West Coast Choppers El Diablo Swingarm


There’s one really good thing about Mexico: its grittiness weeds out the weak. With all the news about corruption, drug wars, and mayhem, most people are scared shitless to venture south of the border these days. Much of the news is true—Mexico can be a dangerous place; but so can Detroit, Los Angeles, and Baltimore.

It’s all about self-awareness, self-reliance, and strength in numbers. Greasy guys on old motorcycles are hard targets for banditos. A big pack of greasy dudes hauling ass in broad daylight is even tougher to pin down.

Even though a little danger is part of the deal, so far, no one on the El Diablo Run has been kidnapped or died in a firefight. Mainstream media always makes a big stink about the dangers of Mexico, and that’s just the way we like it.

When we dreamed up the El Diablo Run (EDR) in 2005, our idea was to do a motorcycle ride that had more in common with a surf trip than the parking lot swap meets modern runs have become. For some people the EDR is a test of fresh-built bikes. For others it is a big party.

For everyone brave enough to venture south, it’s like a dysfunctional family reunion with 200 cousins nobody knew they had.

Via Con Diablo

The official jump-off point for the EDR is Temecula, California, but plenty of crews from Phoenix, Vegas, San Diego, and NorCal start in their own backyards and head south. The first day’s ride is a study in contrasts: there’s big elevation gains, pine forests at 4,000 feet, and full-on desert landscapes below sea level. Once into Mexico, the mayhem of border town traffic can seem daunting, but it ends quickly and the highway south is well marked and covered with fairly fresh tarmac.

The Sea of Cortez and San Felipe greet Diablo Runners 150 miles later. Two beachfront campgrounds played host to this year’s EDR. Kiki’s and Ruben’s have hotel rooms for the softies, but 90 percent of Diablo Runners simply threw their bedrolls in one of the 40 or so elevated palapa huts and slept under the stars.

Accommodations for riders were courtesy of Biltwell this year, and if you were on a motorcycle you could sleep for free. Free tacos and booze courtesy of 47 Industries, 831Enterprises, and Peligroso Tequila flowed for hours. And when the free stuff dried up, guys headed into town for comida y chicas with their amigos.

Maintenance is on everyone’s mind when they wake up Friday morning in San Felipe.

The Circle of Death

Maintenance is on everyone’s mind when they wake up Friday morning in San Felipe. Bike maintenance if the Mexican roads took their toll on your scoot—buzz maintenance if your machine runs trouble-free. One of the few “official” events on the EDR is the Circulo de la Muerte, and this year’s 1/8-mile dirt track throw-down in an abandoned construction site behind Ruben’s did not disappoint.

Several guys beat themselves up during outlaw practice and failed to get to the line at the 4 o’clock start time. At 4:05 McGoo dropped his T-shirt, and three kooks and I augured around the D-shaped dirt track dodging rebar, cinder blocks, and each other in a no-holds-barred, winner-take-all four-lap death race. The race this year ran clockwise to save open primaries, but it didn’t matter because the starters comprised a Softail, a Dyna, an FXR, and a Triumph Scrambler.

Belts may not have been an issue, but turning right sure was! After taking an early lead, an old desert racer named Bill low-sided his Scrambler in turn four on lap one and this opened the door for Jake and yours truly to dice for the lead. I followed Jake tight for three laps and even showed him a wheel on the inside of turn four on the white flag lap, but Jake edged me by inches at the old piece of carpet that constituted the finish line.

After a corny trophy presentation everyone left the dirt field and got their party on, with the smartest guys bedding down for Saturday’s ride across the Baja peninsula.

West Coast Choppers El Diablo Swingarm

Off to Ensenada

Day three equals hangover, headaches, and a tough 150-mile ride from San Felipe to Ensenada. Once again, 150 miles may sound like nothing, but aboard old bikes on rough roads, every rider feels like they dodged a bullet by the time they pulled into the hotel Villa Marina in Ensenada. Our local friend Juan Carlos threw a fiesta with plenty of cerveza and carne asada.

For the next two days riders indulged in local food, drink, and women or worked on beat-down bikes. Ensenada is different from San Felipe—less laidback and more citified—so the vibe is interesting. The hotel parking lot in Ensenada was ground zero for Diablo Runners, and we counted 200 motorcycles on Saturday evening.

On Sunday morning several groups of LA- and San Diego-based Diablo Runners could smell the border, so 50 or so pulled out before the EDR bike show. After a very informal judging process, McGoo announced the three winners of EDR bike show prizes: Ryan from Big Bear, California, won the La Cucaracha award for his constant struggle with a beautiful but beat-down knucklehead.

Canadian Brian won Best In Show with his gorgeous green swingarm shovel, and a young lovely named Cassandra won the Iron Butt award for riding solo from San Francisco on a Sporty she inherited from her grandfather. After another evening of last-minute wrenching, over-drinking, and fine dining, the remaining crew chilled out in preparation for Monday’s assault on the US border.

How Do You Say “Chaos” in Spanish?

Baja Highway One running north to Tijuana offers some of the most breathtaking vistas of the Pacific Ocean any bikerider could dream of. However, after daydreaming on two-lane twisties for 75 miles, shit gets real when you hit Tijuana. Splitting lanes in TJ might shave two hours off your ride, but it can subtract five years from your life.

Vendors, handicapped beggars, jugglers, and street merchants crowd between thousands of cars at the US entry checkpoint, and the whole scene makes for some hair-raising thrills on two wheels. Some Diablo Runners tell us the 15-minute dance of doom at the TJ border is the most fun they’ve ever had on their motorcycle. All we know is we’re almost home.

We’ve said it every year since day one: the EDR isn’t for everybody. But for those who dig good times on two wheels, there really is nothing else like it. The camaraderie of a little shared hardship, the gritty exotic nature of Mexico, and the fact that there wasn’t a bit of vending or other traditional biker bullshit makes the El Diablo Run way more about the ride and the friends one meets along the way, and that fact alone makes it well worth the angst and heartache.** HB**

West Coast Choppers El Diablo Swingarm
West Coast Choppers El Diablo Swingarm

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