Tattoos, piercings and a penchant for things loud, painful and anti-establishment helped create the FMX rider's pop-culture persona as a sort of hybrid species: pirate meets rock star. This is not entirely inaccurate. One imagines, then, that the place where these dudes congregate in their highest concentrations -- their Pirate's Cove -- is some dark, dangerous corner of the still wild west. And while it's true that Temecula, Calif., is the freestyle moto mecca of the universe, it's no Pirate's Cove.
A split-personality SoCal bedroom community booming in wine aficionados and dirt bikers, Temecula's 30-plus places of worship outnumber area Tattoo parlors, but not by much. "There are two extremes: The wine drinkers and the dirt bikers. And we're just trying to find a way to coexist," says Brian Deegan, who moved to Temecula in 2000, co-founded the Metal Mulisha and helped touch off the global FMX storm.
"Temecula really is a family-oriented community," says Australian transplant Robbie Maddison, who followed the lead of dozens of top FMX riders and moved to Temecula three and a half years ago. "It's a beautiful place: Hot air balloons cover the sky every morning, there are vineyards everywhere and you occasionally catch a glimpse of some guy upside-down on a motorbike."
Located within Southern California's Inland Empire, Temecula (population: 85,799) is about an hour-and-20-minute drive from Los Angeles -- an hour from the closest ocean beach and 45 minutes from downtown San Diego. Motocross has had a foothold in the area for decades -- the Perris Raceway track nearby is California's oldest, dating to 1956 -- but FMX represents an abrupt new chapter in Temecula history.
FMX was still in its infancy when Deegan moved down to Temecula from the Canyon Lake area, about 30 minutes north. "It's kind of the only place left to ride," Deegan explains. "I used to always come down here to ride and ended up getting a house because there are tons of places to ride."
More and more riders began showing up in the aftermath of the Mulisha's founding by Deegan and Larry Linkogle. "It all started with Deegan," says Mulisha rider Jimmy Fitzpatrick. "Then Twitch came, [Ronnie] Faisst came -- now it's where we all live, and more and more people are coming."
Deegan now presides over a 21-acre spread replete with multiple motocross tracks, freestyle parks and a pool. And his compound is just one of eight or 10 private pro home-school facilities in the zip code: Twitch [Jeremy Stenberg], Nate Adams, Fitzpatrick (proprietor of "Fitzland," which doubles as his family's vineyard), Faisst, Maddison, Todd Potter, Ronnie Renner and Wes Agee have compounds, too.
"I moved here because this was the only place you could have jumps in your backyard, and because everyone lived here, too," says Faisst, who moved in five or six years ago. "You have all the best guys in the world. I don't know why they're all here, but they are. And basically that's why we're all here."
When in Temecula -- do as the Temecula-ites do. Here's a tour of the night spots, eateries and places to ride, according to local pros:
WHERE TO RIDE:
Thursday nights at the Starwest motocross park usually bring out a number of top riders. "All our names are on the list so we get to ride for free," says Fitzpatrick. "Pretty much Tuesdays and Thursday nights we'll head out to a local track. Sometimes we go to Lake Elsinore, but usually it's Starwest under the lights."
There are a half-dozen or so tracks in the area, including a brand new facility at the Pala Casino and the Perris Raceway, as well as quasi-private spots in the hills. "But a lot of the famous riding spots in the hills, where Deegan and the crew used to build jumps, there are houses there now," says Fitzpatrick. "We do have this big loop through the hills, and we call it the Loop of Death. If you're an amateur rider, you're probably not going to make it through."
Then there are the private pro compounds, which are decidedly harder to get into. "For freestyle, I like my house the best," says Faisst. "But Deegan's is fun and Jimmy's is great in the winter when it rains."
Maddison, similarly, is partial to his place. "It's my sanctuary. I've got my RC [race car] track, my motocross track, my freestyle park, the pool -- Honestly, I try to not leave," he says, adding, "I'm getting a big gate so people can't just welcome themselves in as they sometimes do."
History-wise, Fitzpatrick's place is where Twitch threw down the 155-foot, world record distance dirt-to-dirt backflip. Temecula is also where Deegan learned the first 360, and Twitch the no-hander flip. And Faisst was on hand at Mike Metzger's place in Menifee, on the outskirts of Temecula, when Metzger debuted the first-ever backflip from ramp to dirt. Says Deegan, "I'd say most every 'first' freestyle trick was learned here. Or at Pastrana's."
FAISST: "Shoot, man, there's not really too much to do for nightlife here. But you can go down to the Yard House for a drink if you'd like. They just opened, so it's the busiest place right now. Honestly, there's not too much else that's cracking."
DEEGAN: "That's what's cool about Temecula: You can't really get in trouble here because there aren't too many places to go out. Of course there are wine tastings and vineyards; there's a lot of that, but I don't drink wine. Iron Wok is one of the places people go out to during the week, but I don't really go out anymore. I have kids and hang out at my house."
FITZPATRICK: "It's usually Pechanga, the big casino right here in Temecula; all different kinds of night clubs there. Or we'll go to the Iron Wok, where every Friday night they give us Metal Mulisha guys $100 credit to get us and other folks in. I did a jump show for them a while back, and it's been a good relationship ever since."
MADDISON: "There's really no going-out scene, but you can go to TGI Friday's, Iron Wok or Yard House. As far as us riders go, no one's here to hang out and party. Everyone who's into that, they're out on the beach partying. If I'm feeling that, I'll head out to Twitch's beach house. But here it's all about riding dirt bikes, training and relaxing."
MADDISON: "Aiyara Thai is my favorite place to eat in Temecula."
DEEGAN: "The only place I really go to eat is Spuntino. It's really good. I usually just get pizza or chicken marsala."
FITZPATRICK: "Me, Twitch, Nate Adams and Potter always go to Hana Sushi or Love Boat Sushi. We also go to Wahoo's after riding the morning, or we'll head over to South Coast Winery, which is less than five minutes from Deegan's house, and is also where Twitch got married. Occasionally we'll all get our girls together to go wine tasting and that's definitely one of the stops."
Maddison loves to play golf and there's a lot of that in Temecula, too. He's also partial to a sky-diving wind tunnel in Perris, regular mini-bike missions out to a quiet fishing hole, and go carting nearby. Faisst enjoys summer days on nearby Canyon Lake, where you can take your pick from wake boards, jet skis, swimming or picnicking.
Not bad, overall, for a place that doesn't have much going on. "There's honestly not too much to do but ride dirt bikes," Faisst swears. "I ride, I go to the gym, I run errands. But it's really nice. People are nice. Homes are nice. I have 5 acres and I like living on a nice piece of land and being able to shoot guns and ride whenever I want.
"But you gotta see this town at 10 at night -- it's a ghost town. But then in the middle of the day, it's a traffic jam everywhere."
Damn wine drinkers.