Old motorcycles are a pain in the ass. There are breakdowns, broken parts, missing parts, hot weather, cold hands, wet clothes, shit roads and shittier drivers. And bugs…the fucking bugs. But that’s the point, right?
Old motorcycles force you to go search for parts or find a solution with what you have. Breakdowns and bad weather leave you somewhere you never would have stopped otherwise. On an older motorcycle you aren’t just passing though the world, you’re part of it and that motorcycle becomes part of your story.
The guys at Cycle Zombies (CZ) get it. Their name came about because their passion lies with bringing old bikes back from the dead. As Scotty Stopnik says, “We aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel but only make the wheels turn again.” CZ is built from family, a love of motorcycles and wrenching passed down from the patriarch, Big Scott, to his sons and nephew. “We learned to work with our hands, even if we didn’t like it. My dad always said we would learn a trade.” And it was Big Scott’s guidance that eventually got the boys “screwing around with old motorcycles,” says Scotty, (Big Scott’s son). And in an age where words like “retro” and “vintage” are abused, the Stopniks carry a fluid, effortless style in their bikes that is also prevalent in their surfing and skating.
For Chase Stopnik, the interest in the process of piecing together a bike is just as fulfilling as riding it. “You can look at the bike and it’s got its own stories to tell through not only the life that the parts had before you got them but the way you got them and everything. And you put them all together and then you make new stories with it.”
This past June, Stance sent Scotty and Chase to fly their Cycle Zombie flag in Europe, to visit the Kustom Kulture Forever show in Germany, and the Wheels and Waves event in Biarritz, France. Accompanied by longtime friend and revivalist Brian Bent (you should remember him from the first issue, unless you didn’t read it...), Eat Dust’s Keith Hioco and Rob Harmsen, and photographer Josie Perez, the group experienced the flourishing classic and custom motorcycle/car scene in Germany and France, while each adding their unique style and skills to the recipe.
"Eclectic” doesn’t even begin to describe the Kustom Kulture Forever show. Greasers and pin-ups slid between pinstriped, bagged lowriders and oil dripping baggers. All set to a Rockabilly soundtrack, Kustom Kulture Forever wasn’t focused on recognizing a specific style but on recognizing the lifestyle that leaves you with grease under your nails and oil in your blood. With that broad scope everyone felt welcome, and everyone left entertained and satisfied. Scotty Stopnik found something new around ev - ery corner. “They had the Wall of Death there, a skate ramp, music, Stance had a really killer booth. It was really cool Brian Bent played a couple times.”
The influence of American motoring was strong, but with a distinct international flare. Classic American muscle cars, roadsters, and motorcycles dominated the show, but each with its distinct flavor concocted by their creator. True to form, if you want an old car or motorcycle, or something, unique you have to be comfortable getting dirty…a lot. And as Scotty cruised around he was psyched to see the vagabonds were out in full force “riding their choppers to the show and hanging out and camping next to their bikes.”
We learned to work with our hands, even if we didn't like it. My dad always said we would learn a trade.
Then it was off to France for Wheels and Waves. A day of travel on his birthday didn’t stop Chase Stopnik from enjoying it. Breakfast in Spain and a dinner in France that included enough black pudding to stop a normal human heart, (not even close to the pudding you are picturing in your head), allowing his stomach to host an international U.N. meeting. They landed in France three days before Wheels and Waves, but their bags didn’t.
Shitty weather and bagless circumstances changed plans but didn’t stop any of the fun. After a quick trip to a thrift store and a few new clothes, including a pair of white blown out Levi’s, Scotty and Chase were geared up and game to take on the south of France. Basque country has roads and terrain that had to be sculpted by a motorcycle rider and the boys were lined up to borrow a few bikes, but weather blew in and blew out their plans. “Scotty and I had it all set up to borrow some motorcycles and ride around Biarritz, but the day we were supposed to get them we got rained out. So instead, we ended up just riding around electric bicycles, and starting a bike club called the Electric Eels - BB is the club president. We probably had more fun on those things anyway.”
It was probably a little kooky being on electric bikes during a vintage motorcycle event, but the guys wore shit eating grins as they blasted curb cuts and went up against traffic on one way streets on the way to a classic French lunch. Chapter President Brian Bent recalls (kinda) the election process: “Maybe because I think I came up with the name, I forget. Or I’m the oldest. Or I just had the electric eel look. Hahahah. With that jacket and hat. As long as the battery rolls, we roll. The ELECTRIC EELs.”
Finally, the crew was ready to check out the four-day event that takes over the entire town of Biarritz. “I had heard for the last few years it was a bitchin' event. Every time I tried to figure out what it was, I got super confused. It’s an art gallery? At the beach? It’s a motorcycle race? YES! It’s all of those things!?!” Chase continued that it was one of the best shows he’s been to that incorporates so many things that play into the motorcycle scene. From the art and music to having “a show that takes place all over the town and gets people actually riding their motorcycles rather than just looking at them.
The motorcycles at the show were as diverse as the passports present at the event. Japanese bikes, Euro bikes, American bikes, all shapes, styles and colors, Wheels and Waves is the altar at which true motorcycle devotees worship. It is as much about motorcycles as is it about lives devoted to finding clean and unique lines through a craft, whether it be art or mechanics. If the Stopniks wanted an event that encompassed their life, they found it with Wheels and Waves; motorcycle drag races between show quality bikes and oil burning crusty motorcycles, a world-class wave just a few miles away and a museum that had a roof covered in transition and a strange little skateable bowl. “Up top they have this crazy cement cobblestone set up that represents a wave. It was really cool to skate that bowl. We skated it for hours until I broke my ankle. We got to skate up their while Brian Bent played.”
After he was done playing, BB waltzed to the roof and joined the Stopniks, “I’m glad I dropped in - to me them riding that pool that really wasn’t a pool was so rad. Scotty really skated that pool really rad might have been the coolest time I have seen him skate and then rolling in from that big brick or squares wave then Into the pool was rad. It was a big highlight for me to watch them.”
It was Scotty’s newly acquired pair of white Levi’s that sparked a conversation with Paul Siminon, the former bassist for The Clash who was at Wheels and Waves showing a collection of paintings called, “Wot No Bike”. Having clean white jeans was too much for Scotty so he rolled around in the dirt to tone them down a bit after the purchase. After hearing that, Siminon related a story from his touring days when he was in Texas with a new leather jacket. To Scotty, “it was just really cool seeing a hero like that and he’s one of you. You are one of him.”
This trip made the world, especially the motorcycle world, a little bit smaller and the Cycle Zombie family a little bit bigger. As Scotty puts it, “You don’t even speak the same language. You don’t even eat the same food. Or anything like that but you start up a bike and you can go ride together.” You don’t even speak the same language. You don’t even eat the same food. Or anything like that but you start up a bike and you can go ride together.” Even if different parts of the world or different riders have a style you aren’t into, there is a commonality there. It’s the sense of freedom. He continued, “It’s the same with surfing and skating in a way. And that’s why I love it so much. You step on a skateboard you pump down the street, you know there are no rules and there’s no judges or scores or anything like that. It’s the same thing with surfing, too, the second you get in the water its like just hit a reset button almost. And on a bike, you start the bike up and you twist the throttle and you just leave everything behind.”
With motorcycles you never know where you are going to end up. As it has been said, “four-wheels move the body, two-wheels move the soul”. The boys at CZ are making the most of where they are right now, and that’s exactly where they want to be.
Four-wheels move the body, two-wheels move the soul.