Our very first ‘Behind the Bars’
Welcome to the first installment of Behind The Bars, The Bullitt’s celebration of the humans behind the machines we love. If you are a regular reader of this column you know we are generally bullish on the overall state of affairs within the moto industry simply because, well, we’re like you and are addicted to the sound, smell and sensation of riding. Plus, The Bullitt is located in SoCal which feels like the epicenter of motorcycle culture – we tend to only see the good and ignore the haters, industry articles and social media mentions about the flatlining of the motorcycle industry. Anyone reading this blog or attends the big custom shows from Portland-to-LA-to-Austin knows that this industry is alive and well. So as part of that, we decided it would be fun to profile some of the people who inspire us, challenge our point of view on design, or in some cases, just one up themselves and the industry every time they reveal a design.
We symbolically chose Jay LaRossa to kick this feature off for several reasons. First off, if he ever wrote a book it would have to be called “A Motorcycle Saved My Life.” Jay’s story is amazing. During his second battle with cancer, he continued to wrench on a custom build while directing it remotely from his hospital bed. The Honda (the same build he references in this interview) features a custom lighting feature paying tribute to his feelings about fighting this disease. Look closely at the brake light in the pic below.
In typical Jay fashion, his “fuck u” to cancer took on a whole new meaning when confronting soccer moms at stop lights. But when you design beautiful bikes, kick cancer in the ass and hustle hard to promote the custom Socal Moto scene, we are happy to support Jay, Dia De Las Motos and celebrate his unique personality and contributions to this industry.
Name: Jay LaRossa
Company: Lossa Engineering/ Dia De Las Motos Show
Fun/interesting fact about yourself: Survived Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma twice.
What was the first bike you bought and why did you buy it?
Honda Aero 50 scooter/ Transportation at 15 years old, duh! Then a Yamaha YSR-50.
What’s a life lesson you learned from motorcycles?
Be aware of your surroundings, cautious and careful and you wont die.
What one person has influenced your interest in these machines – what about them helped form your ideas on this sport?
My pops, has always owned a motorcycle during my whole life and customized all of them.
Have motorcycles helped you discover some aspect of your personality and/or have they helped you understand your purpose?
Both sides of my family owned dealerships, so I was always surrounded by motorcycles. But for some dumb reason, I started my first shop building trucks and cars. I did not own a bike during this time until around 2003 I started to work for Jesse James on his personal car collection. Being around all those rad bikes, got me back into wanting a bike real bad. I built my first custom cafe nut and bolt resto bike in my garage in 6 weeks, from start to finish. Light bulb went off, why do I want to take 2 years to customize/ build a car when bikes are so much quicker and customization can be seen so much more!? I sold my 1957 Cadillac and put 10 bikes in its place, my future was decided!
Gear is a big part of this sport, what is one thing you cannot live without when riding?
I am old enough to remember that there was no helmet law in California when I first started riding. I have never ridden without a full face helmet my whole life! Within the last 10 years, I will not ride without a jacket with full armor and actual riding boots. Most of the time I am also wearing my Tobacco jeans. On the track, I wear nothing but the best full Alpinestars gear from head to toe! Well a Bell Pro Star full carbon helmet on my head…
You just found out you have one week to live. That gives you a few days to squeeze in 1-2 days of riding. What bike and where do you go?
My MV Agusta Brutale / The Dragon.
You have $10k and one hour to buy a bike…. Go.
What motorcyclist do you identify with and why? Ponch, The Fonz, or Evel Knievel.
Fonz for sure! Not down for jumping and crashing or riding around on a big ginormous stock motorcycle. Fonz was cool and his bike was also cool, the way I like making mine.
When non-riders question why you ride a machine that is so dangerous, what do you tell them?
No one has EVER asked me that question, I would never hang around losers like that!
Name a designer (or individual), not in the moto space, that influences your POV on your moto designs?
Miguel Galluzzi, I mean he designed the Ducati Monster…sexy as fuck! Italian designers look at things a different way, lines, curves and shapes and lead to something pleasing when you look at it. Plus I am Italian, so maybe I do the same?
Any previous builds or projects that you’re proud of, or surprised with public perception?
I am proud of every bike I have ever built! Some of my very favorites are the Yamaha SR500 Solus (It pushed my abilities of fabrication much farther then most of my builds to date). My CL450 with the solar panels in the ammo cans (just because everyone thought I only built cafe racers, people hated this bike or loved it, and I got crazy reactions because it was so different) and my latest build, my Ducati 900ss, I had some outside help on building the bodywork, but really brought the quality and top of line parts to the next level.
Any cool projects/builds you’re currently working on?
Finishing up a 2003 Triumph desert sled, like the Ducati, no expense spared, all top of the like parts. Also, my good friend, Don’s Cb550 with a hotrod CB650 motor is going to be bananas! I also have about 8 other builds I have started for myself…stay tuned for some crazy shit!
What’s next for you?
I started producing a custom motorcycle and art show 3 years ago with 3 other partners, this year I branched off and have started my own custom motorcycle and art show in Downtown Los Angeles on March 21st, 2020. ** UPDATE – due to coronavirus (COVID-19) the upcoming show has unfortunately been postponed. Jay and team are already looking for new dates. ** I really enjoy bringing the motorcycle community together and making this huge family stronger. I go to pretty much every local motorcycle event and many in other states and cities. I also just stopped building, servicing and repairing motorcycles for other people. My focus now is just selling my parts online and building a few custom bikes a year that I want to build. I still have some ground up bikes to finish, but this new company plan has relieved much stress from my life and brought the love for motorcycles back to me.
You’re editing your own moto video – footage of you riding with best friends. What song opens the video?
I like all types of music, pretty much anything thats good, fast or even funny.
We’re in this industry because it brings us joy. What was your most joyous day on a motorcycle to date?
My good friend Brady puts on these classic track days for vintage bikes up at willow Springs Racetrack, but he lets me bring my MV Agusta Brutale. The last few times after putting on the new Dunlop Q4’s, my confidence on this bike has increased so much. I have so much fun on the tracks with this bike.
Extra Credit – This industry is small, so give a shout out to a few people who are doing something unique, interesting or worthwhile.
Aaron Boss at Roland Sands Design, that is one talented mother fucker!! I have learned so much from him (I actually pay him a monthly fee for his knowledge). Max Hazan, he continually blows my mind with everything he has been building. What he designs and makes is next level stuff for sure. Also, Christian Sosa, his designs and execution are amazing.
Anything important we forgot to add, or anything else you want to share?
I have a bad addiction, it’s buying motorcycles and collecting them. Then I like to sell or trade them and lose money.