Carey Hart was on the ground level of creating freestyle motocross, being amongst the first group of riders to compete in freestyle motocross in 1996. Hart has not only endured incredible injuries through his love of riding, but has etched an extraordinary mark in the moto world. With a legacy larger than his “Hart Attack” nickname, he now shares the road and racetrack with wife, P!nk, and their children.
Hart gives us his top 10 favorite bikes, and tells us about immersing himself into his tattoo and clothing shop, Hart & Huntington, after a near fatal crash on an action sports tour; and his wild adventures on and off the track. As the “Hart Attack” says, “we rode hard, and partied even harder.”
When was your first ride?
My first ride was at 4-years old. I got a motorcycle for Christmas that year. We lived in Seal Beach, California at the time, so my first riding experience was on the sidewalk in our neighborhood. It was early on Christmas morning and while all the other kids were outside on their skateboards and bicycles, I was ripping the neighborhood on my dirt bike. I actually learned to ride a motorcycle before a bicycle. Guess I was better with the throttle than the pedals!
Being a third-generation motocross rider, will you speak on growing up with riding in your family?
My grandfather rode, both uncles, and my Pop. None professionally, but the four of them did it as a hobby when they were younger. My uncle John still races to this day. I tried traditional stick and ball sports, but I’m not much of a team player. I started racing at 5-years old and I was hooked. It was amazing for me and my entire family because motocross racing is a family sport. My Grandpa went to every race with my Pop and I until I turned pro at 17-years and started traveling the circuit. It was also a great tool for my Pop in keeping me in line and focused on school. If I didn’t have A’s and B’s on my report card, my bikes were parked until the next report card. It only happened once when I was in 6th grade, and it never happened again. I graduated high school with honors, a 4.0 GPA. Those tools and work ethic, to balance motocross and school, set me up for later in life with my professional career and businesses. I was raised by a single father who worked 60-hour weeks. But on the weekends we traveled and raced, and it created a closeness that most people don’t get to experience.
Tell us the trick that has dubbed you as the “Hart Attack!”
At the time that I came up with that trick, FMX was in its early stages. One of the best things for my freestyle career was doing the Warped Tour from 1998-2000, because we did three demos a day, six days a week. Basically, it was paid practice. It wasn’t something that was set out, it just evolved from a Superman seat grab. I started to kick my feet higher and higher until I was doing a handstand on my motorcycle in air. The first contest I competed in and did that trick for the first time, the commentator on tv said, ‘Wow, that trick about gave me a heart attack!’ I wasn’t too into the name at first, because I thought it was lame to name a trick after yourself; but it just stuck from there. Shortly after, that was my nickname for many years. It still is with my old riding buddies.
What does riding do for you personally?
Riding for me, both dirt and V-Twin/street is therapy. When I’m on my motocross bike, mentally, I haven’t aged. I focus and think about the same thing as I did in my youth. It keeps my brain sharp and my body strong. But the injuries do take longer to heal. My love of road trips on my Indian has given me the same fulfillment as motocross has. There was a part of me that really missed competing after I retired in 2012. Not the pressure of competing or the injuries, but traveling with my buddies and the lifestyle. Since I have focused on V-Twin motorcycle building and traveling to rallies with sponsors, I have a close group of friends that ride with me cross-country to these events. Nothing is as exciting as motocross, but the friendship and hitting the open road for thousands of miles is a close number two.
What keeps you riding, even through the broken bones and falls?
I think what separates action sports and motocross from most traditional sports is that when we started doing this as kids, it wasn’t for a paycheck. There weren’t fans and fortune in motocross like baseball or football. It was about passion, lifestyle, and progression. When you do that your entire life, it’s almost impossible to quit. When you are laying in the dirt with a bone sticking out of your leg you can’t help but to think, ‘Ok, I’m done with this shit.’ But as you heal and the pain goes away, that urge to get back on the bike grows.
You were amongst the first riders to begin competing in freestyle motocross in 1996. What was that scene like, and how has it evolved?
I refer to that time as the “good ol’ days.” I was 21, broke, and doing what I loved. At that time, we were basically copying freestyle BMX tricks. So the early group of us were inventing new moto-specific tricks every week. It was a pretty small group of us and we were all pretty close. FMX videos were very popular, so we would be on film trips constantly. Also, with the overnight popularity, motocross race promoters were flying us all over the world to jump and do tricks in between races. The danger level of tricks at that time wasn’t that high, so we rode hard, and partied even harder. There was something very special about being on the ground-level of creating a sport. The times and experiences off of the bike were just as exciting as riding the bike. I’m very thankful for the timing of it all. Since then, the sport has gone through a huge popularity and progression spike. I couldn’t imagine being a 20-year-old kid having to learn flip combos, double flips, and 360s. Athletes have to take it a bit more seriously than we did in the beginning.
What is your favorite riding memory?
My buddies and I have a yearly trip to South Dakota for the Sturgis rally. We have been going for the better part of 12 years now. During the two weeks that we are on the road, we covered about 5,000 miles. On one of our first trips we were still a bit green on what to pack. On day two en route to Sturgis, we had a late night at the bar in Cedar City, Utah. The next morning, we woke up and it was raining. It wasn't big deal at the time since we had rain gear, but all of us didn’t pack boot covers for the rain. Only jackets and pants. On a Sunday in Utah, almost everything is closed, but luckily we finally found a grocery store open. Our only option was to buy trash bags and a bag of rubber bands. The six of us put trash bags and an entire pack of rubber bands over our shoes. My feet were falling asleep due to the pressure of the 20 rubber bands I had in each lower leg. 50 miles into the ride, we all had white plastic streamers all over our bikes, trash bags melted to our exhaust pipes, and wet shoes in 50-degree rain. We looked like a bunch of idiots as the seasoned riders passed us on the road. Now we are much more prepared with our gear, but still seem to have those big nights with bad hangovers the next day.
What stigmas lie within the motorcycle world? Are they similar to those within the tattoo world?
In motorcycles, you are either a daredevil or a scumbag. The ‘60s perception of Evel Knievel and old biker movies have never really faded. In my early 20’s when we would be on motorcycle road trips and stop in small towns to eat, people were pretty rude and didn’t care for our business. That’s also the same with tattoos. Until the popularity of my shows Inked and Miami Ink, tattoos were looked down on and people assumed you got them in a back alley by a tweaker. I’m glad that the perception of both are changing. I’m glad that the youth is getting into motorcycles and older people are starting to get large and visible tattoos.
Why Hart & Huntington Tattoo & Clothing Company, and how did you and Huntington unite together to create this brand?
After graduating high school in Vegas I moved to California to pursue my motocross racing career which turned into FMX career. After six years, I got burnt out on SoCal and moved back to my hometown of Las Vegas. While I was living in California, my friend Dan, who owns Soul Expressions Tattoo in Temecula, sponsored a few of us riders. I got covered pretty quickly, but it was also our hangout. When I moved back to Vegas, at the time, there were only a few shops and I didn’t have any relationship with them. Most were gimmick shops near the strip. I wanted to do a high-end shop in a casino to take away the perception of back-alley shops, and bring it more to the mainstream. I was at the top of my motocross career and wanted to do a tattoo shop as a passion project. A place that I could hang out at like we did in SoCal. The Palms was the new “it” hotel and I had a relationship with the owner. A couple meetings later I had a lease, and started building it out. A few months before the shop opened I had a near fatal crash on an action sports tour, and it left me in a wheelchair for a few months. At the time I thought my career was over. So, I immersed myself in the tattoo shop. I had a friend at a production company, and we came up with the idea of Inked. We shot the pilot during the grand opening week of the shop. We shopped it around, and A&E picked it up. We went on to do four seasons.
What is Hart & Huntington’s goal and mission?
Because of the perception of tattoo shops at that time, it was to create something high-end, change the perception of tattooing, and create a “first time”-friendly environment. I remember my first few tattoo experiences and they weren’t very pleasant. Cold shops, artists with attitudes, and mediocre work. We wanted to focus on the experience, customer service, and great tattoo work. We wanted people to come back, not leave with one tattoo and a bad taste in their mouths.
What is the dream for the future of Hart & Huntington?
We just want to have steady growth and open shops in a very organic way. Unique locations with amazing artists is really the goal. Our newest location in Nashville is really special. It’s located on the historic 2nd Ave of downtown Nashville, and you can hear blues music coming in through the windows. We have shops in Las Vegas in the Hard Rock Hotel, Niagara Falls, and Orlando at Universal Studio’s City Walk. Our partners are really passionate about tattooing, as well as the experience of it. We have hosts that help sort through the questions, shop helpers to support the artists and keep everything clean, so the artists have the ability to just focus on tattooing.
I love what you’re doing with The Good Ride. For the people that might not know, will you speak on what this is all about?
As I started to build a name in V-Twin, I found myself going to more rallies with my right-hand man, Big B. Usually, we have to be at them for 4-7 days and over that stretch, there tend to be gaps in the schedule. I like to maximize my time when I’m at events, and we found ourselves always having a down day or two. After I hosted the Mayor’s Ride in Sturgis, I wanted to do something similar and raise money for veterans. I launched The Good Ride the following year. We are now going into our 4th year and it’s been a lot of work, but a ton of fun. The Good Ride is a 501c3 charity, and all of our proceeds go to Infinite Hero, which is Oakley’s military charity. We created it as more of a social and fun ride for the riders.
A typical Good Ride starts at an Indian dealership where we have food, photo ops, music, and a bit of a party vibe. It gives everyone a chance to meet, talk bikes, and road trip stories. The rides are usually about 80 miles, during which we have a mid-way stop at a cool spot to stretch our legs and have a refreshment, and end at a location like the Buffalo Chip, with a party and craziness! Each ride, we invite local veterans to come ride for free and spend the day with us. It’s truly a passion of mine and we plan on expanding the ride each year. Our goal is to raise 200k in 2019.
Take us on a tattoo tour of your ink!
Pop wasn’t too big on tattoos, so I had to wait until my 18th birthday to get one. I got a flaming skull with my race number — 111 — on my chest. I got it in my buddy’s kitchen by his dad for 100 bucks. Moral of the story? You get what you pay for! I eventually covered it with a koi fish when I did a Tiki chest piece. My most meaningful tattoos are the pieces on my neck. I have an angel for my brother Anthony who died racing motorcycles, and an angel for my daughter, Willow. I have my wife’s name under my chin — most painful spot I’ve been tattooed — and my Pop on the back of my neck in a sacred heart. My left sleeve is a collage of hotels in Vegas, and the ‘Welcome to Las Vegas’ sign. Vegas is my hometown and that sleeve was my first big piece.
I don’t have any motorcycle tattoos, but I’m about to start lasering my right sleeve off, and I’m hoping to have Nikko Hurtado do a motorcycle-themed sleeve cover-up. A mixture of motocross and V-Twin would be pretty meaningful. My tattoo is done really well, it was just bad planning on my part. When I was in my early twenties, my buddy Ronnie Faisst — who is an FMX rider — and I were in the tattoo chair almost every week. So I filled up pretty quick, and never took into consideration how much the styles were gonna change. Young and dumb.
Tell me about Franco Vescovi giving you the first-ever tattoo made of the carbon from a motorcycle.
The guys at Indian were the ones that told me about the ability to do it, and I thought it would be an awesome way to actually have part of my motorcycle in my body. I immediately said yes and I was smoking the tire a month later. The bike that we used the rubber from is my Indian Scout flat track bike. I actually did the burn out to collect the carbon in a shoot for Inked Magazine! When the conversation came up about which artist should do the tattoo, Franco and I are very close friends and there is no one who I would rather be tortured by. The day that we did the tattoo, it was done in my shop where I do all of my builds for the feature. I have no air conditioning in my shop and it was the middle of summer. We were both pouring sweat. It was like Bickram tattooing!
Unfortunately, some people still feel feminine women don’t/can’t play with bikes. Do you mind speaking on the stigmas with women in the moto space?
When my wife and I first started dating I told her that I don’t like having passengers on my motorcycle. So she should either learn to ride or get used to staying home. She grew up on the back of her dad’s bike but never rode. She took to it really quickly. I started her first on a dirt bike, learning the basics at low speed and on dirt. About a year later, I bought her a Triumph Bonneville and she took to the streets. To date, she has about 30,000 miles under her belt and 6 different motorcycles. I 100% support women riding and women-only events. I have taught around 10 of my wife’s friends to ride and I’m glad that the fastest-growing segment of motorcycles is women. I can’t encourage women enough to start riding. Young or old. It’s the most freedom you will ever have and the people you meet on the road are amazing. My wife went to Babes Ride Out which is a women-only rally this past October, and she was blown away by the amount of friends that she made. I thought it was awesome that they had maintenance seminars, fabricating classes, pinstriping classes, and group rides.
Grab some friends, buy some bikes, and hit the road! Every rally I have been to are safe and friendly for women, and there are women-only rallies popping up everywhere!
How do you feel about your children following in your moto footsteps?
If I had a choice, I wouldn’t want my kids to pursue a career in motocross, but my kids definitely ride. My daughter started at 3-years old on a PW50, and my son is riding an electric motorcycle at 2. I think it is the best family hobby, second to none. But I just don’t want to see them go through the injuries that I did. I would never deny them to race, but I won’t push it either. My daughter is really into BMX racing, and we really enjoy going to the track together. We both ride, and it’s something new and fun for us both.
You and Alecia are both rebel icons in your own worlds. Being two tattooed power-houses, how do you both find the balance between business, family, and the spotlight?
Well, it’s not easy, but honestly, we do our best. On tour, I’m the stay-at-home dad. On both show days and days off, we do activities and spend time with our kids. I get up with the kids, eat breakfast, play in the hotel, and take them for walks. My wife spends every moment she isn’t on the stage with them. Every spare moment while on the road, it’s about our kids, and experiencing the world and culture with them.
One thing about us is, P!nk the singer, and Carey Hart the athlete, are just our jobs. We punch the clock, and at-home around our kids, we live a normal life. We purposely moved to a small country town to raise our kids with the small-town feel. No one cares what our day jobs are at home, and our kids are treated just like the rest of them. My wife is an amazing mother, and does all the “normal” things, like school bake sales, gymnastic classes, cooks dinner with the help of the kids and I, and hosts sleepovers with Willow’s friends. I have a clubhouse, toys, bicycles, kids’ motorcycle track, BMX pump track, and a play structure at my shop. So the kids are always hanging with me and my buddies while I do builds. We are very fortunate to have the large lives that we do. And while on tour, we expose them to the cultures that the world has to offer, but at home, we are a simple, small family.