Rick Petko first appeared in the limelight as a young, ambitious and independent motorcycle builder in 2004, in the ninth episode of the first season of the adventure documentary TV series entitled “Long Way Round.” It aired for six years, from 2004 to 2010, detailing the real-life adventures of actors Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman, who set out to travel the world on their motorcycles.
The motorcycle prodigy was featured on the screen on 6 December 2004, in the episode entitled “Calgary to New York,” as one of the many experts who would help the acting duo to achieve their dream. As expected, his knowledge and capability proved to be quite useful to the team, before they moved on to a different part of the US altogether.
While this brief appearance didn’t propel Rick to stardom, it definitely showed the rest of the world that he knows his craft, which was especially important to bike enthusiasts and his future colleagues. It’s small wonder, then, that he ended up working in what is probably the most important motorcycle shop in modern history, even before gracing the screen – Orange County Choppers (OCC).
Petko’s humble origins
Rick was born on 11 September 1968, apparently an only child, in Bath, Pennsylvania USA, to hard-working and supportive parents. His passion for motor vehicles was born pretty early on, since he thoroughly enjoyed seeing them on television from as far back as he can remember. Naturally, Petko’s father bought him a minibike as his seventh birthday gift, which he thoroughly enjoyed.
Wanting to ride non-stop, he also took on go karts, three-wheelers, four-wheelers, dirt bikes, and ultimately actual choppers. He didn’t just enjoy the rush of speed, but also the pleasure of putting together a robust build that lived up to the highest standards. His passion for building bikes progressed steadily, as he tinkered with the ones he possessed over the years.
Of course, Rick wouldn’t be a true fan of monsters on wheels without religiously enjoying the NASCAR franchise – a taste he acquired by about the age of 15. By that point, he had already been upgrading his existing vehicles somewhat, and even considered restoring a select few, although lacking the tools and experience to do so.
He started by using his father’s garage, adding bits and pieces to his favorite machines as he went. Eventually he garnered enough experience to apply for a real job in that field, ending up with the racing school at the Pocono raceway in Long Pond, in his birth state, where he worked on actual race cars and bikes, significantly improving mechanical skills.
Having spent a couple of years polishing his craft there, he transferred to a Hooters Pro Cup team, ensuring that their vehicles were in top shape before every face-off on the track. The now famous mechanic stayed there from 1998 to 2003, at which point his ability had reached even the greats of the greats – the two Pauls of the Teutul family who ran the Orange County Choppers motorcycle shop.
A rider on the storm
Seeing as the TV show entitled “American Chopper: The Series” took off in the same year of his joining, the endeavor turned out to be quite fruitful for the promising motorcycle builder, as he was earning the income from both his work and from Discovery Channel’s production team.
His skill became renowned and his builds famous, with celebrities such as even former US President Donald Trump purchasing one of his choppers. Aside from the millionaire politician and business mogul, he also serviced Lance Armstrong, Bill Murray and Carroll Shelby, to name a few.
While profitable beyond any doubt, anyone’s time at OCC within the first decade-or-so of the “American Chopper: The Series” was also fraught with drama and unnecessary stress, that only made the popular builds harder to execute, and took a toll on their professional and private lives.
Rick found himself in the eye of that storm as well, but being the ethical man that his father was, he mostly chose to stay on the side, simply dedicated to his passion. As a result, he was rarely, if ever, blamed for any of the projects not being on time, or finding himself between the two Pauls in one of their many arguments.
The build-up of animosity in the Teutul family business was quite slow in the beginning, with only lightweight arguments and abusive verbal exchanges in stressful situations that are customary in any such workshop. However, throughout the subsequent years it became obvious that father and son simply couldn’t coexist in the same space, for reasons too many to count, a lot of which probably aren’t even public knowledge.
One of the numerous examples of this mutual acrimony shows Paul Sr criticizing Paul Jr over certain intricacies in the motorcycle build they were working on, at which point his son confided to the camera crew that ‘Sometimes, my father, he just looks for things to go off about. And nine times out of 10, I’m the target.’
Rick working on one of Paul Teutul Sr 's bikes this Monday morning in the OCC shop. Make sure to stop by and take a tour next time you are in the area!http://www.orangecountychoppers.com/#!shop-tours/cr1j
Tensions continued to mount in the shop, as Paul Sr says ‘Everything is f***ed up, you know what I mean? Everything that you got calculated here is all f***ing gone.’ He inspects a strange looking part that Paul Jr ordered recently, saying ‘From now on, anything that gets ordered outta here, I wanna see it before it gets ordered. Any f***ing thing. That’s it. I’m not kidding here. That’s it.’
The younger Teutul son, Michael, thought that the situation was getting out of hand because Jr and Sr interact far too extensively on a daily basis. He said ‘I think my father and brother spend a bit too much time together, and they pretty much need more of a break. It’s just not healthy.’
That statement becomes evident later on in the episode, when it’s just the two of them in the shop and Paul Sr gets a call from a potential customer. Without knowing how far the situation would escalate, Paul Jr simply asks ‘What’s the problem pop?’ Sr simply says ‘I got a guy coming here eight o’clock maybe to buy a bike.’
— Race Of Gentlemen (@RaceOfGentlemen) May 29, 2018
The lack of trust between the two becomes apparent when Jr asks ‘What bike?’, and Sr gives him a cold ‘I don’t think it really matters, it’s a customer and we both need to be here.’ Whether due to the insensitive reply, or because he simply didn’t have it in his schedule for the day, Jr says ‘I can’t, I’ve got plans.’
Sr then walks over with an offended look on his face, proclaiming ‘You know, you’ve gotta get rid of this mentality because it’s eight o’clock at night you don’t wanna do stuff. You know what I’m saying, because…‘, at which point Jr interjects with ‘I’ve never had that mentality, I’ve been here every eight o’clock we’ve ever had to be. I’ve been here every night and staying every Sunday for a month, when you weren’t here, so don’t tell me that I have the mentality that I don’t work.’
Sr kept trying to get a word in the whole time, interrupting with swear words and an angrily pointing finger, stating ‘Then you should be here at eight o’clock again. Listen, don’t ever, don’t ever f***ing tell me time things as far as you putting in more time than me, because it’ll never f***ing happen.’ Jr continues to escalate by saying ‘What, when you don’t work?’
The father then becomes enraged even further, yelling ‘No. No. Yeah, that only happens once in a lifetime.’ Jr says ‘I worked for a month straight without a day off,’ Sr rebutting the statement with ‘You know what? You are deluded. You talk about delusional people, you’re as delusional as everybody you talk about.’
Vinnie appears in the shop and looks nervously at the two as Jr shouts ‘Listen, I worked four Sundays in a row without taking one off to get a job done.’ They then start arguing about individual builds, the son claiming that he both built and sold a particular bike, while Sr posited it never would’ve happened without him ordering the parts.
The exchange continues back and forth for minutes on end, with various extreme accusations, such as Jr saying that his father doesn’t even build the bikes, and so he has nothing to complain about. Sr’s argument is mostly that his son is delusional and has no idea what he’s talking about.
The situation concluded with Jr talking to the camera crew again, saying ‘I don’t care how many hours I put in, or how fast I build these bikes, it’s just never good enough for my father. You just can’t please him, so, to be honest with you, at this point, I’ve just about stopped trying.’
This hostility remained deeply interwoven in the soul of the show, making the creative process a lot more tedious for everyone involved. Rick had the fortune of not being on the premises as much as Vinnie or some of the more camera-friendly employees, missing out on much of unnecessary stress.
The break-up of Orange County Choppers
In 2008 the tension escalated beyond the point of no return for both the loud-mouthed Teutuls, resulting in the permanent termination of Paul Jr. working at OCC. This bold move by Paul Sr brought a myriad of issues to both the workshop crew and the production team, fans were outraged as well, and customers less enthusiastic about the quality of OCC’s future endeavors.
Later on, the younger Teutul started up his own Paul Jr. Designs company out of a brand new shop in Montgomery, New York, which opened in 2010. The whole charade actually turned out to be in everyone’s favor, though, as TLC had the genius idea of pitting the father against the son on television.
They thus launched the “American Chopper: Senior vs. Junior” spin-off that ran for six seasons, displaying the most prominent builds from both shops in a bid to crown only one as the ultimate chopper. The decade of displeasure between the two was channeled into their creative processes, resulting in unprecedented build creativity, as they set out to leave the other in the dust.
Paul Jr. thus produced some of the most famous motorcycles, such as the P-51 Mustang Bike and the Classic Car Bike – the respective 2011 and 2012 Biker Build-Off winning entries. Paul Sr didn’t lag far behind either, creating some of his own world-famous bikes without the assistance of his son. The show itself was considered a massive success.
Petko didn’t participate in that one, as he mostly kept to himself and away from the drama. After the split, Paul invited him to work at the new company, but Rick kept to the word he gave his original employer, and stuck with OCC for several more years down the line, which is how he was featured in 2013’s “Orange County Choppers,” in eight episodes of the first season through 2014.
Petko’s own business in the 2020’s
Having earned a diploma in welding from the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners early in his career, Rick had an interest in all kinds of metalworking as well. Although he enjoyed racing too, coming to OCC made him realize that his true dream lay in the crafting of metal, not using it. He then quit casual racing for good, and put all of his time into perfecting his craftsmanship.
Seeing as he was part of the world’s most competitive motorcycle building crew for a long time, many would assume that this is what he does privately as well. That couldn’t be further from the truth, however, as his company RPD & Co. is all about knife-making. He started it in 2006 with the simple plan of creating his own vintage race bikes and all sorts of metalwork, but it eventually led him to full-on knife forging.
In late 2022, he resides in his shop in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, building many different kinds of knives and occasionally working on motorbikes, which he regularly posts on the @rickpetko Instagram page.
Being away from the limelight and doing his thing seems to be the way to go for Rick, who is married to Brittany Cockeram nicknamed ‘Machete Suicide.’ They have two daughters together: Everly Rose born on 24 October 2013, and Lucy Mae on 27 January 2016.
The girls can oftentimes be seen in in Rick’s Facebook posts, such as the Prisoner of War/Missing in Action (POW/MIA) Bike, which is of special significance to Petko himself, whose cousin’s name resides on the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Wall in Washington DC; it’s also inscribed on the bike’s rear fender.
He mentions this in the caption of the picture, stating ‘I helped build this bike in 2004 as a tribute to our fallen veterans; when Everly is older she’ll understand the significance of this photo, our cousin Jacks name was put on this bike as it is engraved on the wall in DC, Thank you to all veterans for your sacrifices #usa #usa’