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ADV News5 Riders Who Turned Their 2-Wheel Passion Into A Full Time Job

5 Riders Who Turned Their 2-Wheel Passion Into A Full Time Job

Ordinary people who turned their passion for motorcycles into a profession.

Published on 06.02.2023

We all have our reasons for riding motorcycles. Helmet therapy, travel, sport, freedom, thrill, a sort of escape, all of the above – ask any rider, and they won’t say no to more saddle time. But for some, motorcycling becomes more than a passion. Instead of viewing motorcycles as a hobby or a pastime, some people go all in…and make motorcycling their entire life, regardless of their previous background.


Kinetics coaches turned motorcycle gear designers, bankers turned off-road trainers, IT specialists turned rally parts manufacturers – it goes to show that nothing is impossible and that, given enough drive and determination, anyone can make motorcycling not just a passion but a career and a lifestyle.

So what does it take to turn your life around and make the leap? I chatted with five brave souls to find out.

 Non-Profit Manager to YouTuber: Big Rock Moto

Making money in the motorcycle industry

For many people, turning their passion into a career is the ultimate dream. This is precisely what happened to Ian Schoenleber of Big Rock Moto, a YouTube channel dedicated to all things motorcycles. Today, Big Rock Moto has 165k subscribers and regularly reviews different adventure and dual-sport motorcycles supplied by manufacturers.

However, Ian’s journey was far from traditional.

Before starting Big Rock Moto, Ian had a successful 14-year career in nonprofit management, raising millions of dollars a year for charity. While not his personal passion, the rewarding experience of giving back made it worth it. However, a chance video review of his Honda Africa Twin in 2018 opened the door to a new opportunity.

“Like all start-up businesses, building Big Rock Moto was rocky, uncertain, and full of imposter syndrome. I didn’t set out to make money from YouTube or be a creator. Sometime around 2018, I posted an informal review of my Honda Africa Twin and later came back to see a lot of views and subscribers from just that one video. Intrigued, I posted a handful of other videos,” Ian shares.

Making money in the motorcycle industry

Initially, revenue from the channel was minimal, but it quickly grew, hitting a turning point when he earned $100 in a single day. With the channel growing fast, Ian took the leap and transitioned to full-time work in April 2021 when Big Rock Moto had 25k subscribers.

“The brand took years to build and is still a work in progress. Like all brands, it takes solid, consistent work over the years. The largest roadblocks were getting enough viewers to gain the attention of OEM’s for press loan bikes to review. I started with one or two companies (thank you, Kawasaki and Suzuki) and grew from there. I felt like an imposter, having never worked in the industry. But, like everyone does, if they were being honest, you kind of fake it until you make it,” Ian shares.

Running Big Rock Moto, however, is not as glamorous as it may seem. It involves spending endless hours in front of a computer, editing videos, managing sponsors, moderating comments, and arranging reviews in addition to actual riding and filming. While it’s a dream job, it can be exhausting, especially as a new dad with a working wife.

Making money in the motorcycle industry

“Actual riding and filming is probably 20% of the job. My biggest challenge is finding a balance between my personal life and my job of making videos. Work naturally intrudes into your weekends and evenings, it doesn’t stop. And being self-employed, you are accountable for every tiny aspect of the work unlike in a company where your co-workers can help,” Ian says.

Despite the challenges, Ian’s passion for two wheels remains unwavering. He believes that taking weekends off and engaging in other hobbies keeps the passion alive. Additionally, positive feedback from viewers worldwide who use his videos and information to inform purchase decisions or get started in motorcycling and adventure riding keeps him motivated.

For those dreaming of starting a motorcycle-related business or pursuing a career in motorcycling media, Ian advises meticulous planning. While pursuing your dream is essential, having a solid business plan and enough savings to provide a safety net during the transition is crucial.

Making money in the motorcycle industry

“You’ll need to be willing to put the cart before the horse and the chicken before the egg, because these things can take time to start generating money. Do it on the side while you still have a normal job. There’s nothing wrong with having a 9-to-5 job to pay the bills and support your hobbies. Build up a savings nest egg if you can, a safety net or buffer, to help you if you plan to leave your job and transition into your own business. Fortune favors the bold, so pursue your dream, but also plan carefully,” Ian advises.

Banking to Braaping: Toro Trail & Adventure

Making money in the motorcycle industry

It all began with a text message on a train, a couple of dirt bikes in a trailer, and a Land Rover.

Brit Lyndon Foster, the founder of Toro, had spent a good part of his life running his own investment company, then working for an international merchant bank. Neither ever felt fulfilling enough. After a leap of faith into a new career in moto, Toro Trail & Adventure has become one of Europe’s largest trail and adventure riding centers offering dirt, dual sport, and road riding training and tours. With a fleet of 16 Husqvarna dirt bikes and 8 BMW R1250GS motorcycles, Toro welcomes more than 600 people each year providing world-class off-road training and custom tours in Spain, Portugal, and Morocco.

“One day, sitting on a train to work, I was observing other commuters lost in the same minutiae – the same books, the same newspapers, the same blank looks on their faces – and I realized I just didn’t want this anymore. Then, I received a message from my cousin saying, ‘the happiest man is the one that spends his time doing what he loves.’ I quit my job and booked a ticket to Malaga,” Lyndon shares.

Having been an avid skier and rider for decades, Lyndon decided to look for opportunities to start a dirt bike business in southern Spain. Although he’d only ridden road and, as he admits, raced motocross (badly) in his youth, Lyndon bit the bullet, bought several Yamaha TTR250 motorcycles, loaded them up on a trailer, and drove down to Spain in an old Land Rover.

It wasn’t smooth sailing at first: on the way to Andalusia, Lyndon was mugged in Madrid, and once the base was set up, Toro charged very little prices to attract the first customers and struggled to make ends meet.

Making money in the motorcycle industry

At the same time, Lyndon trained with David Chavez, a top trials rider in Spain, to pick up the skills and experience. Little by little, the business grew, and eight years ago, the new Toro Trail and Adventure base near Alhaurin el Grande opened its doors.

“We call it the Torassic Park because this is so much more than just a place to ride bikes: we’re all about a feeling of being with family, a place to escape the everyday, a sanctuary for like-minded moto souls. For a lot of our returning customers, this is a second home,” Lyndon explains.

According to him, teaching others to ride dirt requires a lot more than just being an excellent rider yourself. Having previously taught other sports, Lyndon shares it’s vital to be able to read people quickly, and there’s a fine balance between keeping everyone safe out on the trails and making sure they’re having a ridiculous amount of fun in the process.

“As someone who learned to ride dirt as an adult, I vividly remember standing on the top of a steep hill and thinking I was going to die. Because of this, I very much relate to other people who are afraid or hesitant, and I know that everyone has a different learning curve. I will never be a world-class rider, but I want to be a world class guide and coach. In addition to gauging people’s riding skills, there’s a myriad of other factors that you need to take into account – are they tired, hungry, confident, perhaps a little hungover, overly confident, exhausted, or afraid… it all matters,” Lyndon says.

Making money in the motorcycle industry

3 million trail miles and over 6,000 happy customers later, Lyndon has no plans to ever come back to banking, even if the financial gains aren’t anywhere near the same.

“For me, the most rewarding part about training and guiding people is that huge grin on someone’s face or an air punch on the top of a hill. Seeing people’s confidence grow, seeing their progress, their joy, and hearing ‘I’d never gotten on the plane if I knew we’d be riding those trails,’ a hug and a handshake at the airport – that’s why I do what I do, that’s something real, something that no amount of money would ever give you,” Lyndon shares.

Fitness to Motorcycle Accessories: Flying Solo Gear

Making money in the motorcycle industry

As a young adult, Canadian Amanda Phoenix did her university undergrad in human kinetics, the study of human movement. At age 20, she started her first business, Ares Training, which focused on strength conditioning coaching for paddle sports and weightlifting athletes, many of whom went on to compete at a high level in their sport. Her motto then was “Exceed all Expectations,” and she continues to hold it close to her heart to this day.

While Amanda enjoyed coaching athletes, she also loved riding her motorbike, which she mostly used for transportation to and from university or work. She loved riding even in the rain and snow, which is typical of most of the year in Vancouver, Canada. Little did she know that one day her passion for riding would lead her to start her own moto gear company.

The origins of Flying Solo Gear Co (FSGC), a motorcycle gear and accessories brand, were not planned at all. When Amanda moved to Australia, she came off her bike and was suddenly reminded of the dangers of riding with hard personal items against her soft organs. So she sewed up a small, flat bumbag using a borrowed sewing machine and a bit of polka dot tablecloth from a craft store. From there, she started getting them manufactured properly, growing the range of products, and having the community test them in the real world before bringing them to market. Now, Flying Solo Gear Co is a growing brand, and Amanda has recently opened her first brick-and-mortar store in Melbourne, Australia.

Making money in the motorcycle industry

“The name Flying Solo Gear Co was because that’s what I was doing when I created it. I didn’t know many people in Australia, and as an introvert, I prefer to spend most of my time alone. When we’re on the bike, it’s the closest feeling to taking flight, and we’re doing it on our own. The brand tends to attract strong-willed, brave people who have gone through challenges in life, but have come back stronger, which is why the logo is of a phoenix,” Amanda explains.

The most rewarding thing about FSGC for Amanda is seeing the logo or products in a random photo on social media and seeing people going out and living their best lives with the gear.

Making money in the motorcycle industry

“I’m on a mission to provide riders with comfortable, durable, and functional gear that helps them feel safe and stylish on the road. It’s a brand for those who are daring to fly solo but also know the importance of quality gear,” Amanda shares.

Amanda’s journey from coaching athletes to founding a moto gear company reflects her passion for exceeding expectations, taking risks, and being spontaneous.

IT Professional to Rally Footpeg Innovator: Cross Country ADV

Making money in the motorcycle industry
Photo: Actiongraphers

Cross Country ADV is a small, Hungarian-based rally parts and accessories company offering newbie rally riders helpful resources and rally assistance. In addition, Cross Country ADV is a manufacturer of rally footpegs – sturdy, cleverly designed pegs aimed at ADV, dirt, and rally riders looking to improve their game.

From humble beginnings to having the rally footpegs endorsed by Rally Dakar-winning riders and adventure travelers, Cross Country ADV is making a splash in the rally world. However, it all began with one simple idea and pure passion.

Tamas Esch, founder of Cross Country ADV, worked in the IT industry and spent his free time exploring the outdoors. He was always drawn to motorcycles and the freedom that came with riding them. After trying his hand at on-road travel, he switched to off-road adventures and sought out more challenging terrain.

Making money in the motorcycle industry

His first taste of desert riding in Morocco sparked a deep interest in the world of rally racing, and he soon joined amateur races to test his skills. However, disaster struck during a desert race near Dubai when Tamas crashed his bike and suffered severe injuries to his right shoulder. Doctors warned him that he might never ride again due to the implant he received, but Tamas refused to give up. “I ended up with a total shoulder implant and a warning that should I start riding again, the vibrations might shatter the remaining bones and loosen the implant, and as a result, I might end up with one arm. My friends and family urged me to take up something else – racing cars instead, for example – but I set my mind to recovery, worked hard, learned to be patient, and five months later, I was back on the bike.” A year after, Tamas completed a 3,500 km adventure motorcycle journey through South America, and although the pain is ever-present, he now spends his weekends riding on motocross and enduro tracks and participating in rallies such as Hellas Rally, Bosnia, Dinaric, and Hungarian Baja.

However, during the recovery period, Tamas decided to rent out his rally bikes to other riders just so he could still be part of the rally world. Soon, this grew into a passion for rally parts and modifications. “In addition, I wanted to share my experience and knowledge I’ve gained racing and help other riders,” Tamas shares.

This led to the creation of Cross Country Adventures, which specializes in rally equipment and services.

One of CCA’s most popular products is their rally footpegs, which Tamas came up with after discovering that KTM/Husqvarna had stopped offering rally footpegs for the EXC/FE models. He visited a local enduro footpeg manufacturer who had already developed a durable product tested by experienced riders on Red Bull Romaniacs. After a few design tweaks and rigorous testing, Tamas perfected the rally footpegs and began mass production. “Compared to the OEM pegs and several other aftermarket enduro footpegs, these newly designed rally footpegs made such a huge improvement in my riding – controlling the bike, feeling safer, and having more fun – and I never imagined this small, relatively cheap, and underrated upgrade can make such a big difference. But it did,” Tamas explains.

Making money in the motorcycle industry

The rally footpegs were a game-changer for Tamas, and he soon realized their potential to benefit other amateur and professional riders. He sent out the footpegs to Dakar veterans, amateur rally racers, and adventure riders, while receiving enthusiastic feedback and refining the design along the way.

Today, Tamas’ passion for off-road racing and the development of CCA’s products has become a big part of his life. His ultimate goal is to help amateur racers reach their goals and encourage adventure riders to challenge themselves and participate in rallies. From a terrible accident to a thriving business, Tamas’ journey is one of resilience, perseverance, and the power of passion to overcome adversity.

Clothing Store to Motorcycle Tours Company: Ecuador Freedom Bike Rental

Making money in the motorcycle industry

Ecuador Freedom Bike Rental is a motorcycle tour and rental company based in Quito, Ecuador. Catering to riders and travelers for over a decade and boasting a large fleet of adventure motorcycles and 4×4’s, Ecuador Freedom is one of South America’s most established two-wheeled tour operators with extensive local knowledge, bespoke motorcycle tours, and a deep connection with the locals.

Its beginnings, however, were rooted in adventure and spontaneity.

Sylvain Gallea, a co-founder of Ecuador Freedom, had always been a small business owner with a clothing store in Paris, France, later working as an electrician and bartender in New York City. He found the personal relationships in his businesses to be the most rewarding part, building up connections with partners, employees, and customers. However, he also enjoyed exploring nature and traveling in his free time and dreamed of feeling the freedom of being on the open road.

Making money in the motorcycle industry

In 2008, Sylvain and his friend, Court, had an opportunity to leave on an extended motorcycle trip together to South America. The feeling of liberation was incredible, and Sylvain decided that he wanted to share his newfound passion for Ecuador’s beautiful landscapes, diverse cultures, and the potential for adventure tourism.

“We saw an opportunity to combine our love for motorcycles with the country’s natural beauty and create a unique experience for travelers,” Sylvain shares.

Starting Ecuador Freedom was more of a spontaneous choice for Sylvain and Court. When they visited Ecuador, they were surprised to find that nobody was offering motorcycle tours in such a beautiful country. “We soon found out why: motorcycles in Ecuador were expensive, insurance was not available, and competition from other countries was strong due to lower taxes. Still, we’d visited 16 countries before, and Ecuador just kept riding to the top,” Sylvain recalls. Despite the risky investment, Sylvain and Court decided to make it happen.

Making money in the motorcycle industry

In 2009, they started in Cuenca with a focus on bicycle rentals for backpackers, but soon found out that motorcycle rentals and tours were in high demand and switched up the focus without changing the name.

“The most rewarding thing about working at Freedom is creating a positive experience for travelers by getting them to know the real country through visits with locals such as leather makers, farmers, schools, and craftspeople, as well as exploring natural areas that are not well known, such as waterfalls, hidden beaches, and beautiful roads off the beaten path,” Sylvain explains.

In addition, Freedom has had a positive impact on small communities, bringing tourism to remote areas and helping local schools through their “Pack for a Purpose” program. Guests are asked to bring items for schools and school children, and Freedom assists in delivering them to the schools.

Despite the challenges and risks involved, Freedom has provided Sylvain with the opportunity to combine his passions for motorcycles, traveling, and small business. It’s a brand that offers a unique way to explore Ecuador and its hidden gems, and a chance to connect with local communities along the way.

Making money in the motorcycle industry

Turning a passion into a full-time job isn’t for everyone, and “making it” in the motorcycle industry does not happen overnight. Ultimately, however, the stories of ordinary people who have gone on to do extraordinary things in the motorcycling world show that turning passion into a career is possible with patience, hard work, and a spirit of spontaneity.

Photos courtesy of Ian Schoenleber, Lyndon Foster, Amanda Phoenix, Tamas Esch, Sylvain Gallea and Actiongraphers.

Author: Egle Gerulaityte

Riding around the world extra slowly and not taking it too seriously, Egle is always on the lookout for interesting stories. Editor of the Women ADV Riders magazine, she focuses on ordinary people doing extraordinary things and hopes to bring travel inspiration to all two-wheeled maniacs out there.

Author: Egle Gerulaityte

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June 2, 2023 2:07 pm

Interesting list of people, but by limiting it 5 people, you leave out folks like Ed March of C90 Adventures, and Noraly of Itchy Boots; two of my favorite people who have turned their passion for motorcycling into a career.

June 2, 2023 3:09 pm
Reply to  Bob

Guessing getting an interview with Noraly while she’s in Sierra Leone (or wherever) would be difficult. But I agree.


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