What comes to mind when you think of motorcycle culture?
Maybe plaid, leather, and beards? Or perhaps coffee, mullets, mustaches, and beer? Cheetah print and tongue-in-cheek lumberjack vibes might also be synonymous with motorcyclists. Add in a little rock ‘n’ roll, pizza, and cigarettes and you might have just found yourself a little group of genuine biker brutes.
I associate nearly all those same things with the weird yet wonderful city that is Portland, Oregon. So what better place to host The One Moto Show?
It turns out there isn’t a better place, and this year marked the 11th annual Portland-based One Moto gathering. The whole shindig is as much a cultural event as it is a bike show. It’s always been a sort of art-meets-motorcycle regatta, and this year the whole celebration really made a mark.Art Meets Motorcycle
The One Moto Show is both multi-layered and dimensional. From the motorcycles themselves to dirt racing, concerts, tattoos, and art, it’s an unapologetically honest event. They even had bull-riding and axe throwing – if you’re into that sort of thing.
The whole event can be described as a perfect blend of Portland itself: custom and classic, rough and rare people and their bikes flowing seamlessly together.
Thor Drake, founder of the show and owner of See See Motor Coffee Co. – the aptly-named motorcycle and coffee depot – estimated a heaping 60,000 riders, non-riders, and moto-curious in attendance this year. For me, one of the 60k, the event was an ideal and much-needed introduction into biker culture.
Truly, I was blown away.Man Meets Machine
I was immediately challenged as I began to shoot. It should’ve been obvious to me I suppose, but motorcycles present very differently than cars when in front of the lens.
It’s almost as if you can capture the entire ethos of a bike in one shot, so it’s absolutely crucial to make each one count. The longer I was at the show, the more I realized how completely ignorant I was in regards to the biker breed. They really are a strain of enthusiasts all to their own.
I am obviously most familiar with the car scene, which extends into almost every culture and country. Of course, motorcycles have managed the same sort of growth, if not even more so. Just like with cars, they’ve sprouted up from their utilitarian roots and fruited into something that people build entire lifestyles around.
In a car, you can sort of hide behind the windshield and steering wheel, but with a bike your whole body is exposed. You need to blend in with your bike’s aesthetic and craftsmanship in order to not distract from it, and that’s exactly what these enthusiasts do naturally.
Additionally, the experience in a car can be a lot less physically intimate. You naturally have lots of barriers between you and the pavement, whereas on a bike you are continuously gliding inches from the elements.
The line between man and machine blurs almost completely on a motorcycle. You can smell that essence in the biker community; there’s some sort of existential depth to it that’s very abstract and almost religious.
It’s completely striking when you really dive in.
Although I may sound totally over-dramatic, I felt transformed after The One Moto Show. My understanding of an entire genre of wheels moved by engines had shifted. Objects I once overlooked, I now see as profoundly nuanced and full of depth, character, and soul.
Needless to say, I hope to spend more time hunting motorcycles in the future, and I’ll be sure to share my findings.
Additional Photos by Trevor Yale Ryan