If you ride motorcycles, there’s no doubt in my mind that you will have some appreciation for what the members of Westcoast Freestyle do in their spare time. This team of professional sportbike freestyle riders spend hours perfecting their tricks—which include wheelies, stoppies and burnouts—and, contrary to public belief, they do it in the safety of closed lots, not on the streets.
The Westcoast Freestyle team is based in Vancouver, B.C., and according to the team’s manager, Matt Bush, they have a good relationship with the local police there. Bush said some of the officers even bring their kids out when they’re off-duty to watch the team practise.
Sportbike freestyle is growing in Canada and the U.S. and the team is trying to change the negative stigma attached to it by showing onlookers that they are professional riders who take safety very seriously.
“We want people to recognize it as an art form and that we are just the same as everybody, working nine to five,” said Bush. “We just love motorcycles a lot and want to apply our skills in those areas.”
Bush, 22, is an aircraft component technician from White Rock. He grew up riding bikes and ATVs. At age nine, he raced motocross and later competed at ATV hillclimb events and downhill mountain bike races. It was three years ago when Bush decided to trade his ATV in for a stunt bike. A year later, he met up with Westcoast Freestyle team manager Adam Chodkowski and after doing a few shows with the team, he became a permanent member.
Right now, the team roster includes Bush, Chodkowski, who is from Vancouver, and Mike Bolognese from Maple Ridge. Bush rides a 2006 Honda CBR 600RR, equipped with all the necessary stunting gear—such as a 12-bar, hand brake and a scrape bar. According to Bush, turning a bike into a stunt machine is not something that can be done overnight and parts can be expensive. For him, though, the rewards far outweigh the cost.
“I love the aspect of stunt riding that it’s a form of meditation,” said Bush.
He also enjoys interacting with the kids at shows.
“I remember being that seven-year-old kid standing at the fence, watching the stunt riders and saying, ‘I want to do that,’ ” said Bush. “I remember all of the riders and how they were so welcoming and they let me sit on their bikes and would sign posters and all that so that is how I always want to be to kids when they come and watch me do a show.”
The stunt Bush is best known for is drifting but he’s anything but a one-trick pony. When he and the other members of the Westcoast Freestyle team are together, the result is, in Bush’s own words, “a balance between control and utter chaos.”
For more information on the team and upcoming shows, see the Westcoast Freestyle website.