Radical Rigs 01: Dillen Maurer’s “Fall Risk” Custom Full Suspension and “Lil Jim” 1992 Suzuki

Many bike tinkerers often have an overlapping interest in cars. For those of you in this sliver of the Venn Diagram, Paul Kalifatidi presents the Radical Rigs series. Like the bikes you’ve seen on The Radavist, these cars might be perfect. They also might be so far from perfection that they go full circle and become that which they meant to eschew. They might be dented and dinged, they might be muddy and mad, they might even just be rad. In part one of Radical Rigs, Paul juxtaposes Dillen Maurer‘s Baphomet Bikes “Fall Risk” custom full suspension and his “Lil Jim” 1992 Suzuki…

Radical Rigs 01

We ride bikes for many reasons—practicality, simplicity, exercise, art, and hell… even for fun. Adding those finer “aftermarket” details, making some aesthetic choices and tuning the bike to your preferences are all parts of the long-term fun when getting to know a bike. Anyone who has worked on bikes also knows that bikes can be a pain. Crappy standards (see: press fit and the new kid on the block, headset cable routing), suspension, racks, and accessories all add complexity and annoyance of the repair process. Working on bikes, building bikes, and riding bikes can be a labor of love. I’ve found the same kind of mix of self-expression and head-banging-against-the-wall work present in many car enthusiasts most-loved rigs.

Before we jump into our first subject—a 1992 Suzuki Jimny, owned by Dillen Maurer of Baphomet Bikes—I want to mention that I’ve only recently acquired a taste for laying on cold concrete and punching the underside of a vehicle that hasn’t run in four months. In the past six years, I’ve owned four cars. Also in the past six years, I’ve only owned those four cars for a total of two years. For me, cars have always been these mystical things that break down for unknown reasons. Maybe that’s why it was so easy to go most of college and a bit after without one. I just couldn’t stomach more shop bills and unknown sounds.

Fast-forward to finally needing a car (because: America). I decided that I was going to learn them like I learned bikes. Dillen convinced me to get something interesting that no shop would work on in order to force myself to learn. Dillen did not know that the car he helped convince me to get would need a full engine rebuild shortly after buying it. Woe is me, and now I have a newfound respect for car people. As part of my learning journey, I decided to start this mini series. So, now that the big and boring is out of the way, let’s meet Dillen’s “Lil Jim” and his most recent bike build.

I learned of Dillen many years ago when a friend showed me Baphomet Bicycles on this very site. The imperfect and very real nature of his creations stood out in a world of overly engineered and personality-absent bicycles. His goal of sharing profits with non-profits is noble. The world needs more love and more pentagram-clad bikes. Hearing of his accident, in which an ATV hit him from behind while he was riding, plucked at my heartstrings. His lower leg and he parted ways that day. I’d never met him, but wanted to help out. I intended to send him a care package from Bellingham, but never did. I still feel bad about it.

By the mysteriousness of coincidence, our paths crossed when he moved a mile-and-a-half down the road. An Instagram story of him on a bike outside a staple Bellingham breakfast spot felt too on the nose; I had to buy him coffee. We met outside that shop, Nelson’s Market, on a foggy Monday morning. Since then, he has become my knowledgeable neighbor and riding buddy. His Suzuki Jimny captivated my attention the moment I saw it. It’s the perfect Dillen vehicle, and photographing him and his bike alongside it sounded like a fun way to showcase more of him. So here I present Lil Jim, the Fall Risk, and Dillen.

“Lil Jim”

Dillen’s 1992 Suzuki Jimny has seen some stuff. He told me that his favorite memory with Lil Jim was the road trip to get it from Taos to Bellingham. His friend drove (that whole two ankles for the clutch thing), while Dillen provided directions. I imagine this would have been similar to a World Rally stage with plenty of turbo whoosh but far more comical and clunky. Like a good rally, everything went wrong on the trip. The exhaust manifold and the turbo blew up. A nice mechanic in Moab welded everything back together, and they continued on their way to the PNW.

Wildfires gave the entire trip an apocalyptic aftertaste. Unknown at the time, they did the trip from Moab to Bellingham on only two cylinders. On a separate occasion, an oil line to the turbo broke and caught fire. Suzuki did not mean to install extinguishers but the fire burnt through a coolant line and doused itself. Dillen told me that he chose this car because of its reliability. When I first wrote this article, I’m not quite sure he and I had the same definition of that word. Since buying a JDM 4×4 myself, I now completely agree. The real reason that he chose it was the Safari-style windows. A Land Rover Defender has always been his dream car, but this is the vehicle that fits the budget of a dirtbag frame maker. I think it fits Dillen perfectly. Maybe not size-wise, but the personality is there.

The Fall Risk

Dillen spent a long time in the hospital after a particularly horrendous ride. He was hit from behind by an ATV and subsequently lost the lower part of a leg. He had to wear a bracelet that described him as a “Fall Risk.” Being who he is, it immediately seemed a fitting name for a full-suspension bike. In its first prototype stage, The Fall Risk exists as a 160 mm flex-luthor-like high pivot monstrosity. It’s a new bike and more of a test sled than a gravity sled. Dillen is most proud that he brought it to the MADE bike show in Portland where it received lots of love… and disgust. At the event, it received a grimacing look and a shake of the head from an old cyclist in a terribly toned 90s-era jersey and toe clip sandals. If I just described your Grandpa, I’m not sorry.

Neither one of these rigs is perfect, and that’s what he likes most about them. The imperfection makes them real. I was looking at his DIY half-capris when he pointed to the rear of the car. “Right now I’m staring at the cracked taillight and I’m happy that it exists. The dings in the front bumper, I’m happy those exist because I know when I put them there. My bike isn’t perfect because it’s a prototype. Even when I’m done after five or six iterations, I know they’re still not going to be perfect. They’re handmade steel bikes, I reckon they’re not supposed to be perfect. They’re supposed to make you smile. I like that.”

It’s been almost a year since Dillen lost his leg. It’s tough to ask what the silver lining has been, but it’s also naïve to believe that the entire experience is nothing but the obvious things like pain and difficulty. “I was a professional cyclist for a while. Back in the day [when I wasn’t disabled], there was certainly stoke when people did well, but it was more traditional competitiveness. It feels different in the adaptive scene, it’s more of a community of adaptive athletes stoking each other out. Everyone wants you to succeed no matter what.”

The decision to build a complicated high pivot was simple. “I wanted to build a bike that I wanted to ride. If I made a 120 mm rear-travel sensible kind of thing, I’m sure I would have been happy and would have ridden it of course. But this bike is really something that I want. I wanted a Forbidden Druid or something like that, so I thought I might as well just try and make myself one.”

I think that gets into why we choose interesting cars where the turbo lights catch fire and the wheelbase comes close to the bike on top of it. Sure, we could drive sensible things like Subaru Crosstreks and Toyota Tacomas, but really knowing a vehicle—and the oddities that come with it—is what makes it fun. I’ve got a few of these stories for you, so buckle up, pull on your welding helmet, and welcome to Radical Rigs.

“I reckon they’re not supposed to be perfect. They’re supposed to make you smile. I like that.”

A hand clutch was necessary as three pedals and one working ankle don’t really cooperate. It is also kind of the reason that the synchro in second is blown; every time I ride with him, I’m impressed he can pull it. There’s a reason he wants to swap a superbike engine into this thing, a lighter clutch is needed. The Paul components lever is the cherry on top.

The wheelset is covered in blood as it was on the bike involved in the accident that took his leg. It still has blood splatters all over it. It’s fitting that a bike with a pentagram headtube brace has these wheels. “The pentagram is a good one. It lets people know what’s up.”