Riki Rachtman might best be known as the larger-than-life host of MTV’s ‘Headbanger’s Ball’, where he held court with the biggest rock acts of the day. However, over the past few years, his passion for giving back is what has established him as a genuine “rock star.” As an avid fan of motorcycle culture, his passion for riding has allowed him to spend the better part of his life on two wheels. It was only a matter of time before touring the land on a finely tuned machine and his desire for supporting some very deserving charities would join forces to spawn Riki’s Ride. Starting on June 1st, 2017, Riki Rachtman will be riding his motorcycle through all 48 contiguous states without a chase vehicle, producer, or any real plan. This amazing ride is all about raising donations and spreading awareness for Claire’s Place Foundation (www.clairesplacefoundation.org). This amazing 501c3 non-profit organization provides heartfelt help to children and young adults diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis, as well as their families, for the purpose of improving their quality of life. Claire’s Place Foundation is named in honor of Claire Wineland, now a teenager, who has been living with CF her entire life. To support Claire and the work of the foundation, Riki is hitting the road to visit some of the most incredible locations that America has to offer. During the ride Riki will be joined by friends from all over the country at various stops and meeting places. Best of all, it’s a journey you can take with him in real-time with daily updates served up via the official website (www.rikisride.com), or through social media on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently struck out on a mission to find Riki Rachtman on the road in America. Their paths crossed on a rainy morning in Lewes, Delaware as Rachtman prepared to board the Cape May-Lewes Ferry as he headed north to New York City. The two sat down to discuss Rachtman’s passion for riding which spawned Riki’s Ride, raising awareness for a very worthy cause, and the experience of roaming America in 2017.
It’s clear you have a love for motorcycle culture, and are no stranger to hitting the open road. How did this passion first take hold of you?
When I was a little kid, I always wanted a motorcycle but could never get one. I was one of those kids who had parents who wouldn’t let them get something like that. Eventually, when I started making a little bit of money, my friends and everyone around us bought Honda Rebels. Gilby Clarke included, who is a big Harley Davidson guy. We all bought Honda Rebels and started riding! As years progressed, when the Cathouse opened, I had enough money to buy my first Harley, which was a ’67 Pan/Shovel. Then we started doing rides to Sturgis and I realized how much I liked riding long distance as a group, but then something happened. I think my dog died or something and I said, “Ya know what? I’m just gonna meet you guys in Utah.” I rode by myself and that’s when I discovered how much I liked riding by myself. I liked riding with Taime [Downe] and my friends, but I just started riding further and further by myself. Taime and I started doing coast-to-coast trips and stuff like that. The next thing I know, I have gone coast-to-coast seven times, and Mexico to Canada three times! I just love the feeling of solitude! There are days I don’t like it! For example, today we are in Delaware and I’ve been riding in the pouring rain, so I’m about to get on the Cape May-Lewes Ferry and I’m soaked! [laughs] It’s not necessarily the ideal situation but I love riding. I also love meeting people and the whole thing! It’s incredible!
How did the idea for Riki’s Ride come about initially?
I’m just a whore when it comes to getting my name out whenever I can! [laughs] I started doing Riki’s Ride officially in 2014 and would pick different charities here and there to support. It kept getting bigger and bigger and people were really into it! From there, I decided that this may be my last Riki’s Ride, so I would make it my biggest. I decided I was going to ride 48 states. I have to ride every single state along the way. It’s interesting because in taking the ferry today, I’m going to miss riding in Pennsylvania, so I will have to come back next week. For Riki’s Ride 2017, I’m raising money for Claire Wineland’s foundation — Claire’s Place Foundation, Inc. (www.clairesplacefoundation.org). Through her foundation, she helps families and kids with Cystic Fibrosis. I always look around for charities that aren’t very well known and where they take all of the money toward the charitable cause. In other words, it’s not money that’s donated but goes to the administration or raising awareness. Raising awareness? What does that mean? I’m raising awareness and it doesn’t cost a penny! I saw one of Claire Wineland’s videos on YouTube and she absolutely blew me away! She is such a cool girl and Claire’s Place Foundation is doing great work. They don’t focus on a cure or research but instead focus on the people who have CF, which is really cool. With Riki’s Ride 2017, I have been letting people join me on this ride, whether it is Twitter, Instagram, Facebook live videos on social media, or my website. People are able to hop on, join me and tell me places to go! If they are having fun, it would be nice if they were donating some money as well!
Riki’s Ride is no small undertaking. What goes into the prep of putting an endeavor like this together?
Well, it was supposed to be three legs because I did the West Coast already with Chris Kael of Five Finger Death Punch. However, I decided to get rid of all that because I’m riding a different motorcycle now. I’m riding an Indian which I’m currently watching get dumped on by massive amounts of rain! [laughs] Now, I’m doing the East Coast right now and starting July 5th, I will be hitting every other state. As far as what goes into preparation… not near enough! [laughs] Not near enough! I am here today because through social media, people told me to take this ferry today. I’m currently soaking wet and I don’t know where I’m staying! It’s exciting, I mean, I’m going to ride through Times Square today! I’m a little bit sketchy about that! [laughs] There is really no prep, which sucks, because I’m really stressed out about it a little bit. At the same time, it’s cool because you leave yourself open to some really incredible situations and locations that you might not otherwise hit!
I saw you mention on social media you were open to the idea of additional sponsors.
Yeah, I was at The Monster Mile in Dover, Delaware yesterday and someone said, “What if I want to donate to you for gas or donate to you to help with your ride?” That’s not something I feel right about. I said, “Make a donation to Claire’s Place.” But, if there is a sponsor out there that make sense, I am certainly open to it. I won’t get sponsored by just anybody. I have Death Wish Coffee, Hot Leathers and Law Tigers. Those are three companies I truly believe in, I work with, and have been a customer of. I drink Death Wish Coffee. I use Hot Leathers gear. I hope I never have to use Law Tigers, who are motorcycle attorneys, but if I do, they are there! [laughs] All of those companies are very supportive of me and if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be able to do these rides. These rides easily cost $20,000 and I’m staying in cheap hotels! [laughs] I would love another sponsor that makes sense. I’m all over social media and I use the products and put the logo on the bike. It has to be a sponsor that makes sense. I wouldn’t let Seaworld give me $10,000 toward the ride. That’s not happening! We will see what happens!
I’m sure you face some unique challenges out there on the road.
Yeah, for sure. Today is a challenge! [laughs] I’m an idiot and I’m always like, “Should I put on rain gear or should I not put on rain gear?” My rain gear is a big yellow jumpsuit that says “DEVO” on it and I don’t like wearing it! [laughs] I said, “I’m just going to ride to the ferry and not worry about the rain gear…” Of course I got drenched and now I have to get on the ferry and figure out if I want to put it all on because I will be riding through New Jersey and New York City. I know at some points I’m going to be going one mile per hour. The weather is really tough. I also have a radio show called “Racing Rocks!” and I have to record it once a week. It’s a big challenge trying to find an affiliate in different markets. I’m backtracking a lot. This thing will probably be 13,000 miles by the time it’s done. Those are the challenges, but it’s great! It’s the greatest thing and I love it more than anything. I really do! It’s so much fun. Of course, I do miss my family and I know it’s hard for Kristi and Kloey but this is what I do. This will be my last really long ride!
Out there on the road you are always face to face with the people from across the nation. What’s your take on the America in 2017?
It’s funny you say that because I’m really lucky. I’m in a position in my life right now where people see me they might say, “Oh, Riki Rachtman!” We’re sitting here right now and no one is coming up to me and saying anything. Maybe they will but maybe they won’t. The point is, it’s not to the point of encountering crazy fans, so I do whatever I want by myself and it’s good. What people don’t realize is that America is great and this was true long before they were saying “Make America Great Again.” I know America! I’m seeing the small towns and meeting the people face to face. I love this country, it’s people and they are truly great! Back to my original point, when I meet someone, the overwhelming majority have no idea who I am and they couldn’t be cooler! That’s great and it’s one of the things that makes an experience like this one so rewarding!
I’m sure we can learn a lot from your perspective. What is the best lesson we can take from your journey so far?
To say, “Follow your dreams…” is so stupid and cliché. I also think saying, “Never ever give up…” doesn’t work either because sometimes you have to give up and do something else. Riki’s Ride is proof positive that you shouldn’t do a bucket list. Do a To-Do list. That there’s a list of things that you really want to do, just do it now! I used to say, “When I’m 60 years old, I’m going to ride coast-to-coast.” Well, I’m far from 60 and I have already ridden from coast-to-coast seven times now! Just do whatever it is you want to do! Get out there and see stuff. Start looking in your own backyard because there’s some really great stuff that’s probably right around the corner from you. Just get out there and do it!
Awesome! It looks like it’s time for you to hit the road again, Riki! Thanks for your time and safe travels!
Thanks, buddy! I appreciate the support!
Support Riki’s Ride 2017! Make a donation via Crowdrise! Follow Riki Rachtman on epic journey across the United States via the official website, www.rikisride.com, or through social media on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Learn more about Claire’s Place Foundation, Inc. at www.clairesplacefoundation.org!