Oliver and Bruce Springsteen. I grabbed this photo from Oliver’s Instagram feed, so I don’t have a credit for it, but it’s richly deserved.

Right from that very first ride, motorcycling is about pushing ourselves a little further, beyond our comfort zones, beyond our perceived limits, and sometimes beyond common sense. Does this hunger to do more ever stop? Not if you’re Oliver Solaro. ‘Canada’s Ice Road Biker’ has just returned from delivering half a ton of desperately needed supplies for the sled dogs of Churchill, Manitoba… with a home-built snow bike. This conversation with one of motorcycling’s bigger-than-life characters is a master class in ingenuity, humour, and how when things go wrong, it just means better stories.

Show Notes

Here’s a link to a collection of Oliver’s photos from the Sundog Project. A cup of hot tea is recommended for viewing these. I’m still shivering.

If you need a little Brokentooth in your social media feed – and you do – I recommend following him on Instagram (@bwokentoof and @sun_doggie). He’s also on Facebook, here and here.

Churchill, Manitoba, has suffered greatly since the rail line – its only land link to the rest of Canada – was washed out in the spring of 2017 (the town lost its deepwater port in 2016). The politics of this issue are above my pay grade, but this article gives you a taste of how challenging the situation has been for the town, and how treacherous it now is to get there. If the arrival of supplies for humans is such a cause for celebration, you can imagine how difficult it’s been to sustain their animals. (It’s worth noting that the ‘cat train’ of tracked vehicles in this story delivered 9,000 kilograms of supplies; Oliver delivered close to 1,000 kilos with a motorcycle)

For more background on Oliver and his previous exploits, you can’t do much better than this excellent piece by Tim Huber for Common Tread.

Here’s the trailer for Jory Lyons’ film about Oliver, ‘AKA Brokentooth’. The film is well worth the watch, if you get the chance, especially if, like me, you’re prone to complaining about riding weather.

Here’s a link to that article in the Owen Sound Sun Times with a photo of a kilted Oliver taking his snow bike on its shakedown cruise to a local pie shop.

After I reached out to the Jerry Cans to get permission to play this excerpt from ‘Northern Lights’, I wrote Oliver to share the song with him. It turns out – and I guess I shouldn’t be surprised – they are one of his favourite bands. You can learn more about them here, and you can buy ‘Northern Lights’ for yourself here, among other places. Sincerest thanks to the band for sharing it with us… it was perfect.

A Note About Facebook.

I know I said a while back that I was going to fire up a Facebook page for This Motorcycle Life, and I did. Sort of. However, on second thought, I’ve ended up requesting my accounts be deleted. I hope that doesn’t cause any inconvenience or irritation for TML listeners. I’ll look forward to continuing to contribute to the fantastic motorcycling community on Instagram (which I know Facebook owns, of course) and on EatSleepRIDE.com. Come say hi!

For some motorcyclists in the north, winter can be just too much to bear. Some of us ride anyway. Some of us grit our teeth and wait. Some of us escape to an island for a few days. Me, I go to California and pretend it’s not happening, and this year, you get to come along. In this mini-episode, my notes from a few weeks in LA… the traffic, the culture, the canyon roads, and a chance encounter with a fellow rider who reminded me of the one thing we all share, no matter where we ride.

Show Notes

The view from the top of Stunt Road.

It turns out that I’m not completely off base thinking drivers in Los Angeles are pretty nice, although this particular study doesn’t put California at the top of the charts. I clearly need to see more of America on two wheels. Conspicuously absent from this data, of course, is my personal benchmark for urban riding, grumpy ol’ Toronto…

Here’s where I got the fun fact about California’s human-to-motorcycle ratio. It’s a few years old, but I doubt the rankings have changed very much. It would be wrong to generalize Los Angeles to all of California, of course, and comparisons to Canada leave out the all-important element of geography. Still, subjectively, it didn’t seem to me that there were more bikes on the streets there than on a typical spring day at home, which makes the feeling of belonging there as a rider all that much more remarkable.

Here’s the article I mentioned recommending the ten best motorcycle rides in the Los Angeles area. I can certainly vouch for a few, which makes me think the whole list is worth keeping if you plan to go and don’t already know your way around.

Pulling over for yet another view on Mulholland Highway. The rented Guzzi is from Ride Malibu.

Here’s a link to Deus Ex Machina’s Venice location. It’s a deceptively handy neighbourhood for visiting motorcyclists, with two rental operations a short walk away, an excellent gear shop only a little further (Beach Moto, where I spied Snowcat), and Iron and Resin’s Venice shop a few doors away for your hipster fix. The area is getting a bit groovy, having recently acquired its very own local handle, ‘The Linc’.

Here’s the Petersen’s web site, along with a recent article about ‘The Custom Revolution’ show that opens in April. Paul D’Orleans’ web site, The Vintagent, is here, and very well worth your time if your love of motorcycling extends to its culture and the people who make it tick.

And here is the web site for Heroes Motors’ LA outpost. I didn’t get to the shop where the actual restoration and custom work gets done, but it’s on my list. This place, along with its location, is just about all the proof you need that moto culture is having a moment right now.

If you aren’t familiar with Snowcat, check out his YouTube channel. It’s not my thing, but you can’t argue with the numbers. He’s got an impressive following, and he can do wheelies for days.

Neptune’s Net, a must-see if you’re cruising the Pacific Coast Highway. This is where I met Darren.

Here’s a bit of information about Neptune’s Net. Their own web site was acting funky when this episode was recorded, but it’s not a hard place to find. And the bike parking is all right out front, where it belongs.

And just in case you thought I was kidding about car commercials at Point Mugu

The Pacific Coast Highway, looking south from Mugu Rock. Sorry about the Instagram aspect ratio…

The musical breaks in this episode are from a track called ‘Surfing Day’, by Marcos Bolanos, used here under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial ShareAlike License. Check it out here.

California Lullabye’ is written and performed by Josh Woodward, and used here under a Creative Commons Attribution License. Josh Woodward makes all of his music free to listeners as a matter of principle. You can get to know him better and support his work by visiting his web site.

There must be a reason why some of motorcycling’s most sacred shrines started out as places to eat. So, what does food mean to us? Guy Arnone is an avid rider and motovlogger who also happens to be the executive sous-chef at a Michelin-starred restaurant in New York City. If anyone had an answer, I was sure it would be him. As usual, I got more than I bargained for. Funny and forthright, this conversation is a lesson in what it means to be passionate about what you do, on two wheels or off.

Show Notes

The little town near my home where motorcyclists gather is Creemore, Ontario. If you ever find yourself in the neighbourhood, here’s a fun little route to give you a sense of the riding around the Niagara Escarpment. Once the bikes are parked for the day, I strongly recommend a frosty glass of locally brewed Creemore Springs lager.

Here’s Guy, dressed for work, game face on.

You need to add Guy Arnone to your motorcycling social media feed. You can find his YouTube channel here. There’s also a web site for Meat & Motorcycles. You can find him on Instagram, too, which is how we met. Follow @meatandmotorcycles

I guess everybody knows what a Moto Guzzi looks like, but here’s a picture of one like Guy’s anyway. I have a thing for these bikes, and the V7 seems like a great choice as an urban assault vehicle. Besides being built like tractors and having tons of character, they are about as legit as it gets, heritage-wise. (You might remember my interview with Todd Eagan in Episode 2… Todd might be the best Guzzi tuner around, and renting one of his immaculately prepared bikes is a great way to fall in love with them).  Here’s Guy’s vlog about visiting the Guzzi Museum in Italy. At around 6:50, you can see the Harley guys eating their gelato.

While talking to Guy about Guzzis, I mentioned a podcast called Motorcycles & Misfits. It’s a favourite of mine, and worth a listen. They’ll all hilarious and completely mad, but they know their stuff, have a huge audience, have been doing this longer than most moto-podcasters, and always leave me wishing Santa Cruz, California, was just a little closer. They’re the riding buddies I wish I had. Check it out.

The Brindisi from Verdi’s La Traviata, performed by the MIT Symphony Orchestra, can be found here, if you have a taste for opera. The track is generously made available for use like this under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.

The custom bike scene, along with the legions of ‘modern classic’ bikes it’s spawned, has invigorated motorcycling. Beyond the cafés, scramblers and choppers that adorn our Instagram feeds, this retro aesthetic has even crossed over to the mainstream, making moto culture global, fashionable… and aspirational. What is it that attracts us to motorcycling’s mythic past? In this episode, I talk to Hugh Francis Anderson, a young British writer with a passion for bikes and a provocative take on what it means to motorcyclists, and maybe everyone else, too.

Show Notes

Hugh Francis Anderson might have the best job in the world. You can learn more about him and read more of his work by visiting his web site. The article that originally caught my eye is here. It’s a short piece, but I was intrigued that it touched on some themes that most motorcycle writers avoid when it comes to customs, and Hugh’s generational perspective and London roots made him an especially fun interview for this topic.

Our conversation referenced a bunch of brands from the custom scene. Here’s a few of the major ones:

This is Untitled Motorcycles, the London custom shop Hugh mentioned when he spoke about his discovery of this scene. And here’s Blitz Motorcycles, the Paris custom shop that seems to have led the way for legions of interesting European builders.

Two hipster hangouts spawned by the custom scene came up in our conversation: London’s The Bike Shed, and Deus Ex Machina’s Emporium of Postmodern Activities in Los Angeles.

Spain’s El Solitario are, maybe… post-post-modern? Is that a thing? Anyway, their work is among the most polarizing in the custom scene, and while I don’t love all their bikes,  I do love their attitude.

Hugh mentioned a UK brand of moto luggage and clothing, Malle, which I hadn’t heard of, so I looked it up. It’s pretty cool.

I mentioned Brooklyn’s Union Garage in the context of the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride. I love these guys; they were a bit of a gateway drug for me. Check out the DGR next year. It’s a worthy cause to ride for.

Here’s the stunning Brough Superior, the best bike Hugh had seen all year. No words.

And finally, our TML Playlist selection, Daytona ’69, was selected for us by – and used with the kind permission of – Blue Mercury Coupe. You can discover the band and add this track to your collection here. Thanks Steve,  you rock.

With great sadness, this episode is dedicated to my Dad, who passed away while we were in production. Dad rode bikes until he was nearly 80, and though he was quieter about his passions than I am, it left an indelible impression. Chin on the tank, Dad.

 

The Toronto Motorcycle Film Festival made its debut in September, joining cities like Lisbon, New York and Portland in celebrating this special aspect of motorcycle culture. After our interview in Episode 4, festival director Caius Tenche invited me to moderate a panel discussion with some of this year’s filmmakers and judges. Naturally, I jumped at the chance. It was a lively and fascinating conversation, and I’m excited to share it with you in this special episode.

Show Notes

Motofolk line up for the Saturday night screening at the Revue Cinema in Toronto’s Roncesvalles neighbourhood.

Here’s a complete list of the films selected for the inaugural Toronto Motorcycle Film Festival. Where the films can be viewed free, I’ve linked directly to those. Where they can’t, or I can’t find them, I’ve linked to the film’s web site. To learn more about the members of the judging panel, check them out on the festival’s site.

A.K.A. Brokentooth – Canada’s Ice Road Biker  Maybe it’s about riding a motorcycle in the arctic. Or maybe it’s about the true spirit of independence. Either way, meeting  Oliver Solaro is worth your time. Both he and director Jory Lyons participated in the panel discussion.

The American Wall of Death 

Serrini finds the humour in this ancient piece of motorcycle Americana.

Chasing Evel: The Robbie Knievel Story 

This brutally honest documentary about a lost son won Best Canadian Film honours.

Dream Racer 

This moving story of a privateer taking on the Dakar won both People’s Choice and Best Feature Film honours at the festival. The incorrigible Jacob Black participated in the panel discussion.

The Freedom Machine 

Jamie Robinson creates a feature length MotoGeo adventure. If you love Jamie, you’ll love this.

Giovanni Burlando’s Vision 

This delightful film, the one Toni compared to a “warm plate of fettuccini” won Best Short Film honours.

Hill Climb

Charming proof that there is nothing so timeless and universal as watching people do foolish things on motorcycles.

Howl Seat 

Europe sends us back a boisterous take on the custom bike road movie.

Klocked: Women with Horsepower 

A completely joyful story of empowerment that will leave you wondering if you’ve been paying enough attention to your own dreams.

The Little Person Inside 

This inspiring story about a paraplegic road racer proves both that our limits are higher than we think, and that the love of motorcycles may have no limits at all.

The Monkey and Her Driver

This oddball corner of the motorcycle racing scene provides the perfect backdrop for a story about two women and the true nature of competition.  Director Ned Thanhouser brought the perspective of experience to the panel discussion.

The Road is Calling and I Must Go 

A meditation on what riding feels like. Save this for a cold winter night.

Shinya Kimura – Chabott Engineering 

The custom scene is all about characters, and this portrait of Kimura will leave you a little less certain about the boundary between craft and art.

Take None Give None 

An engrossing documentary about a storied MC that has always flouted even the conventions of MCs.

Trail Master

A cheerful portrait of riders who are committed not just to riding, but to the world they ride in. Director Matthew Sanders participated in the panel discussion, and got more than one participant thinking about riding dirt again.

Virginia’s Harley

Virginia’s quest to build a machine all her own shows us that there’s more to “built not bought” than just bragging rights.

Special thanks and a tip of the helmet to Integrated Media Production Group for handling the recording of this event for me, and to Pfaff Harley Davidson for being such accommodating and professional hosts.

 

Although most of us resist, there’s something about a motorcycle that dares you to disappear, hit the road and just see what happens. In this episode, I talk to someone who regularly takes that dare. Kendall Wright lives the freelance life, and with the freedom that gives her, points her bike toward the horizon whenever inspiration strikes. We spoke on the eve of her departure for a spontaneous lap of the continental U.S., and her cheerful sense of adventure will inspire anyone who wonders, “what would it be like to just go?”

Show Notes

Freedom Machine is an annual event of a kind that’s popping up all over the world. To me, it was as much or more about motorcycle culture than the bikes alone, and therefore all the more worth attending. Maybe because it’s still relatively new, or maybe because of the weather that day, I found it delightfully intimate, with a wonderfully weird edge contributed by its location. But it’s bound to grow… if you’re nearby, you should put it in your calendar for next year. (Come for the day, at least. I’ve heard things get weirder when night falls. Also, pro tip: If it’s raining, bring a kickstand pad!)

Here’s the bike that inspired my reverie about ‘just going’. The heart of this bike is a 1968 Triumph Trophy 650, and it was built by Shane Burkholder. You can find Shane on Instagram and share the pains and joys of bike building @s_burkholder.

Below is a photo Kendall Instagram’d from the road the day I published this podcast. It’s exactly what I picture when I imagine a trip like that. You can follow Kendall’s adventures on Instagram @kendallbitesback. Her feed is a bit of a gateway drug into a pretty cool network of moto-folk.

This is Bessie Stringfield. There has been less written about her than you would think, given her astonishing story, but this article from the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame is a good way to get started. What was most amazing of all about her wasn’t just what she did and the obvious obstacles she faced, but her attitude, sense of humour and unalloyed lifelong passion for riding (and Harleys). A reminder that none of us deserves to take ourselves as seriously as we sometimes do.

Here is the Jamie Elvidge article Kendall and I spoke about. I think it’s one of the finest pieces of writing about motorcycles I’ve ever read, and comes closest to what I imagine goes on inside your helmet on a long journey.

Drivin to Kalifornia was excerpted in this episode with the kind permission of Redlight King. You can purchase your own copy on iTunes, and learn more about Redlight King here. Do yourself a favour and spend some time checking out his other tracks. Old Man is a masterpiece with a great back story, and Born to Rise is not only a great fist pumping anthem, but its video features some excellent bad behavior on motorcycles… just to name two.

And finally, a cautionary tip for tech nerds:  I record these podcasts on a Roland R-05, which is an excellent and versatile digital audio recorder. The only flaw I’ve found so far is that it doesn’t appear to signal you when its card fills up while recording. I got lazy about keeping it clean, and lost a few minutes of this very enjoyable interview. Lesson learned.

To be passionate about motorcycling is to be passionate about motorcycle films, or so it seems lately. In this episode, I talk with Caius Tenche, director of the Toronto Motorcycle Film Festival, about why our appetite for two-wheeled cinema is so insatiable. Tenche gives the digital age its due; it’s never been easier to record and share our stories. But behind this, it turns out, are reasons far more timeless and essential to why we ride.

Show Notes

You can find out everything you need to know about the Toronto Motorcycle Film Festival here. To stay current and connect with fellow enthusiasts, here are the Festival’s social media coordinates: Facebook torontomotofilmfest | Instagram @torontomotofilmfest | Twitter @tomotofilmfest

According to Wikipedia, at least, the first film that featured a motorcycle in a significant plot role was ‘Mabel at the Wheel’, by Charlie Chaplin, Mabel Normand and Mac Sennett. Here it is on YouTube.

Here’s the trailer for this year’s Lisbon Motorcycle Film Fest. The images do the talking, here, and give you a great sense of the kind of energy these films generate.

21 Days Under the Sky came up a couple of times in our discussion. Here’s the trailer. If you decide to watch the film, I’d love to hear what you think.

This is MotoGeo’s ‘Night Rider’, a confection I watched more than once while I waited for my own Triumph Scrambler to come. It didn’t hurt that Jamie Robinson loves this bike. Find MotoGeo here.

Caius also mentioned ‘Stories of Bike’ as an inspiration of his. A little more polished and people focused, you’ll find their films here.

Caius talked about the links between motorcycling, film and maker culture, and it would be hard to beat ‘The Greasy Hands Preachers’ for proof. You might want to pour yourself an artisanal IPA for this one.

If you’re not a rider but you’re curious about why people get so worked up about it, the film ‘Why We Ride’ is worth your time. Yeah, it’s sentimental, but this is who we are.

“It’s All A Blur” was used in this episode with the kind permission of Cuff the Duke. It’s from the band’s album “Way Down Here”, a personal favourite of mine for long, quiet rides in the country (only when it’s safe to listen, of course). You’ll find their music in all the usual places, including here.

The best kept secret about motorcycling, and the maybe thing that surprises new riders the most, is its deep sense of community. In this episode, I talk with Marina Mann, co-founder and CEO of EatSleepRIDE, a community-powered web site and app for motorcyclists, about why we’re all brothers and sisters on two wheels. She nails it, and after hearing our conversation, you’ll never let a salute from another rider go unanswered again.

Show Notes

You can probably tell I’m a fan of EatSleepRIDE. You’ll learn a little more about them by visiting EatSleepRIDE.com, but I wouldn’t hesitate to just download the app and join the fun. Personally I’m kind of a nerd about the ride recording feature, but it’s got plenty more to offer, including its impressive CRASHLIGHT crash detection technology.

Here’s some information on the Babes Ride Out. This piece from Motorcyclist gives you a flavour for what the event is like.

If you want to be part of the SyncRIDE event later this month, this link will take you straight to ESR’s SyncRIDE information.

During Sons of Anarchy’s seven season run, much was written about the deliberate parallels between its storyline and that of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. This article offers a handy list of those parallels, and helps explain why a show about a violent criminal gang was such a favourite with gentle liberal arts majors.

‘Freedom Road’ was used in this episode with the kind permission of The Giants. You’ll find the band’s web site here, and more of their music here.

Nothing is more fun on a motorcycle than a twisty road, and nothing is more difficult to master. In this episode, I talk with former pro racer, riding instructor and million mile veteran Todd Eagan about what it takes to get there. After a steady diet of stern lectures about physics and skills, Eagan’s perspective is refreshingly human. And cornering mastery turns out to be as much art as science, and as much about faith as technique.

Show Notes

If you’re an avid rider visiting Los Angeles, Todd Eagan is a guy you need to meet. You can reach him through Ride Malibu. He’s on Instagram as both @ridemalibu and @rentaguzzi. For a taste of what it’s like to ride with Todd, check out this test loop video for GuzziTech, Todd’s tuning business.

Here’s a picture of Todd’s first bike, the MR 50, in case you didn’t know this Honda (I didn’t, but I certainly would have lusted after one in those days).

Antoine Malye, who let me share his music to close this episode, is on SoundCloud under his own name. He doesn’t seem to have a web site, but here’s his SoundCloud page. If you’d like to own some of his mesmerizing music, it’s available in all the usual places, including here.

The epic long distance ride is as close to the heart of motorcycling mythology as anything except maybe the machine itself. This episode explores why these odysseys tug at so many of us through one rider’s story. After 50 years on two wheels, Terry Bell had never taken that long ride. Then one day, everything changed. The trip would be called ‘The Big Stupid’, and its lessons were surprising.

Show Notes

Besides being a lifelong rider, Terry is also a pretty great photographer. If you’d like to see his work, you can follow him on Instagram @bellman27

DenManTau, who let me use their music to close this episode, are also on Instagram, and you can share their odyssey and awesome energy by following @denmantau. Their web site is at denmantau.com. The track I shared on the show is called “Busker’s Philosophy”. You should buy it.

Long rides have inspired a lot of writing, starting perhaps with Persig’s “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values.” The Neil Peart book Terry and I mentioned is called “Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road”. Despite its tragic premise, it’s an inspiring and redemptive read.

A few weeks after this episode was released, Quora randomly dropped a question about long motorcycle trips into my in box. If you want to really feel the call of the open road, check out the answer by Paul Turner.