At the age of 4, Danny Schneider discovered his love for biking and learned to ride on a PW50 dirt bike in his backyard in Switzerland. At 16, he began competing in local motocross competitions and was inspired to pursue freestyle motocross after seeing Brian Deegan in “Crusty Demons: A Decade of Dirt,” making the most out of his professional career for five years.
“Then I broke my ankle in 18 places,” Schneider says. “That was career-ending and a major turning point in my life. You’re a superstar, a rockstar, make tons of money and ride shows all over Europe. Then from one day to the next you lose all your sponsors, fans and fame.” Instead of letting his accident crush his spirit, like it did his ankle, Schneider took the experience as an opportunity to pursue a new passion. “At the beginning, I was bummed but I didn’t want to quit riding,” Schneider explains. “Instead, I started building bikes and decided to take a Harley and make it rideable as a street bike.”
Schneider realized that his new calling was to create custom bikes and to show the world the versatility of a Harley-Davidson. “People will say, ‘Oh, you can’t ride fast on a Harley. Harleys are for old people,’” Schneider says. “But if you have the right setup on it, you can ride really well, go fast and have a lot of fun. You can get a Harley and if you set it up right with suspension and tires, it will ride like a sports bike but it’s still a Harley.”
Schneider’s main objective, aside from creating fast and functioning bikes, is originality. He doesn’t believe in creating a bike twice, even if the customer is willing to shell out big bucks for it. “The custom bikes I make are one-of-a-kind and the only one in existence,” Schneider says. “Even though it would be easier to follow a build, I would rather put myself into a situation where I have to find something new and push myself to build a better bike than the one before.”
The accident that marked the end of his motocross career was far from the biggest obstacle he’d have to overcome, as life would soon take him on an unfamiliar and frightening path. “I got diagnosed in 2018 with testicular cancer and had an operation,” Schneider says. “Then after that, all of the tumor markers were good for a year, but after a year the cancer came back with another tumor in my back. Within three days, I was in chemo and on a high dose for three months.” Upon being diagnosed, Schneider was approached by many people who wanted to scare him with the dangerous side effects of chemo—such as tooth and hair loss. However, drawing from everything he learned after his motocross accident, he chose to promote positivity throughout his treatment.“
I wanted to have my own experience and I documented my whole chemo treatment on social media,” Schneider explains. “I didn’t do it to get pity, but to help other people who’ve been diagnosed or have a family member who’s going through chemo. People asked me thousands of questions and I encouraged so many people, which I think gave me a good mindset to have a good chemotherapy.” Not only did Schneider interact with others who were going through similar struggles while he was in the hospital, he also took the time to give back, setting up a fund-raiser to auction off his fellow bikers’ jerseys, outfits and helmets to raise €5,000 for the Kids Cancer League in Switzerland. “Instead of staying in the hospital crying, I could make something good out of my situation.”
The most difficult part of Schneider’s treatment was the time it took away from two of his passions: bike riding and building. “I wasn’t able to ride from August to November of 2019 because the chemo makes you lose a lot of focus and balance,” Schneider says. “After the first chemo session, I went back on my bike for a little bit because it was good for my head and I had to go out.” In addition to a temporary loss of focus, balance, eyesight and hearing from the chemo, Schneider struggled to get back into bike building because his hands were swollen and in pain. “If you build bikes, you have to unlock and tighten screws and bolts,” Schneider says. “I couldn’t even open a bottle of Coke. It was tough for me that I couldn’t work because I love to work and I couldn’t do it.”
Despite the pain that impacted nearly every aspect of his life, Schneider wanted to live—not just for himself or his girlfriend, but for his daughter Charlie. Schneider’s daughter, who was only an infant at the time, helped him find a positive outlook on life and changed not only the way he saw cancer, but his mindset on riding. “My riding was the same after the accident,” Schneider says. “If you race, you have it in your blood to want to be the fastest. What changed my riding was the birth of my daughter Charlie.” Now, Schneider says that he’s much more cautious when he’s on his bike and while he still goes fast, there’s been a big change in the way he rides since becoming a dad.
Schneider’s life has been defined by the struggles he’s had to overcome, from his accident to his fight with cancer, but the biggest impact came from the birth of his daughter. Although Schneider’s career was rocked by the end of his motocross legacy and his body took a hit when he spent three months going through chemotherapy, nothing compares to the light his daughter has brought into his life. “I never wanted kids, to be honest, and a lot of people think that having a kid means their life will be over,” Schneider admits. “But your life will gain so much in love and in meaning. I still go riding and work at the shop 10 hours a day, I just take her with me. She made the biggest impact in my life and helped me to process, fight and heal from cancer, all while making me super happy.”