Stunts, Blunts, & Hip Hop
Dirt bike riding is a religion and Shea Evans is its Harlem, USA-based evangelist.
Photos by Janette Beckman
The media won’t tell you, but there’s a new renaissance going on Uptown that involves motorcycles, the progressive attitude of the athletes behind the handlebars, and the opportunities that they’re creating for themselves.
Go Hard Boyz is a family, first and foremost. Not a gang. And if you ask CEO Shea Evans he can go into a whole spiel about how he and co-founder Donnell Vilanueva’s movement goes far beyond just rebel street riding. He can also tell you about how he comes from the early ‘80s tutelage of legendary Harlem street rider “YZ Al Capone.” Or about how his mom and Sean “P. Diddy” Combs’ mom were good friends during his upbringing. He’s still tight with Diddy to this day. But all that is irrelevant to the fact that it wasn’t hip hop or Harlem that kindled his lifelong passion of motorcycle riding. Nope, it was actually the death-defying image of white daredevils like Evel Knievel and motorcross gods like Bob Hannah, Rick Johnson, and Broc Glover that first opened up his psyche to the power of two wheels.
Today, Shea mingles with the likes of FMX riders Ronnie Faisst of the infamous Metal Mulisha FMX crew and Jeremy “Twitch” Stenberg of X Games fame. In the same token, he also acknowledges his own lineage of riding via his uncle “Stubby,” one of the founding members of Harlem’s oldest black motorcycle clubs — The Black Unicorns. Waters run deep. Ever heard of The Buccaneers? The Regulators? And now, the Go Hard Boyz (GHB for short). All are updated versions of clubs and further proof that riding has never been a historically “white” or “black” thing.
Shea’s motorcycle mantra is, “It’s bigger than bikes.” It’s the evolution of what mentor YZ used to preach as the “one down, five up” mentality (the gear pattern of a motorcycle). Now, instead of just applying it to their wheels, Shea and his GHB family apply that unity to community, causes like providing food to Harlem locals during Thanksgiving, and raising awareness about autism and diabetes in cities as far away as Atlanta.
Unfortunately, the mainstream isn’t as informed about these efforts. The media and general public still want to blame general “bike culture” for things like the notorious West Side Highway ordeal in NYC that left one paralyzed and another in a coma this past fall. But if you ask Shea about the loose association, he’ll make two adamant points. One, that he’s really sorry (and clearly disturbed) about something like that even happening, and two, that GHB and its heritage of 30+ years of riding couldn’t be further away from such a thing. “It’s night and day,” he confirms, and GHB wants absolutely nothing to do with it.
Some of the confusion may stem from the fact that what used to be reserved as a luxury for a financially elite core of urbanites in burgeoning eastern cities like New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, has fast become a pastime and culture that Shea compares to basketball and skateboarding, even in terms of influx. It’s still something that many — mostly outsiders — have yet to fully grasp. That is, unless they actually ride in B’more, a place that Shea considers his second home, and form legitimate bonds with homegrown talent like Wheelie Wayne and Peewee of the 12 O’Clock Boys.
Statements like this let you know that, contrary to reports and images, Shea actually swears by the bike as the tool that’s allowed him to transcend negativity. The same negativity that led to the senseless, wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time, death of his flowering protégé, “Cleve,” a hyper-active teen from Mount Vernon that used to travel all the way down to Harlem just to be part of the GHB movement. After Cleve’s death, Shea’s entire notion of riding, and the doors that it can open up for mentally shackled youth, was forever changed.
Now, professionals like James “Bubba” Stewart Jr. — the first African-American champion in the most competitive levels of MX – earns millions a year thanks to sponsors and races, and one can’t help but ask the pressing question: Why aren’t more riders of color doing this? Well, the truth is that they are. But they need more access to tracks and legal places to ride. Enter Shea. He’s currently in the works with Matt Vara and Rob Hubert on Inner City Racing Partnership, an organization set on premiering young talent like 12 year-old Baltimore prodigy Grant Hubert set to explode onto the scene as the first GHB MX rider.
“Yes, I can wheelie, yes, I can ride, but that’s not where I’m at with it,“ Shea fervently states. There’s been a ton of attention and probing ever since close friend, rider, and business partner Kirk Frost (VH1’s Love and Hip Hop Atlanta) rocked a GHB jacket in an episode — an ode to their current GHB apparel endeavor. Kirk’s also a big reason behind PR milestones like GHB opening up for an Usher show in Houston, Texas. The movement’s that big! But Shea’s not fazed, just focused. For someone that’s seen it all, the goal has been and still continues to be, “bigger than bikes,” a philosophy shared by award-winning documentarian Ed Harris. The two are currently in the works with Alva Pictures on a GHB film project dubbed Dream 2 Ride, a documentary set on clarifying the true history of the sport and culture, due out in 2015.