If you’re looking for a genuine “grass roots” kind of event, I think we’ve got you covered. The Run 4 Your Life weekend, coming up August 3rd – August 6th in Ada, Ohio, is about as grassroots as you can get. Bands, BBQ, bike games, and sleeping in the dirt…what could be better? A while ago, I spent the weekend with some core participants and shot some fun that can be found at the “R4YL”. Leading this crew and organizing the event is Joel Hauenstein. Joel is quite the dude. He’s a painter by trade, low-key, and very talented. He’s the owner/builder of “The Jart”, the badass shovel with the killer blue paint you’ve seen all over Instagram any time it leaves the shop. This isn’t by Joel’s doing, it’s just that the bike is that badass, really! I spent some time with Joel to hear more about the upcoming run.
Who are the organizers of R4YL? It’s a 3-man effort for the most part: me, myself, and I... all kidding aside, I do most of the organization, but I do rely on a few friends for help here and there.
When did you start R4YL and how did it come about? Well, this is #9, but the idea started about 10 years ago. I decided to have an ‘open house’ event at my shop to showcase some of the paint work that I had been doing, but mostly because I just wanted to have a party. The success of the party, coupled with my recent trip to the Gypsy Run #2, got me thinking about doing it again, but adding a riding element. At the time, there were poker runs and the like every weekend locally, but they were geared to people on new bikes that liked to ride to a bar and go home. Seeing the Gypsy Run confirmed my suspicions that there were others out there who liked old junk, RIDE SAID OLD JUNK, and didn’t mind sleeping in the dirt. It has just kind of evolved from there.
Tell me about the actual ride. The ride itself is the most important part of this event, and what separates it from most others? It all starts at my shop, outside Ada, OH. The Thursday night ‘pre-party’ is now more an official part of the event, but at the outset, it was just a low-key gathering for those coming from out of state, but now includes live entertainment, free beer, bike games, and BBQ. The route and destinations are different every year, mostly because I like to keep things fresh, and see new places. I want to experience the same sense of adventure that all of the attendees do. We generally do 3 states in 3 days, which equates to about 200 miles of riding each day. We have covered Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New York. This year we will be adding Virgina to the list. The route varies a lot, as it is destination-based, but it’s usually a nice mix of single lane backroads, state highways, and a bit of super slab here and there. I always plot out a route, but inevitably we seem to deviate from it a bit, or a lot. I like to encourage folks to forge their own way, and use the ‘route’ as a suggestion. I encourage people to stop where they want, and see what they want to see, basically make the ride enjoyable for yourself.
Any good stories to share from previous year’s events? Hmmmmmmmm, that’s a tough one, there have been a bunch of really good moments over the years, and a lot that I probably shouldn’t talk about. One of the most memorable for me was during #4. Our Saturday stop was supposed to be at a bar on the PA/WV border, a friend knew the owners and set it up. It was a REALLY small town, and the bar owners had told some people in the town that there was a ‘couple hundred bikes’ coming in, which got the townspeople very curious and excited. Apparently they were all out sitting in lawn chairs all day waiting for this big parade of bikes to come in. We ran into some mechanical troubles that day, and got lost once, and were running VERY late (even by my standards). When the first group of a few bikes rolled into the bar about 9pm, the locals were wondering where all these bikes were? We continued to straggle in until about midnight. The bar also owned a seedy, ‘by the hour’ type hotel right across the road. We quickly commandeered that parking lot, as well as most of the rooms, and local ‘talent’, much to the chagrin of the meth dealer at the far end of the place. It was a strange night. I’ve come to realize that the stories are a very important part of this event, and part of the reason that we go somewhere different each year. I encourage people to break up into smaller groups, so everyone has different stories to tell about their day once everyone gets to camp.
Are there any sponsors for the event? We do not have any real sponsors, but several folks are generous enough to donate some goods for giveaway. Our biggest ‘sponsor’ would probably be Lowbrow Customs, they have been with us since the first year, and always donate a nice pile of goods that we distribute to attendees through the highly scientific method of Rock, Paper, Scissors. Mike from TWT motorcycle parts also donates some really cool etched pieces with R4YL artwork every year. Greasy Shirts has stepped up the last couple years to handle the printing of t-shirts. There are a few others that throw in some goods for the Rock, Paper, Scissors pile. The majority of event related expenses come out of my own pocket though.
Who is your typical participant? Our typical participant is widely varied, but they LOVE TO RIDE. I think we have had just about every type and manufacturer of bike at the event, from 2 stroke dirtbikes, to trikes, to modern metric baggers, choppers, bobbers, cafes, etc. We prefer to see vintage bikes & choppers, but if its’ got 2 or 3 wheels (no Can-Am Spyders, please!) we don’t care, come have fun! The amount of riding involved seems to dictate the type of people we get, as it takes a certain kind of crazy to want to ride a couple hundred miles to get here, and then do a couple hundred a day and sleep in the dirt for 3 days, only to have to ride a couple hundred home. It used to bum me out that we didn’t get massive attendance numbers, but what we lack in numbers, we make up for in solid, stand up people. Everyone is there for the same reasons: have fun, ride bikes; so there are no agendas or toughguy shit. I keep things pretty loose as far as organization, and there is little to no support from chase trucks or the like, so we expect those attending to have their shit in a proverbial pile.
In the past, how did you get the word out about R4YL? In the early days it was all forum based, before blogs and Instagram took over the world. I’m not super tech-savy, and really have no desire to be, so that makes it difficult in some ways. We have a blog, and still hit the forums. I caved in last year, and had a buddy start an Instagram page, so we would have a presence, but I’m not sure how much it actually helped. Word-of-mouth is still my best tool at this point, and it shows because I see a lot of the same faces every year, and they usually drag a new friend or two with them.
What are your favorite and most challenging parts about organizing it? My favorite part of planning is probably booking the bands, just because I’m a music nut, and it gives me an excuse to listen to new stuff. The most challenging part of planning is getting the campsites locked down. It’s difficult to find campgrounds that are willing to accommodate a bunch of dirty bikers, and even more so when they have never met you. We’ve been very fortunate to find good motorcycle only campgrounds, as well as private lands offered up by relative strangers. In the early days, I would try to scout these locations in person just to be sure, but the last few years, I’ve just gone with my gut instincts, and have been very pleased with every spot we’ve been to.
This is a yearly event… any things that you may change going forward? Yeah, things change a bit every year (who wants to do the same ol’, same ol’?!) As of now, there are no concrete plans for major change, but I’ve been kicking around a few ideas. Next year is #10, so there will probably be something special for that. I’m not sure what’s in store after 10… haven’t decided if I’ll continue this thing, or do something completely different. I just bought a large piece of property, which opens up some new options, so the future is full of opportunity.
Why Ada, Ohio? Any chance you may move it around to other cities/states? To answer quite simply, it’s where I’m at, and also happens to be ‘the heart of it all’. Location, as I’ve said, varies by year, but is still generally ‘mid-west’. This works to our advantage because we get people from all over (NY, NJ, PA, MI, IN, MN, IL, MO, OK, KY, TN, Canada, etc). Using my shop as a ‘meeting place’ seems to work out well, because it’s pretty much smack in the middle of everything from east coast - Mississippi River. Most people can easily get to my place in a day, and get back home from the final destination in a day, so it makes it easier for people that have work schedules to deal with, as they only need to take off a couple days.
Where can we find more information about R4YL? There is an event page right here on ChopCult! You can also find more information on the R4YL's Instagram and on our blog . There is also a Facebook group.
Anyone you’d like to thank? First and foremost, I’d like to thank all of those that have attended past R4YL events! You guys and gals are the ones that keep me coming back for more! I’d also like to thank the GoFast! Crew for all of the help that they have provided over the years taking care of social media for me, helping organize food, securing camp locations, etc. And of course ChopCult for promoting grassroots idiots like myself.
Huge thanks to Joel for his patience with pulling this feature together. Also thanks to Pete Jackson for hosting the R4YL photo shoot and his help in promoting R4YL every year.-Dan
Article and photos by Daniel Venditto / @dv8sport