April 2014 — Movie Review — Why We Ride (2013)
By Cat Ely
A guy I used to date asked me repeatedly, “Why do you ride a motorcycle?”
I’m baffled by the question. It seems simple. For anyone who rides, our reasons are probably very much the same and the answer is both universal and profoundly personal. The clichéd “if I have to explain it, you wouldn’t understand,” or the standard summary of freedom, independence, and camaraderie, while true, don’t really cover it.
Director and writer Bryan H. Carroll has taken on the enviable task of attempting to explain. Why We Ride adds another layer to that conversation started by On Any Sunday and Dust to Glory.
The film briefly explores the conversion of bicycles to motorcycles and the early days of the sport. Commentary is provided by well-known names such as Arlen Ness, Keith Code and Troy Lee, and racing legends Kenny Roberts, Jason DiSalvo and the late Ed Kretz, Jr. Passion, not celebrity, is the focus, however. Custom bike builder Brian Klock and long-distance riders Ted Simon and Dave Barr share their perspectives on the sport. Dave Barr, by the way, rode 83,000 miles over six continents with two prosthetic legs. He has a great answer for why he rides.
The movie is humorous as well as insightful. Accompanying fantastic footage of riders in graceful super-slow motion sweeping through a corner, Alonzo Bodden observes, “These guys are dragging knees. And now they’re dragging elbows. If I’m dragging an elbow, it’s because I’m crashing.”
This story doesn’t neglect the ladies. Motor Maids matriarch Gloria Struck muses about changes she’s seen in her 71 years of riding, and Valerie Thompson, who holds three land-speed records, talks animatedly about riding fast. Laura Klock and her daughters Karlee and Erika ride fast, too. All three hold Bonneville land-speed records.
Unfortunately, most of the 70-some interviewees are not identified during the film; they introduce themselves during the credits.
Providing a counterpoint to the ever-popular bad boy biker stereotype, part of the film is dedicated to exploring how the pastime holds appeal for all kinds, not just rugged individualists. Honda’s successful “You meet the nicest people on a Honda” ad campaign brought respectable members of society–housewives, young couples, and parents and kids–into the motorcycle community. Tots on mini bikes and serious-looking young racers highlight the role motorcycling plays in families.
The cinematography is carefully crafted, beautiful and inspiring. Captured vividly for the big screen: slow-mo in-your-face track sequences, two strokes boldly scrambling up sheer cliff faces, a lone rider flying over stark, barren salt flats, and bikers congregating en masse at Sturgis and Daytona.
In pursuing an answer to the question, the writers of Why We Ride tried to acknowledge as many aspects of riding as possible. The reasons for riding are as varied as the people who do it, however, so no one answer is definitive. In 89 minutes the film covers racing, dirt biking, and street riding, both technical and recreational in flavor. Among the missing or underrepresented were the squids and stunters, adventure touring, dual sporting, the Dakar rally, and ice biking.
Some of the best parts of this film are due to what isn’t in it. It’s family friendly – no bikini-clad bike candy or rough language here. There are no insane crash clips or flaming wreckage. There’s a distinct lack of commercials, celebrity endorsements, bragging, and BS. The tone is straight documentary and the interviewees are sincerely passionate about the sport. They describe their accomplishments in terms of how the experience has affected them, not how awesome they are.
The limited screening I attended coincided with the first snowfall and a theater packed with motorcycle enthusiasts wondered how long it would be until riding season would begin again. I can’t think of any community that is so widely varied, yet draws people together the way this sport does. Even if we disagree on how or where to ride, we’re still family. No motorcyclist is a complete stranger.
Why We Ride is available online at iTunes and Amazon. To download your personal copy, see: