Vaughn says that back in the late 1990s there were probably fewer than 100 people in the United States who were even aware that these stunts could be done on sports bikes, let alone actually experimenting with them at high speeds. Information was slower back then. There was no Facebook or YouTube. If a man pulled a gnarly wheelie for two miles and no one documented it, did that wheelie happen?

For Hunziker the solution was obvious. Get it on video. "We basically started filming to show people: 'Look, this is what we just did, seriously.'"

Using Vaughn's $200 Super 8 Sony camcorder, they shot enough footage for a ten-minute highlight reel of sorts. None of them knew anything about editing a video, so when they screened the teaser for those dubious friends, Vaughn found himself juggling remotes for four VCRs, playing here, pausing there, while simultaneously dubbing in some local tunes. Kubrick it was not, but the small audience in Vaughn's basement was blown away.

See a larger version of this week's cover.
Photography by Mark Gilliland.

Vaughn sent the teaser to Impact Video, a California-based national distributor of extreme-sports videos. For Docy Andrews, president of Impact Video, 1999 was a big year. Skateboarding reels were a cultural force unto themselves, and the power of video was carrying extreme sports from the underground to the mainstream at a breakneck — and profitable — pace. That year the X Games featured Tony Hawk nailing the first ever 900 degree rotation off a vert ramp, as well as Travis Pastrana's first freestyle Moto X competition. Andrews recalls, "We saw it on dirt bikes, ATVs, snowmobiles, pretty much anything with a motor."

The Streetfighterz's video wasn't the first she had seen of young men riding wheelies for miles or standing on gas tanks that had been pounded flat with a hammer to provide a foothold. She credits the StarBoyz out of Akron, Ohio, as the first stunting bike group to approach her, but the Streetfighterz footage was only the third or fourth of its kind that ever crossed her desk, and it was really good. If Vaughn would give her 45 minutes of additional material, she'd distribute the video.

And so between 1999 and 2000, the Streetfighterz hit Interstate 55 and other highways around St. Louis to shoot its first bona fide film. They titled the finished product Careless and Imprudent — the same term written on the tickets cops give out for pulling stunts on the highway. To avoid such tickets and the steep fines they brought, the Streetfighterz stopped riding with license plates and cranked the throttle when they saw lights flashing behind them. It made for great footage.

By 2000 the Streetfighterz's star was rising fast in the burgeoning world of stunting. (Riverfront Times profiled the group for a cover story in December of that year.) Shooting Careless and Imprudent required hundreds of hours of practice, seven days a week, four to five hours a day. But the members loved it, and they got better in the making.

"I wouldn't say we were inventing the sport," says Vaughn, "but we were driving the sport in a direction that we wanted it to go."

It was winter 2001 ("Cold as shit," recalls Hunziker), and the guys weren't sure if anyone would show up to the St. Louis bar they'd chosen for Careless and Imprudent's release party. To their surprise, when the Streetfighterz arrived, they found fans lined up two deep. The party started at 8 p.m. By 8:45 fire marshals were only letting one person in for every person out.

"They were in awe," says Vaughn of the crowd that night. "To be honest, we were just as excited as they were."

The film was soon on store shelves across the nation, and Vaughn and the Streetfighterz were fielding calls to perform at events, competitions and drag races across the country and in Europe. It was the perfect storm of massive popular demand for new extreme sports — after all, only a few groups could do what the Streetfighterz could.

That first video, though technically crude, set the style for the many more to come: Action shots of the wheelies and stunts backed up with heavy metal and hip-hop. Subsequent videos followed suit. The packaging for one box set promised in full capitals: "INSANE HIGH-SPEED STUNTS AND GUT WRENCHING WRECKS!" and "JACKASS MEETS HIGH-POWERED SPORTS BIKES."

After the success of its project in 2001, the Streetfighterz immediately got to work on making the next Careless and Imprudent. The group began taking on the form of a production house: Vaughn handled the business side of things, wrangling sponsors and motorcycle deals, as well as promotions and setting up shows. Hunziker threw himself into video editing and used his graphic-design degree to create T-shirt logos and the group's website.

By 2002 the Streetfighterz had released its second DVD. (The group would go on to make thirteen films sold at places such as Best Buy and Sam's Club.) And perhaps if things had simply continued in that direction, Streetfighterz would be like the other major stunting groups still operating today — performing at arenas and publicity events as opposed to the streets. But that didn't happen. And the reason may be that innocuous message Dennis Cardwell placed on an online forum one day back in 2002: the one suggesting that other stunt-bike enthusiasts get together for a "group ride."

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