Up On One: The Rise of Stunt Culture in Ontario
You can find them in undisclosed truck yards and back parking lots of Toronto and the GTA’s industrial areas, but they would prefer you didn’t come looking. On the straightaways of nondescript lots, Toronto’s motorcycle stunt scene has been growing for years, but as most riders tend to stay off of public roads, most Torontonians never even know that they’re in the presence of this motorized circus act lest they drive through the right industrial areas and hear the screaming of a motorcycle bouncing off of the rev-limiter. Over the summer I spent some time with a handful of veteran stunters who have been doing this since its inception in Ontario, hoping to shed some light on the passion and dedication that goes into dancing with bikes.
Cesare Costantini has been stunting for over a decade. Starting in 2004, only him and a couple of other locals were just getting into it after seeing hardcore stunt riding gain popularity in motorcycle magazines of the late 90’s. Wheelies and stoppies were no longer just something to do while riding. For some, that became the entire purpose of riding. Fast forward to today, where Cesare and stunting partner Mike Farrace have started their own brand, Stunters Inc., and you can find them performing at motorcycle shows year-round. The two of them are incredibly skilled, and manage to make it look easy as they ride like being on two wheels is going out of style.
In the past 3 to 4 years local stunt crews have been growing from the ground up. Self Made Stunt Brigade and 416Stunts are some more recent additions to the stunting world. Some are in it for the fame, others for the thrill, but one thing unites them all: improvement is the name of the game. During the summer months the most dedicated riders can be found at the lots almost every day, practicing new stunts or refining the execution of the ones they’ve got down. According to Cesare, these past few years have been the fastest growth the scene here in Canada has ever witnessed.
Of course, a passion as demanding as this is not for the faint of heart. With the thrills come an equal amount of spills, and when you’re moving at these kinds of speeds, the spills can take a toll on you. Most stunters boast an impressive array of scars and injuries throughout the year. The bikes take a beating as well, which adds a financial demand as well. Being held at the rev-limiter and occasionally dropped will take a toll on any machine. Most stunters’ bikes bare scars similar to those of their riders.
The bikes aren’t exactly your run-of-the-mill street bikes, either. Each one receives personal touches from their riders, as well as some stunters’ tools of the trade. A secondary hand-brake for the rear brake allows riders to control the balance point when they’re up on one. Crash cages, tail-scrape bars and frame sliders protect most of the fundamental mechanisms on the bike, and some go the extra step with custom metal body work. The gas tanks of street bikes are also dented in to allow for some unorthodox seating. In recent years, stunting culture has bled into the pit-bike scene and supermoto crowds alike, and you can usually find one or two of each at a stunting session. But again, we encourage you not to go actively looking.
The stunters conduct practice in what some might call a legal grey area. While most police officers are just happy to see that it’s off of the streets, the stunt crews are occasionally asked to pack up and leave a spot, which can take away valuable stunting time. Unwanted attention from illegal street riders showing up at the lots, and the reputation among law enforcement that those bad apples garner for riders remain some of the hobby’s growing pains. Luckily for these guys they have an impressive amount of secluded locations to practice.
For the time being, you can catch the boys from Stunters Inc performing at shows like Toronto’s annual “Biker Blocko”, also known as “Biker Boyz”, or by checking them out on social media. As this petrol-infused passion continues to expand through various sects of bike culture, it’s all but certain that we’ll be seeing more riders stunting as years pass and more riders hone their balancing acts. We’ll be watching as this high-revving counterculture lifts up onto one wheel.