In the next part of our series with adidas Originals where we spotlight unique subcultures in American cities, we turn our attention to Atlanta’s motorbike scene. Dirt bike riding and ATV four-wheelers cruising city streets might seem dangerous if not illegal, but for certain communities, it’s a way of life and a less risky form of recreation.
Known simply as the ‘bike life,’ legendary bike life photographer Jorge Sigala, aka SIG, risks his life on a daily basis to photograph urban dirt bike crews. “It's the craziest, scariest, hardest thing to shoot for me,” he tells Highsnobiety. “I like meeting new people and everything about it. I have the best seat in bike life.”
SIG has garnered worldwide acclaim for his bike life photography and he helps us capture some of Atlanta’s local youth dipping their toes in the culture — all with the adidas Originals Forum taking center stage. What was originally built for the rigors of basketball is now a silhouette made for anything thrown your way, even dirt bikes and ATVs.
We spoke with SIG to get his thoughts on the culture, how he was introduced to the bike life scene, tips for newcomers looking to get into it, and more.
How were you introduced to bike culture?
I had done a job for a clothing brand and the model I photographed tagged me in a photo on Instagram. At that time I was also riding four-wheelers, but mostly in the trails out the country, and the model was friends with Cliff, which turned out to be one of the main guys that I would meet in the bike life world.
[Cliff] reached out through Instagram and asked me if I do videos. I said yes and he asked if I wanted to come out and shoot. And I was like, "Of course." So I went out there and I met them at the Oak on the east side of Atlanta and we just linked up and we rode around the city, and we just rode around and I was blown away. After that, we just became really good friends. That was pretty much the beginning of it.
How did you find friends within the scene?
Cliff introduced me to a ton of people, pretty much everyone in Atlanta that was riding at the time. I just met them, just being out in the pack with Cliff, and Rock, and Quail, Lean, the guys from the east side, we just kept riding and I kept going out every Sunday that we would meet up and we would ride. It's just more and more people kept showing up and I just kept meeting more and more people. It's really cool to see.
Were there any local mentors, inspirations that really caught your eye?
If I had a mentor or inspiration, it would be the guys from the east side. It would probably be Cliff, Rock, a good friend of mine, Quinn, who was our pack leader, and Zay. Those guys showed me the ropes and introduced me to a lot of people. They took me to different cities and introduced me to people there. I met a lot of people through Cliff really. I guess my mentor would be Cliff to show me the ropes and the rules, the bike life, how to move in traffic. Just things like that. When we'd be in the pack, he'd be like, "Follow me and stay next to me. Don't go in between cars, do this and that." So I guess he was my mentor and he showed me a lot of good things that needed to be learned.
What keeps you going in this culture?
I really love it. To this day, I'm still obsessed with it and love everything about it. I like when we get together, I like when we take off, I like when we stop at a red light and then we all take off together when the light turns green. I love the whole brotherhood. I love meeting new people, and I'm a photographer, so I get to shoot all this. It's the craziest, scariest, hardest thing to shoot, for me. And I love the final product. I like how it looks at the end. I love editing the bike photos. I like meeting new people. I just really like everything about it. I pretty much have the best seat in bike life. It's my thing.
Who's pushing the scene to new heights?
There are a couple of riders all over the country that are really, really raising the bar and doing some amazing stunts. But if I had to pick one, it'd probably be Fruit. Fruit is amazing at what he does. He's fearless, and he's willing to try anybody. He'll try and if anybody wants to battle him or come at him or try to do something that he's doing, he's definitely going to do what he has to do to show off his skills. And he's that guy in our world right now.
How does the adidas Originals Forum connect with your community and how you express yourself?
The Forums stand out and so does our community. A lot of people out here wear them - that’s just part of our local culture.
Are there local hangout spots/parts of town that are iconic to bike culture?
We usually hang out on the east side in Decatur and at the Oak over on the east side, Decatur, Stone Mountain area, we hang out in Ellenwood. And then we also hang out at a couple parks over in Oakland City Park. We go to Bankhead a lot and shout out to Oosh Motor Sports. The heart of Bankhead, Oakland City, all the way to the Decatur. Yeah, to Decatur and Ellenwood. Everywhere, really.
How does Atlanta’s bike scene contribute to the city’s culture? On the flipside, how does the city inspire what you do creatively?
What Atlanta brings is, in my opinion, one of if not the best ride out of the year. Everybody loves coming to Atlanta. Our roads are great. Everybody has a good time when they're here. It's always fun and people really like it.
What are some of the most memorable moments you documented?
That's a tough one. I've documented a lot of really important moments in our bike life world. I have photos of people that passed away from riding. I wasn't there when they passed, but I have photos of them when they used to ride bikes. This was their life.
I never really thought I would ride through Times Square with all the dirt bikes and four-wheelers, but Leaky from New York stood up on his bike once and put his hands up and he was standing on it rolling into Times Square. Another friend of mine Bizzy only has one leg. He started doing donuts in the heart of Times Square — I jumped off my ride standing in the middle of Times Square photographing this guy with one leg doing donuts on his Banshee in the middle of the night. I never thought that was going to happen, but it did. That was one of the highlights of my bike life career.
Any tips for curious newcomers?
You're going to have to learn a lot of things. Just because you know how to wheelie doesn't mean you know how to ride. Wheelies don't necessarily mean you can ride because you have to learn how to turn, stop, brake, know what's coming up. There are a lot of things. So get a mentor that has been around that can teach you the ropes. A lot of guys aren't out here trying to talk down to you or tell you that you don't know what you're doing, but you should listen to some of these older guys because there are a lot of tips that you're going to learn. You can only learn being out in the pack and it comes with time. Of course, always wear a helmet.