Deus Ex Machina, superheroes among custom bike builders based out of Sydney, Australia, brought their Los Angeles crew out east for a premier spring weekend and converted New York City into weather-loving, lane-splitting criminals, reuniting us with our long lost true loves once again.
It was Sunday in mid-May and one of the first beautifully sunny and warm days of the year. As usual, the Northeast was fashionably late in joining the rest of the country in the most welcomed season, but we greeted it with pure and unbridled enthusiasm. The warm sun finally shared its most elusive quality with the city that never sleeps, and we finally got the opportunity to straddle our summer flings that had begun to feel like distant memories and forget about the winter warfare from which we realized we had survived, not unscathed but unphased. In other words, we had overcome our seasonal blues, pulled up our literal and proverbial bootstraps, and got the fuck out of the house.
Keeping in mind that I’d purchased my first motorcycle almost one year ago, I’d heard of Deus Ex Machina but admittedly knew very little about the Aussie company. I was gratefully informed of the ride by a digital newsletter that infrequently has free, appealing events to do; and my interest was doubled when a motorcycle buddy received a flyer hand-delivered to his dealership by the very guys who orchestrated the entire day. It was on.
I’d never had the privilege of joining a group ride before, and I was equally curious and nervous. I wasn’t entirely concerned that I might crash into another rider, but I had also only recently joined the motorcycle community in my home of nine years, and I was mildly shy about not knowing anyone. Additionally, remnants of the chaos that occurred on the West Side Highway only months before still irked many motorcyclists and left cops and drivers similarly suspicious of us. But nerves had never inhibited me before, so I awoke at 8:00 a.m. to break my fast and meet my buddy in time to mingle for a few minutes prior to kicking up stands at 10:30.
From Brooklyn, I crossed the Williamsburg Bridge on my black 2013 Bonneville, took in the Manhattan skyline and headed to the Lower East Side (LES). Upon arrival at the meeting point, Freemans Sporting Club where Deus had installed a stylish pop-up shop, I turned onto Rivington Street where Triumphs and custom street bikes lined the hidden block surprisingly free from random passersby. I immediately felt like I was in-the-know. I quickly found a spot to tuck in my Bonny between other bikes, whose owners had obviously spent hard-earned money to customize, and was startled to look up to find a tattooed photographer squatting nearby documenting my arrival with his Nikon D3 (or some kind of fancy camera). I timidly returned my divided attention to parking my ride, because I was surprised that anyone would find any interest in photographs of a girl from Oklahoma riding a machine that, although sexy enough, still wore all its original, boring stock parts. (These insecurities came from the fact that I’d been fantasizing about the modifications I’d been wanting to make but had yet to have the funds to fulfill.) I quickly got over myself and noticed my buddy was parked nearby on his crotch rocket. Later in the day, he confided in me of how out-of-place he felt among all the cafe racers.
There was a good, but not intimidating, crowd outside Freemans. I noticed only a handful of other brave girls lingering about and walked over to join the relaxed group of people with whom I felt an immediate connection. I somehow related to the familiar strangers from the unpretentious vibe cast from their scruffy attire of trucker hats, t-shirts and jeans.
The Deus staff welcomed our presence by introducing themselves and engaging in friendly banter with us, which further reinforced their solid reputation from the positive personal experience I now had with them. We learned each others’ names and discussed our riding histories and their stay in New York thus far. After the small talk wound down, I noticed the motorcycle clothing meticulously organized just inside Freemans. I was curious to enter not only because of my consumerist upbringing but also because of my intense attraction to cool bike wear. Once inside, I was disappointed to learn that the clothes were designed for men. Despite having a few masculine traits to my personality, my scrawny, feminine body type isn’t becoming in XXL shirts. So I ventured back outside. Shortly thereafter, a Deus associate having limited knowledge of both New York streets and its traffic, gathered everyone for a briefing on the upcoming route through three of the five boroughs, crossing three different bridges and one river twice. We were stoked and ready to ride.
We headed to our bikes, started our engines and woke up any remaining sleepers within a five-block radius. I let those parked behind me pass first to ensure I wouldn’t cut anyone off. We poured one-by-one out of the LES and thus began our invasion of New York City.
We cut through traffic. We turned heads. We ran red lights to stay together. But despite our best efforts, the large group quickly splintered into several smaller ones causing confusion as I tried to determine which riders I was meant to follow because the beautiful weather lured other random riders out that day as well. Despite my doubts, I kept with my crew. This could have been due to the monotony of bike style or ubiquity of tattoos or the various characters found upon further inspection of the group. I kept my eye on the 6’5″ guy who struggled not to overpower his modified Thruxton possessing super low handlebars that made him appear like a hunchbacked giant, yet still incredibly cool; and the cute girl whose vintage Honda kept stalling at every stoplight, backing up the line of bikes behind her but inciting sympathy and assistance from their riders. And I definitely couldn’t overlook the photographers who rode on the back of some bikes because I envied that their arms were free to hold cameras and snap shots of us all over the city. (Thus, you’ll find a link below to their photos in lieu of any I would have loved to have captured myself.)
Our bikes stayed in second gear most of the ride through Manhattan, but once we crossed the Brooklyn Bridge and hit the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE), I was able to shake out the cramps in my left hand and feel the spring wind through my leather jacket. I relished in those few minutes down the BQE more than I’d enjoyed myself in a while. I was finally able to say “good riddance!” to the 19 snow storms we’d had this year and reconnect with my passion for going fast and feeling free. Nothing could divert my attention. It felt like the Buddhist teachings of living in the moment and practicing gratitude united perfectly in my mind. And even though we were all on separate machines speeding at 80 mph with plenty of lag between each bike so that it was no longer apparent we were traveling as a group, each one of us shared the same purpose – we were acting out the mantra that the journey is the destination.
It took a good half hour for all the riders to reach the midpoint meeting location at the base of the Verrazano Bridge. But once we did, our spirits were even higher than when we began a couple of hours earlier. We’d just bonded in the most unusual of ways – by sharing the experience of facing the open air at top speed while ignoring civilized behavior and any obstacle inhibiting our intrepid swarm through the city. We happily posed for more photos and took in the breathtaking view before hitting the road again to finish our day. The most significant part of the ride was behind us, and all that remained were a few more miles and some further bonding time.
We arrived back at Freemans ready to avail ourselves of Deus’ hospitality. They kindly offered us some BBQ and memento t-shirts and charmed me further by complimenting my riding. I’d been on some form of motorized bike since the tender age of 13, despite purchasing my Bonny just one year ago, but I hadn’t ridden since moving to New York. Those comments supported my feeling of the day that my riding had improved. I’d taken mental notes and mimicked others I knew were infinitely more experienced than I and, although subtle, moved my body and bike in ways that felt more skillful. The thrill of my first group ride became so much more in that moment. I not only possessed bragging rights of having ridden with a respected custom motorcycle company but now had an emotional connection with them as well. They helped pull me out of my comfort zone, which although is not that difficult to do, still is not frequent enough in my life. They helped introduce me to others with whom I now have a history and have also helped increase my level of riding. My bike is now in the shop undergoing those modifications I’d been fantasizing about, and the next time Deus graces New York City with their presence, I’ll no longer be a novice stranger but a friend and more confident rider. Until they announce the date in August, I’ll be riding with my fellow Miss-Fires and looking forward to doing it all over again.
To read the blog by Deus Ex Machina and to view their photos, click here.
by Kristen Reed