What’s in an image? A lot actually, based on the image of most people you could probably get a close estimate about who they are and what they might do for work or fun. In the case of the freestyle riders the image can be spotted from across a dirt track pretty easily, and it wouldn’t take much to know what their lifestyle and hobbies are, based on their looks. Or could it?
If you had to give the description of a hardcore motocross rider it would likely break down something like this; flat-brim ball cap in either black or heavily logo'd in Monster Energy or some other sponsors logo. A hoodie, some black pants, skate shoes, and a series of well-defined tattoos up and down their arms, or maybe in the sweet spot across the neck for all to see. Generally, riders would give off the impression of a badass whether or not they indeed were. For some of these riders, you might be surprised to learn that their rockers lifestyle took them from raising hell to praising Jesus! Like everyone in the world, there is more to the subject than can be seen on the surface. The high-steaks world of hard-core riders has competitors closer to tasting death than your average office worker and has some Demons praying for performance rather than the darker lifestyle you might expect.
Crusty Demons. Hella' Good Riders
About a quarter century ago the idea spawned to film another side of the American pro motocross rider. Aside that would showcase the rider practicing and mastering life-threatening long jumps, impossible tricks, and showcasing them as they defied gravity with their unbelievable trick and track bikes. The idea to show this side of the riders' world exploded after the original film in 1994, Crusty Demons Of Dirt, shot by Fleshwound Films, was released to the public. What was initially a bunch of motocross racers riding around in the desert jumping sand dunes or riding up the side of rock faces and finishing off with whip or can-can to impress their friends, became documented gold. These moments were captured by filmmakers Jon Freeman and Dana Nicholson who took a dusty pastime to what became the Crusty Demons.
Crusty Demons is made up of riders from around the globe, mainly from the US, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe. Their repertoire reads off like an accomplished list of motorcycle professionals in a sport that would make your day at the office look like a tandem bike ride through Central Park. A little under one hundred riders now hold over eleven world-records and have been showcased in some twenty films and one video game. The Crusty DVD collection started off with the aforementioned Crusty Demons of Dirt that was released in 1995, then subsequently published 17 more Crusty Demons of dirt DVDs under various names like Blood Sweat and Fears, God Bless the Freaks and Unleash Hell. After this, there was also the release of Josh Anderson Dirt to Dust television series, a Global Assault Tour, Night of World Records and Night of World Records ll.
Who said you can’t make a living out of riding dirt bikes. These guys made movies, made a living and made a lot of noise bringing this sport to the mainstream one jump at a time. The idea to get this style of riding in front of new found fans was initially launched by Brian “Lofty” Jordan who in 97’ proposed the idea of showcasing a show of stunt riders competing in front of the public. Just a few months later with the help of Fleshwound Films, the first competition was held in Las Vegas, and now these events backed by major sponsors and brought to life with flames and fans can be seen the world over.
Preaching the gospel. When a death-defying sport brings you to your knees
At your typical Sunday sermon, you aren’t likely to see a lot of tattooed men on braaaaaaping 450s pulling up to the church for their faith fix. At the same time, you probably didn't buy a ticket to a Crusty Daemons show expecting to see these boys promoting their new-found faith. Let’s look at what brings riders from a rock n roll lifestyle to a hospital bed, to a prison, and then into the house of God.
One of the most highly awarded riders in the motocross world is Brian Deegan. In fact, he has won the most medals in X Games competition with a total of 3 Golds, 7 Bronzes, and has competed in at least one event in every X Games, this makes him the first rider to ever to hold this title.
Deegan was responsible for spearheading a group of badass riders known as the Metal Mulisha. A group of riders infamous as much for their motocross talent as for their rowdy party behavior and bad-boy looks. However, when the sport almost took Brian’s life, this all changed. In 2005 while filming a television show, Deegan was attempting a backflip. He missed the mark, crashed the bike, and ended up in hospital. While hospitalized he would end up losing a kidney, close to four pints of blood, and was told by doctors that he may not survive. Like anyone desperate for options, Deegan cut a deal with God. If he survived this crash, he would change his ways and give his life to Christ. Good to both of their words, God pulled through for him, Deegan got baptized, and a new Christian rider was born again.
A guy with a lot of clout in the racing world, Deegan’s group of merry Mulisha men, began to follow suit. Soon the image of faith on the race track came from behind closed doors and into the mainstream. Riders like Jeremy “Twitch” Stenberg, an accomplished rider with a previous record for reckless behavior, who got his nickname from his diagnosed Tourette’s syndrome. As well as riders like Ronnie Faisst and Jeremy Lusk started searching out the bible. This attitude even spilled over into skateboarders at the X Games. After a long streak of drug addiction and a five-year stint in prison, highly accomplished rider Christian Hosoi happily handed his life to God too. You could say the image of the sport was changing, to the surprise of both the riders and the fans.
Can hard-core fans handle newly found faiths?
For a sport that was found on the backs of death-defying sports, liquor-fueled parties, loud bikes, and loud looks, was the sport ready for healthy does of Hallelujahs? When you get enough people in a group, you are going to find a mix of many faiths and many ideologies. In the world of motocross, this is no different. Deegan and his new faith followers knew they had to contend with what the image of motocross is VS what they believed in, and if preaching the gospel to fans would bring the sport to its knees.
After a head injury that fatally wounded Deegan’s friend Lusk back in 2008, he decided that his popularity would be enough to win over fans and react how he felt necessary to the deadly events. He said a prayer in front of fans and would openly preach the gospel alongside his teammates from here on out. This doesn’t mean that everyone in extreme sports was just going to jump on board though. A lot of riders just want t get out and ride, go out after and party, and keep rocking the reckless life as you would expect from a group of X Games riders. Deegan’s fans have still embraced him, and you can't really argue with a guy who has so many accomplishments in the sport, stared death in the eyes, lost friends, and lived on both sides of the line.
Where to now?
The Crusty Demons have only one video game and haven’t put out a DVD in close to a decade. Their spin-off clothing line and riding gear brand Fleshgear seem to be selling well internationally as it still gains traction with fans. Deegan still dabbles in a variety of moto-related sports, and the X Games have exploded from what was a bit of friendly competition among friends to a wildly popular sport that stretches across summer and winter to include everything extreme sports related.
If you can handle your Daemons and Christians in the same room with your braaaaaps and bikes, then I’m sure you’ll keep on enjoying the extreme sports like those of hundreds of thousands of other fans. Once you’ve looked death square in the eyes, you might feel that image placed a far second to all other priorities, and if God can get you through you’ll take it. Tough to argue with a guy who’s seen all sides.