Brandon Brown's first attempt at a bike stunt ended with a broken subframe and $600 in damages. It was an expensive mistake, but it was one Brown came to expect when starting out as a stunt rider. But as the old saying goes: practice makes perfect.
Brown, along with fellow riders RJ Shrimpton, James S and Brett Flewelling, perform stunts for Deranged Freestyle, a "Midwest motorcycle freak show." The troupe will perform their stunts and tricks Friday and Saturday (June 19 and 20) in the Office Systems parking lot at Awesome Biker Nights.
Brown said this will be the fifth time he has performed at Awesome Biker Nights -- three times as Deranged Freestyle and twice under the group name Stunt Mafia.
Growing up around motorcycles and other action sports like snowboarding, skateboarding and bicycle motocross, Brown is used to high-octane activity.
"We've all had experience riding motorcycles and it was always fun showing off in front of your friends and do dangerous things and see who can wheelie further than the other person," said Brown. "That's kind of how we got into it; just trying to one up each other."
He added that it takes a lot of skill to do what Deranged Freestyle does, but it's also incredibly rewarding.
"It's a lot of fun, too, seeing people's faces."
Seeing a motorcycle stunt "isn't something you see every day," which may be why Deranged Freestyle draws quite the crowd.
"They've probably tried it themselves and fallen on their ass," said Brown. "Everyone sees motorcycles cruising around on two wheels every day, but as soon as they see us doing a wheelie and balancing they're like, 'Holy crap that's cool!' It looks badass, I think."
But the crowd's favorite trick, he said, isn't even a stunt. Burnouts are generally very popular.
"Everyone loves the noise of that motor and seeing the smoke," said Brown. "People go crazy over that."
Of course, constantly performing burnouts causes wear and tear on Deranged Freestyle's collection of bikes. Repairs are always necessary. Brown said the group will spend thousands of dollars a year fixing their bikes.
"We go through tires like crazy," he said. "We put on five or six tires in a season depending on how many burnouts we're doing; it might be more if we're drifting. Those are about $200 a piece."
Motors blow up all the time and crashes are imminent, leading to many hospital bills as well. Brown has shattered his forearm and suffered broken feet, fingers and toes. But it all comes with the territory.
"It's all worth it, though, until we get old," he said with a laugh.
The group mostly rides the "industry standard" bikes like Honda F4I or Kawasaki 636 models made in the early 2000s. These particular bikes have efficient balance points and phenomenal low-end torque, allowing for better stunts.
"They ride well and a lot of them were produced," Brown said. "And up until five years ago it was very easy to find parts for them."
Performing these kinds of stunts in front of a live audience can be a bit nerve-racking Brown said. At least, at first.
"After you do a stunt and hear the crowd cheering you on and going nuts, it makes it a lot less [stressful]," he said.
After all, seeing the audience in awe after a particular stunt is the best part of the job.
"You see the enjoyment that you give them from performing," said Brown. "It's just fun being with your friends and doing something that you love to do."