21: Brooks Manbeck, Photographer

I’ve known Brooks Manbeck since his two-wheeled residency at the infamous Pros of Westminster BMX flophouse in the early ‘90s, but I've never spent quality time with the man until we crossed paths on a little chopper run in 2006. On that occasion, Brooks blew past me and every other hand-built deathtrap on the highway aboard his own grimy Moto Guzzi, shooting black-and-white Kodak 35 like it was going out of style. As everyone but Brooks appears to know, camera film did go out of style years ago, but that hasn’t stopped our friend from doing what he loves best: handcrafting artistic and inspirational prints in the quiet confines of his garage darkroom. The photos Brooks crafted on that trip helped build intrigue for the adventure chopper fanatics worldwide would come to know as the El Diablo Run.


Brooks Manbeck

Age: 40


Town: Lakewood, CA

Co-workers: I tend to work alone


Brooks and fellow old-school BMXer/action photographer Keith Mulligan, crossing the TJ border on EDR I

Riding buddies: The Maytaggers. After inviting everyone I knew to a Midnight Run to the Grand Canyon and back, Greg Gilday and Steve Radosevich showed up and took the ride with me. It took us 24 hours. I always try to catch a ride with Bill and the Biltwell guys, but I usually end up five minutes late and five bucks short

First time on two wheels: I’ve been riding two wheels since before I could walk, but motorbikes since the day I won a Yamaha 125 in a one-dollar raffle

First hand-built motorcycle: My first hand-built hasn't been built yet, but I still got a whole life ahead of me! I got plans and two extra motorbikes in my garage. I have been known to build some of my own cameras

Earliest two-wheeled adventure: I took a 400cc Honda out to Death Valley during a storm one March in STRONG winds. 70 mph head-and side-winds while riding on Interstate 15. The trucks were going twice as fast as me. I learned a lot on that trip. Most important, I learned I needed a bigger bike and tent stakes!  

Most recent two-wheeled adventure: The trip to Mainland Mexico with the ferry ride over to Baja and then back up. I wasn't sure I was going until a few days earlier, but it came together and was a great trip. Bill, Nick, Rob, and Joel were the best people to ride with. Taking a 30-year-old bike on a trip like that will always be a crapshoot. Taking a 30-year-old camera is the same thing--they don't have Black and White film in Mexico!

Current stable of bikes and projects: The '77 Moto Guzzi that I ride somewhere every single day. A 1977 XS 650, a few years ago I bought a garage full of XS650 parts from a crazy guy. All I wanted was the complete bikes, but he made me took it all. I realized it was XS parts that made him crazy and had to unload the 27 boxes. I kept one XS and an extra "kicker only" engine. I also have a 2002 883 with a bad motor that will be back on the road. The Harley was supposed to be a second daily rider to give the Guzzi a rest, but the first day on duty the engine died on the freeway on the way to work. The Guzzi lives on! I once had a guy tell me how much he hates his Guzzi, and that he only uses his when he needs to get parts for his Harley


Tool you wish you had but don't: Right now, I wish my darkroom was up and running. When I moved I had to dismantle it, but I just processed a bunch of film and now I want to make some prints

Tool you have but wish you didn't: It’s a hammer on one end and adjustable wrench on the other. It seemed like such a good idea at the time!


Brooks (second from left) and fellow "Long Way" vets Billdozer, Joel Smith, "Rouser" Rob Galan and Arizona Nick, Los Moches, Mexico, April 2008

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Commented on 9-8-2009 At 11:41 pm

what kind of camera is he using? slr? rangefinder?

Commented on 9-9-2009 At 08:06 am

A good man Brooks is.

Commented on 9-9-2009 At 01:11 pm

Brooks RULES!

Commented on 9-9-2009 At 03:18 pm

Great photos, would have liked to see more of his Moto Guzzi.

Commented on 9-9-2009 At 07:56 pm

Danm Brooks that was good reading and I hate to read !

Commented on 9-10-2009 At 08:08 am


Commented on 9-11-2009 At 05:06 pm

Hey look in that last pic its House (third person from the right)....hahaha.

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