The best Hammarhead photo shoot ever

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Everyone who reads HFL knows how much we adore Hammarhead bikes. Back in June 13, 2011, James Hammarhead hired me to shoot all three models in one very special location. The shoot was for an outside project that never materialized, leaving the photos to languish on my hard drive. Finally, James has decided to release the images and has even given HFL an exclusive of his reflections on that day. I was going to make a giant scrolling feature, but I really want these photos out in the world. I’ve picked 38 of my favorite as a single gallery, hope you enjoy. – grant

Honor the Past by Never Looking Back
by James Hammarhead


Our production schedule synchronized so that a Woodsman, Solo X and Jack Pine were all in need of a few hours of testing before delivery. I invited Grant Ray to photograph the cohort in action. The day before the shoot, the primary location canceled due to concerns about insurance or some such nonsense. My first impulse was to fall back to an abandon industrial site in Philadelphia. But Grant made a strong case for a natural setting, so I countered with “The Farm.”

I spent my early years on a small Pennsylvania farm, where I took endless rides on the tanks of my older brother’s XL 70. Later, my brother taught me to ride a hand-me-down Indian Boy Racer. I went on to roam the wooded trails on my own Yamaha GT 80 and finally a glorious Penton 175 Jackpiner. The Jackpiner is long gone but the Boy Racer is still in the barn.

“The Farm” is a bucolic tract of land about an hour outside Philadelphia. In the late 70’s there were endless trails to ride and a dilapidated barn to explore. My sister and her family live there now and have made a few improvements. The barn has been renovated to include a fully equipped shop, filled with an assortment of quads and motorcycles. The back field has been turned into a full-sized practice MX track and a hare scramble loop now weaves through the dense woods, crosses a winding steam and traverses several intimate meadows. Paradise.

When I filled Grant in on the new location he was a bit perplexed. “Why the hell didn’t you pitch this place from the start?” The reasons are complicated. These woods had been my childhood refuge and I had not been there in 30 years. I knew riding there on the Hammarhead bikes was going to be eerie. The thought of bringing the HHI team, our bikes and Grant to this location was a bit unsettling for me.

Like most photos shoots, we began with the predawn rendezvous, drinking bad coffee and popping tie downs. Grant brought along Flat Track racer and mutual friend, Scott Rounds, to ride for us. Scott was joined by our primary test rider Greg Pamart and as the day heated up, my 16-year-old nephew, Jake Ekhart, joined. Urged on by Grant, the Hare Scramble loop began to resemble a race day. Watching the action from the ridgeline across the gully, I realized “The Farm” was hallowed ground. This was the place I returned to when creating the Hammarhead bikes.

The forests of Pennsylvania are primordial. As a child, I had felt that kids owned the woods. When adults came looking for us, they seemed to stop at the tree line and shout, but never dare to enter. I felt free in the woods; for the first time there was no doubt that I was my own agent. This freedom was amplified by a heady dose of fear when I rode the Boy Racer along the trails my older brothers had cut. Here in the woods, my first stream crossing, steep hill climb and serious air were each an uneasy mix of excitement and fear.

Thirty years later, the combination of fear and freedom was again palatable as I prepared for my last creek crossing of the day. For me, this mixture of queasy empowerment is the primal state that motorcycles can induce, shattering the lethargy of an anxiety prone post-modern life. In fact, everything Hammarhead creates is an exploration of the uncomfortable, electric affirmation that happens when a motorcycle reminds us that we are alive.

  • JVictor75

    Grant! The post preview function has the entire post on the main page. Just looking out for you guys…

    Now that is out of the way, very very nice article, very very nice pictures. I’m jealous as all hell and thinking about my afternoon commute (104 Farenheit in stop and go traffic on an RC-51).

    Thank God for the weekend. And the ability to still dream about building/buying something like a Jack Pine some day.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Grant Ray

      Whoops. Looks like Wes fixed it.

  • Michael

    Niiiiiiice photos Grant. You’ve got some talent holmie. Epic air too!

  • http://www.muthalovin.com the_doctor

    Very, very nice pics, and a cool story.

  • http://cynic13th.livejournal.com/ cynic

    Things like this, are what make this such a great site. Cool stories with motorcycles in them.

    You guys earned your $2 with this one =)

  • Jericho7

    This makes my day. Thank you so much.

  • Chris

    Nice introspective.

  • Miles Prower [690 Duke, MTS 1200]

    Great, inspirational writing from JH. Great, intimate photos from GR.

    I was just over at my local shop getting my motorcycles inspected for the year and talking shop with staff and patrons — and for some reason, today was a day when some very unique rides came into the shop for inspection.

    And now this awesome story and photo gallery.

    What a swell way to start off the weekend.

    Thanks HFL!

  • Your_Mom

    Fantastic photos. And a great article. Thanks.

  • HammSammich

    I want to go to there…

  • DAVID

    is the Ural on fire in #20?

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Grant Ray

      No, Scott had just blasted through the deep part of the creek and steam was poring off the headers and cylinders.

  • http://www.damiengaudet.blogspot.com damien

    Awesome stuff. My next house will have land for exactly this reason.

  • DoctorNine

    Reminds me of summers in the 70′s…

  • Campisi

    I had no idea that the Woodsman existed until I went and saw Hammarhead in Seattle a while back. At the time, I remember thinking it was the best bike at the show; after seeing the gallery, I’m convinced it’s my favorite product of theirs.

  • Alex MacPherson

    Jack Pine luvvvvv

  • aziai79

    “For me, this mixture of queasy empowerment is the primal state that motorcycles can induce, shattering the lethargy of an anxiety prone post-modern life”.

    Quote of the year on this site, hands down.

  • nymoto

    Fantastic read, thank you.
    Must ask- is this the place in penn that I see advertised that you can rent out with friends that has a MX track and a barn / bunk house for sleeping ??

    • hammarhead

      It is not that place.

  • http://respectthetrade.tumblr.com/ KR Tong

    Holy shit that jump is epic.

    • Scott-jay

      4th picture in post?
      Wonder what it sounded like at landing?

      • hammarhead

        There are a few big landings with the Jack Pine in Pier 18 video: http://vimeo.com/18976012

        • kinsler

          This Pier 18 video rules

  • Fresh Dave

    Is that a Langlitz jacket on the guy riding the JP?

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Grant Ray

      It’s my Vanson Chopper that I snuck armor in to the back, elbows and shoulders. I wear it religiously.

      • Fresh Dave

        Thanks Grant. If you ever find yourself in Sunset Junction feel free to email me, I’d love to check out what it’s like with the pads. Coffee is on me.

  • Jim

    Great writing and images. Stuff like this keeps me coming back.

  • http://www.twowheelsplus.com/ Anders

    Yes!

  • David Dawson

    Now I really want to either get knobs back on my WR250X, or go talk to the Royal Enfield dealer down the street about a new bike (LOVE Pic 32!)…