Dani Pajak’s mother said she would disown him if he bought a motorcycle. He still did. He even named his Cleveland custom motorcycle shop Disowned Customs after the ordeal. “But now she’s my biggest fan,” Pajak says. She’s got a lot to be proud of nowadays. Pajak and Brian Schaffran, who runs Ohio’s first community motorcycle garage, Skidmark Garage, host the new bike-building TV show, Wrench Against the Machine, which premieres at 9 p.m. Nov. 15 on the Esquire Network.
The pair guides prestigious mechanics through rigorous three-day, $3,000 motorcycle builds in a dead-heat race to craft the fastest, boldest hog. Aside from impressing family, Pajak’s TV debut could put Disowned — and Cleveland bike culture — on the national road map. He chats with us about winter biking, filming and the local bike scene.
Q: This show is definitely a four-year milestone for Disowned. What was it like to film?
A: I never thought about a TV show. Never. And in Cleveland too? Esquire was really pumped about coming here — and then the week they came it was, like, 20 degrees. I mean, we froze our asses off riding our bikes. We crossed the Hope Memorial Bridge thirty times, back and forth. I was on a Triumph Street Twin — high torque, very fast — when we rode down Fulton. Soon as I crossed the bridge over I-90, I slid. On camera at 90 frames per second, it’s actually quite comical to see.
Q: Any tense moments with the teams?
A: The toughest part: you don’t want to be a dick. Brian [Schaffran] and I wanted to be these guys’ friends. But you have to emphasize that those 72 hours are up before you know it. That clock doesn’t stop moving. If you screw something up, you have little time to fix it. For example, one team from Chicago didn’t sleep the entire time. The thing about this competition is that everybody doesn’t always finish.
Q: Do you think the bike scene in Cleveland is taking off?
A: I certainly hope so. I get emails all the time where people say, “I’ve been watching since you’ve been working out of your garage.” If this gets people out of their garages, doing their own thing? Hell yeah! That’s what I hope comes from the show — that people get interested in their own bike.
Q: After filming one episode in Cleveland, the rest of the filming took place in Los Angeles. Would you ever expand Disowned to the West Coast?
A: When we shipped all our motorcycles out to California, I thought, It’d be cool to open up in Venice Beach. A lot depends, on if the show’s popular. And also, I was just in Mexico, vacationing with my kids in Puerto Vallarta, and there are million motorcycles there, and no motorcycle shops. My five-year plan dealt with LA, but now I’m kind of thinking Mexico.