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An Illegal Street Sport Takes a Country Holiday

A recent event at a Pennsylvania racetrack provided an escape, and community, for more than 400 dirt bike and ATV riders.

Photographs and Text by Tyler Blint-Welsh

LONG POND, Penn. — It’s hard to enjoy yourself when your passion is a crime almost everywhere you go.

So Benjamin Charles, a Harlem dirt biker, rented out an entire racetrack here in Pennsylvania.

Riding a dirt bike is illegal in most cities, and on most public roads, because the bikes don’t have standard safety equipment like headlights and turn signals. On top of that, neighbors complain that the noisy bikes are a dangerous nuisance.

That makes legal rides like the one Mr. Charles hosted on a recent Sunday at Pocono Raceway one of the few moments enthusiasts can ride freely.

“If you have a dirt bike, or an ATV, they associate you with being a bad person,” said Mr. Charles, a prominent figure in the growing urban dirt bike movement known as bike life. “But these guys are just passionate about riding the bikes. That’s all they wanna do.”

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For city riders, bike life is in near constant conflict with the police.

In New York, the former police commissioner William J. Bratton called the bikers “nitwits…

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