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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Motorcycle Movies: Dirtbag II: The Return of the Rattler

The premise of The Return of the Rattler is simple. Four men decide to participate in the Dirtbag Challenge held annually in the San Francisco Bay Area. The challenge involves building a chopper in one month for less than $1000. It needs to be a rideable machine that can run at least 100 miles without breaking down. They have a Yamaha XS650 to work with – the Rattler from the title – but they are complete novices to building choppers, with no prior experience with welding or fabrication. What could go wrong?

The movie is a riot of laughter as you watch the bike evolve from design to final assembly. Our protagonists cuss and laugh their way through all the unanticipated problems they run into. You laugh with them as they mess up, but you also see them learning from their mistakes, thinking through problems and asking for help when they are stuck. Somewhere down the line, you realize that they have passed on to you the secret to creating anything new.

Film maker Paolo Asuncion likens the process of building the bike to his own journey of questioning the belief system he grew up with. “I was put together a certain way but the stock parts didn’t work for me anymore.” he says. As with the Rattler, he had to figure out which parts of that system to keep, which ones needed to be swapped out with something different, and which ones needed to be created from scratch. Moments of reflection like these are interspersed throughout the movie, breaking up the laugh-a-minute ride and keeping it grounded.

You also get to see builds from other participants in the challenge – a Honda CM400 with modified beer bottles for headlamps, a 750 Monster with a girder front end – and understand how much the end vision can vary between builders. The one thing they have in common though is that they want their bike to be like nothing else out on the road. They talk about how satisfying it felt to build something real and tangible, and to ride something that they built with their own hands. Their firm belief is that “Anybody can do this.” By the end of the movie you start to believe them.

This is a movie with soul. You laugh, you learn, you grow, and you come away thinking it’s time to go get a project bike and start wrenching. All you need is a vision, a garage, and a buddy or two by your side.



Read an interview with film maker Paolo Asuncion:

One Crazy Ride

One CrazyRide1

I just got home from watching One Crazy Ride, a movie made by Gaurav Jani, an Indian documentary filmmaker who makes motorcycling adventure movies. I was first introduced to his work by Vagabiker, who lent me Riding Solo to the Top of the World when we first met and I was recuperating from my crash in the Yukon. If his intention was to hasten my recovery by showing me motorcycling movies that made me chomp at the bit to get out and ride again, it worked like a charm.

Riding Solo was remarkable in so many ways. Filmmaking is a profession that is almost unheard of in India for the average person, in spite of the fact that it hosts the biggest film industry in the world. Rarer still is the use of motorcycles for touring as opposed to commuting in busy cities. The idea of combining the two on a barebones budget makes this man and his work truly unique. The movie followed his solo ride from Bombay to Ladakh in northern India on excruciatingly difficult roads unveiling region that most of the world barely knew exist. For someone like me, having led a fairly insular life in Bombay and rarely having the opportunity to travel within India, it was an eye-opener and a delightful insight into the unparalleled beauty of this country.

In One Crazy Ride, Gaurav Jani takes on a similar challenge, this time along with four friends, all part of a group called 60kph. The aim of this intrepid group of adventurers is to navigate through the north-eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, making their way to the easternmost point without going over paved roads that went through Assam, the state bordering it on the south. Arunachal Pradesh is a state that even most Indians aren’t very familiar with, it being mostly skimmed over in geography books when we were little.  This is demonstrated eloquently as they rode through tiny villages and tribal settlements and encounter local people who had no idea what lay even a few miles outside their village.

Most of the route is by necessity off-road on roads washed out by mudslides, some littered with rocks and boulders, some slick and muddy from the rains, and occasional river crossings. On the way they encounter villages and  tribespeople living traditional lives that haven’t changed in hundreds of years. What makes their achievement truly commendable is the fact that they all rode heavily loaded Royal Enfields, bikes and equipment that make the average off-road bike on roads in the western world look like rocket science. It lays to waste the belief in most people’s minds that they need the latest, most expensive bikes in order to go “adventure riding” a marketing term if ever there was one, because when was riding a motorcycle ever not an adventure?

The movie is replete with unforgettable sights and gasp-inducing moments. One that stands out is of the group standing at the top of a mountain range and looking down at clouds floating beneath them like ocean waves. One of the stellar scenes of the movie showed Gaurav walking along a long, narrow, rickety bridge high over a river with flimsy woven rails flanking each side. This brief reconnoiter is followed by him riding his motorcycle slowly and excruciatingly over the bridge. The stress and strain of the five long minutes it took him to cross the bridge was so palpable that when he was done, there was a unanimous burst of applause in the audience.

One pleasant surprise that was unveiled during the beginning of the movie was that one of the riders, Nicky, was a woman, something that the movie didn’t make a big deal out of, in itself making it unique. Women riders are so rarely featured or represented in a positive way in the average motorcycling movie that her presence is one to make every woman in the audience who has ever donned a helmet silently cheer. (When quizzed on this by someone in the audience, the director responded that rural India has such an enduring culture of women doing the majority of the work that seeing a woman amongst the group passed without comment, as compared to reactions in more urban, westernized areas.)

To summarize, One Crazy Ride serves up everything that a truly good movie of the adventure motorcycling genre has to offer  good riding, challenging roads, quiet, cheerful camaraderie between the riders, tension and uncertainty brought on by mechanical breakdowns, interactions with people in lost, remote villages and unique insights into their lives and culture. Almost every motorcycle rider who has gone off the beaten track will feel a kinship with our heroes along with many moments of  “I know exactly what they mean!”

One Crazy Ride:
Dirt Track Productions: