was 2006. Since then we’ve done them in 2007, 2008, 2011, 2013 and now 2015. It’s funny to hear people talk about the first one as “back in the day” and then I realize some of them were 10 years old when we did that first one.
How long does it take to plan something like this, and what’s the most challenging part?
B: It’s a little easier now that we have a solid ally in Ensenada: JC from Baja Voyager. He and Kiki in San Felipe communicate well over email so we can make contact and follow up on things, solve problems, etc. Ruben’s Campo is still very analog so we always drive down at least twice during the 12 months or so before a run just to make sure everything is good to go. The biggest challenge is to just keep everyone happy. We try very hard to make sure that riders have an outstanding time, but we also deeply care that the camp and hotel hosts are happy and will welcome us dirtbags back the next time.
Who mapped out the main route? Is there a main route haha, I feel like you can take a few options and still end up in the same place?
B: This was my route from the start and then a couple years ago Mike D. here at Biltwell showed me the Julian to S2 section which really made the US portion way better since it has fantastic scenery, keeps you off the highway entirely and now has a gas station. There are a myriad of options to get to the jump-off point in Calexico, but there are only three highways in Baja Norte. So, there really are no options once you cross the border.
Do you think the lack of communication (being no cell phone reception) plus the scarce water and gas makes people rely a little more on the community and ingenuity? Was that the whole idea behind it?
B: Back when we started this, most phones were just phones so we didn’t really think about it. Now that phones are the center of everyone’s life it’s especially nice to turn them off for a few days and just live without them. The fact that the area is so remote and services so limited definitely contributes to the need for self-reliance. It also contributes to the community vibe–if someone needs help, you better stop and pitch in with time, tools, knowledge or whatever else is needed. It should be this way everywhere, every day, but sadly this isn’t really part of the culture with most contemporary motorcyclists. I like to think most chopper dudes get it and everyone I know that rides an old shit box always stops to help another rider, no matter what kind of bike it is.
What is your all-time favorite story or crazy moment from any of the EDR’s? The dude getting his head run over this year was pretty gnarly!! Can you top that?
B: Adam getting his dome run over and leaving his tooth in the other guy’s foot peg this year is definitely towards the top of the list. There have been so many near-death / life-affirming experiences it’s hard to pick, but I’d say the time McGoo set his hair on fire is the most memorable for me. We prepped a fire pit as soon as we got to Ruben’s camp in ’07 or ’08 and a bunch of people were standing around when McGoo decided the smoldering kindling just wasn’t lighting up fast enough. He grabbed a gas can off the chase trailer and dumped a bunch on there, but caught the spout on fire at the same time. When he slammed the gas can down, it splashed a perfect little fire ball up in the air and it landed right on top of his head. I was all the way in the back of the crowd and couldn’t get to him. To this day, I’m not sure McGoo even really understood that his shit was ablaze. Our bud Scotty from NorCal jumped on him and smothered it with his leather jacket and the crowd of dudes got all quiet. McGoo untangled himself from the jacket, stood back up and yelled “Welcome to Mexico, Mother Fuckers!” and the party was on…
Is it me or does Mexico feel a bit lawless?
B: It does. The laws are a little more flexible down there for sure, except for the whole firearms thing. Personal responsibility and reliance on the government and other people is part of the Baja culture since the land is so vast and unpopulated. Americans usually get in trouble when they confuse this freedom with lawlessness. You can go down and have a lot of fun, but you will still get rolled up if you get caught doing something stupid, especially in Ensenada.
What’s your favorite stretch of road on the run?
B: The USA section from about Warner Springs down to the 8 Freeway. There is a lot of elevation change and the scenery is dramatically different, the weather changes substantially and there is usually little to no traffic. Ironically, I also like the chaos of Mexicali and Tijuana. It kinda reminds me of Baghdad and I like how your senses go into overload from all the input.
Why every two years for EDR?
B: Couple reasons. One; we are lazy and the run is a lot of work. Two; we have a lot of friends from the East Coast and Midwest who come out for it and asking them to take off this much time every year seems like it’s asking a lot. Three; it keeps the hype down a little. People always say, “Man, I’m going next year”. When they find out it’s every other year, they work a little harder to make it happen. We don’t want people to get tired of it, and want to keep it special and the every other year format seems to help with that. We may not keep it this way forever, but it’s how we do if for now.
Anything you would want to change about the run?
B: We are considering just making it three days in San Felipe since that is everyone’s favorite part of the trip. We would still ride home through Ensenada and maybe stay a day or two over there, but it wouldn’t be part of the actual run. This would allow us to focus our logistics in one place instead of two, and riders would have more time to hang at the beach as well as take some day-trips further south.
Who came up with the Circle of Death? I also noticed McGoo took the liberty of changing up the course a bit from previous years?
B: I think it was a collective thing; McGoo, some friends and I walked that track in year three I believe. Some local drug kingpin had leveled the lot and was going to build a high rise hotel there. Like lots of Baja dreams, it never really materialized. However, the lots were close to flat and we commandeered a tractor and graded it out some more and it’s been the Circulo de la Muerte ever since. McGoo’s change to the course this year was pure genius. It started on the road above the actual track so there was an asphalt start with about a 40’ straight and then a hard left down a rough dirt hill, into a silt patch and onto the track for four laps. It made the race so much scarier to start and I think the crowd loved it.
What happened on the Circle of Death Race with your bike when you were racing? Did you used to race dirt bikes as a kid, you always ride fast as shit and really amazing on that shovel, just wondering?
B: Man, I was having so much fun during practice and my strategy on the start was to just be mid-pack and then pass people once we got on the track. I knew it was going to ball up at the drop off so I was pretty conservative.
At the bottom of the drop it was really loose and I bumped into Jay and stalled. It was so loud and the sand so loose that I thought I was still running for a second and I flooded it. I can usually just donkey kick that bike in one shot, but I must have flooded it because it was a bitch to start and I didn’t get it going until the race was about over.
I still did my laps and went as fast as you can on a silly old foot-clutch, no front brake chopper. That bike didn’t have one problem the entire way, before or after, btw.
I didn’t have a dirt bike until my late 20’s and mostly just rode trails with my friends. I definitely rode a lot of our So Cal tracks for practice, but I only raced a few times. I was never any good at it, just had lots of fun banging bars with my buddies. I don’t really ride all that fast, I just try to ride smooth and pick smart lines. With this bike and only one brake, I’m always looking way ahead and giving myself plenty of room to stop. Good brakes make you faster, so I ride my FXR a lot harder since it’s got badass brakes.
What was your favorite moment from this year’s run?
B: I think the Circle of Death. One of the positive things about a bigger crowd this year is that we had more participants in the race and more spectators cheering on the sidelines. It made the whole thing more exciting to watch, and as a promoter it felt good because I knew people at that moment were having a total blast and it was really unlike anything most of them had ever seen.
How cool was it to help your son build his sportster and then be able to ride together on this year’s run?
B: That was especially meaningful for me. I’m notoriously slow at building bikes and we did this one in a total of 85 days which included welding on the Haifley Bros. hard tail, a 1200 kit and all the time that paint, chrome and powder coating take. Of course I’m sketched by the idea of my son riding, but we did the safety school together a while back and he’s been commuting on a dual sport for almost a year so I think he’s got the right fundamentals. We went out and did a 150 mile “training” ride with him and a bunch of us from work the week before EDR. It was his first time riding in a pack and we’d only had the sporty finished for about a week. The bike fits him perfectly and it’s built the way we both wanted it; compact, fast, narrow, ergonomically comfortable and with good brakes. After riding in front and behind him on that 150-mile day I had a lot more confidence in him. After he stayed on my wheel for the whole EDR I trust him and his abilities and look forward to burning up a lot more miles with him.
How much ice cream did you eat that weekend?
B: #ridemotorcycleseaticecream With our crew, ice cream has become sort of a tradition when on the road. We don’t drink and ride and a few of our guys don’t drink at all, but we all love us some ice cream. We pride ourselves on knowing where the good stuff is and enjoy taking the time out for a little treat when we have a chance. It’s one of those simple little “good life” moments when you are filthy and overheated and you find a Mexican ice cream at a little Abarrotes shack on the side of the highway and take five minutes to sit in the shade and relax. To answer the question, out of four days on the road, I think I had one a day.
All-time favorite ice cream?
B: Free. Any ice cream someone else pays for is my favorite.
What other runs does Biltwell have up their sleeves in the coming years?
B: We are working on a local camp-out in Idyllwild this October. We haven’t released anything yet because of red tape with the county. Once that’s all finalized, we will put the word out. It will be our typical event, centered around riding, not vending. Good food, lots of beer and lo-tech entertainment. As far as the EDR goes, as long as we are welcome back and as long as it’s fun, we’ll keep doing it.
Anyone you would like to thank or give shoutouts to?
B: First, our team here at Biltwell. We have an amazing group of people that I am fortunate to work with every day. A lot of our crew went on their first EDR this year and it was really fun for us to have them all along. Our Mexican Friends, JC Pacheco at Baja Voyager, Kiki from Kiki’s Campo and Aaron from Ruben’s for being such gracious, fun-loving hosts. Of course, our sponsors. Please realize that these guys are our friends and they really get very little from their sponsorship. With no vending and no pre-arranged fake social media shout-outs and all that nonsense, they sincerely do it because they want to support something fun and interesting and we appreciate that.
• Anti Gravity Batteries
• 47 Industries
• Americana Speed Shop
• Babes Ride Out
• Biltwell Inc.
• Burly Brand
• CRO Customs
• Chop Cult
• Deus Ex Machina
• DicE Magazine
• Four Aces Cycles
• Icon Motorsports
• Iron & Air Magazine
• J&P Cycles
• Kickstart Cycles
• Led Sled Customs
• Lowbrow Customs
• Old Bike Barn
• Street Chopper Magazine
Be sure to check the El Diablo Run website for updates!
Article and photos by Mikey Revolt / @mikeyrevolt