We're setting out to learn about the vehicles that some of today's professional mountain bikers are using to haul their bikes in across the world. In the first article of the series, we looked at how Brian Lopes chose to customize his Mercedes Sprinter van to turn it into a functional fun hauler, and now we find out how Richie Schley gets around.
Freeride legend and part-time Laguna Beach resident Richie Schley recently signed up to roll in Mercedes' high-end AMG badged vehicles. While bike and gear sponsorships are the norms for any professional rider, being able to represent an automotive brand is the next level of support in a lot of cases. If that's true, landing a deal with Mercedes - AMG could be considered the Holy Grail of all sponsorship deals. We sat down with Richie to see how this deal came about and to take a look at his AMG G63.
So how did Richie end up behind the wheel of an AMG G63? "Well, we met the guys from AMG and the guys from Rotwild, and we all started talking. They ended up doing a collaboration on a bike, like watch companies do, like an AMG model of a Rotwild bike, that was super tuned and custom and as good as you can get type of a thing,'' explained Schley. That initial collaboration then lead into a team sponsorship, which then lead to a personal deal with Richie. ''So then eventually they sponsored our team and me individually, so I got to pick a car, and this is the coolest, most practical car they have and maybe one of the coolest practical cars ever made, in my opinion. It's one of the rockstars of cars. I always dreamt of having this vehicle, so when this deal came about, there was only one choice!"
For Richie, one of the major deciding factors on which model to choose was the functionality of the vehicle. "It's got cargo space and it's very utilitarian for my lifestyle. It has Thule racks on it all around. Traveling in Europe, generally, I was just putting the bikes inside because it's so big. I can fit two bikes and all my gear inside, no problem," he said of the spacious interior that boasts more than 120 cubic feet of room.
Aside from needing plenty of room inside, Richie was also looking for a vehicle that could handle the odd off-road excursion despite sporting rubber that resembles racing slicks. "I rallied it quite severely into the Rampage site," he said of the rough thirty-minute drive on a dusty, pot-holed dirt road. "I know its one of the most capable off-road vehicles there is... but I have street racing tires on it, haha! With the off-road tires on it, you could climb up the side of a building!"
Rampage rallying aside, Richie knew that his wheels would spend the vast majority of their time on paved surfaces and that traveling in comfort counts for a lot. "When I go to Europe, I get a G63 to drive there as well, and last summer I drove from Frankfurt to Austria, through the mountains there and then all the way to Les Deux Alpes through the winding mountain roads. I went over some passes that follow the Tour De France and into Italy, and then all the way back to Frankfurt. So I spent a lot of time in it last summer, the trip totaled about forty hours of driving."
For the first test drive, however, Richie was able to do get behind the wheel in the sands of Abu Dhabi at AMG's Private Lounge Days. "AMG had this driving experience thing, and they took us to Abu Dhabi where we got to drive these things with all the traction control turned off, rallying through the sand dunes which was super fun." Another benefit of the partnership is getting to test out other AMG models.
"I was just in Belgium at the Spa Raceway, and I got to drive their new super car, called the AMG GT-S. It was almost like a race car. I've driven a whole bunch back when I was in Dubai and Abu Dhabi on the race track there."
When it comes to AMG's customization, it's all about the details and making the car stand out from the norm. "Well, it's super powerful! It has a 563 HP, bi-turbo V8 with tons of torque. It's got so much cachet and cool factor because it looks like this old army vehicle but at the same time, it's so luxurious that it's crazy. You get the feeling that you're in this cool, indestructible military vehicle, but when you're inside the car it's super luxurious. It has air conditioned seats, and this feature called 'Distronic Plus,' which is like cruise control but you put it on in traffic and you don't have to touch the brake or the gas. It's all based on sensors, so you could literally be texting, checking e-mail, doing whatever, and all you have to do is steer. Using the feature in the beginning is really scary, especially on the Autobahn in Europe when you're going really fast and all of a sudden you can see brake lights, and you're like, 'Ok when is it going to brake?' and then it kicks in. So, in the beginning, it's a bit tricky. You just have to trust the car." It's probably still not a great idea to be texting while on the road, even if AMG's Distronic Plus setup sounds like it's from the future.
Daily driving in a vehicle like this means that you're bound to draw some attention, which is clearly one of the reasons the G63 exists in the first place. "I think the vehicle itself is pretty interesting for people, but then when you put the stripes and everything on it people are like 'Whoah, sick car!' It gets tons of looks and compliments."
Of course, with a vehicle with this kind of muscle under the hood it begs to be pushed a bit. Even though it's equipped with a radar detector, we wanted to know if he has had any encounters with the law. "Not yet, but knock on wood," Richie replied. And we also had to know who's paying in the event of a speeding ticket, Richie or the sponsor? "I have to pay for the tickets. Gas and tickets which can be a hefty bill."
"I think this is the perfect vehicle for a mountain biker or outdoor lifestyle person because it's fast, it's comfortable, it's got tons of cargo space, and you're also never going to get stuck. For bikes, it's tall inside so you can get an inside rack and they fit in really nice, so the bike isn't half laying down. Racks all fit on them because it has a trailer hitch. I run the Thule T2 on the back and an Aeroblade system on the roof for my surfboards."
If there is such a thing as a perfect vehicle, the G63 may be it for those who are a fan of the AMG badge and have some disposable income - it starts at over $140,000 USD before you tack on things like a dual-screen entertainment system for your friends sitting in the back seat ($2,650), carbon fiber interior trim ($2,950), or more eye-catching colour and trim for the outside ($20,000).
No, the G63 is not your average mountain biker's truck, and both Richie and AMG wouldn't have it any other way.