First Person: Adrian Packett - Expat Mechanic

Ade Packett is a motorcycle mechanic from Stoke-on-trent who has lived and worked in Los Angeles, California for 19 years

I'm from a village called Biddulph near Stoke-on-Trent. Back in 1990 I was working as a courier in Manchester, and we were all working and signing on at the time for Speed Couriers.

The place got raided by the DHSS, we were all about to get a huge bollocking, so it seemed like a good idea to leave the country. I sold my CBX1000 for £3,000 to a bloke from Wales and bought a one-way ticket to Los Angeles.

Got here on a 3-month tourist visa, got pissed for three months and that was the end of my money. I needed a job, so worked as a motorcycle courier illegally for four years, and those were the best days of my life. I was living in a camper van at the time, riding round on my bike in the sunshine, and as far as I was concerned that was living. When Triumph Motorcycles were re-launched here in 1995, I went to the biggest dealer in LA and got the job as head tech on the strength of my accent, and then in '03 I started working for myself as a Personal Motorcycle Technician. In the UK that would mean I'm a grease monkey, but out here it sounds far more grand.

If you like bikes, then California is fantastic. You've got great weather and the roads in this State are some of the best riding in the world. Bikes are cheap to buy, cheap to run and there's not much legislation. There's not nearly the same crackdown on speeding here that you have back in the UK, and the Yanks haven't yet clicked on to how much money can be made from speed cameras, and at the moment there's only two in all of LA. You can still ride really fast in the right places here and not worry about the police. Go about an hour out of town, and the riding is incredible.

There's a lot of fun to be had in LA, loads of parties all the time, but it does take a few years to get settled and find your circle of friends. Most people who come out here think they'll be making shitloads of money and shagging loads of birds within a week, but it hardly ever works like that in this town. And the only thing that keeps you truly sane here are the other Brits. If they weren't here then neither would I be.

The Yanks are just a completely different breed of people, you'd think we'd be compatible because we share the same language (sort of), but Americans are so different to us and after a few months those differences become painfully apparent. The main difference is our sense of humour, you can wind up a Yank all day long and he just don't get it. The British have got a far more advanced sense of wit and that's why we hang out in a gang - if it wasn't for the English nobody would understand you.

People love riding their bikes here but they don't know a lot about them. And they're not generally very good at it - we call them Death Squads because they ride around in big packs and at least one always has a mysterious and completely avoidable crash for no apparent reason. The other day I passed this brother riding a GSX-R1000 and he quite obviously had a flat rear tyre. I shouted at him, told him it was flat, but he just waved me off and said, "yeah man, lovely day for a ride!" Two corners later he crashed into a ditch. Some of it is the mechanic's fault, though. There's been no training schemes for years out here, and it's hard to find someone qualified who can work on a bike properly. People have had a lot of bad experiences in motorcycle shops here.

Right now in LA the customized sportsbike scene is huge, people will pay $20,000 to customise an R1 or a Hayabusa, they'll drop that kind of money on massive rear wheels with 300-section tyres, hand-made swingarms, insane paintjobs, chrome and running lights. It's a massive scene and it seems like everyone's got a CNC machine turning out huge pieces of metal. It's something I probably need to get into, because the celebrities are lining up for them.

This is LA, this is Hollywood, and actors love their bikes. I built a bike for Alanis Morrisette last month, she bought a Triumph Bonneville and wanted it painted and tweaked up. It's a good way for them to get around without the paparazzi. Did some work on Ben Affleck's GSX-R1000, he loves it but he can't ride it for shit, he didn't even know where the bloody brakes were until I showed him.

I've tried having big goals in life and planning ahead, but that's not what I'm about. I'm a soldier, life in the trenches is where I belong. You find out what works for you and what doesn't at a certain point in life, and I'm really happy plugging away here. Got no plans to go back to the UK, I've been gone so long there's no reason for me to return now.