story: Jon Lewis photo: JohnReiser
HIRISEFMX TAKES IT TO A NEW LEVEL
As a freestyle motocross rider, John Reiser has had his share of thrills and chills.
And then came the spills. And the fractures, the surgeries, the ankle that had to be rebuilt twice and the titanium-reinforced tibia and fibula in his right leg. So what’s a semi-retired, former high-flier to do at the ripe old age of 24? For Reiser, the answer proved to be promoting.
Specifically, Reiser wanted to stay in the game and use his hard-knocks, trial-and-error experiences to stage freestyle motocross events that put the interests of the performers first.
“There are a lot of promoters looking to make a lot of money,” Reiser says, but those dollar signs would often take precedence over issues of safety. Riders who expressed concerns or asked too many questions would often find themselves on the outside looking in.
“I decided to be the one to speak up and bear the brunt of it,” Reiser says. “I’m trying to make it a little safer and professional. I’m trying to keep my riders safe and not where they have to ride under pressure like when I did it.”
Of course, safety is a relative term in the world of freestyle motocross, where gravity-defying riders think nothing of executing a no-handed back flip on a motorcycle 35 feet in the air while flying between ramps positioned 75 feet apart.
Nonetheless, Reiser persevered and soon launched HiRiseFMX, a company that matches up a close-knit cadre of riders with freestyle demonstrations, exhibitions and contests. His media-savvy high school buddies, Brad and Jeff Jones, set up a website and loaded it with music, videos and pictures. “They’re very good at getting the name out there,” Reiser says.
So good, in fact, that Reiser got a call from Gamal Heche, a prominent Latin American promoter, who was interested in collaborating on an exhibition in Santa Domingo in the Dominican Republic. Reiser did a little research, found that everything seemed to check out, and signed on.
Staging a show in California can be a tall order, but putting on an exhibition in another country (with a different language to boot) kicks up the organizing effort to a whole new level. What followed were months of planning, phone calls, emails and lots of head scratching.
In the end, Reiser brought a crew of 14 to the Dominican Republic, including nine riders. Motorcycles were drained of fuel and oil and sent by FedEx air freight while the ramps steamed across the ocean on a freighter.
Inside the Estadio D’Olympico, tarps were laid over the grass, protective flooring was installed and then mountains of soil were trucked in and fashioned into jumps and landing areas.
Reiser says he became a little nervous on the day of the show when, 90 minutes before the scheduled start, he looked around and saw nothing but empty seats. Then, “all of a sudden, there were 38,000 people there and they were ready to see some freestyle motocross.”
The riders, including Nick Dunne of Redding, did not disappoint the Dominicans and Reiser says Hache is already planning a second exhibition in Santa Domingo and expanding into South America.
Reiser also is in talks with a former professional rugby player who wants to promote a six-city tour through his native South Africa, and events in Acapulco and possibly Iran are in the early development stages.
Reiser says his company got a big boost from his aunt and uncle, Rich McKinnon and Lisa Hibbard, when their company, Technical Management Staffing Associates, underwrote the purchase of mobile ramps that can be towed to events.
“I’ve been blessed to have their support. I now have the best-engineered stuff and it gives me a step up on the competition, and it’s safer for my riders,” Reiser says.
Closer to home, Reiser has partnered with Jeremy Hayward to open an active sports apparel store dubbed The Ride Shop that offers “the coolest trends” to motorsports fans, BMX racers and skateboard, snowboard and wakeboard riders.
Eventually, Reiser hopes HiRiseFMX and The Ride Shop can pool resources to promote local, low-cost shows that incorporate freestyle motocross, BMX racing and live music.
“We want to bring back entertainment for kids,” he says. “That’s a future goal of ours.”