From Hollywood sets to Times Square, motorcycle stunt rider Jason Britton has built a reputation as one of the leading freestyle riders in the world. He started out in stunt riding before it became cool, but he very nearly became a professional soccer player instead. We gave the Motul-backed athlete a call in his own town of Los Angeles.
How’s coronavirus affecting your riding right now, Jason?
I’ve still been riding my motorcycle. Thankfully I have the space to practice safely and stay sharp for shows. I’ll practice once a week, usually for about six to eight hours. I haven’t ridden leisurely except for one day with my son when we rode up the coast.
What kind of stunt riding do you do?
Sportbike freestyle. It’s basically doing your best to keep the bike on one wheel, whether that’s the front wheel or the back wheel. Or riding the bike backwards, or upside down. Drifting, slides, burnouts. Acrobatic type stuff. In a very controlled and contained manner. I’ve always had a passion for riding motorcycles in a way they aren’t designed to be ridden.
Where can people see you stunt ride?
I do about 30 to 40 event weekends a year. Three to four shows per day. These can be anything from standalone shows, like a dealer open event for a few hundred people right up to thousands at events like AMA Supercross, where we provide entertainment in the pits. I’ve also done events that were career highlights, like a bike launch for the Kawasaki Ninja 636 in Times Square in New York. That was a huge tick off the bucket list for me. It’s crazy to think where motorcycles have taken me.
It must be exhausting getting heavy bikes to do stunts?
That’s what the eight hours of training is about. Getting used to managing a 400lb motorcycle, keeping it in a contained small area and riding it precisely. It takes quite a bit of fitness but even more focus to keep the bike off the barricades and protect public safety, the number one priority. The bikes do go through a lot. Thankfully, I run Motul 300V in all my bikes and have never had any engine failures. The bikes are very well protected and get frequent maintenance. Just like I need rest and recovery time, the bikes need the same kind of thing to keep them sharp and ready to go.
When did you get into bikes?
I’ve ridden motorcycles since I was a very small child. But I grew up playing soccer. I was a striker and leading scorer on every team I played on and after school got a full scholarship to Arizona State University. All my friends in Arizona at that time rode motorcycles and they were all going to the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute in Phoenix. Without my parents knowing, I enrolled in the MMI instead of going back to ASU. I dropped out of a free ride at college to mess around with bikes. My soccer coach told me you’re going to go on to be one of the top players in the world. Regardless, I wanted to ride motorcycles and be a mechanic. I graduated in 18 months and went to my first job making $8 an hour. My parents weren’t super proud. But I don’t have to work a day in my life because it’s not work, it’s something I love. Even as a mechanic working for dealers, it didn’t feel like a job. It was something different every day. You develop attachments with different motorcycles and feel a heartbeat when they come in.
How did you discover you could perform stunts – and were you tempted to get into racing?
Stunt riding is very dangerous in the wrong hands. I always say it’s like a pistol in the hands of a monkey. I’ve been riding since I was two years old on a Honda Trail 50 and, at seven or eight, was doing wheelies on motorcycles and sliding around. Later, I started getting into road racing and I thought I was going to make some kind of career in the AMA. But it was costing too much. At that time, stunt riding was making me money and that was going into road racing. So, I decided to stick with the stunts. Back then, it was an outlaw thing. We started making videos in 1996. Doing wheelies and stoppies everywhere. We called the video Urban Assault and it sold 500k copies.
You must have some amazing memories from over the years?
I’ve done movie stunts doubling for major actors in feature films like Triple X, The Taking of Phelan 123, Biker Boyz and Torque as well as lots of commercials. I also rode Nicki Minaj onto the stage at the BT Awards. That was pretty special. I cherish all the memories because everything is unique and cool.