Motorcycle Film Festival 2015: Movie Shorts

The world of big budget movies has traditionally had very little to offer motorcycle enthusiasts. Since the inception of cinema, there have been little more than a handful of movies that told our stories or represented motorcyclists accurately. This is why it is so exciting to see that access to affordable cameras, editing software and online distribution has finally driven motorcycling related film making out of the confines of Hollywood studios and into the hands of people who ride and build bikes and understand motorcycling best. We have seen an explosion of independent movies that capture all that motorcycling has to offer.

The Motorcycle Film Festival in New York was started three years ago by riders and film enthusiasts who wanted to showcase these movies and bring the community together for three days of high quality movies, interviews with film makers, and an opportunity to meet other riders in the city. This year’s selection of 35 films featured everything from slick productions with significant sponsor backing to amateur garage flicks. It was especially thrilling to see movies made by and featuring women and people of color, hitherto almost non-existent in popular motorcycling culture.

The 2015 Motorcycle Film Festival (Image depicts a row of motorcycles parked on the street in front of a building with a sign that says Motorcycle Film Festival)

The 2015 Motorcycle Film Festival


These are some of my favorite films from the festival.


The Coast to Coast Relay is a five minute gem of a film about two men riding across England on completely inappropriate vehicles – Montesa Cota 315 trials bikes with 3-liter gas tanks, a top speed of 30 mph, and of course, no seats. They ride from Newcastle upon Tyne to the Irish Sea through rough single track trails, logging roads and frozen snowscapes with minimal gear – handlebar mounted packs, backpacks, and a homemade selfie stick.  They take in their stride the various mishaps they encounter, ranging from overheated engines and flat tires to the inevitable running out of fuel.

The fun, upbeat score and the self-deprecating humor makes it impossible to watch this movie without a big smile on your face. By the time it’s done, you want to grab your bike and go have a micro-adventure of your own. Filmmaker Greg Villalobos truly knows how to say more with less as he hits the magic formula to portray the joy of riding and having fun with your buddies. The movie took home the prize for the Best Short Documentary, and deservedly so.

If you enjoyed watching that, check out this interview with the filmmaker Greg Villalobos, where he talks about the making of the movie:

Follow Greg Villalobos’ work at:


“Don’t assume that because people are older than you, they’re going to be slower than you.” This line from 50 Years of Kicks summarizes the message of this twenty minute documentary. The movie follows 60+ year old dirt riders Paul Rodden and Larry Murray from Oklahoma and Ontario respectively. Each of them have almost fifty years of riding experience and many enduro championship wins, which comes across when you see them tearing through ruts, sand, mud, water crossings and hill climbs on their KTMs. They fall, drop their bikes, pick them back up and keep going.

They reflect back to the old days when Husqvarna manuals dedicated half their space to physical conditioning in the rider, paving the way for good workout habits that stayed with them for a lifetime. Habits that served them well in one of the most physical demanding sports there is, especially as your body ages and you lose core strength and balance. During one sober recollection, they talk about a close friend who died of a heart attack while riding on the trails with them. And of that being the best possible way to go – with a smile on your face minutes ago while doing what you loved best.

Motorcycling media tends to focus on young riders as their core target demographic. This leaves us bereft of older role models. It is harder for us to envision riding when we hit a certain age because we see nobody else doing it and doing it well. That’s what makes this movie especially important. It drives home the fact that we don’t have to give up our passion as we age. Here’s hoping that 50 Years leads to more positive representations of old folks riding their bikes and showing the youngsters how it’s done.

Filmmakers: Anthony Kerr and Dallas Shannon
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Discovery is part of a series of short films called Stories of Bike that explores the relationship between motorcycles and the people who ride them. This particular film showcases rider Kristen Reed from New York City, following her journey from first riding with an uncle in her home town in Oklahama at the age of eight and resolving to someday get her own bike, to her purchase of a Triumph Bonneville in New York City many years later after tiring of her Manhattan to Williamsburg commute via public transportation. The movie is as much an homage to the city as it is to Kristen with its lingering shots that capture the essence of its neighborhoods and streets and the serenity of riding through them

Reed is a natural in front of the camera. There is no posturing or pretense here. She talks with an easy confidence and quiet excitement about her journey into motorcycling, the mods she made on her bike, and the community she found with the Missfires, a local all-woman motorcycling group. Most riders will watch her and think back to their own early years of riding and recall that first glow of happiness when they began their own love affair with their two wheeled machines. And that, after all, is great storytelling, isn’t it?

The only thing that prevents this movie from being perfect is that Reed is never shown wearing any substantial riding gear. For the ATGATT among us, it can be uncomfortable to see her riding on busy streets in just a sparkly three quarter helmet and no other protective gear. For a movie that could inspire new riders to get into motorcycling, it could have done better.

Filmmaker: Cam Elkins


“One afternoon I took a break from working in the shop. When I returned, I found my 4-year-old daughter wearing a princess dress and lying under a motorcycle. Wrench in hand, my little girl was mimicking my work on the bike. I was stunned at how pure our children are.”

This captures perfectly the sentiment behind the short movie Northern Catalyst which likens the process of building bikes with raising strong, confident children with curious minds. It features a motorcyclist from Palmer, Alaska, working on and riding his BMW R90/6 cafe racer – the Catalyst. A father and a bike builder, he talks about teaching his kids what he has learned from building custom motorcycles – the process of starting from a vision, a dream that only you can see clearly, then having the confidence to pick up a wrench and go build it and and make it real. In his mind, these are lessons that will serve them well as they grow up and navigate their way through their lives. It is the best gift he can give them.

The film was produced by Northern Cafe Racers, a group of riders based in Palmer, Alaska, who take advantage of their long winters to build cafe racers. The movie is interspersed with beautiful panoramic shots that showcase the experience of riding in the Great White North, on beautiful roads that enviably lie in their backyard. The kind of roads and scenery that make you want to put on your gear and head for the mountains.

Filmmakers: G. Logan Dellinger and Michael J. Heath

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Read about the building of the Catalyst: