We’ve always had a healthy respect for The Ones – individuals who ignore the trends, the minions and the voices of compromise, living life with a laser-focus on doing what they love and making their mark in the world through their passions. Occasionally we’ll share those stories here with you on The Uncommon Thread.
One such individual we came across was Brady Walker of the Venice Vintage Motorcycle Club. For Brady, restoring and racing vintage motorcycles is more than just a hobby, it’s a manifestation of his worldview. As a street-savvy entrepreneur who is lucky to spend so much time immersed in the vintage bike culture, Brady knows a thing or two about building a life around passions. He took time away from his Yamaha to share thoughts with us on bikes, heavy metal role-models, and how to make your neighbors believe you don’t actually have to work for a living.
What is it about vintage bikes that gets you fired up?
The sound, the smell. The simplicity. Obviously the looks. I have a 2003 Yamaha R1. It's capable of over 170mph. But i get more grin factor riding my girlfriends Kawasaki 90cc G3SS mini bike. You can push it to the limit wearing flip flops...and most likely not have to go to the emergency room after a wipe out!
Your career is a dream job for a lot of people. How did you get here?
When I was 20 years old, my dream job was to be a heavy metal guitarist. At least that is what I told the vice dean of the Univ. of Michigan School of Engineering when I was asked what I wanted to do with my life. I was failing out of college, but for some reason she knew I had what it takes to be successful. The dean suggested I maybe think about being an audio engineer as a career, but still pursue being a rock god as a hobby. Well, with the new opportunity my attitude changed, I liked the classes and was earning a 4.0 very quickly. My first job out of school was working in commercials. Now I work at FOX Broadcasting as a promo mixer and own a business installing home studios for voice actors.
When I first came to LA 13 years ago, I knew no one. I had no money and a lot of time. I answered an ad in the local Venice paper for an audio guy for an event. A non-paying gig, but I met a lot of great people and after 7 years I was second in charge of the whole event! And making money! So when my friend Shannon Sweeny, a fellow Truimph guy in Venice, mentioned how cool it would be to hold a vintage bike event, I said, “Why don’t we do it? I know how! I will pull permits and get it rolling.” That was the first Venice Vintage Motorcycle Rally. And 6 years later it is one of the finest vintage bike events on the West Coast.
Who was your biggest inspiration or motivator?
Going back to 20 years old: Slash, Alice Cooper, Dimebag Darrel, Eddie Van Halen. These were the maniacs I looked up to. My dream was always to be shredding on stage at a packed arena concert. But,
if I were to name one person who I most looked up to now, it would have to be Howard Stern. Brutally honest, hard working, takes care of business.
And although it took him a long time to make it to the big time, look at him now! Big money, celebrity friends, the most successful radio DJ of all time…and he did it all on his terms.
You really pay attention to the nitty gritty details—are there any activities where you feel okay letting go?
If you want to be successful at something, you can’t let it go. If it’s that important to you, especially financially, you have to be detailed and pay attention. If you are doing an activity for the pure joy of it, for nothing more than that big smile on your face, it’s of course okay to let it go. It happened with racing. I wanted to be the best and I put in the time and hard work and was excruciatingly detailed when at the track. And then I crashed. Broke my hand, messed up the bike. On the long, painful flight home I reassessed why I raced. It wasn’t for any money, no one got a paycheck. I mean, the losers had a blast as much as the winners. It was a homecoming at every race. It was at that moment that I let go and just had fun. So what if I didn’t have the right tire pressure or got the perfect hole shot at the green flag. At least we can laugh about our mistakes at the end of the race and have a beer. And go home with non-broken bones and complete bikes. And guess what. I still did exceptionally well at the track, but had so much more
fun doing it.
You mentioned in Popular Mechanics that there is something "Zen" about detailing bikes. Is there anything else you do to align your chi?
I practice the popular chi alignment activities. I meditate. I love yoga. But I find when I run I can really zone out and ideas pop out of my head that surprise the heck out of me. If I get stuck on a problem, I stick in my headphones and just run and zonk out. When my head is not concerned with anything but having to get home, somehow the quieting of my mind allows those thoughts to flow. But the biggest balance to my life came when I met my love, Caroline Patterson. In many ways we are polar opposites, but we also complement each other so well. Having someone that believes in all of the crazy ideas I come up with and dives in head first to support me completely blows my mind. But, when the ideas stem from too much whiskey, she calls me on them. And with that brings a balance to my life that I could never have on my own.
Why bike detailing?
Before I had the balls to ride and race like I do currently, I spent a lot of time just making them pretty. Nowadays I would always choose to go out for a ride rather than clean the bike. But there is a very good reason to spend some time cleaning, and maybe, detailing your motorcycle. As I explained in the PopSci article, you can find things wrong, mechanically, when you get some of that oil and dirt off of it. For instance, I was
cleaning my spokes in between races one weekend and found a broken spoke! Not good! Other times I have found broken hoses or a stretched chain that would have gone undetected until I was 60 miles away from home in some scary part of town...at night. Sometimes taking the time to detail can come in very handy.
What is the biggest misconception people have about your life and work?
People think that I am much older than I am because of the level of responsibility I bring to my productions, how I talk to people and how I can motivate a group to get something done. Another misconception is from the neighbors in my building. Since I work late at night and spend most of the daylight hours exercising and tinkering on bikes, and spend the weekends racing, they think I actually race for a living or am a trust fund baby or don’t have to work. But when I explain to them the amount of work I do and the number of weekly commitments I have, they are pretty surprised. Never underestimate anyone!
Is anything else major on your "to-do" list?
I was asked the other day “What would you do if money wasn’t an option?” I thought about it for a long time…because I love what I do. Every day! I would most likely do the same thing I am doing now, just a little bigger.
I find that if you don’t have to work for it, it becomes less fun. If I could race every day, have the baddest motorcycle, had a tuner building everything for me, won every race, it wouldn’t be as exciting. But, just for fun, I would love to buy more performance bikes and do some heavy racing. Maybe buy a drag car. I love Pinks All Out
on SPEED Channel. Maybe I will drag a motorcycle. And last but not least, build a massive garage to hold and work on all of these machines. Someday!