Rennie Scaysbrook is a fiend on two wheels. After taking oil to the face working as a bike mechanic, the Aussie motorcyclist hit the backpacking circuit and stumbled into his vocation: writing. Now, as a moto-journalist, Rennie’s life is defined by the fusion of his passions:
he spends his days testing bikes, writing, and chasing the Zen high of speed.
CONVICTS caught Rennie at a Californian race track, watched him burn some rubber, and got his word on all things moto: from blocking out the negatives, to 180 kph wipeouts and living the dream.
Hey homie. To start, can you tell us who you are and where you’re from?
Rennie Scaysbrook. I’m from Sydney Australia, but I live in lakeforest in Orange County.
And where are we now?
I’m in Southern California around an area called Riverside. Out here for a bit of practice, might not look like practice but, the track is good for bike control skills and hand eye coordination. You gotta stay sharp for work. You gotta be able to ride decent bikes, little bikes, big riders, super fast. You wanna make sure you are up for the job otherwise you’re gonna look like a bit of a chump.
What does work look like?
I’m a motorcycle journalist. I’ve been doing that for ten years. I did it for eight years in Australia and for two years out here. I’m the road tester for Cycle News and I do a bit of racing on the side when I can.
How’d you get into writing?
I sort of discovered it through the family. My dad’s a writer so I picked it up from him. I just started writing really long emails as a backpacker. I quite enjoyed writing, and I happened to be ok at it. I went to college in Sydney to be a journalist. I was looking at possibly getting into radio, probably would have made a lot more money.
Did you have a fuck it moment with writing? When you knew you wanted to dive in and make it your career?
So I got a job as a mechanic, got lazy and stayed there another three years. I didn’t want to be a mechanic. When you suck at a technical job they only give you the simplistic, crappy tasks, like changing oil and doing gear boxes. So I was changing oil on a Volkswagen Transporter, diesel Transporter. Bloody oil came down and smashed me in the face. If you’ve ever been nailed with diesel oil, it stays in your skin for days. And I was just like, ‘I’ve had enough of this.’ I didn’t know what I was going to do, so I went backpacking and then I discovered the enjoyment of writing, which had nothing to do with motorcycles at the time.
What were you writing about at the time?
I wasn’t writing about anything other than travel experiences and meeting completely random people. To be honest, that’s probably half of why I became a bike journo, because I could get paid to travel.
Talk about the transition from grease-monkeying to journalism?
When I started, I got a job at Rapid Bikes. Six weeks prior to that I was changing the oil out of Transporter Volkswagons. Six weeks later, I was standing on a balcony in Ronda in the South of Spain for the KTM RC8 Launch the first superbike KTM ever made. I’d ridden like two test bikes and I remember standing on that balcony, of this like 14th or 15th-century castle I couldn’t believe the transition in six weeks. It was a complete light bulb moment. I thought, ‘Yeah I made a good choice about this. This is pretty sick. I’m going to stay in this castle, and I’m going to ride a superbike tomorrow and I’m going to get paid for it.’
Right on man. Shifting gears a bit, what’s changed in the motorcycle world since you’ve been a part of it?
The scene itself is in a bit of a transition. It’s a changing dynamic. It’s a changing industry, particularly as new media comes in. Phones have effectively become the medium. People, myself included, thought iPads were going to be the next greatest thing, going to be the savior of magazines. That has turned out not to be the case. It’s all about phones, and the younger demographic get that. I’m kind of on the cusp between the old and the new. I’ve seen what it was like up to now, and I’m still learning how to do it. I still have a lot of time left in this game. You just gotta keep pushing on with it.
There’s a smorgus of riding styles: freestyle, dirt, cross-country. What made you choose road racing?
I started riding when I was three and got my first bike at five. I didn’t ride on the road until I was fifteen. All of that was off road but my passion in motorcycles has always been road racing. I love racing. I just love coming out here and cranking out laps.
What about road-tripping on a bike?
I love adventure riding. I’ve done a lot of adventure riding around the world like I’ve done it in, in Portugal, in Spain and Nepal. I rode across Nepal. I’ve run across the middle of Australia in the Simpson Desert. Done it all through, all through the US. All through Canada. And it’s so much fun.
Talk about the difference between adventure riding and racing?
I love adventure riding and touring for seeing really cool places. But the thing I like most about riding is I like going fast. I like testing myself on a bike and trying to push a bike as hard as I can. When you’re touring, you’re not taking very many risks and you’re just cruising along. You can have a million thoughts going through your head. But when you are racing, you can’t have any other thoughts in your head cause you’re just gonna crash. I love the fact when I’m on a track, especially when I’m racing, it’s the only time-I’ve told my Mum this-it’s the only time I can think of when I don’t have any other thought on my mind.
Is the danger always lingering in your mind?
You’re always a little bit preservation minded because it’s a dangerous sport. I’m not like I was when I was twenty and racing like I just didn’t care. I rode as hard as I could and crashed my brains out. But it’s much nicer to go home at the end of the day and have a beer than to be wrapped up in plaster.
What’s the gnarliest crash you’ve been in?
The worst crash I had was in South Australia. I came out of a fast left-hander, fourth gear left-hander. And the countershaft sprocket came loose and locked the rear wheel and threw me off of at 180k an hour. I just bowling balled into the field. I didn’t break anything thank god, I just got beaten up. That was definitely the fastest crash I’ve ever had. Got back on the bike after about six weeks and took a big repair bill.
Word. That’s terrifying. On a lighter note, describe the flow state you get into on the bike?
Relaxation is probably the best way to describe it. Some people like to do yoga, other people like to run marathons. I like to ride motorbikes. It blocks out all the negative shit in my life and just lets me do what I’m good at, which is get out there and ride. I like putting the helmet on and just being on my own. I’m probably a bit of a loner in that regard. But it’s not wasted energy. You could sit there and play PlayStation all day and it’s not going to mean anything in real life. On the track, I’m improving the skills that make me better at my job, which is a bit of a double win.
Send it. Thanks for the chat Rennie.