Cristy Lee

Cristy Lee Is Living Proof that Your Dreams Don’t Work Unless You Do

The Workshop Hero designation of “ACE” is one reserved for those who are experts in their craft; those who demonstrate mastery, pursue greatness and are fueled by the love of what they do.  With Cristy Lee, this Workshop Hero Nation newsletter’s newly named ACE, truer words were never spoken.

Cristy Lee is a living testament to the quote “love what you do, do what you love”  as she has masterfully found a way to combine all of the things she is most passionate about–cars, motorcycles, reporting, hosting–and turned them into a successful and thriving career.  Not an easy feat for anyone, let alone for a female working in a male-dominated field/industry.

“I’ve built a career around being myself and doing the things I love, so it feels less like “work” and I truly do love what I do!”

Not familiar with what it is exactly that Cristy Lee does? The better question might be what doesn’t she do? Highlights of her resume include

  • Current co-host of All Girls Garage on Velocity- 7th season
  • Current host of Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auctions aired on Velocity and Discovery Channel
  • Motorsports reporter with experience in covering events including XGames, WorldSuperBike, MotoGP, MotoAmerica, Motocross Racing, FMX, Off-Road Truck Racing
  • Brand Ambassador for Kawasaki Motors USA & Pirelli Tires US

If that isn’t enough, on a personal level Cristy Lee is a 15-year motorcycle enthusiast and avid track, street, dirt rider; a builder/wrencher whose current projects include a 1971 Triumph Trophy; a 1967 Pontiac Grand Prix; and a 50cc mini-moto race bike.

In her own words, Cristy Lee confesses “I have an adrenaline addiction and a two-wheel obsession!”

At first glance, Cristy Lee’s notoriety in the world of motorsports is hard to make sense of. How did this young, blonde, trained dancer, born and raised in central Florida, fresh from graduation from Daytona State College make a name for herself in the male-dominated field of cars and motorcycles? It all began with one game-changing decision–Cristy Lee packed up and moved cross country to Michigan’s Detroit Motor City.

“I relocated to Detroit for business opportunities investing in real estate because at the time, the market was booming for investors in the Detroit area.”  But the Motor City proved to offer much more to her. Practicing dance since a very young age, Cristy Lee put her many years of dance training to good use when she auditioned (and made) the NBA’s Detroit Pistons Dance Team in 2006, and later went on to perform for the MISL Dance Team.

Only three years after arriving in Detroit, Cristy Lee’s roots in the Motor City grew stronger when she won a contest that landed her a position as a DJ reporting the traffic, sports and weather for 101.1 WRIF FM Radio, a large rock format station. “The WRIF was a turning point for me, it really opened up my interest and excitement within the broadcasting world, and also gave me some great experience – it felt like the stepping stone to my career now!”

It wasn’t long before she transitioned from the studio behind a microphone to announcing on camera in front of a live audience. In 2009, Cristy Lee began her stint as the In-Arena Hostess for the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings and host for Red Wing’s TV.

“I was hooked–there was no turning back, my time with the Red Wings until 2012 not only provided me with on-camera exposure, valuable interview skills, and that live “TV” experience, but it acted as a domino effect on my career!”

Her next steps in this career path would include emcee work as a game show host at a local casino, in addition to management of a small talent agency, and eventually to the auto show circuit where she worked as a narrator for Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep.

At the same time, Cristy Lee’s love of motorcycles continued to grow. It was an interest that started when she was young and spent time in the garage with her father who was a shop owner and mechanic. “I would help my dad here and there, but I didn’t really get into wrenching until later down the road, when I had a motorcycle of my own. My dad used to take me out riding on his dirt bike when I was really young, I think it all started then.”

Cristy Lee began to spend more and more of her spare time working in her garage on bikes–building track bikes, making additions, repairing broken parts after she had crashed (oops) — and one day, she had a lightbulb moment.

“I started to ‘dream’ or entertain thoughts of using my experience as a reporter and on-camera host in combination with my love of motorcycles,” Cristy Lee explained. “The idea was so exciting, I couldn’t stop thinking about how amazing it would be.”

Cristy Lee put the wheels in motion to make her idea a reality by joining on with Daytona-based AMA Pro Racing. While with AMA Pro Racing, she developed online video content that included stories, race coverage, and interviews with top riders as part of the American Motorcycle Road Racing series.

“It was invaluable, I gained experience in everything from working as a commentator, producer, reporter, PA announcer and host—it literally was the kick start to my career in motorsports.”

On the heels of the AMA Pro Racing work, Cristy Lee was also asked to audition for a new show that was in development. In 2012, she was formally cast as one of three hosts on an all-female automotive “how-to” show named All Girls Garage on Velocity.

“Landing my role on All Girls Garage was unbelievable,” Christy Lee said. “It helped to solidify that women do have a place in the ‘garage,’ and better yet, it led to other opportunities including my role as a co-host on the live coverage of the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auctions also on Velocity and Discovery Channel.”

At the same time, Cristy Lee was able to fuel her “dream” as she continued to cover the world of motorsports for major networks as a pit-reporter including Fox Sports, NBC Sports Network, ABC and ESPN. “It has been an awesome ‘ride,’ it is a lot of work but work that I consider it a privilege to be a part of.”

We asked this new Workshop Hero ACE to look back on the experiences and lessons she has learned during her evolution and advancement to her current resting place as a recognized figure in the motorcycle and automotive industry.  “I love my work, but it is not who I am, it is what I do.”  To further explain her mindset, Cristy Lee recites one of her favorite quotes:

“What you do today is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it.”

“I love this quote because the moral or my biggest take away from it is, ‘make everyday count!’”

Kevin Dunworth

Kevin Dunworth, Bike Builder Extraordinaire, Blurs the Line Between Vintage and State-of-the-Art in His Custom Builds

Kevin Dunworth, owner of Loaded Gun Customs, has quite a list of bike building accomplishments under his belt. Highlights include television appearances on the Esquire Network’s “Wrench Against the Machine” and Velocity’s “Naked Speed,” features in several motorcycle magazines such as Cycle Source, Iron and Air, and Bike Craft Magazine, and even a showcase in the “Wall Street Journal’s” Gear & Gadgets column. Dunworth is a master of his craft and a respected member of the bike builder community and for this we at Workshop Hero would like to add an additional notch in his belt as we bestow Dunworth with the official title of Workshop Hero Nation ACE.

Born for This

Dunworth’s start in the world of bike building reads like the stories of so many entrepreneurs—early in his childhood he had an experience that planted a seed, a seed that later grew to be an interest; a hobby; a passion; and ultimately a “calling” and it all started with a pile of old motorcycle magazines and an old, used Suzuki dirt bike.

“My dad gave me all of his old Cycle World Magazines, I would read them from cover to cover. I can still recite some of the old articles and road tests I read about more than 30 years ago!”

Kevin’s dad was a motorcyclist who rode all different types of bikes and those he didn’t ride, he had an appreciation for. “My dad always had guys over who knew a lot about motorcycles. They were always open to talk to me and to teach me,” Dunworth said.

At the age of 10, Dunworth’s best friend (the son of his dad’s best friend and business partner) was given a Suzuki RM80 dirt bike. The RM80 came with one set of “strings attached”– if you can start it, you can ride it!  That was all Dunworth and his buddy had to hear—and the rest is bike-builder history.

Dunworth spent his teens and early 20s building and racing mountain bikes (at one point Dunworth was a nationally ranked racer); moonlighting at night as a hot rod builder; and trying his hand at car racing. “I didn’t have the money to have someone else build what I wanted, so I worked and learned to do it myself.”

With age and with continued work and exposure to different bikes, Dunworth became more interested in the café racer bike scene. He was inspired by the work of other café racer bike builders such as Brandon Holstein, Ken Boyle, Bryan Fuller and Richard Pollack and now considers several of them as friends and peers. 

The Devil is in the Details

Dunworth’s distinctive approach to bike building is due, in part, to his “need for understanding;” his thirst for knowledge; what some call his downright obsession with mastering every aspect of the bike build. There is no generalist in this story, Dunworth is a specialist—a bike builder specialist—the Dr.-Love-of-Café-Racer-Customs kind of specialist and he makes no apologies for it.

“So many aspects of a bike build are interrelated. You have to have an understanding of each step to do the job right,” Dunworth explained. “Understanding processes such as welding, painting, fabricating, or at least learning enough about them that I can communicate with those who are truly the experts, has been invaluable. If I can learn enough to talk-the-talk with the bike builder industry “masters,” I can extract what I need to know from their experience and apply it to my builds to make them better.”

One lesson Dunworth learned early on was to go with his “gut” in his approach to customizing a bike. “In the beginning of the current custom culture, I think I was one of the first to put a lot of time and effort into geometry and high-end suspension components,” he explained, “you just didn’t see that being done.”

“In the late 1990s, a bike from the 70’s or earlier with custom-made rear suspension and an inverted front end was unheard of except maybe from Richard Pollock.” In the blink of an eye, this type of customization is now mainstream and has actually become the norm.

His first bike to gain notoriety and international clients was the Triton he built for Café Racer TV.

“In season one, professional motorcycle road racing brothers Ben and Eric Bostrom were featured and at the end of the episode Eric was quoted as saying my bike was the ‘vintage platform to shoot for,’” Dunworth said.  After the airing of that episode, Loaded Gun Customs had a lot of calls for suspension and geometry work on vintage bikes, which is what Dunworth calls “the little ace up our sleeve.”

For Dunworth, following his intuition and going against the norm when tackling a bike build paid off and has offered Loaded Gun Customs a reputation for aggressive frame geometries, strong mechanics and “real world” handling.

Lessons Learned

Dunworth is a walking billboard to the old saying: “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.” Once he made the decision to start his own shop, his “do it right” philosophy proved to be invaluable.

“When I first started the shop, I tried to be everything to everybody but that led to cutting corners and turning out work that wasn’t always my best. Now, I do what I do best, I do it right from the beginning, I don’t do it any other way.”

Don’t be fooled that it has always been easy, since opening its doors in 2005, Loaded Gun Customs has had its fair share of struggles and failures. “While I always strive to do my best work, I am the first to admit that I have made mistakes–many mistakes over the years.  You don’t hear much talk about failures in the industry these days, but they are a valuable part of the learning process.”

Dunworth doesn’t hold back when he tallies some of the “less-successful” bike builds from his early days. “I have built bikes that had mechanical issues or welding issues and I have had customers who have been unhappy. To pretend those experiences didn’t happen is a disservice to those bike builders who are new and up-and-coming. Everyone makes mistakes along the way, you just have to be sure you learn from your problems or failures and use the lessons you learn to do things better the next time.”

It has been a long journey of twists and turns for Dunworth, but his personal code of ethics (Patience. I am a student not a master) and his Loaded Gun Customs mission to ‘take the merely bad and turn it into the simply bad ‘assed,’” keep him focused on the road ahead.