This article originally appeared on VICE France.
I met up with Pack, one of the guys from Dirty Riderz motorcross crew, on a sunny May morning in Paris. I sat on the back of his moped as he drove us to the crew's headquarters, a small house where they keep a dozen dirt bikes and quads. We ate a bunch of kebabs together in the driveway, loaded up the truck, and headed out towards the place they like to ride. They asked me not to divulge the precise location, because they don't want to turn up one day and find the cops waiting for them.
Members of the crew are aged between 14 and 35, and most come from the surrounding area—the Paris suburbs of Choisy-le-Roi, Vitry-sur-Seine, and Villeneuve-Saint-Georges—but interest is spreading. Recently, guys from as far away as Val d'Oise, which is on northeast end of Paris, have joined the crew.
The wider bike-riding movement that the Dirty Riderz are a part of—#CrossPavement, essentially the French version of UK BikeLife—became properly organized a couple of years ago, and the popularity of these bike crews have been on the up ever since.
The reason the Dirty Riderz gather in this one particular spot is because they've been kicked out of everywhere else by the police. This countryside road is where they can come to relax and work on their riding skills. When they congregate here, it's an entire day event—a "normal" day starts at around noon and ends at about 10 PM.
The atmosphere is almost familial. People show up with friends and everybody's welcoming, offering tokes on their water pipes or a bite of the merguez sausages they're grilling up.
The day I was there, one of the riders got into a pretty nasty accident. He fell off his bike and slid 30 feet across the hot pavement. He'd basically burnt the skin off his entire arm, so the guys rushed him to hospital in the boot of a station wagon.
One guy told me that there could be as many as five accidents a day—but usually there's none at all. These guys ride really fast and some don't wear any sort of protection, so when they get hurt, they get really hurt.
Something about it reminded me of the early days of France's skate scene—police are out to get them and they're kicked out of everywhere they ride, but they keep going regardless. Time will tell if they'll be gradually accepted into the mainstream, or if they'll forever be stuck on the margins.
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