Matt Bush builds, collects, breathes, rides, lives, and loves motorcycles. He works on helicopters for a living, specializing in flight controls, hydraulics and various aircraft components. He also manages his eBay store BushMotoWorx where he parts out crashed bikes from ICBC and local auctions. Matt wrenches and builds motorcycles at home. He enjoys all disciplines of riding and love learning new forms of riding. If that wasn’t enough he likes to boulder (rock climbing), cook, play guitar, and pull long wheelies on public beaches disrupting families on their picnics. Because wheelies. [He doesn’t actually do this, so don’t get your panties in a bunch!]
Sponsors: Squamish Motorcycle Shop, International Motorsports, 37wraps.ca, Chop Shop Auto & Cycle Salvage, Liquid Moly Oil & Additives.
How long have you been riding and how did you learn?
I have been riding things with two wheels and an engine since I was about 7 years old. One of my dads biggest passions is pretty much anything to do with motorcycles and it was ingrained into me from a young age. My dad is also the President of the British Owners Motorcycle Club, a local club that has been around for over 30 years. I started riding dirt bikes at age 7, raced for a short time and then ATV’ing with my dad took over. At 10 years old I was riding ATVs in the Oregon sand dunes (Florence) and racing Hill Climbs. At 13 years old I was riding a Yamaha Banshee Two Stroke which was an insane ATV to put a kid on! There was a big family group of us going down several times a year. It all changed when my friend was killed on the Dunes. He went off a razorback dune, hit the brakes, flipped over the front and the ATV landed on him. It stopped ATV’ing for us and things were quiet for awhile and I turned more of my attention to Downhill Mountain Biking and competed in a few events in Whistler over the next few years. When I turned 16, I had my first street bike. A Ducati 620 Monster. I rode the streets for two years and ended up going to the Bike Nights at 5th Gear. This is where I saw stunting for the first time. A long time friend named Bill Hitchon really encouraged me to get into stunting. He had watched me get my first dirt bike and helped me out when I was racing. After a few bike nights, I came to terms with getting rid of my ATV which sat for a few years. I traded the ATV straight across to Bill for a fully set up stunt bike which was a 2003 Honda CBR600RR. My dad saw stunt riding as a disciplined sport and as long as I kept the hooligan stuff to the parking lots he was okay with it.
One of my first wheelies on the CBR, I went too far back and looped it. The throttle ended up stuck open and I spun all four bearings on the crank. Blew the motor! So I had a bike with a wrecked engine. Bill found me a new motor and I fixed it and installed it into the CBR all on my own. When the moment came to start it up, it did! That engine served me well for four years, stunt riding is hard on engines so that’s amazing. I ended selling it and ended up with a Ninja 636. The Ninja 636 and Honda F4i are the kingpins of stunt riding. The geometry is there, they are easy to work on, and there are lots of parts available.
How do you learn stunt riding when there is no school or safe a place to go?
Bill at 5th gear knew everyone in the local stunt scene. So I got together with them and we would ride to parking lot to parking lot. We would be respectful of the space we were using. Always cleaning up and making sure we left nothing behind. Sometimes we do leave marks, but it is nothing worse than what big trucks can do to parking lots. Eventually security would show up or the police and we would have to move on. The police has never formally kicked us out. They would ask us to move on “to the other lot”. They knew that if they kicked us out on the street, we would be a problem. We were always very approachable, so we worked with police as best we could. It was hard to find good parking lots and it still is. We have to be very respectful of the space we use. It just takes one big complaint and then we can’t be there anymore. You definitely need the safe space to learn. One time we rented an entire airstrip to practice.
“Stunt riding is something different for everyone, but for myself, it’s about community and watching each other succeed and progress.”
You rented an entire airstrip?
Yes we did. There was 100 of us and we all camped on the airstrip in Dalesport, Washington. For a lot of us, we’d seen each other on Instagram or Facebook, liked each others pictures and stuff. But as soon as we all show up, it was a true sense of family from everyone. . I had some friends from Fort Mac that drove down with a rig as well and I stayed in their RV, we had a little Camp Canada going and had one hell of a great time.
We had people down there who were professional, full time, stunt riders who made their living off it as well as just the people who love it so much that they will drive for 20 hours to ride in a parking lot with a few people. All you ever got from everybody was just big smiles and love. Nobody really even knew each other. That for me is what the sport is — Having that community and watching each other succeed and feed off each other to push your own riding skill. As soon as you start to get selfish about the stuff, all the fun is sucked out and you have no one to ride with. Stunt riding is something different for everyone, but for myself, it’s about community and watching each other succeed and progress.
Stunt riding is an ego driven sport, is that why people get into it?
It can be but the media really portrays it negatively. All the stunters I’ve met and ridden with are supportive. We do call each other out and it can be a little rough but it is how we push each other. It is most definitely an ego driven sport, but end of the day it’s just about having fun riding bikes. No drama.
Are stunt riders approachable?
Most are. I do answer a lot of the same questions when it comes to new riders, or new people that want to get into it, But I understand it’s just because they don’t know. So, yes, it kind of gets repetitive and redundant, but in all reality everybody has a different approach. It’s like what I do for a living, I work on helicopters and I train people for a living. My company will send me around to our various shops around the world, and i’m given the responsibility to teach people. So I have to answer the same question 100,000 times, But I tell the people I’m training , “I don’t care if you ask me 100,000 times, as long as you understand it.” I won’t roll my eyes at them or try to make them feel that they can’t approach me. That’s a big thing with my work that correlates directly with stunt riding. When you get somebody that doesn’t feel that they can approach you, they’re not gonna ask you, they hurt themselves, they could hurt somebody else as well. Whenever I go do shows, I’ll ask “If you have any interest in getting into the sport, please come see me at my tent, we can talk about what it takes and what you gotta do, etc”. I want to see people that actually want it. How bad do you want it? The people that want it really bad, they’ll do it. They give me a run for my money. I love it, and it keeps pushing me. I’m like, “Shit, I better go do that trick I’ve been working on for a month”.
Everybody’s different independently. You get some stunt riders that are really shy, they would come off as cocky, but they’re not. You just don’t know them. There’s a lot of people that want to get into stunt riding who don’t even know what WD40 is. Huge aspect of stunt riding is working on your own shit.
Do you have to work on your own motorcycle in order to stunt?
Big time. Well, unless they want to bring it to me. But I’m not doing that for free. Obviously, I’ll help guide you too. There is a big aspect of being mechanically minded but it’s really just about making it work. When it comes to riding in a parking lot, It doesn’t ALWAYS have to be done right, it just needs to hold up enough so you can do a couple more wheelies and then have it break again, and then you can try something else. Trial and error, it’s how we innovate and progress our sport.
“the biggest safety aspect, is knowing that the back brake is the key to not flipping backwards.”
A common question I get when training new riders is doing wheelies. What’s the best advice?
The best advice I can say is know where your foot brake is. That’s a big one. Everything that we do with stunt riding is baby steps. You won’t see me going out there and hooking a high chair wheelie the first day out in four months. You gotta build up to it. So what I’ll tell people is try to learn where your RPM range is, for one, but knowing where it starts to kind of pull a little bit. Instead of having people just dump a gear, then slip the clutch and hammer on it and loop the whole thing. I’ll just get people to, “When you start to feel your bike take off a little bit, slip the clutch at the same time as you dump the gas. But remember, every time that you let that clutch out and hammer the gas, you have to stamp on that foot brake. So now you’re training your reactions to do all three of these things at the same time, and they’ll slowly release that foot brake as you go. The front end is gonna come up just a little bit every time. So the first time it might come up an inch, it might feel like a foot. But its still that off chance that when you grab a little bit too much gas, there’s one time and your front wheel comes up now twice as high as you’ve ever had it before, you completely forget you have a foot brake, if you don’t train yourself to use that foot brake initially.
So that’s the biggest safety aspect, is knowing that the back brake is the key to not flipping backwards. You get a lot of people, they’ll go out there, they’ll just try to redline it and dump the clutch and it’s like, “holy shitballs, what are you doing?”. But just everything is baby steps. Every bike is different, every bike has a different RPM range. Some you need to drag the clutch more, some you need to dump the clutch more, but for the most part, it’s telling people that it’s baby steps. “Don’t expect to get it first day, and just know where your foot brake is”. So starting off in baby steps. Yeah, you can’t just expect someone to go out and want to start hammering on the throttle. There’s a lot of bikes that you can go out and you can, if you just want to go do wheelies, just hammer on the gas. You just lean back a little bit, you hammer on it. There’s a huge aspect. For one, it’s very hard on your engine. For two, there’s a lot less control because you’re not slipping the clutch. When you slip the clutch you’re able to actually gauge how fast the front end comes up. When you’re just hammering on the throttle, you don’t know, in relation to how hard you hit that gas. Now if you do that again and it comes up a little bit higher than you’re ever used to, now your center of gravity’s up and you completely go, “Oh oh”. And you forget you have a foot brake.
How much does it cost to get into stunting? What does someone need?
Well having a bike that’s set up is key. First thing I always tell people is try to find a bike that is already set up. Buy it from someone who has already spent the money on stunt-specific parts on the bike. You can look on Craigslist right now and there’s a couple of stunt bikes that are for sale. It’s not just slapping a cage on a bike and making it a stunt bike. We change the gearing, we add another brake for the handbrake, whether you’re using a junction valve or a dual caliper setup. We bypass the tip over sensor, stuff like that. We run the fan on a switch, so we run the fan on all the time ’cause its low speed and the bikes overheat pretty easy. I also run half a liter of oil extra. But these are things that you don’t really know until you get into it.
A truck to move your stunt bike around is important too. So when you have a bike that you ride to the stunt lot, you will never commit as hard as if you had it in the back of a truck. When you know you can get your bike home at the end of a day with a truck, you’re gonna commit harder and you’re gonna learn faster. So that’s a big thing. There’s a mental block that’s there too, right, ’cause you’re not wanting to commit. “Oh no, what if I break my bike?”. Go break your bike because its gonna happen.
A very important thing to consider is what you do for a living. How hard you can commit. If you are risking breaking everything all the time, and you have kids, you have responsibilities, you have all the other stuff, it’s harder to really put your heart into something. It’s not easy.
“I’ve been run over by my bike. I’ve flipped an endo and that always sucks. It’s not landing on your face that hurts, it’s the 500 pound bike hitting you that hurts”
So you’ve had a few injuries stunting? How do you manage and avoid hurting yourself?
I’ve been run over by my bike. I’ve flipped an endo and that always sucks. It’s not landing on your face that hurts, it’s the 500 pound bike hitting you that hurts. You need to get away from your bike when things go wrong. A typical wheelie in a straight line, the bikes gonna keep going in a straight line, you’re gonna land on your tailbone. You’re gonna hurt your tail bone. You could also crush your hand. I’ve broken metacarpals in my hand from crushing my hand sideways, sitting on my hand. The worst injury I’ve had stunt riding in the last three years was my ankle. This was just over the summer. I was doing an 180 degree endo and I didn’t quite make the full 180 and I put my foot out and I rolled my ankle like never before. It was my full body weight plus the weight of the bike onto my ankle. I felt it shock all the way up to halfway up my ribs. It was a solid six weeks before I could bear any weight on it. It put me out. Stunters don’t always have proper boots because we need the dexterity to use our foot brake at a very finite angle. I wear Alpinestar boots, they’re high tops. They’re enough that I’m not gonna typically roll my ankle that bad. Now I actually wear two ankle braces when I’m riding. Preventative measures is what we can hope for but accidents happen.
Trying to deal with the injuries is hard, especially as you get older and you have more responsibilities, you have more commitments to things. A rider I was teaching just sold his bike for two grand, he was a construction worker. He jumped off of the back of a tail gate when he was at work and he twisted his knee and completely screwed his knee up. He was out for seven months. That’s when he said to me, “I definitely can’t commit to doing this. I’m 38 years old”. You’re only as young as you feel, right? My friend, Super Dave, he’s 47 years old. He killed it. He sold his 636 last year, but he still goes out and plays. And in shows … he would just pull out a trick that no ones seen for five years. He’s never practiced it a lot or anything. Here’s Dave. 240 pounds and he’s doing a highchair wheelie. What’s your excuse? How bad do you want it…
Being in a parking lot and riding with the same guys, it does help to keep the safety level higher. Learning about etiquette at the lot too. Do not do a wheelie behind somebody. That’s a big one. Because that person out front, they can’t see you, they don’t know where you’re gonna go, they don’t know if you’re gonna go left, you’re gonna go right, you’re gonna hit directly behind them. Not good.
Do you ever stunt alone?
The first and only time I ever did, I was waiting for my buddies to show up, I just wanted a little bit of a warm-up. I was high chair drifting, so sitting on my gas tank with my legs over the handle bars. Then I kind of coiled up enough that I lost enough speed and I’m sideways, it high sided me. But it high sided me enough that it didn’t catapult me away from the bike, it was just enough to make me levitate above the bike as the bike went slightly forward. When it went down, I ended up getting my leg stuck through the bike between the top of the rear tire and the under tail. Then the bike fell over on its side, and I’m literally stuck in my bike this way. I’m by myself, and I’m panicking. I start screaming “Somebody help me, somebody help me”. There’s a guy in the security booth, he said “I’ll call 911, I can get them here now”. I realized I was panicking so my leg was really tense. As soon as I took a deep breath, and let it out, I was able to wriggle my leg free, and I got my leg out of the bike. Hands down, the scariest experience I’ve had on a motorcycle. I didn’t know if I’d snapped my femur, I didn’t know if I was in extreme adrenaline mode, I had no idea what had just happened. I could not wiggle my leg a centimeter, because I was panicking, so my leg was stiff, and that’s why. That was a huge one for me. That gave me perspective and made me realize, “you know what, you don’t do this by yourself.” It was a big eye-opener with even just tricks. I was sloppy with it. I wasn’t fully committing to doing it, ’cause I was just warming up. If you’re just warming up, you’re not necessarily 100 per cent mentally there, committed into it, so you can get sloppy about it without realizing. But I’ve definitely had a few good accidents, and those were hard. Stunting alone is not what you want to do. Have somebody there that’s able to watch you, even critique you, take pictures of you as you’re doing stuff. So you can look at the photos and go, “Okay, I need to put my foot here this time, I need to put my foot here, I need to go a little bit higher on this to get the shot that you want”.
What’s been the best purchase that is hundred dollars or less?
A handbrake is nice to learn on. Your hands have faster reactions than your feet, always. I ride one finger on my clutch, one finger on my brake all the time. So you can have two. You can modify your foot brake master, so now your brake line actually is positioned near your handbrake lever. So now you’re running one brake caliper but you have two brake levers on that system. So that’s an easy solution for doing something like that. I have found that having a handbrake on the streets has helped me with reactions, sometimes because that’s the way I’ve trained it. A rear brake shouldn’t be that much. Buying the handbrake master itself that works on your handlebars. Do it.
Having race rails are another one that people do for cages. So you can get the full crash cage or you can just get the race rails, so it’s a step up from sliders. But you still get all of the ground clearance for when you’re leaning in corners. Those cages will run you anywhere between 150 to 300 dollars. So that’s a big plus there.
Sprockets and gearing. Upping your sprockets, changing your gearing. I’ve always done that for street riding, as much as I like ’em, I will go up three in the back, down one in the front. That’s usually for an inline 4, that’s usually nice, like, “Woo-hoo, a new bike!”. It feels different, it livens it up a little bit. More power down low, where you need it for zipping in and out of traffic.
A lot of what I just talked about is more than $100 because there’s not much you can get that’s stunt related for around $100. It all just k-ching, k-ching, k-ching, unless you buy a bike that’s already set up. It adds up!
What are the common mistakes that stunters do?
Not trying to get a feel for the bike at first. Not understanding the aspect of baby steps with everything that we do. Sometimes you get people that are just purely ego-driven. They just want to go out there and max risk it. They want to come out and go, “I don’t care, I’m just gonna go out and blah, blah, blah”. It’s just like a big sense of over-compensation. And they come out … they’re not even considering what they have to do, they just want to go out and loop their bike, and like, “Yeah, that’s what we do, right? That’s what we’re supposed to do”. And I’m like, “No, you’re supposed to clutch it up to balance point, hit the brake and bring it down again”. So it’s a common mistake, at least at the start.
Then not taking direction is a big one. You get some people that just won’t even listen to you, no matter how much you know. You still get people that come out and they’ll pretend to listen to you for two minutes, then they will not ever go do what you say. Some people just have that mental block or that ego that’s blinding them from even taking that constructive criticism. All they see is criticism, they don’t see it as an opportunity to learn something. I’ve definitely seen some of those aspects, and that’s hard to deal with for sure.
Who’s helped you out along the way? Who are the professional stunters that you look up to?
If it wasn’t for Bill Hitchon, I would not be into stunt riding, or it would have probably been harder for me to get into it. I’m proud to say I’m still good friends with him and we still do shows together. I know I can call him up, and I trust to do shows with him, so there’s a big aspect with being able to trust each other when you’re doing shows. Being able to know that they can save that in half an instant when you go to do a show and there’s no fences or any barriers around. You’ve got to be able to trust the riders that you’re with to not bring a lawsuit upon you. Some of the stunt riders that have been in the game longer that I’ve been alive.
Jason Pullen, he’s known for being a Harley stunt rider, but he stunts everything. But no one can touch his skill level when it comes to that, and he’s in his late 40s. He’s still out there doing high chair wheelies on his FXR. Scraping tail. #thehogfather
Nick Apex and Ernie Vigil. When Nick came by here, he was at the Tradex, I did a few shows with him because Ernie broke his foot, that was three years ago. He’s helped me a lot over the years with dealing with people on a professional level.
One of the biggest influences over the past few years is Rob Carpenter. He stunts Harleys and he’s been helping me with my Harley build big time. He has spent a lot of time helping with the setups, supplying me with wicked parts and is always supporting every rider he can.
If you had 25 thousand dollars to spend on motorcycling, stunt riding, where would you spend it right now?
I would buy a trailer and pack up my 2009 Harley Davidson Sportster 1200, my Ninja 636, and I would go and travel the States. See my family, as in my stunt family, around the world. Maybe go see some of them in Europe too. Like Sarah Lezito is by far the best female stunt rider in the world. She will put 90 per cent of the guys I know in their place. You know what she’s stunting right now? An S1000RR. That’s just because BMW said, “Hey, here’s a nice bike? Want to do it?”. And she’s like, “Oh, looks awful for stunting, but I can do it”. And that’s what she’s doing. All she does is ride. She’s a phenomenal rider.
If you were to talk to yourself, knowing what you know now, if you were to talk to yourself just probably about the stunting, what would you tell yourself?
Don’t worry about the haters, don’t let the haters get to you. I’ve found that sometimes the people that I’ve looked up to really don’t give a crap about me. It kind of took away from my happiness and my drive. “Oh, I thought this guy genuinely was wanting to support me and what I do”. But I wouldn’t have worried about the haters as much, or about trying to get all these shows, or getting in on these shows with all my other friends. It’s like all six of them are in the shows, and they will not let me go, because one guy had a beef with me that I didn’t even know about. So I’d say I wouldn’t get as wrapped up in that stuff, and just stay focused more on the riding aspect.
I also would have bought that 636 long before a 600RR. The Honda was awesome but that bike specifically is one of the worst stunt bikes. They’re shitty to work on, and they were almost before their time shitty to work on. That’s now how all the modern bikes are. There’s no regrets but I can’t help but imagine where my skill level would be if I had started on an F4i or a 636. These bikes almost make a lot of the tricks easier but you still have to put in a lot of work.
What are you excited about for 2017?
My biggest thing is trying to get enough funds going to fund my trips. I want to go to Dirt Quake this year on my Harley. Try my hand at flat track and camp out. Another big trip is our Sucker Free Lot Sesh, that’s what we call it, that’s the one on the airstrip where we camp as well.. I also love doing at least one solo trip a year. That for me brings back what riding really is. Just being with you and your bike. Like last year, I rode the Island for six days by myself. It’s like, pack my bags, I’m gone. I’m pretty well staying off social media, I’m going and doing my own thing. I can go and stop anywhere I want, I can go and do anything I want, I don’t have to worry about anybody or anything.
So for 2017, I want to make more of a commitment with shows with connections with the Harley dealerships specifically. I have some good connections in the lower mainland, but like I was saying, for me its about multiple streams of income. I do have a handful of … say three charity shows this year that I do every year, which is more about the kids than anything. I really love doing shows and signing posters for kids, and seeing all that because that was me. I was a guy clinging to the fence, watching the shows at the Tradex when I was 5 years old. I was like, “That was bad ass”.
In 2017 there’s definitely gonna be new aspects of riding, learning a new skill is what my goal is. I want to master this new Harley, while still maintaining what I have on that 636. Even as much as you want to make this bike do everything, it can’t do everything that the 636 can do. It doesn’t matter what you try to do to it. At the end of this year I want to look back and have realized I made a great decision by gambling my life savings on a Harley to pretty much beat the shit out of.