The One Show is supposed to be a celebration of all things moto. I left my wonderful 70-degree "winter" to slip and slide and fall all over a frozen Portland, Ore., to see what all the fuss was about. Here's some of what I learned.
The What Show?
The One Show is a motorcycle show held every year by Thor Drake (pronounced Tore), owner of See See Motor Coffee Co, who keeps a 2014 Ducati 899 Panigale in the lobby of his coffee shop. This was the fifth year of the show and, as it’s grown in popularity, Thor has had to select builders personally from an ever-growing list of submissions.
The One Show is basically a three-day party in a giant warehouse in Portland, adorned with more than 100 custom-built motorcycles, a bunch of custom helmets, a few bands, a few select sponsors, and a whole bunch of beer. The show is open from whatever time the guy with the keys unlocks the door in the morning until whatever time everyone heads to Sassy’s, a strip club across the street. Yes, I’m being serious, and no, I don’t get why strip clubs in Portland are the equivalent of pubs in California, but apparently that’s a big thing and is what you do unless you’re a Southern California guy who just wants to play in the snow.
In addition to the bike builders, Thor also invites 21 artists to create a helmet to be put on display inside the show. They call it the 21 Helmets Show, but it’s basically just a part of the larger bike show.
A painter, who goes by the name Ornamental Conifer, creates a series of gas tanks to be given as awards. Some are taken seriously, while others, such as the “looks like fun” or “what’s with that seat” award, are a little more in jest.
Nearly every motorcycle included in The One Show, from old trackers to custom cafés to ancient Harleys, is absolutely stunning. I loved the caféd Gold Wing and the variations on the XR650L motor by the guys from Pangea Speed and Classified Moto.
ICON was one of the few sponsors of the show and I really appreciated their contributions to the event. Their new drag bike with NOS is terrifying, and while their stunt bikes definitely looked out of place, being the only sport bikes in the room, their modifications in the pursuit of doing something cool probably made them fit the spirit of the event more than some of the other bikes included.
Then I came across another kind of visually stunning: a 2011 BMW S1000RR that looked like some kind of clown bike. At first, I found its inclusion almost offensive. The whole “it’s art because it’s a mess or obnoxious” thing has gotten really old, but once I read the place card on the ground and learned what it was originally, I loved it. The project began out of the builder’s love for the engine and electronics package (one of the best ever offered on a motorcycle) and inability to sit for very long in a sportbike position. Aesthetically, the builder and I are from two very different schools, but I loved the spirit of what he was doing.
My favorite motorcycles all had the spirit of Buell in them. They were mash-ups that left me wondering “oh man, what would it feel like to ride that,” or “I’ve always loved both those platforms, mixing them is such a neat idea.” They were bikes that nearly everyone could relate to, but each in a different and personal way. Myself, I kept circling back to an XR650L street tracker built by Pangea Speed, who specializes in choppers and bobbers.
There were a lot of neat old bikes included in the show as well. Some of the restored BMW’s were simply beautiful and bikes like the twin-engine Triumph Thunderbird were a neat look into what 1950s versions of guys like Thor were playing with.
All of that said, it wasn’t quite the celebration of motorcycling I had hoped it would be. I’ve long heard tales about how unlike any other show The One Show is, how it isn’t about show bikes, and how it’s such an all-inclusive community. As a relative outsider, that wasn’t quite the message I received.
There were quite a few bikes that I would have much rather seen at Born Free or Sturgis, or even just outside of a local watering hole. There were a lot of bikes that made it seem like hitting 45 mph in a straight line might be considered really living life on the edge, and a number of others that just didn’t run. That Gold Wing café? No brake or clutch cables. A fully chromed engine? Sure, I guess that looks nice parked in a room.
It also felt like there was a decent amount of repetition. The big, raked-out Harleys aren’t my thing, and while I’m glad that they are represented so the guys who are into them have something to connect to, I would love to see more sport bikes, stunt bikes, adventure bikes, Dakar bikes, and dirt bikes. I would love to see people pushed out of their comfort zones and finding connections through their attempts to customize and push the limits of performance, even if they don’t agree on the end product. That, to me, is far more interesting than connecting over a shared love for the aesthetics of 1940s Harleys or 1970s Hondas. Even looking at the crowd screamed “typical bike show,” with everyone adhering to the denim/flannel/beard uniform (myself included).
The interesting thing is that the spirit is there. Pangea Speed, who built an XR650L street tracker I kept circling back to, specializes in choppers and bobbers. Thor, who built a dirt tracker, has a 2014 Ducati 899 Panigale in the lobby of his coffee shop.
I don’t really know where this leaves me. If I had been told it was a cafe/bobber/chopper/hipster show, I’d probably think it was the best one I’d ever been to. Who knows, maybe I was just misinformed.
But it does make me think about how much I would love to see the show I was hoping to see. I’d love to see this show evolve, to see people pushed and given challenges or guidelines to strive for in their builds, all in the spirit of modification. I’d love to see the builders have to ride their bikes the last 100 miles or so into the show, or at least have the show end in a parade of bikes riding out of the warehouse. I’d love to see the motorcycles running, to hear their engines fire up, smell the gas burn, and feel the vibrations of their motors. The motorcycle experience is so far from a showroom full of dormant machines. I want to see them come to life, to experience them as they were intended to be.
If it seems like I’m being critical or overly negative, I apologize. It’s easy to fall into the trap of this absurd idea that if things don’t perfectly fit our own personal desires and expectations, they’ve failed somehow. That mentality is what keeps shows pigeonholed into one specific style. There were plenty of bikes I felt were silly, but those bikes and their fans deserved to be there as much as I or anyone else.
I’ll definitely be back to see what this event turns into. I highly suggest you make the pilgrimage to see Thor and his band of miscreants and fully immerse yourself in the city, the community, the event, the people, and the bikes. As motorcycle enthusiasts, we’re never really done customizing and tinkering with our motorcycles. As such, this show is a nice experience that we’re sure will continue to be tinkered with and changed over the years. So, whether you like what it is or like what it’s becoming, there’s something for everyone at The One Show.