Popping wheelies on Silicon Valley highways: The local stunt-cyclist Taylor Swift found on Instagram
Robyn Diamond’s riding will fill your feed with nerve-wracking velocity.
The front tire of Robyn Diamond’s motorcycle spins high above her head. Her left foot front-kicks into her seat, toes to the sky, while her right foot tucks into a crevice in the bike’s rear. She holds one handlebar as it all comes together to create a 40-miles-per-hour wheelie on a two-lane highway. Even still, Diamond’s at-ease posture evokes more of a casual stroll despite being on just one wheel. It might inspire nerves to then see a bus coming at her, separated only by a few feet and paint on the asphalt, but she cruises by unbothered, and easily leans into a curve, open road freedom ahead. It’s the natural cut point for the clip she’s posted online.
The scene is standard content on Diamond’s Instagram. Her account is a showcase of her stunt riding that blends innate tension with dizzying excitement: from popping wheelies at high speeds to scraping the back of her bike on the cement until sparks blaze a trail behind her.
“My mom hates it,” Robyn Diamond says about motorcycle her stunt riding. “A lot.”
But then Diamond corrects herself, “Well, she hated it…” Though Diamond’s mother preferred that she just stick with horseback riding, she eventually accepted her daughter’s passion for a different kind of ride.
So what changed her mom’s mind? A modern condition known as a fateful Instagram message.
Diamond’s Instagram—@RobynStunts—boasts more than 150,000 followers now. Four years ago it was far less, but it resonated enough to get a DM from a stunt coordinator who was booking talent for a music video. Although Diamond was excited for the opportunity, she initially assumed it wouldn’t be too big a deal because details were still vague and the musician remained undisclosed.
To her surprise, the video was not only for her favorite musical artist, but arguably the biggest pop star in the world—Taylor Swift.
Suddenly Diamond is in 2015’s “Bad Blood” video, starring Swift and featuring Kendrick Lamar, barreling down a black futuristic track on a sleek motorcycle. The video has now been viewed 1.3 billion times. Billions with a “B,” as in big deal — and notable enough to change her mom’s opinion on stunt riding. Not bad for Diamond’s music video debut.
It was the kind of opportunity she couldn’t have imagined when she moved from the East Coast to the SF Peninsula five years ago. Santa Clara could never be called a destination for thrill seekers, but somehow once Diamond touched down in Silicon Valley, her riding propelled her up the Instagram ranks and gassed up her California dreams.
“Now [my mom] likes it as long as I don’t ride in the street. And she always wants me to wear elbow pads — which I don’t,” Diamond admits. “She yells at me all the time.”
From stock to custom
Robyn Diamond remembers her childhood riding her bicycle with friends around their neighborhood in the Cranberry Capital of the World: Middleborough, Massachusetts. She loved to ride with no hands and would even try standing up on her bike as she picked up speed.
“I guess I was made for stunt riding before I knew it,” she reflects, now seven years into an accomplished stunt riding life.
Diamond rode horses, even doing competitive show jumping during her teen years, but gravitated away from it because of the high costs. Her curiosity spiked years later, when her older brother made the dual purchase of a motorcycle and motocross bike. Watching him perform wheelies, she wanted to be just like him. But he kept his motorcycle off limits, so she asked if she could take his dirt bike out for a spin.
“I got on it and immediately drove it into a fence,” she says, “and broke it within three seconds.”
Diamond signed up for a motorcycle safety class, secured a license and practiced for months in order to buy her own motorcycle in the fall of 2013. She immersed herself in the motorcycle world, shelving her accounting job for a Jill-of-all-trades position at a motorcycle startup. Before long, she ditched her first bike because it was stock, not ideal for stunt riding’s rigors.
“Within one year, I crashed … and broke my frame and my motor in half,” she recalls.
Forums and Facebook groups taught her what parts she needed — stronger pegs, a bar on the back to scrape on, different handlebars, no plastic pieces — to be a serious stunt rider. She piecemealed it together even if she didn’t know exactly what she was doing. She did, however, add cage protection to prevent her from literally breaking her motorcycle in two, again.
Yet, Diamond’s newfound love of riding motorcycles had one major detractor — the Northeast’s harsh winter.
Once her first Massachusetts winter as a motorcycle rider concluded, Diamond knew she couldn’t stick around for another. She quit her job, rented a U-Haul and came to California in 2014.
Diamond arrived in Silicon Valley and took a job as an auditor. While her white-collar co-workers listed mimosa brunch or wine tasting under their hobbies, she immersed herself in the Bay Area’s stunt riding culture.
Then, after roughly a year in California, the golden West revealed itself to Diamond.
Diamond didn’t have any grand designs when she started riding. The stunt riding community in the Bay Area simply illuminated the possibilities. She sought out stunt riding’s high spots and hidden secrets alike with steadfast gusto. Once her arsenal of moto-tricks expanded, she understood that mastering basics and pursuing more complex moves were the road map to a veteran’s mindset, respect and even notoriety.
“When I first started landing tricks, you feel on top of the world mentally that you conquered your fear, that you did this thing you had no idea how to do on a really heavy bike,” Diamond says. “It just really empowers you to push for harder stuff.”
The thrill derived from motorcycle stunt riding has instilled Diamond with a cool, confident aura. That’s critical criteria for a popping Instagram — adventure, personality and allure. The kind to catch Taylor Swift’s team’s attention. Diamond landing such a large-scale music video with Swift proved to be a surreal achievement. However, her ardent and earnest approach grounded her in the fact there’d be no more too-good-to-be-true scenarios or even steady work if she didn’t remain committed to her craft. All the work that never makes it to Instagram—which garners no hearts or supportive comments—is what she stayed focused on.
Off her wheels though, Diamond is an even-keeled person, drawing on that chill mentality from her adopted home state of California. Her adrenaline needle moves most while sharing her passion for stunt riding with others. To give back, Diamond mentors aspiring riders, especially women.
It’s an individual sport, but Diamond did her part to cultivate the Bay Area’s stunt riding culture, hosting a monthly all-women’s ride that could bring out 20–30 other riders. Every other month she hosts a Sadie Hawkins style ride, where each woman invites someone else to join. It’s her favorite way to break up the monotony of sitting in a chair five days a week and also pays forward the generosity she’s relished from the community.
And in yet another example of her professional life merging with her personal passion, Diamond recently landed a position as accounting manager with Ducati USA, one the most revered motorcycle manufacturers in the nation.
Looking ahead, Diamond is all-in on honing her craft. Since her big breakthrough on Taylor Swift’s video, commercials for big brands like Cover Girl and Marlboro, as well as more music videos for major acts like French Montana — all booked through her Instagram — helped her growth as a rider every bit as much as the Bay Area’s riding culture itself. Her experiences have fashioned smoother results on her bike, whether she’s on two wheels or one.
“I think it’s an art, of course. Everyone has their own style,” Diamond says about riding and stunt riding. “It’s performance art.”
Diamond is easily identifiable on a motorcycle because of her graceful stunt prowess and her helmet’s custom cat ears. The helmet is Bluetooth equipped, which keeps the Taylor Swift blasting in Diamond’s ears, always reminiscent of her first big break. It’s her personal soundtrack to the stunt riding roads ahead.
Stay up to date with other coverage from The Six Fifty by subscribing to our weekly newsletter, featuring event listings, reviews and articles showcasing the best that the Peninsula has to offer. Sign up here!
More local life from The Six Fifty:
- The path less traveled: an adventurer runner’s guide to Peninsula trails
- Onwards and upwards: a beginner’s guide to climbing at Castle Rock
- Check out the five craziest stunts at Nitro Circus in San Jose last week
- Shoot a dinosaur or try the trapeze: it’s time to work out, Silicon Valley style
- Native American photographer Dugan Aguilar captures the “living culture” of indigenous Californians