Where is motorcycling going? Depending on whom you listen to, the answer can be anywhere from soulless techno-utopia to outright extinction. In this episode, we’re listening to legendary racer, designer, engineer and entrepreneur Erik Buell, who thinks the sky’s the limit. In a wide-ranging conversation that takes us from his “terrifying” 1980s race bikes to the electric imperative that could secure the future of the sport for us all, Buell shares what might be the greatest lesson of his storied career so far: that the past may be prologue, but the future will always be up to us.

Show Notes

Erik Buell, Chief Technology Officer and co-founder of Fuell Motorcycles, eyes forward. Photo: Fuell

Many thanks to Marina Mann of EatSleepRIDE for helping make this interview happen. The folks there ended up interviewing Erik, too, and the resulting articles make a great companion to this episode.

Here‘s an article about the Lotus Evija, my ambivalence about which ended up motivating this inquiry. I want to stress again that I think whatever puts a smile on your face is cool, and even better if it does less harm to the world. For me, it’s more that these things force a deconstruction of something we love, demanding that we be more specific about what matters and what doesn’t. I wasn’t just being polite about Buell’s response that being beautiful and handling well are plenty to love about about a motorcycle, not to mention the instant torque of electric propulsion. I really was persuaded.

I mentioned early in this episode that I didn’t feel like I could add much to Erik Buell’s story by mining his business history. Part of the reason for this is that he recently gave an interview with Motorcycles and Misfits, a favourite podcast of mine, in which they did a great job of capturing Erik’s perspective on this and the Harley years in particular. If you’re interested in that, and I know many will be, you can find that interview on your favourite podcasting platforms or by going to Motorcycles and Misfits’ web site.

If you’re less familiar with the Erik Buell story, a great place to start is the AMA Hall of Fame profile, which nicely balances his life as a racer and builder with the entrepreneurial side of his remarkable career. Wikipedia adds some colour to the business side of the narrative.

The “terrifying” RW750. Photo: Hemmings Motor News

This article from Hemmings provides the full back story on Buell’s first sport bike design. Hearing Erik talk about this, it was clear that this bike happened perhaps more because he wanted to keep racing than because he thought there was a business in it, foreshadowing the passion that would underscore his career in the years ahead.

This is Fuell motorcycles, Buell’s current project. Check out this page for a video of Buell explaining his interest in Fuell’s mission. “I love the idea of personal freedom,” he says, “personal mobility.” Fuell’s launch got lots of attention, due in no small part, I’m sure, to the fame of the Buell name. Here are a couple of examples of the coverage, this from Hemmings, and this from Forbes.

 

The Fuell Fllow. Photo: Fuell

During our conversation, Erik mentioned a book called The Innovator’s Dilemma, by Harvard professor Clayton Christenson. This book was a must read in business circles for a long time, and citing it in this conversation was a very interesting choice. Christensen argues for disruption as essential to survival, and that being big, effective and efficient aren’t enough to guarantee eternal life for a corporation. Buell’s message to the famously conservative motorcycle industry remains, as ever, clear.

Thanks to Erik Buell for sharing his music with us for this episode. “You’re Not Alone” is an original composition, but Erik wanted to make sure that all the players were credited. It’s not “an official band,” he wrote me, but “a live recording with these guys sitting in impromptu. [Their names are] Lee Williams and Richard Crisman…aka Daddy Rich.” As an aside, I remain astonished by how many motorcyclists I know play guitars.

As always, the theme music for this episode was arranged and performed by Harry Bartlett.

Finally, a nudge to scrounge up a few bucks from the couch cushions and make a contribution to the Movember Foundation in the name of this podcast… just click on the moustache below. Direct donations do the most good, but if you’d like to get a souvenir for yourself while you donate, you can buy a TML coffee mug just like the one pictured above by shopping here. Either way, they could use all the help you can give them, and I’ll know you value this content. Thank you!

Are motorcyclists really adrenaline addicts? Meet Axe DeKruif, the ultimate edge case. After a lifetime of chasing adrenaline highs with anything on wheels, Axe decided to scratch that itch once and for all by doing something nobody had ever done… cross America from sea to sea on a motorcycle in 33 hours. In this conversation, Axe talks about the path that led him to that bonkers ride, how he did it, and the heartbreaking, inspiring aftermath. Whichever side of that razor’s edge we fall on, his story offers one lesson that’s inescapable for us all: nothing will ever go faster than life itself.

Show Notes

Axe DeKruif and his indestructible S1000RR on a shakedown ride to Colorado.

Axe’s film is called “No Limits, No Regrets,” and here’s how you can find it if you’d like to watch it yourself. Which, if motorcycle people fascinate you as much as they do me, you should. Axe is an extreme character in many ways, but this frank self-portrait is proof yet again that there is a philosopher under every helmet.

Axe partly credits his admiration of Alex Roy’s accomplishments as inspiration for his record-setting ride. If you’re not familiar with Roy, this Wikipedia profile will catch you up. This book looks like it might be a great read for understanding the world of outlaw speed records. It’s a difficult subject, because these records are rarely set without breaking some laws… and yet, to be honest, the legendary Cannonball Run fascinated me as a kid, and definitely played a role in turning me into the motorhead I am. Nolo contendere, as they say in court.

If you’d like to connect with Axe on Instagram, he’s @nolimitsnoregrets3310. You’ll also find him on Facebook and YouTube. Shortly after we spoke, Texas got pounded by a winter storm that knocked out power to millions, and Axe was not spared. If you connect, wish him well. Oh, and it turned out he did have to shovel it. Not the first, and probably not the last time I stick my foot in my mouth on this podcast.

Here’s Y Chrome Customs, Axe’s custom chopper business. Today, the site is heavily dedicated to promoting Axe’s film, and he features a couple of other podcast interviews that are definitely worth listening to. Note that certain project bike photos feature images some may find offensive.

Axe was kind enough to share some photos from his life that add colour to the story. Here are a few:

A young Axe DeKruif burning the candle at both ends, a life he believes led to open-heart surgery by the time he was in his 30s.

Axe’s custom chopper business, Y Chrome Customs. As they did for Eric Gorges in Episode 18, these bikes gave Axe an outlet for both his creative side and his perfectionism.

Axe training during a track day at COTA, on the bike that would set his transcontinental record, flames and all.

At the Texas Mile, where Axe and the S1000RR would see 187mph, a thrill that would still leave him hungry for more.

At Daytona Beach with one of his Y Chrome creations.

Axe preparing to depart from the beach in San Diego for his record setting ride, game face on. Look closely, and you’ll see the array of displays he relied on to stay out of trouble along the way.

A thousand thank-yous to the awesome Atoms to Ashes for being so enthusiastic about sharing their music on this episode. Besides the track being kind of perfect for the subject matter, this band’s story resonates, too: independent and self-made, they’ve built their following and body of work with grit, determination and talent (typical Montrealers), achieving more than a million Spotify streams at a time when the music business has never been more challenging. Expect a new EP, ‘Blackburn’, later this year. And in the meantime, you can listen to them on Spotify and Apple Music  You can also follow them on Instagram. And here‘s their YouTube channel.

And as always, the theme music for this episode was arranged and performed by Harry Bartlett.

Finally, a nudge to scrounge up a few bucks from the couch cushions and make a contribution to the Movember Foundation in the name of this podcast… just click on the moustache below. Direct donations do the most good, but if you’d like to get a souvenir for yourself while you donate, you can buy a TML coffee mug just like the one pictured above by shopping here. Either way, they could use all the help you can give them, and I’ll know you value this content. Thank you!

The most awkward dance in a motorcyclist’s life is the one we have with our perceived limits. Meet world class adventure rider Jocelin Snow, who thinks it’s often ourselves who make that dance so difficult. From the steppes of Mongolia to her own back yard, Jocelin’s life has been a call to adventure, and her work has been to empower everyone who hears it with the skills to go. By turns funny and inspiring, this conversation dares us to believe that the key to the freedom is believing in ourselves, and the only map we need is an open mind.

Show Notes

Jocelin Snow, in a rare helmet-less moment. Photo: Jacob Jun

At the top of the show, I mentioned Jon Delvecchio and his book Cornering Confidence. Jon, who is a listener, reached out to new rider Neale Koumbiadis with some coaching help after my last episode, which I thought was amazing. He wasn’t looking for any credit, but I figured I’d give him some anyway. Here‘s his web site, and if you’re looking for a way to spend a few snowy evenings, I highly recommend his online cornering course.

It’s a dangerous business quoting a well-loved poem like ‘The Road Not Taken,’ especially without the necessary education. You can read that poem here, and then follow the link to the very smart analysis from which I borrowed my conclusions.

Jocelin Snow, v.1 Photo: Jocelin Snow

Jocelin has been interviewed many times since her triumph at the GS Trophy. I first heard her name from fellow podcasters, Motorcycles & Misfits, who have had her on the show more than once. Of all the interviews I’ve read, this one is probably the best, covering much of the same history but with some great additional detail.

BMW must have had to pinch itself when it discovered a rider with Jocelin’s talent and personality already piloting its big GS. She pointed out, of course, that she’s not under contract to anyone, but it’s pretty clear from this profile – which includes more about the GS Trophy – that BMW Motorrad must be her biggest fan.

Jocelin at the turnaround point of her 30-day, life-changing blitz to Alaska. Photo: bmw-motorrad.com

Still on the GS Trophy, here‘s a bit about the event in New Zealand in early 2020, which managed to squeak in just before the doors to the world slammed shut last year.

 

Jocelin Snow, v.2 Photo: Christopher Scott, @cscott_photo

Jocelin ‘playing’ at her ranch. Photos: Christopher Scott, @cscott_photo

Also early in 2020 came the announcement that the North East Back Country Discovery Route was open, and that it had been the subject of a film in which Jocelin was featured. This is the trailer for that film. Tell me it doesn’t want to make you pack up your bike and get into some trouble…

Jocelin Snow has a web site of her own, although she told me that it was long overdue for some updating (I can’t imagine what else she’s been doing with her time). Here it is anyway, because the photos stories are awesome. And if you want to take her up on her invitation to connect on Instagram, she’s @jocelinsnow . And here‘s a shortcut to her YouTube channel.

Many thanks to Mariagrazia Canu, Fabio Zaffagnini and Rockin’ 1000 for being an enthusiastic part of this episode, and showing us nothing is impossible. You can learn more about their story and what happened since that magic day in Cesena here. “Learn to Fly” is available on iTunes, and streamed widely. But you absolutely must start by watching the video of that first track being recorded. Sorry, I think I have something in my eye…

And as always, the theme music for this episode was arranged and performed by Harry Bartlett.

Finally, a nudge to scrounge up a few bucks from the couch cushions and make a contribution to the Movember Foundation in the name of this podcast. They could use all the help you can give them, and I’ll know you value this content. Thank you!

Do you still remember your first time? The elation of that first season is a big part of what makes motorcycles so addictive, and it can become elusive as the years go by. Meet Neale Koumbiadis, whose motorcycle life is so new he doesn’t even own a bike yet. Just weeks into his journey, Neale – who also flies airplanes – described his first ride around a parking lot as “the most liberating thing I’ve ever done.” More than just a chance to relive the rush of those early days, this conversation leaves us with a question only we can answer: are we still the riders we hoped we’d be when it all began?

Show Notes

Here is the wonderful video I shared with Neale the night before our interview. I remain a sucker for this kind of motorcycle cri de couer, even if it’s sometimes a bit overcooked. I thought my guest might connect with it… especially the flying bit at the end. Great stuff.

When we spoke, I mentioned a YouTube video in which Neale and his wife surprised their kids with a trip to Disney World. Here it is. I’m sharing it here not just because it’s incredibly cute, but because I think it’s somehow appropriate to the theme of this episode: not forgetting how to experience unbridled joy. I’m pretty sure the future dirt biker is on the right.

For those interested, here’s a link to an explanation of my province’s motorcycle licensing regime. It’s a simplified version of the graduated licensing system you see in the UK and European countries. I think it’s better than a simple test, but truthfully, I wouldn’t entirely mind if our licenses were as hard to get as they are in the UK… or as hard to get as a pilot’s license.

Below are a couple of photos of Neale and his youngest daugther and riding buddy. Every once in a while, I have a good idea about two hours too late, and this episode is one of those times. Wouldn’t it have been a blast to interview them together?

After our conversation (in the spirit of mentoring, of course), I sent Neale some information on ADV star Jocelin Snow for his daughter, and a nearby adventure riding school run by BMW for him. The BMW Performance Riding Centre is on my ‘try everything’ list. This style of riding isn’t an ambition of mine in particular, but a few years ago I attended a talk by technical riding wizard Clinton Smout and was converted to the idea that some of these skills would be useful even to me.

You can find Neale Koumbiadis on Instagram, if you want to say hi, although his account is private. He’s @nealekoumbiadis

A day or two later, Neale followed up with the image below, which sums up what drives him to “try everything.” I’ve seen it before, but it’s never been quite so on the nose as it is for the subject of this episode. I wish him many happy miles.

My sincere thanks to Donovan Woods and his team for being so responsive to my request to feature “The First Time” on this episode. Sometimes, this turns out to be the most difficult production chore I have, leading to a lot of dead ends and unanswered emails. Not so here, and that makes me even happier to share his music with you. If you want to get to know him better, his web site is a great place to start. You’ll find that here. And you can follow him on Instagram… he’s @donovanwoods

Photo: paradigmagency.com

And as always, the theme music for this episode was arranged and performed by Harry Bartlett.

Finally, a nudge to scrounge up a few bucks from the couch cushions and make a contribution to the Movember Foundation in the name of this podcast. They could use all the help you can give them, and I’ll know you value this content. Thank you!

Is riding a motorcycle really like meditating? Meet Ven. Kusala Bhikshu, a Buddhist monk who has spent more than 20 years navigating the mean streets of Los Angeles on two wheels. His resounding ‘yes’ could hardly come with more authority. But this fascinating conversation reveals that focus and presence are only the beginning of what a great ride can do for the spirit. With insight and understanding that could only come from a fellow motorcyclist, Reverend Kusala challenges us to see riding as like life itself, in ways even the most ardent among us might never have dared imagine.

Show Notes

Ven. Kusala Bhikshu, and Rain the cat. Photo from UrbanDharma.org

Kusala’s web site, Urban Dharma, is a good way to get to know him better, and there’s a lot to know (this linked site is also his). Two shortcuts you might appreciate: this is a summary of his career since becoming ordained as a Bhuddist monk, and this is how to find the journal from his memorable ride home to Wisconsin. Here’s some information about the place where Kusala lives and practices, the International Buddhist Meditation Center in Los Angeles. Kusala also produces an Urban Dharma podcast, which you can find on a number of platforms, including Apple Podcasts. And you can also find him on Instagram. He’s @kusala_bhikshu

Kusala’s Suzuki Volusia, which the company more recently branded the Boulevard C50. A comfortable middleweight, shaft-drive cruiser well suited to long distances. And a cheerful countenance well suited to a blues harp-playing Bhuddist monk.

Like a lot of people – and perhaps even more of us in these strange days – much of what I sort of understand to be Buddhist philosophy resonates for me, especially the comfortingly pragmatic themes of personal responsibility, the consequences of what we think, say and do, and the all-important struggle to be in the present moment. Whatever your philosophy or faith, these seem like useful spiritual tools. If you’re curious to know a bit more about the subject, Kusala has shared several wonderful talks on YouTube. This one, about his path to Buddhism, is an excellent place to start. Honest, funny, and completely free of mysticism and proselytizing, it’s wonderful storytelling. And his blues harmonica solo at the end – “because what else would a Buddhist play?” – brings down the house.

Meditation is challenge I’ve blundered into at a couple of moments in my life, the first one during a vain attempt at studying kung fu years ago (I remain depressingly safe to be around). This spring, on the same short leash as everyone else, I decided to give it another try with the help of an app called Insight Timer. And guess who I found on their web site. Another interesting talk on the subject at hand.

After we spoke, Reverend Kusala shared this thoughtful reflection on the relevance of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance today, from Smithsonian Magazine. Short, smart, and worth the read.

I’m delighted to feature the music of Kyler Morrison again on this podcast, and thanks to him for sharing this new track while it was still hot off the press. Here’s his Spotify page, and you can of course find his work on all the rest of the usual platforms. Here’s his performance of this episode’s playlist recommendation, ‘Ready Boy’, on YouTube. If you live in Phoenix, Kyler’s your new neighbour, and might even be your motorcycle mechanic. Say hi for me.

And as always, the theme music for this episode was arranged and performed by Harry Bartlett.

Finally, a nudge to scrounge up a few bucks from the couch cushions and make a contribution to the Movember Foundation in the name of this podcast. They could use all the help you can give them, and I’ll know you value this content. Thank you!

Do sport riders know something the rest of us don’t? It can be hard to tell behind all that leather and armour, but there are few motorcycle lifestyles riders pursue with more dedication. Meet Anna Rigby, an accomplished track addict who shares her journey to go faster with two hundred thousand followers on Instagram, glory and disaster alike. In a conversation that gives us a rider’s-eye view of the pursuit of speed, Anna paints a self-portrait that is equal parts relentlessness and joy, and makes an irresistible case for chasing your limits no matter where it takes you, or what you ride.

Show Notes

Anna Rigby, game on.

… and helmet off.

Thanks again to Wes Fleming for the shoutout on his podcast. If you’ve got room for another one in your feed, check out Chasing The Horizon here.

Wikipedia seems like the wrong place to get zen lessons, but here‘s a quick reference on the meaning of ‘shoshin’ anyway. Whatever name you choose to give it, I honestly think this quality is what defines the best motorcyclists of any discipline. Beware the riding buddy who thinks there is nothing left to learn.

I was far from the first to discover Anna’s unique voice in the sport riding world. A quick Google search will net you several good interviews if you’d like to get to know her story better. This one, from a few years back, is pretty good. So is this one, a more recent take from closer to home. I think she’s making a great contribution to the sport… riders at this level are focused and competitive by definition, but that can lead to a certain aloofness. That, as you know if you’ve heard this episode, is not Anna. I’d bet she’s inspired a lot of riders.

Here‘s a link to RedSpade Racing, the company Anna and her husband Steve (and friends) founded to promote the sport. The blog page is great reading, especially if you’re getting an itch to try your hand at track life.

Sportbike Track Time is the organization Anna does her track days with. You can find out more about them here. I’m not sure such an organization exists in Canada, but let me know if you’ve run across one.

RedSpade, full send…

… and me, full send. As you can see, I am full of possibilities.

If you live nearby (Quebec or Southern Ontario), and you’d like to give the track a try, you should absolutely look into Michel Mercier’s FAST Riding School. From my experience there, I would say that the chalk talk sessions were just okay, and better if you already have some basic knowledge of things like what an apex is. But on track, the experience is flawless and wall to wall fun, the gear is excellent, the people are patient and helpful, and you never, ever feel like you shouldn’t be there. And nobody is paying me to say this.

If you enjoyed meeting Anna Rigby in this episode, you should definitely follow her on Instagram. She is, of course, @redspade. You can find video of the crash we discussed in a post dated May 8. And below is the YouTube video that gave this episode it’s playlist recommendation.

CAPPA, from a recent Instagram post.

And very special thanks to CAPPA for being cool with featuring her music in this episode. The playlist recommendation feature of this podcast can sometimes be the hardest to land, because I prefer to make sure the artist is comfortable with being part of it. Sometimes, this can result in long, convoluted email exchanges and other bureaucratic silliness. CAPPA wasn’t like that, which was especially refreshing given her star is ascendant. Amazingly, she doesn’t seem to have a web site, but you can find her music on most streaming platforms, for sale on Apple Music (that’s where I got “Ride”), and on SoundCloud. You can also find her on Instagram, where she’s @cappamusic. If your taste runs to artists like Halsey, Lorde and Carly Rae Jepsen, your day just got a whole lot better.

And as always, the theme music for this episode was arranged and performed by Harry Bartlett.

Finally, one more nudge to scrounge up a few bucks from the couch cushions and make a contribution to the Movember Foundation. With this year’s Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride not the gathering we’re used to, I think they could use all the help you can give them.

 

 

For many of us, the internet is an indispensable part of motorcycle life. But have you ever wondered if the experts on your favourite forums are the real thing? Meet Tom Harley, a moderator on Reddit’s Harley Davidson subreddit. Tom learned to fix and care for old Harley Davidson motorcycles first-hand from outlaw bikers in the 80s, so he’s seen it all. But this rollicking conversation turned out to be about more than just trusting what you read online. Tom’s story reveals a tradition of apprenticeship that has kept motorcycling alive since the beginning… and if we play our part, always will.

Show Notes

Tom Harley, self-professed degenerate biker, artist, and internet mentor.

At the top of the show, I mentioned a blog called Scooter in the Sticks. Especially if Vespas are your thing, and even if they’re not, it’s worth a visit. Steve Williams’ take on characterful machines and the burdens and pleasures of age is different, but just as authentic as Tom’s.

When I introduced Tom Harley, I said that he was in his tattoo studio. Editing the episode, I realized this may not have been the case, but if you’re ever in northern California and are that way inclined, maybe you should be. His work is ambitious and beautiful, on another level from a lot of tattoo art. You can learn more about his business here. If I ever got the nerve, I’d make the trip.

Tom’s association with the outlaw biker scene in NorCal may sound colourful, but it more than rings true. He caught the end of the same scene in motorcycle’s cultural history that Hunter S. Thompson wrote about in ‘Hell’s Angels‘. Thompson’s turgid prose seems quaint, now, but it doesn’t get in the way of a ripping yarn, and a fascinating take on how it all happened. One of the most memorable themes for me: the central role the media played in creating the Angels’ mythology. Worth a read, if you’re interested.

About a year and a half ago, Common Tread published an interview with Lemmy and Tom that’s worth a read. “Always helping. Always giving good advice… I realized that unlike a lotta keyboard commandos, this guy really knew his shit.” Also worth a read.

Tom told Lemmy this ’48 Panhead was his favourite bike… to look at. And it’s easy to see why.

Not being a Harley Davidson afficionado, I couldn’t confidently choose examples of Tom’s writing to show you why he’s so trusted by that Reddit community, so he was kind enough to make some suggestions for me… here, here, here, here and here.

He’s also written a couple of pieces for GetLowered. Here‘s Tom’s missive on Harley Davidson reliability. I think he has a presence on Facebook and Twitter, too, but Instagram is a good place to get to know the very outspoken online Tom Harley better. His handle there is @tjharley762.

Tom Harley’s characterization of himself as an artist is more than fair. It’s not easy to find his work online, though you can see more of it in his Instagram feed. That’s where I screen-grabbed this image. His portrait work is riveting, and leaves you wanting to know more about the people behind the faces, about the highest praise a portrait can win.

At the end of the interview, Tom offered to share some footage of the roads around where he lives, and he was as good as his word. The only time I’ve spent in NorCal has been inside a car and, given my affection for California, this seems like a gaping hole in my experience. The roads there look amazing (I’m constantly jealous of the Motorcycles & Misfits ride reports), and it’s also – probably more, even, than LA – historically deeply important to motorcycle culture. When the world opens up again, a visit will remain firmly on my list. Maybe I’ll even get a tattoo.

The idea of ‘living by a code’ remains interesting to me, and it’s a persistent theme in motorcycle culture. I think some of this has to do with valorizing outlaw bikers, sure. But I also think there’s a deeper hunger, there. For a lot of riders, part of the appeal of motorcycling rests in the way it allows you to be alone without making you feel that way. Something shared, like a wave or like a code of behavior, helps preserve that magic, and the proof is in the many attempts people have made to formalize one. I have yet to find the definitive solution, the one that makes me nod in recognition of something that’s always felt true. I’m curious about this book, maybe less so about this faux-outlaw take. Let me know if you’ve seen something that inspires you!

Curtis Stigers, the voice behind “This Life” Photo from curtisstigers.com

Thanks to Curtis Stigers for being so quick and enthusiastic about letting me share “This Life” with you. You can learn more about him here, and this link gives you a quick path to hearing his music online. Here‘s a little more about his new album, ‘Gentleman.’ Being a jazz fan, I was delighted to discover him and amazed it had taken so long. I keep wanting to write more about why I like his sound, but it feels like a lane departure, so here‘s a real review, instead.

Theme music arranged and performed by Harry Bartlett.

And finally, one more nudge to scrounge up a few bucks from the couch cushions and make a contribution to the Movember Foundation. With this year’s Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride not the gathering we’re used to, I think they could use all the help you can give them.

 

What is it about motorcycles that turns some riders into social activists? From charity rides to roadside rescues, one of motorcycling’s most enduring archetypes is the rider who wanders the world to right its wrongs. Meet Lance Jones, an activist who is about to take that to the next level. In a season of angry protest and racial divide, Lance quit a dream job in the motorcycle industry to hit the road and heal his nation’s wounds with compassionate dialogue. His journey not yet begun, the power of a motorcycle to start conversations is already thunderingly clear. And so is the challenge to all of us to use that power to benefit our communities, too.

Show Notes

 

Here‘s a link to my newsletter from last spring, “Look For The Helpers,” the one that eventually opened the door to meeting Lance Jones.

This interview captured the moment when Lance’s ‘media collective’ and its mission were just being born, a moment when the most important task of an enterprise is to define itself. When it came time to prepare these show notes, I found myself unsure exactly how to describe Lance Jones, so I asked him. He proposed this: “Lance Jones, co-founder of actionjonze, is a mediator and activist committed to eradicating racial injustice and socioeconomic inequality.” In corporate life, that’s called a ‘stretch target’, and it shows you what people are made of. Lance, clearly, is all in.

actionjonze’s web site isn’t live at this writing, so I recommend you take Lance’s advice and follow him on your preferred social channels. He’s @actionjonze. Of particular interest lately has been his work with the community of College Park, GA, which feels like a rehearsal for the mission actionjonze has set for itself. And proof that Lance means what he says about conversation being the path to change.

In my prologue, I mentioned a genre of YouTube video dedicated to motorcyclists doing kind things. Here’s an example, one that had earned well north of 8 million views by the time I found it. I think there’s even a kitten in there somewhere. Some of these videos are suspiciously well timed, but you can’t argue with popularity. And they’re a lot more entertaining than crash videos.

I also mentioned a listener, Tom Calhoun of Quin Design Helmets. Here’s a bit more about them.

And in my request for your donations to the Movember Foundation this episode, I told you that they had just launched a program with motorcyclists in mind, but didn’t explain it (hit the link for details directly from the source). It’s a really interesting approach to mobilizing the motorcycle community for men’s health, and I’m excited to see what people do with the grant money on offer. The deadline for initial submissions is, unfortunately, only a couple of days away, but this is worth the read anyway. They tell me that if you have questions, you’re welcome to email them at [email protected]

Lance’s essay on his motorcycle journey was published on LinkedIn, and it appears you have to be a member to read it. Once you’re logged in, search Lance’s profile for “On noise machines.”

An interesting aside as you consider the notion that some motorcyclists are driven to help: Possibly the most famous modern day case of a motorcycling ‘knight in shining armour’ is the story of Pierlucio Tinazzi, a motorcyclist who died trying to rescue victims of the 1999 Mont Blanc tunnel fire. You can find his story here. In the years that followed, the record was clarified and Tinazzi’s exploits diminished somewhat, but the persistence of his legend somehow proves that the archetype of the heroic motorcyclist is embedded in our consciousness.

As a fumbling guitar hack with secret aspirations to be a blues master, I was thrilled to feature this track by four-time Grammy winner Keb’ Mo’, who really is one. If you want to know more about Keb’ Mo’s music, his web site is a good place to start. It’s here. There’s more in this thorough Wikipedia article about him. And below is the video for the thought provoking title track of his latest album, Oklahoma. My sincerest thanks again to Keb’ Mo’ and his team for their support of my sharing “For What It’s Worth” in this episode. (Image from and by kebmo.com)

Theme music arranged and performed by Harry Bartlett.

If you enjoy listening to This Motorcycle Life and want to show some love, please consider clicking on the moustache below and donating what you can to the Movember Foundation.

What does your motorcycle mean to you? For many riders, a bike is simply a tool, a vehicle for the body. But for some of us, a motorcycle is much more than that, a vessel that carries the stories of who we are and how we got here. Meet Matthew Biberman, son of legendary Vincent builder Big Sid Biberman. To give his ailing father a reason to live, Matthew proposed they build a bike together, a rare Vincati. That quest would turn out to be a remarkable story of second chances for both of them, and compelling proof that a motorcycle really can have a soul.

Show Notes

Matthew Biberman at the helm of Big Sid’s Vincati. Photo by Bob Hower / Quadrant Photography

Early in our conversation, I made reference to Rollie Free. Maybe you didn’t recognize the name, but you’ll almost certainly recognize the photo shown here. If the story behind it is interesting to you, I strongly recommend watching Black Lightning: The Rollie Free Story. It’s fantastic.

Custom hybrid bikes were a prominent feature of the high-performance motorcycle scene in the years between World War 2 and the arrival of suddenly-serious machines from Japan like the CB750. Probably the best known is the Triton (Triumph engine, Norton frame). The Norvin was another. The Vincati, while not precisely of the era, is unquestionably a tribute to this madness, and to a tuner culture that continues to shape motorcycling – in spirit, at least – to this day. Below, the Vincati in all its impeccable glory (Photos by Bob Hower / Quadrant Photography)

During this interview, I pretentiously tossed off the term “memento mori” (sorry about that). Believe it or not, though, it’s actually quite relevant to motorcycle culture. Literally, it means “remember that you will die”. As a term, it refers to objects that symbolize this inevitability, and this is where motorcycling’s ubiquitous skull imagery comes from. Often mistaken for an attempt to intimidate, that skull on your t-shirt or jacket is actually a reminder that life is fragile. Now you know. Feel free to be pretentious with your friends 😉

Here’s a bit of back story about Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde, and here, from Rolling Stone, is a critical assessment of its significance. You can see why the question about legacy was irresistible.

I’m still gobsmacked that Big Sid was an Yngwie Malmsteen fan, proof again that motorcycle people are never quite what they seem. If you aren’t familiar with the artist, here’s what Wikipedia has to say, and below, a sample of his sound.

Here’s where you can learn more about the National Motorcycle Museum, which I confess with some embarrassment I did not know existed. Iowa isn’t… handy… but it sure looks worth a visit.

Here is a heartfelt obituary for Big Sid, from Cycle World.

Here’s the Bike EXIF story on Big Sid’s Vincati, which was a helpful resource for me.

Here’s where you’ll find the auction listing for the Vincent that Matthew Biberman built on his own as a tribute to the master.

And below is a completely wonderful interview with both Big Sid and Matthew at Jay Leno’s Garage. Leno test rides the Vincati, which is amazing. Even more so is the sound it makes. I can see why people get obsessed by Vincent engines.

If you’d like to purchase a copy of “Big Sid’s Vincati” directly from Matthew Biberman, he has graciously shared his email address with us. You can reach him at [email protected] . It’s a touching and well told story about a motorcycle. Which, like most stories about motorcycles, isn’t about a motorcycle at all. Highly recommended. “Big Sid’s Vincati” is also being published in Spain with, as Matthew mentioned, a fresh design and new material. You can find out more about this edition here. And be sure to follow Matthew on Instagram. He’s @mattbiberman

“Visions of Johanna” is excerpted in this episode with the enthusiastic consent of Nathaniel Street-West. You can find out more about this up-and-coming Nashville-based artist on his web site, and purchase or stream his music in all the usual places. Besides his fresh, honest sound and eclectic influences, I was also taken with Street-West’s personal story. It’s surely where the soul in his music comes from, and I have no doubt we’ll be hearing a lot more from him. Thanks to Nathaniel Street-West and Puffin Records for ending this episode on the perfect note.

Podcast theme music arranged and performed by Harry Bartlett.

If you enjoy listening to This Motorcycle Life and want to show some love, please consider clicking on the moustache below and donating what you can to the Movember Foundation.

Why do we really seek adventure? Meet Henry Crew, the youngest person ever to circle the globe on a motorcycle, alone. His life barely begun and full of questions, Henry put it all on pause and embarked on a record-setting 381-day ride for a cause, a journey he hoped would change his own story in the bargain. The compelling account of how and why he did it is a lesson in how true adventure is about letting go, and its prize is not what we find, but who we become. Listen carefully, and you might just hear the voice of motorcycling’s future.

Show Notes

An important message for listeners during the COVID-19 crisis: My friends at Movember have shared that they are hearing from members of our community who are “really struggling with isolation” and who have “lost friends and colleagues” to the disease. If you are one of those struggling, please don’t keep it to yourself. And if you think you know someone who may be, Movember has shared some useful tools to help you be there for them. You can find out more by following this link. Either way, don’t remain silent. One of the best things about being a motorcyclist is the family that comes with it, and there has never been a more important time to remember that. Thank you.

This is Henry Crew. I don’t know whether this image was taken before, during or after his trip, but it almost doesn’t matter. You can see the passion for this project on his face, and maybe just a little apprehension, too. You can learn more about Henry, his record-setting journey, and what he’s up to now by visiting his web site. If you’d like to show your support for what he’s accomplished, his UK-based Movember donation page is here. Be sure to say hello on Instagram, too. He’s @henrycrew. Below, two of many videos you’ll find on Henry and his journey, one speaking to the Movember cause, and the second a lovely take by the lovely people at Stories of Bike.

Henry mentioned Kane Avellano in our conversation… here’s where you can find out more about him. Another one of those Millennials who don’t ride motorcycles, apparently (said Bruce, with just a touch of saracasm). Interestingly, the motorcycle Kane Avellano rode around the world for his record was a Triumph Bonneville, a bike whose emotional appeal surely eclipses its supposed capabilities as an adventure machine. Proving at the very least that the best bike for the job is the one you love.

Speaking of emotional appeal, one of the most interesting aspects of this story for me was Henry’s marketing-savvy approach to attracting publicity for his cause. In our conversation, we talked a bit about the role fashion has assumed in motorcycle culture, and how some in our community dismiss this a little too easily. To me, there are a couple of reasons why this was both a smart and necessary part of the story, and they serve as a lesson for what the industry might do to welcome new riders: first, when pop culture decides that motorcycling is cool, that benefits motorcycling, and we need to make room for that. And second, the communities that form around popular culture – fashion, in the example here – are naturally viral, and a far better way to get a message out to the world than simply trying to shout it from the rooftops. For the industry, I think this kind of thing is going to have a far bigger impact on on the viability of our sport than trying to find a few more horsepower will ever do. You can see a list of brands Henry has partnered with here. One that played an important role in equipping him for the trip was Malle, whose name you might recall from my interview with Hugh Francis Anderson a couple of years back. Here’s a quick look at what they sell. Beautiful stuff that also worked. And here is a peek at The Bike Shed, Henry’s point of departure, significant here because it’s a pretty groovy place in a pretty fashionable neighbourhood.

I humbly submit that Ducati won the lottery with Henry Crew, when you consider that the bike he borrowed didn’t even come from head office. Here’s a link to their treatment of Henry’s trip. I’m so impressed that the Desert Sled performed as well as it did, and Henry couldn’t have been more effusive in his praise. That bike is clearly worth a second look.

I hope you like the updated podcast theme music. It comes thanks to the initiative and talent of Toronto’s Harry Bartlett, who arranged and performed all of it. You can learn more about Harry here . If you want to say hi, or even look into getting music for your own podcast project, you can find him on Instagram. He’s @barryhartlett. Thanks, Harry.

Thank you to The Wild Horses for so enthusiastically agreeing to having ‘I Won’t Back Down’ featured in this episode. You can learn more about the band here, if your Spanish is good. And here is their Facebook page, where they’re sharing their quarantine experience with good humour and great music. Stop by and say hi. Stay well, guys.

If you enjoy listening to This Motorcycle Life and want to show some love, please consider clicking on the moustache below and donating what you can to the Movember Foundation.