Elves, motorcycles, fur-lined vests — it may look like something out of a steampunk fantasy film, but it’s actually the latest collaboration between johnnypuetz Productions and Biker Dope, a unique brand celebrating the wild spirit of bikelife with apparel, merchandise, and more.
Founded by Deme Spy, the company bears little resemblance to other motorcycle apparel brands. One of their most popular items is a reversible fur utility vest, and other offerings include gothic jewelry, warrior helmets, and even a brass knuckles collection.
The world of Biker Dope isn’t just limited to apparel — they’ve branched into everything from app-driven adventure games (think “Pokemon Go for bikers”), safety initiatives, and merch curiosities ranging from survival tools to bags of dog poop.
Their bold vision for bikelife is evident in everything Biker Dope does, including our video full of magic, leather, and fire. We felt there was no better way to understand the lore behind Biker Dope than to ask the man himself — we sat down with Deme to hear more about his inspiration, his company, and of course, the Soviet-era nuclear missile for sale on their website.
Q: Can you tell us a little more about yourself, your history, and what made you want to start Biker Dope?
A: As a boy, I was in awe of motorcycles. Before I could get a license, at 15 I bought my first motorcycle — a Honda CB350 — and that was the end of it. As I grew into my teen years, motorcycles were a natural outlet for my rebellious nature, and yearning for freedom from the all-encompassing immigrant and religious community I grew up in.
The motorcycle and the adventures it got me into have been some my best teachers. And it spoke to the parts of me that were seeking something more. At 18, a defining moment was my father's nod of approval when he found out that I rode a Yamaha XS 750 from NYC to Colorado Springs in two days to visit a girlfriend. Fast forward: after a full career as a lawyer — which included starting a media ac
curacy and human rights nonprofit and working as a child abuse prosecutor in the Bronx — I managed to get my ass fired from my federal law clerk job after I whistleblew against shocking workplace abuses and a discriminatory judge (my case is still under appeal). That’s when I decided to pursue a vision for an innovative, woke motorcycle initiative to bring bikelife to the next level. And that's how Biker Dope was created.
Q: Why do you ride? What does the bike community mean to you? A: Motorcycling is about the yins and yangs of freedom and risk, control and surrender, strength and vulnerability, being cautious and overcoming fear, stability with movement and instability without it. All these come with the simple act of riding. If done right, this translates into a deeply meaningful experience. When you share this with others, the depth of community and camaraderie this can foster is difficult to find elsewhere. Risk is not only integral to the physics of motorcycling, but also to its ability to create a community through shared camaraderie. This allows most bikers to self-organize in a very organic way.
While this is part of bikelife's beauty, we have yet to scratch the surface of accessing the depth and power of bikelife's potential. This includes organizing and harnessing this potential as a vector of positive growth, both within ourselves as well as the positive change we can bring to the world. For most bikers, it’s the deeper existential issues that motorcycles bring with them. For me, bikelife was an answer to my call for Just Rebellion, and an answer to the question "Is there more to life than the soul-sapping analog life we’re herded towards as soon as we’re born?” Regardless of why people decide to get on a bike, riding takes on a life of its own and becomes your greatest teacher in ways you can never predict. Motorcycles are experience accelerators on steroids. A drive to the supermarket is a drive to the supermarket. A ride to the supermarket is an adventure.
Q: How did you find johnnypuetz, and what made you want to work with us? A: I found johnnypuetz when JP was offering free portraits on your bike at a Ryder's Alley garage event in NYC. He slam dunked my pics. After checking out their videos, I was like, “That's the vibe I want." They were technically well-done, especially the action shots (which are hard to do well).
But it was their creative intelligence, depth of treatment of their subjects, and their lyrical style I was most drawn to. I knew I didn't want to make another shallow biker commercial that speaks to the lowest common denominator to sell stuff. There were lots of small production companies in New York that could shoot at that level of creativity and originality, but none I found that shared johnnypuetz’s passion for motorcycles and gas culture.
Q: What makes Biker Dope different?
A: Biker Dope is different from other motorcycle apparel companies because of our original and innovative approach to motorcycling, pushing envelopes, and building community.
In many ways, Biker Dope is a reflection of my personal journey. Like many who find themselves pushing the envelope, I've gone through dramatic events and life changes, and have been focused on expanding the spiritual dimensions of my life. I’ve also felt that, as modern-day freedom-fighters, bikers have a special destiny as trailblazers, and a whole lot more to contribute. So I’ve brought my passion for motorcycles, Burning Man, hip hop culture, spirituality, and other stuff together in this forward-thinking, syncretic vision. It’s also why Biker Dope, and its sister ship Burner Dope, have been appealing to communities outside of motorcycling. Our reversible fur utility vests in particular have become our gateway to these other communities. As a brand, we try to reflect the kaleidoscopic badassery that exists in bikelife and at the fringes, where all true growth happens. By buying from us, including the other merch we offer — third-party products we curate for you — you're supporting our innovative, paradigm-shifting initiatives for bikers and beyond.
Q: What’s the inspiration behind this video? What story do you want to tell, and what do you want the project to convey about Biker Dope? A: The story we want to tell is one of the human connection that can come from motorcycling, and from keeping an open mind and heart. We especially wanted to include bikers overlooked by our biker culture, whether that's queer, female, BIPOC, burners or alt bikers. Our message is for motorcyclists to embrace this future and use their awesomeness to co-create it. While we're well aware that we're taking a risk as a brand, there's no point in joining the crowd and not being authentic. Bikelife is ready for a major shift, just as our society is. And I'm grateful that the community has been supportive of Biker Dope's moving into a more inclusive space generally ignored by the motorcycle industry.
Q: What’s your best advice for people looking to get into biking? A: My top 5 list for people looking to get into biking/the culture/the community: No. 1. Ride like you're invisible, and train yourself to always be subconsciously calculating exit points in case a situation goes south. Usually, these are narrower spaces and options not available to larger vehicles — in between lanes and cars, narrow breakdown lanes, and even sidewalks. It's kinda like Zen archery; you need to hold an intention to shoot a target without focusing on hitting a target. Transitioning from a car to a motorcycle means retraining your mind and habits. No. 2. Ride within your abilities. Motorcycles can offer an insane amount of speed and acceleration, with highly technical skills required to remain stable. It's easy to push too hard and lose it — push your envelope slowly. My go-for-broke personality meant I learned this the hard way when I was younger. Taking this advice would have made me a better rider faster, and it would've saved me many bikes totaled and bones broken. No. 3. Fully embrace the communal, existential, and ideological dimensions of motorcycling. This is an integral part of why you decided to place an engine on two wheels between your legs. No 4. Use the many resources now available. When I rode my first bike at 15, I was self-taught. Google and Youtube University didn’t exist, and I’ve been re-learning how to ride ever since. From taking an accredited DMV licensing course to learning from online content, you’ve got a lot at your disposal. Use it. No. 5. Use your motorcycle passion for positive change, however and whatever that means to you.
- pictures by Kylie Squires