HOG goes behind the scenes of the hit TV series to find out more about the motorcycles featured in the show
Story by Mike Zimmerman
Photos by Scott G Toepfer
The time is four years following the death of Jax Teller, the would-be crown prince of the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club (M.C.). The place is the fictional border town of Santo Padre, hundreds of kilometres south of Charming, California.
The story follows Ezekiel ‘EZ’ Reyes (J.D. Pardo), whose pursuit of the American dream was derailed when his family had a fatal run-in with the notorious drug cartels. Now he’s a prospect in the Mayans M.C., the blood rival of the Sons of Anarchy in the original series.
Some of the names and faces will be familiar to fans of Sons of Anarchy (SOA), which came to an ‘impactful’ end in 2014 after seven blockbuster seasons. Kurt Sutter is once again the driving force behind it, along with co-creator and writer Elgin James. As in SOA, the culture feels authentic, the riding is real and the motorcycles are characters in their own right on the show.
This is the story behind some of those bikes, as told by one of the show’s stars.
Emilio Rivera is a familiar face to fans of SOA. Not only does Rivera reprise his role as Marcus Álvarez – now the national president of the Mayans M.C. – he was also instrumental in the look of the bikes featured on the show.
“Kurt called me and asked if I’d be interested in helping with the bikes,” Rivera told HOG® magazine in an exclusive interview. “Two of the bikes on the Sons of Anarchy show, the bikes that I rode on, were the style we ride [in real life]. So he asked me if we could do that style, and that’s exactly what we did. They were different colour schemes than I had, but they came out real nice.”
The style in question is characteristic of Latino custom culture in Southern California. It’s a culture in which custom cars and motorcycles are an expression of their owners and the world around them.
“The bikes are an extension of who you are, you know what I’m saying?” Rivera says. “Just like we take the low-rider cars, and the different colour paint jobs and stuff, we just take it over to the bike. The more chrome the better, the big bars. We’re just going for a cool look, you dig?”
And one that draws attention.
“A lot of us ride with straight-up fishtails, which look cool and sound cool,” he says. “It’s a throwback; the sound is really nice, man. You can be passed by someone, and you know that person is there just by the sound of his bike.”
Rivera’s motorcycling days began on mini-bikes when he was a kid during an era when he and his friends were inspired by perhaps the most outrageous daredevil and showman of all time.
“Back in my time, the early ’70s, we had Evel Knievel, and we were trying to jump over anything we saw,” he recalls with a laugh. “We started on dirt roads, and it wasn’t congested back then. We had some good times. Some crazy crashes but a lot of good times.”
For the bike he would ride on the new show – the ride that would help define his character – Rivera was inspired not by one of his motorcycles, but by one of his cars.
“I said, ‘Let’s think about this, man,’” Rivera recalls. “I have a 1948 Chevy that’s two-tone green, so green has always been my colour – which is kind of cool because the Mayan colour is green. So we matched the bike colour to the top part of my ’48 Chevy, and that’s how I began.
“And of course, I wanted to be comfortable, so it had to be a Road King®. When you go for a long ride, you want to keep it comfortable, and you want some saddlebags to put some stuff in the sides.”
After his Road King motorcycle, Rivera says his favourite bike on the show is one that takes a different approach to style. It’s the 2017 Softail® Deluxe model ridden by the character EZ.
“It’s just plain old-school black,” he says. “No ape-hangers, either – and no fishtails. There’s nothing too crazy about it. l just like the old-school look, man, you dig what I’m saying? That’s my favourite look.”
Another favourite – because of how well it fits its rider – is the 2017 Breakout® model ridden by the character known as Obispo ‘Bishop’ Losa.
“They customized it for him, they raked it out a little bit; it has baby apes on it,” he explains. “It’s a fast bike, and they decked it all out for him. Because he’s a guy, man. He’s wiry. He’s always on the go, go, go, go. His name’s Michael Irby, and we call him ‘Herbs and Spice,’ because he’s spicy. And the bike just fits who he is. It’s perfect, bro, you know what I’m saying?”
Not Your Father’s ‘Sons’
But for all that feels familiar to riders and viewers, Rivera is quick to point out that Mayans M.C. is a very different show than Sons of Anarchy.
“The only real similarity is that it’s a biker show,” he says. “Because it’s way different, 180 degrees, man. Sons was here, and we’re over here, you know? Different characters, different storylines. You don’t have to watch Sons to watch Mayans and know what’s going on.”
The show feels real to the audience, Rivera says, because it feels real to the actors.
“Once you put on the cut and get on the bike, you can’t help but become what you’re playing, you dig what I’m saying? Even if it’s just for 10 or 12 or 14 hours. And then when they say ‘cut’ you hang it up, and you go back home. But for that time, for those 10 hours, you’re the badass, man. Not that a bike makes you badass, but you feel it. You feel the power underneath you, you hear the noise, and you see the brotherhood that we have, man. It’s this beautiful thing.”
There Will Be Blood
As for what’s coming up in Season 2, Rivera can only say to expect even more of what defined the first season.
“If you thought Season 1 was good, all we really did was lay down the ground floor,” he says. “Wait until you see what happens now. It’s going to be beautiful, man – beautiful and ugly. And bloody. But that’s Kurt Sutter, you dig what I’m saying?