If you’re into or are at all aware of the stunter riding scene, then you’ve probably heard of the Eastcoastin stunt riding crew and their end-of-the-(riding)-year festival that takes place in New Haven, Connecticut, each year right about this time. Eastcoastin is a clothing, gear and swag brand for the most part, built on the stunt riding exploits of its founders, who can execute some pretty impressive wheelies and bike control stunts on hot-rodded heavyweight Harleys (including baggers) – or even Honda Groms.
Eastcoastin events attract a broad spectrum of riders, many of whom are stunters and their fans, and there is, of course, a lot of stunt riding, burnouts and so forth at the gatherings. There’s also food, music, vendors, spectators and other aspects of a large motorcycle rally, including a law enforcement presence. The East Coast “style” of stunting (extremely vertical “12-0’clock” wheelies, often with hand-drags or even fender drags on the pavement) and the inclusion of many bike types including cruisers, sportbikes, dirtbikes, spyders and even ATVs and scooters is an outgrowth of the East Coast urban stunt riding scene. The niche has gotten attention from high-profile companies, including Red Bull, and has been chronicled in documentaries such as 12 O’Clock Boys.
Up until this year, the Eastcoastin New Haven event has remained largely confined to private property and legally closed roads, and the group has enjoyed a certain level of détente if not outright goodwill with the local police. Problems, outside of loud bikes, wheelieing bikes, tire smoke, loud music and the friction those things can bring with the local community, had been minimal.
Again, until this year.
With COVID-19 back in the mix for 2021, New Haven’s mayor warned riders to stay away from the event in the week leading up to it, and Eastcoastin posted a warning to the 57,000 followers of their Instagram page that “this year’s End of the Season Session is a “come at your own risk” event.” Per their Instagram account, Eastcoastin went on to say that ahead of the planned festivities:
“We tried everything from pulling permits, to paying for road closures and even renting a local spot for a venue. All were shot down and pretty much shushed out the door by the Mayors Office. If you can believe it, the only ones actually willing to work with us were the New Haven Police Department. But, like everyone else, they have a boss they have to listen to and that’s definitely not us. With that being said, we’re not sure what’s gonna happen this year. we’re shooting for our annual block party – but it could be a street ride or even a peaceful Anti-COVID Rally / Protest. Just know, no matter what, September 25th somethings going down in New Haven.”
A post on RevZilla indicated that approximately 10,000 participants showed up at the 2020 event. There was no tally of how many riders came to the not-an-official-event event in New Haven this year, but video footage shows large crowds and a lot of tire-smoking action. Police did not give any crowd size estimates.
Not unexpectedly, things indeed went down when the stunts and stunters eventually spilled over onto city streets on Saturday, and local police moved in to put a halt to the party and keep traffic flowing, which included a number of large fuel tanker semi trucks trying to reach coastal facilities. RevZilla reported that “Gabe Canestri, Jr., one of the Eastcoastin founders, was charged with inciting a riot and second-degree breach of the peace.”
Here’s a video of the some of the goings-on at the event, including riders mixing with traffic, fuel trucks stopped or creeping through crowded streets, and the police moving in just after the 28-minute mark.
A few other arrests took place and some bikes were impounded, but for the number of riders involved, videos show that there didn’t seem to be much police reaction and the participants, while certainly flaunting speed laws and other regulations, seemed largely in control of themselves and their machines. After the crowd thinned out and went home, dueling press conferences between New Haven’s mayor’s office and Eastcoastin blamed each other for the problems that did occur. Eastcoastin claims they were unfairly denied permits; city officials said Eastcoastin didn’t follow procedure to get the needed permits.
Will this spell the end of Eastcoastin’s annual New Haven event? While there’s certainly a lot of tire smoke and noise involved and it’s clearly not an ADV riding event, there’s also some impressive bike control going on as well, and a highly diverse mix of bikes and riders. As motorcycle rallies go, it’s a fairly unique event, legal or not. What’s your take on the event and your view of stunt rider culture? Have you attended anything similar? Leave a comment below.