I like this post because I get to combine an interview with an interesting motorcyclist and the ‘bikers helping bikers‘ concept that I’d like to do monthly. So without further ado, let’s take a look at Jeremy Malman and Worth Motorcycles.
Simply put, Worth Motorcycles is a NYC-based non-profit that offers training in vintage motorcycle restoration to at-risk youth. It’s offered for free and is impressively data-based. The team behind Worth is impressive, and it includes the current CEO of Norton North America, a former executive at Ducati, the founder of the Brooklyn Invitational, multiple psychologists, and more. But it all started with the Founder and Executive Director, Jeremy Malman. Let’s learn more about him and his program.
If you’re already liking what you’re hearing, head on over to the Worth page to make a donation – I’m sure cash is great but they also accept parts, gear, machinery, etc. Otherwise, read on for his answers to my usual questions!
How did you get started with motorcycles – how did you learn, and what was your first bike?
My dad rode BMWs, but he’s a dick and I’m not sure I want to credit him with that. I was 3 when they divorced and didn’t see too much of him afterwards, but I stayed on two wheels. I raced BMX until I was a teenager and then I stole my first bike, a Yamaha YSR50.
I was 15. I loved it. I loved my bicycle too. They were so liberating. I grew up in the suburbs, and everything was the same. The houses were the same; everyone said the same things and wore the same clothes. Maybe that sort of thing is OK for someone who believes that they’re like other people? I don’t know. What I do know is that I didn’t feel like anyone else felt like me, and this sort of lifestyle, this suburban sameness, seemed to highlighted that. So the bike got me out of there, both literally and emotionally. I couldn’t go too far, I was young, but I went as far as I could which was far enough to see that there were different places where different people did different things. Bikes are still this for me. In an increasingly homogenized Western culture, the bike helps to preserve a degree of autonomy.
My first real, purchased motorcycle was a black 2001 Triumph Speed Triple, which I became obsessed with.
I worked only to outfit the bike with the raddest kit. I remember sleeping, in my bed, with a pair of Dymag SB5 wheels that I had just bought.
What bikes do you currently own?
I own a 1976 BMW R60/6, a 1967 BSA Starfire, and a Norton Featherbed Atlas.
The BMW is both race-bike and city-bike, and the Norton, which is being built with my buddy Kenny at NYC Norton, is exclusively a track-bike.
What’s your favorite piece of gear?
A set of vintage, hand built Cerianis.
You have $25,000 to spend on anything in the world of motorcycles – 1 new bike, several old bikes, track days, a trip, you name it. How do you spend it?
I beg Kenny to build me a NYC Norton Seeley Commando.
What inspired you to start Worth Motorcycles? The cause is above reproach, but why go with motorcycles instead of a different avenue?
Thanks. We use motorcycles because motorcycles are cool and most kids want to be cool. They’re also learning how to do something real. These are hard-skills, teachable and quantifiable abilities with undeniable value.
The bike also affords the opportunity to develop soft-skills, less quantifiable, but maybe more vital. Research literature, pretty clearly, indicates that black folks tend to not like therapy. This is often bc the providers are usually well intentioned but culturally incompetent white folks. Interestingly, the type of relationship often fostered in therapy, particularly with adolescents and teenagers, tends to greatly benefit this population specifically. So, instead of a clinic, or some residential treatment center, we use a bike and the relationship that develops over the course of a build as the means to also acquiring those requisite, soft, people-skills.
What are some of your favorite student builds to date?
The first one, no doubt.
What do you have planned for the future of Worth?
That’s a good question. A lot, really. We’re looking at moving into a bigger space within the next few months, which is very exciting. We’re proposing something super top-secret with Mercedes and I actually have a meeting today with a production company hoping to feature us in a documentary. I’d also really like to see Worth in LA within the next 5 years.
What do you expect from the future of motorcycling, good or bad?
That’s another good question. The increase in DIYers building vintage bikes is rad. The resulting bloated cost of building vintage bikes is not rad.
I suspect things will calm down, it always does. Remember, just a few years back, everyone wanted a Harley. If you were able to find one, it was going to cost you, a lot. In the last few years, over 64 Harley dealerships have closed. The economic downturn certainly didn’t help, but this is a sustaining trend within every market, peaks and valleys, ups and downs. This is what I expect, a sort-of leveling off relative to costs, but a continued increase in technological development.
I love the idea. How could one get involved and help, whether they’re local to you or not?
There are so many different ways to support Worth. If your readers have bikes, spare parts, tools, shop equipment (etc.), they’d like to donate, email us, we can usually coordinate a pick-up. A lot of our supporters will donate their professional services i.e., screen printing or letter-pressing.
Anyone can always make a tax-deductible, monetary contribution online at worthmotorcycles.org. Sometimes however, it’s as simple as making an introduction. For example, you think that I should meet with, I don’t know, the director of marketing for Ruby helmets. Perhaps Ruby does a lot of social/community outreach and you think we might be interested in collaborating on a project… (I don’t, BTW, think this true at all). [Editor’s Note: Especially considering Les Ateliers Ruby went out of business four months ago!]
One of the most important functions of a non-profit is that everyone involved, irrespective of commitment, is thinking about doing something for someone else. And as Plex says in my daughter’s Yo Gabba Gabba book, “it’s nice to be nice.”
Photos courtesy Jeremy Malman