Unknown Industries Harley Stunt Riding Through Oakland

Riding Through the Bay Area, Unknown Style

Editor's Note: The stunts in this video were performed by professional stunt riders. For your safety and for the safety of those around you, please do not attempt to recreate the following stunts from this video.

The Unknown Ride
Two-up dirt baggin' on The Unknown Ride.Staff

Many of the words in the opening sentence of John Steinbeck’s seminal novel Cannery Row conjure up thoughts of Oakland, California: It is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of life, a tone, a habit, nostalgia, a dream. In other words, Oakland, California, is a beautiful mess.

Which brings us to Arlen Ness Enterprises in Dublin, California (we’ll get back to Oakland in a moment). A 70,000-square-foot monolith, which serves as the mothership for all Arlen Ness does, it’s as far away, literally and figuratively, from the man’s original storefront shop down on East 14th Street in Oakland that any streetfighting Harley man can get. But Arlen’s still in the game. He’s here on a Thursday afternoon to not only cast his eyes upon his custom-bike-building empire but to also get a read on the three dudes in his parking lot festooned in Unknown Industries logos tightening everything up/bolting everything down on their FXRs and FXDs.

“Oakland is tough, and Oakland is rough,” says Ness who first got in the bike-building business back in 1967, and 50 years later, lends a sponsoring hand to the Unknown crew. “Oakland is its own ragged glory. It’s a pretty wild place. These Unknown guys are crazy with all the stuff they do. It scares me to watch them. But they do it, and for that I say this is the Unknown.”

The Unknown Ride
Logan "Wheelie Pig" Lackey jumping his Dyna down a steep hill in Oakland.Staff

Buddy Suttle, Nick Leonetti, and Kade Gates, otherwise known as Unknown Industries, are here in the sleepy Dublin town for a reason. The fourth member of this hard-riding rock ’n’ roll outfit is missing from the phalanx. Yes, Logan “Wheelie Pig” Lackey is down on the street in Oakland taking hits of an ever-present cigarette and building his courage up. He’s killing time before his three friends, friends who are basically like brothers to him, show up to watch him pull a stunt that would make that old Harley-jumping fool up in the sky named Evel Knievel envious. Just shy of 4 p.m. and with the traffic beginning to back up on the I-580 West toward Oakland, the Unknown guys fire their bikes and point them toward downtown Oakland.

Precisely 31 minutes and 24.7 miles later, the trio rolls up before a small inner-city park in East Oakland. Flanked by a few steeply pitched, trash-strewn streets, this is where the Pig will jump his 2001 FXDX.

As fate would have it, Logan knows a thing or two about jumping a motorcycle. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, his dad, Brad Lackey, traveled the world in search of Motocross World Championship. In 1982 he made it happen, becoming the very first American to win a world title. All things considered, it was the first salvo that has now made the United States the strongest motocross nation the world has ever seen. Growing up in such rarified air, Logan learned to ride, wheelie, and jump a motorcycle at a very young age. His FXDX heavily modified with Öhlins S36PR1 rear shocks, and 775mm Öhlins telescopic front forks, Logan knows exactly what he’s up against with this here jump.

The Unknown Ride
Just an average day for Unknown Industries on The Unknown Ride in Oakland.Staff

“I love going for shit,” Logan says with a smirk as he tosses his cigarette aside and reaches for his helmet. “First try, man. Under pressure and cameras rolling and shit. It’s on. Let’s launch this f—ker.”

And with that, the Wheelie Pig fires the bike to life, taps through the gears as he reaches the top of the hill. He pivots the bike, takes a breath, and then he and the 120ci-motivated Harley roar pell-mell down the declines toward a rolling street gap. And they hit it. And they soar. They really soar far. The bike land so hard that it actually rips the motor mount bolts out of the frame. But no worries. The Pig pulls it. Everyone around hoots and hollers. One of the locals, a black dude in a polo shirt and with his hat on sideways, is very impressed. “I can’t believe I just saw that shit! God damn! You got to get the f—k down here and see this shit!” he screams into his phone. But it’s too late, as the entire Unknown crew clears out quick and hauls ass toward the Tacos El Grullo in East Oakland.

“Daring foodies, Tacos El Grullo is the high-caliber hole-in-the-wall seasoned with a dash of East Oakland sketchiness that you didn’t know you’ve been seeking!” offers a colorful review on Yelp. “Truly a ghetto supastar! Do as the locals do: Park in the lot, hide your valuables, order your grub, grab a booth, and enjoy!”

The Unknown Ride
The Unknown Industries A-Team (from left to right): Logan "Wheelie Pig" Lackey, Buddy Suttle, Nick Leonetti, Kade Gates.Staff

Yeah, Yelp has this place down. After getting off their bikes—engines pinging and popping from excessive heat—Buddy, Nick, Kade, and Logan take off their helmets and catch their collective breath. “It looks rough around here,” Nick says. He has it right. At one point, a 20-something-year-old girl comes running up, equal parts enthused and curious. “Shit, who are you guys?!” she asks, shouting each word. “I’ve never seen you around here!”

Ultimately, the Unknown Guys will make several high-speed passes past and around the shop, the final concluding with the Wheelie Pig roaring up to the take-out window, slamming on the brakes, and being shoved two carnitas tacos, which he duly devours. Good times in the ghetto.

Satisfied with the takeout dinner and with shadows lengthening over the avocado-and-tortilla-colored apartment buildings of the neighborhood and with a few more suspect-looking characters beginning to mill about the taqueria, the Unknown guys call it a day, the bikes and their riders roaring off and up into the serene, safe hills of Berkeley for the night.

The Unknown Ride
Nothing like riding with your buddies.Staff

The next morning dawns battleship gray with a hard rain falling on the streets of East Oakland. Hoping to ride around the graffiti-strewn streets, a cry for gimme shelter goes up and the Unknown crew repairs to an abandon warehouse immediately adjacent to some umpteenth-numbered street. A cacophony of sound shrouds the place as freight trains, semi-trucks, and heavy equipment all rumble about. Directly before everyone, a beat-to-shit Peterbilt idles deeply while two men in hard hats work diligently at fastening down the 30 smashed automobiles crammed atop the flatbed trailer.

“We’re taking these down to the shipyards,” one of the burly men explains. “They’ll ship all of these cars to China where they will be melted down and then sent to India. From that they’ll take all the steel and make things and send them back to America as cars and other shit. Crazy, huh?”

I lay all this on Wheelie Pig and he just shakes his head. A few moments later two white Ford pickup trucks with signs proclaiming Crime Scene Cleaners roll by. “What is that all about?” I ask Logan, pointing to the trucks.

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Unknown Industries riding wheelies on Harley-Davidsons through OaklandStaff

“Oh, they pay those dudes minimum wage to drive around and clean splattered brains off walls and shit,” he says. “Those guys are kept real busy.”

To know what Unknown Industries is all about is to take a step back in time to dig around and find out how four young Californians all ended up together on super-trick, high-performance, heavily breathed on Harley-Davidson motorcycles and aggressively riding around sinister cities such as Oakland as street-fighting men. “I grew up around Harleys,” begins Buddy Suttle, now 30 years old. “My dad always had Harleys, and his friends all rode Harleys. Once I was old enough and saved up enough money, I got an FXR. It was the bike that I thought was the coolest looking. That was the bike I liked, and I knew it was the strongest bike for what I wanted to do on it. I knew I was going to really, really ride it hard. I loved the bike and the way it looked and the way it rode, so I just kept practicing and would go out on back roads and try and get it up into a wheelie and went from there. I kept working with the bike and kind of figured it out, and my riding just kept evolving.”

Although Suttle grew up as a BMX prodigy and avid motocross rider, he was, as far as riding a Harley-Davidson FXR for all it was worth, in his own little world. Meanwhile, across town, another kid, Nick Leonetti, also a rider influenced by BMX and motocross, was saving up money from a tiny T-shirt company he had started named Unknown Industries to throw down for an FXR of his own.

The Unknown Ride
Going for tacos on the Unknown Ride.Staff

“This was in 2012,” Nick says. “I worked for a guy who had an FXR and it looked like a sports-style Harley. I wanted to buy the bike off my boss without knowing it was the bike to have if you wanted to try and do wheelies and burnouts. So I bought the bike and I was riding around town trying to do wheelies and stuff. I didn’t know Buddy, but we had heard of each other because I heard Buddy was doing wheelies on a Harley and had a background in racing BMX and was a talented dude. One day we passed each other on the street and he locked up the back brake and flipped a 180 and followed behind me and said, ‘Follow me to this spot.’ So I followed him to the spot, and he did the first Harley wheelie I’d ever seen, and then I showed him what I had. Then the cops showed up and put us all on the curb and Buddy took his helmet off and that’s how we met for the first time.”

From that point forward, Buddy and Nick welded together the Unknown Industries name with their FXR-riding exploits to from their own identity. Furthermore, a small YouTube-based video series Buddy had dreamed up called “Harley Wheelies” was beginning to gain critical mass amongst Harley-Davidson enthusiasts. It was also inadvertently serving as both a propaganda and recruiting tool for the young enterprise.

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Ripping the Oakland streets on The Unknown Ride.Staff

“We found Logan Lackey from the YouTube videos we were doing and posting up,” Buddy says. “He came in with us around ‘Harley Wheelies’ video number three or four. We met up, and he was like, ‘I’m Logan Lackey. My dad Brad Lackey was a motocross world champion.’ We were like, ‘Holy shit! That’s cool!’ So we just started riding together.”

Next to get in step with the trio was Kade Gates. Interestingly, Kade wasn’t from Northern California but from way down south in Ventura. “Nick and Buddy started posting videos and the whole ‘Harley Wheelie’ chain is up to 13 now,” Kade says. “It was around ‘Harley Wheelies’ six or seven when I started doing wheelies on Harleys myself. At that same time, I’d see Nick and Buddy posting on YouTube, so I kind of did the same thing with my videos. I put a couple of my own little videos out and it just kind of progressed, and eventually I rode up to Northern California and met up with them and we all kind of vibed real hard.”

In 2016 the Unknown Industries foursome will tour the nation performing smoke show exhibitions at countless Harley-Davidson dealerships, at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, the Summer X Games, and who knows where else. However, it’s still riding as outlaw drones in Oakland that truly mirrors what the guys and their burly motorcycles are all about.

The Unknown Ride
Unknown Industries' Nick Leonetti dragging digits, posted at 12 o'clock on his Harley-Davidson FXR through OaklandStaff

Back to the present and with the rain now blown off and the streets dry, the Unknown guys, climb onto their bikes, roar off, and begin riding wheelies through the heavily industrialized area, flashing past walls of graffiti, large, ominous looking fences, railroad cars, and clapped-out buildings. Once complete, the group packs everything up and heads over to a small, super-sketchy neighborhood off of Edes Avenue. It’s here at a small, well-kept house surrounded by large oak trees and roses—not to mention heavy-duty fencing and iron bars—that the Unknown guys will congregate before heading back out into the streets and marauding through Oakland until the sun begins to set. And once it does, yet again everyone hightails it back up into the Berkley hills to live and ride another day.

The Unknown crew will ride for the next few days, performing wheelies, burnouts, Crazy Larry donuts, and 150-mph, dragster-like passes at the clapped-out Oakland Coliseum, the Oracle Arena, and the Port of Oakland before calling their Oakland mission complete. Yes, it was risky, it was treacherous, it was dangerous, and it was the real thing. For all intents and purposes, the shoot of Oakland Ruins is complete and everyone takes a deep breath.

“We have always come to Oakland to ride,” Buddy says with a smile, amply pleased with the smashing around he and his three buddies pulled off in Oaktown. “I mean, look at this place. This place is bigger and the streets are bigger and there is a lot going on. Riding over here, we can kind of get away with a little more too. The cops over here have a lot to worry about. They don’t really trip on us. It’s always a fun ride for us to come over here and get away with some stuff. That’s what we do. We just meet up with the boys and go smash around and we always end up in Oakland and find new spots that are cool.”

Nick sums it up with: “This is what we’re all about. We can get away with a lot in Oakland. This is our hometown. We go for it here. We always will.”