Baja & Beyond with Ciaran Naran

Score International veteran and the newly minted bike builder in residence of our Venice Beach workshop, Ciaran Naran on his love of racing and how he found himself spinning wrenches in the Emporium of Postmodern Activities.

How did you get your start in racing?

For me, racing has always been in the family and always been in the blood. My dad being an IndyCar crew chief in my younger years was very inspiring and I’ve always been driven by racing. He gradually drew me into it, starting with four wheels and that led to two wheels. I think we started taking it pretty seriously when I was eleven or twelve years old. It just transpired from that into racing some of the largest amateur national championships in the world, and then competing at a professional level here in the US.

What led you to motocross and enduro racing, instead of going into four wheels, like your dad?

Two wheels was always way more fun, right? Four wheels is cool and all but you don't get the head jumps and the tracks never change. With enduro you get to ride off road, you get to ride through the elements and up things that nobody else could venture up or to places that people couldn’t see. And I think what was cool about Motocross was the ever changing course and jumps and so on. As I grew older I grew a passion for nature and seeing all its beauty and seeing the places that motorcycles can take me in nature, going off road you know?

Is that how you'd say you got into enduro racing over motocross?

I kind of grew naturally to it, because of my friends like Forrest (Minchinton) and so on. And I thought it was cool that we could go on these hundred-mile rides and have a beer and go to these hot springs up in the mountains or venture to places that nobody else has been to. There’s memories that we share as friends and, you know, stories that we could tell that not every other friend group can tell..

You've been racing at Baja for quite a while now, what's changed, if anything, about taking on such a monumental challenge over the years?

You know, racing down in Baja is always a challenge. There's always something to be learned and it's a beast of its own. So I think over the years we've kind of gotten a little used to it. Your first time going down there and racing you're nervous as hell and thinking all the worst then over the years it's kind of just become second nature. That said, Baja always bites back right when you start getting comfy and I’ve learned that you can't get too comfy down there. I think that's what makes it really unique and cool.

So we're stoked to have you building bikes here in Venice. What are you most excited about seeing coming through the door? Or what are you most excited to build?

For me it's always been dirt bikes and off road, which is something I'm very inspired by and something that I definitely want to build. I'm really excited to work on something that almost shouldn't be ridden off road and make it an off road capable motorcycle - I think everything can be off-road worthy, It just needs some love and attention. We can make it a beautiful beast that can conquer what Baja has to offer and off-road elements in general.

So how does your approach to building differ from other Deus builders and just other kinds of custom builders?

My whole life has been racing and that's kind of the approach I take when starting a build. I'm always looking at how we can improve the motorcycle to make it functionally better or lighter or faster, or able to hit a bigger jump. My approach is almost always performance driven, as if that motorcycle was going to be raced and taken to its limits. Nowadays, these modern bikes are so electronically advanced so to be able to take an older piece of nostalgia and make it competitive with these new modern pieces is something that I want to do and kind of prove to people that it is possible.

What does a typical day look like for you when you’re not racing?

Oh geez, that’s always changing. I take every opportunity to go ride by myself and friends are always approaching me to collaborate on something, there’s always new projects coming my way. I try to ride as much as I can and when I'm not riding I love to be in the workshop trying to create something new, whether it's for my personal motorcycles or for a project or tinkering with ideas that could evolve into a future project. I just love spinning wrenches in general, whether it's working on my Sprinter van, building bikes or going to the track and working on bikes. I think that about sums it up.

How did you come to meet our boy, Forrest?

Oh, I think it was 2018 or 2019. Forrest approached me about racing an off-road race system known as the Silver State 300, which is here in Nevada and run by an organization called Best in the Desert. It was kind of my first off-road race I'd ever done and I really hadn't ridden in the desert because of my motocross career, I was just so focused on racing tracks. 

So Forrest approached me and was like “Hey, man, I know you're capable so let's go do this. So I said yes, we didn't have the best result but we had a good time and I just fell in love with off-road racing. Afterwards, Forrest kept me in the loop and we started racing more and more together. So here we are now getting to travel the world and race dirt bikes together which I think is a really cool story. In the time since he’s become like a big brother to me.

You recently participated in the Deus Swank Rally over in Tunisia, how would you compare the terrain to Baja? Don't pull any punches.

Let me tell you, if you could take the sand from those Tunisian sand dunes and put them on any beach, holy cow, that would be the prettiest beach in the world but you just sank every time you took a step, it was like quicksand. I lost count of how many times I got stuck and had to unbury half of my motorcycle and half of myself. But Baja has some of the gnarliest silt I've ever experienced. But Tunisia has definitely got Baja beat with the sand.

What's on the horizon for you right now?

Right now I'm gearing up for the Baja 500. As we I'm up here in the high desert with the Honda Racing Team preparing for that race and helping get the bike ready and make sure that all the boxes are checked off. So I'm super excited to get down there and hopefully go win it.

How about in the workshop? What's on the horizon there?

Right now I'm doing a pretty cool restoration build on a 2000 YZ 125. Hopefully, I can wrap that up in the next few days and then next on the list is a T100 that we are going to do a bit of a scrambler build.