Cari Draft is a busy woman. She is a wife
to husband Jeff, mom to a 15-year-old son and an
experienced, successful entrepreneur. Any extra
time is committed to riding her 2007 Yamaha VStar
650 Classic and off-road jeep explorations. Oh
yeah, she is also actively involved in the
community. It can be exhausting just hearing about
all of the things she has going on.
The passenger seat of her Dad’s Honda
CB900 was where Cari first experienced the thrill
of riding a motorcycle. Barry took his daughter on
many rides and that initial spark grew. Her desire
to ride might have been crushed when her Dad
died unexpectedly at age 30. But it wasn’t.
Fortunately, her 4’ 10" Mom was also a
rider and a member of the all-female club, the
Stilettos on Steel. Mom would take her on club
rides aboard her 250 cc cruiser. Those experiences
as a passenger eventually had Cari thinking that
she might like to ride her own bike.
About the same time that she began to
think about learning to ride, Cari was also
thinking about changing careers. She worked for
Meijer’s in the advertising department as a graphic
designer for a few years. She wanted more time to
raise her son and left that job to do freelance
For seven years, she worked as a
freelancer. It gave her plenty of time to be with her
son while still earning a living. Eventually, after
her son got into school and was involved with school-related activities, she began thinking about other types of work she would like to do. She
realized that spending the day at her computer wasn’t exactly what she wanted. Cari wanted to cut the chain to her desk and spend more time outside.
A healthy, fit woman, she considered working as a personal fitness trainer and had had already taken many programs that would move her in that direction. After attending the Outdoor Action Certification program at Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, in 2006, her mind was made up. She launched Eco Trek fitness, an outdoor fitness training program that used the parks and trails around Grand Haven for aerobic fitness and resistance bands for strength training. 2007 was a milestone year for Cari. Not only had her business survived the first year, but she began to expand its reach. She also took the Rider’s Edge rider training class at Hot Rod Harley-Davidson in Muskegon and purchased her first (and current) motorcycle, what she calls her “little hippy girl bike,” the aforementioned Yamaha. Early on, most of her riding involved group rides – usually with her Mom – and event rides such as poker runs. Since her Mom stopped
riding, she finds herself riding alone more often that not. That’s the way her riding continued for several years. Along the way, a friend named
Charlie Helder taught her how to handle basic motorcycle maintenance like oil changes herself.
The demand for Cari’s Eco Trek Fitness training programs grew. The demand enabled her to hire other trainers to conduct her program in
communities including Grand Rapids, Lansing, Holland, Kalamazoo and Traverse City among others. Her clients come from all over to participate in her programs.
Eco Trek eventually evolved from its core mission of outdoor fitness training to offer and organize a variety of outdoor activities including
kayaking, snowshoeing, stand-up paddle boarding and bicycling.
“I get to do fun, positive things outdoors with cool, positive people,” Cari said. “My clients get to do fun, healthy things outdoors in the fresh
air. What could be better?”
In 2010, Cari was persuaded to enter the Miss Muskegon Bike Time contest at the event. She told the organizers that she wouldn’t participate in a bikini (or less!) but rather in her leathers. Despite more scantily clad competitors, Cari finished first runner up. That finish led to a cover and pictorial in the November 2010 issue of Thunder Roads – Michigan. She has since become involved in organizing the contest but is working to change the type of clothing worn in the competition from bikinis to standard biker leather wear. That same year, Cari began to explore the possibility of introducing an Eco Trek all-natural nutrition bar. One of the companies she contacted
about producing the bar for her mentioned that they were getting out of that business. Cari askewest they would be interested in producing a
private label gluten- and dairy-free nutrition barf her. Her requirement was that they remove the bee pollen and add chocolate to the bar the company was already producing. The nutrition bar, with 10g of protein and only 195 calories, is a success. Today, the Eco Trek Nutrition Bar is available in more than 300 retail stores in seven states with new retailers coming on board all the time.
Cari has said that she will continue to ride motorcycles for the rest of her life. She enjoys the independence that riding a motorcycle provides. She likes the fact that her senses are fully engaged and heightened when she rides. She feels ultra aware and thinks that riding a motorcycle makes her a better car driver. Another motorcycle might be in her future but, for now, the little hippy girl’s 650 is all she needs.
Disorder Studio’s Seth Elkins
“Sethro” Elkins transforms things. He takes a no-longer-useful thing and turns it into something else that is not only useful but beautiful. He works with all types of metal and is a master with old motorcycle gas tanks, turning them into headlight nacelles, café racer-style seats, fenders, battery pan, and much more. He has lots of work, with motorcyclists waiting in line for him to customize their bikes. As he said, his customers have to be patient because it takes time to create a truly unique motorcycle. Disorder Studio, Seth’s work place, is situated in the garage of his old farm in Whittaker, Michigan. The farm, originally purchased by Sethro’s grandparents 1977, is much like you would expect. There is a large two-story farmhouse, a big red old-style barn, a chicken coop, lots of chickens roaming the yard, several other out buildings and a garden. When he talks about the farm, Seth talks about self sufficiency and sustainability. He wants to be self reliant. To accomplish that end, he plans to expand the garden, plant fruit trees and raise some pigs and cows. The studio reflects another time when a garage wasn’t simply an enclosed space for parking cars and storing stuff. Instead, it’s a workplace. Seven motorcycles occupy the space; two parked side by side behind a sofa near the entrance, four in-progress café racers up on homemade stands and another, Sethro’s long-term Harley-Davidson Knucklehead chopper project, is up on another work bench. His own motorcycles sit neglected as he works on customer bikes. “Three or four projects in process at a time is perfect,” he says. “It gives me time to think and consider the different designs I can use.” The skills that he uses to create unique motorcycles have their foundation at the farm where his father and grandfather created the parts they needed. When things broke on the farm, they were fixed on the farm. Broken parts were replaced with new parts the men fabricated. What he didn’t learn from his father and grandfather, with the exception of a welding class at Washtenaw Community College and some art classes, he learned from books and practice. Seth doesn’t read for mindless pleasure but rather to learn. He got his start with trucks and low riders back when he was a teenager in the early 90s. He bought a new Ford Ranger - for which he had already purchased a lowering kit - and began cutting into it as soon as he got it home. He learned about suspension geometry, pinion angles and range of movement – you guessed it – from books. Seth and his buddy, Jeff Stokes, worked on the Ranger all night and finished the project just in time to go to school the next morning. It still needed an alignment but he drove it anyway. It wasn’t long before friends were bringing their cars and trucks to Seth for modification. Those early projects ignited a fire. Seth has been fixing and fabricating ever since. Everything Seth creates is custom; once he uses a design, he never uses it again. That’s one of the reasons Seth has multiple projects going at any one time. He moves from one motorcycle to another as
he considers ways to differentiate each piece he’s creating for each bike. His artistic talent comes naturally. His Mom says he was always artistic and still has childhood drawings to prove it. It takes time to make a part that is artistically unique every single time for every customer.
“It takes as long as it takes,” he says.“Patience is the key to success.” He works mostly alone but will occasionally have an apprentice working with him. He’s looking for an apprentice now; someone who wants to learn his techniques and help generate design ideas. Seth outsources engine and electrical work to focus on motorcycle aesthetics. While much of his work involves complete transformations, he also creates individual parts, such as handlebars, cut-down fenders and license plate holders, as requested. He wants to create motorcycles that look good even while sitting still. His work has paid off. Not only does he have a solid business with a growing list of customers, his work was featured in the January 2014 issue of The Horse, Back Street Choppers magazine. The article is about Heirloom, a chopper Seth built from a 1981 Harley-Davidson Sportster roadster for Cliff Scott Jr. (To see pictures of the bike and read the story, visit sethrosdisorderstudio.blogspot.com/) Spend some time with Seth, who is 37 years old, and you learn he’s something of a philosopher. He talks intelligently on a wide range of subjects from the importance of working with your hands, thinking and living independently, questioning authority, spirituality versus religion, and community. He rails against the anger and lack of courtesy he sees in society. (“Anger is the easiest yet most damaging emotion,” he says.) He rarely uses a computer and hasn’t owned a television in years. He is not interested in trends or normality. Our conversation, which was originally planned for an hour or so, lasted more than two and half hours. Not only did we talk motorcycles and art but also much more. While we talked, a number of friends and customers stopped by to chat or just hang out. It’s a relaxed, comfortable atmosphere good for transforming metal into more useful, aesthetically appealing things. He’s busy and that’s good. For more information about Seth, Disorder Studio, his projects or the apprentice opportunity, text Seth at (734) 645-1628. You can call him at that number, too, but you’re likely to get a faster response with a text. Look for a story about a complete project in a future issue.