With any progression-based sport there are just a handful of true pioneers—the fearless few who created it and set it on course. But of those originators, it’s rare to find one who is still relevant today. That’s Ronnie Faisst, one of the founders of freestyle motocross. Faisst grew up racing dirtbikes in Mays Landing, New Jersey, turning pro at 18. But when he moved to the West Coast, he was integral in a creative, new freestyle movement and destined to play a part of every first for the sport—the very first contest, the first presence at the Gravity Games, Warped Tour and X Games. Faisst was an OG of the famed apparel brand Metal Mulisha, built on the hellraisers that not only set the tone for FMX as badass athletes with nerves of steel and arms of ink, but also legitimized the sport by back flipping into living rooms around the world.
Faisst headlined the Crusty Demons of Dirt Tour and most recently starred in Nuclear Cowboyz, an arena spectacle that combined circus acts and pyrotechnics choreographed with death-defying freestyle moto. Over the decades, he not only earned respect, but four bronze metals. Yet those are not the accomplishments that he’s most proud of.
“To be able to do it for 18 years and still enjoy it is an accomplishment that’s better than taking home medals. It was good timing for me—moving to California when I did, being part of the movement, doing what I love. I still wake up and want to ride,” said Faisst recently, while pulling wet season weeds from the backyard track at his home in California. He’s also bounced back from fractures, a broken femur, concussions, a torn ACL and multiple surgeries. And while Faisst remains at the top of the FMX game, he’s already got himself racing the Off-Road Pro Lite Truck series.
“It’s a way to keep yourself going in motorsports. You might not want to be riding moto past 40. I’m not quite there yet. But you can race trucks in your 40s, all day long. I’ll probably do three races this year. The sport’s been around for a while, but it’s on the upswing. It’s got TV coverage now and there are a lot of moto dudes who have crossed over and done really well,” Faisst explains.
His longtime FMX buds Ricky Johnson, Jeremy McGrath and even Twitch Stenberg are now racing trucks. Faisst counts the Mulisha’s Brian Deegan as one of the best drivers in the series.
And like every other aspect of the sport, Faisst was also on the cutting edge of the massive freestyle moto/tattoo crossover. “I was like 14 and got tattooed by this biker guy in my town in South Jersey. His name was Al—long hair, big burly beard. He basically just did flash off the wall, typical biker tattoos,” laughs Faisst, “No shading, straight outline… real basic. He used to tattoo at the 4-H Fair in my town out of a little ghetto trailer.”
Faisst’s ink expanded in California when he started riding with FMX godfather, Mike Metzger. Metzger was already moonlighting at Soul Expressions in Temecula and started stabbing Faisst’s arm.
“He introduced me to Dan Adair, who’s the owner and that’s how I got heavily tattooed really quick. Dan was like, ‘Just give me love as a sponsor and send people in, and I’ll tattoo you whenever you want.’ Honestly, I was there every Tuesday for probably two years. I’d just give him all my sponsors’ gear—sunglasses, shoes and clothes. We went from my arm to my chest and my lower legs.”
He acknowledges that motorcycles and tattoos were interdependent long before he came along, but feels that FMX helped spark the growth. As Faisst met the other guys in the shop, he’d collect their work.
“It was like, ‘Well, I’ll have Fabian do my back.’ And then Aaron Mason, who actually still works there, did both sides of my ribs and my upper thighs and my butt cheeks. Then Dan wrapped up everything,” Faisst adds.
Recently he’s had some work done by John Caleb at Chapter X Tattoo in Orange County, an artist he met through Stenberg. “He tattoos a lot of guys that are connected with Famous Stars and Straps like Yelawolf and DJ Clever. He redid the names on my neck, tied up my throat and just redid my knuckles.”
While Faisst looks to rise in the off-road truck game, the fire still burns for one X Game gold before he retires. Down the road he can see a few possible paths.
“I’ve always been into martial arts. I can see myself opening a dojo or getting into the fashion world. Whatever I’m going to do, I am going to make sure I’m passionate about it.”
We wouldn’t expect anything less.
With any progression-based sport there are just a handful of true pioneers—the fearless few who created it and set it on course. But of those originators, it’s rare to find one who is still relevant […]