The romance. The drama. The seriousness. Every single motorcycle film that has come out in the last 3 years reeks of it. That building motorcycles is a metaphysical act that weds the soul of man and machine. That one more epic slo-mo grinder shot will bring you that much closer to douche-ex-machina.
What that dark lighting, moody Kerouc voiceover, and trust-funded editing setup miss is this: building motorcycles is fun. Period. But it’s not magic, and it won’t bring you any closer to being a savior of the church of analog. But you should definitely build one. Now.
This is why Dirtbag II: Return of the Rattler is my favorite motorcycle film, and an absolute must watch for people that want to build anything.
Here we have Paolo Ascunsion and his three friends Frank Pascual, Erik Pascual, and Luis Baptista on a quest to build an XS650 chopper for the Dirtbag Challenge.
What’s the dirtbag challenge? It was started by Poll Brown, motorcycle anarchist and rad as hell human being. The event itself arose from a frustration with the builder scene, and a drive to bring the community together. How? An event with actual riding and a catch. Builders only get one month and a $1,000 limit to build a custom motorcycle you have to ride along a predetermined 50 mile route. Oh, and no Harleys allowed, because then everyone just builds the same boring shit.
The parameters are the same, but the strategies and results are vastly different. In this film alone, you have a trial lawyer, a person in the navy, a student, a designer, a stagehand, and Paulo’s team of digital designers building everything from straight rat bikes with glass bottles for headlights to completely CAD engineered, girder forked Ducatis. There is no “look” there is no “style guide,” you build what feels right to you, and then you’re forced ride the consequences.
Back to Paolo’s Team, they never built a bike before. So what you see is an accurate picture of what it’s like to build your first custom. From the curdled scream of every failed weld, and bent bracket, to the thrill of the first weld that holds, and the story behind each mistake.
The acting can sometimes be hokey because, duh, they’re not actors, but the story and characters evoke what everybody should know about building bikes - an inanimate object will bring you to your knees, and you will like it.
Above all, this film is honest, agreeably fluffy, and not ironic, which is also what dirtbag is. The film also typifies the true benefits of older bikes - simple, cheap, blank canvases to learn, grow, and master your fabrication skills. The perfect platform to dive headfirst into the sickness of customizing motorcycles. Not because they have SOUL. Not because they have McQueen’s left buttcheek indentation. Not because you’re a craftsman. Because they’re cheap, and fun.
The message is simple: if we can do this so can you.
(Editor’s Note: I watched the trailer posted above, as well as this other they posted a few too many times. “I don’t even know what that thing is” somehow just keeps getting funnier and I may or may not be crying a little bit from laughing at these guys. I suggest you do the same.)
Joseph Gustafson is Lanesplitter’s most loudmouthed contributor. His mouth is much faster than his riding acumen. He enjoys taking long rides on the road, short rides on the dirt, and finding new ways to use the term “voracious” in a sentence. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter as he butchers welding and words in the pursuit for hashtag glory.