Motorbike Kickstands Down – It’s Story Time


Do you like public speaking? The view from the stage.

Do you want public talking? The view from the stage. (Anders T. Carlson/)

Essentially the most mundane bike journey can contain something from harrowing experiences to minor victories. It’s like fishing that method, besides not boring or stationary, and with heaps extra leather-based. Issues often occur simply as soon as, however telling the story lets us relive it and make sense of it. It’s how we concurrently cheat dying together with time and house.

Should you couldn’t inform tales about using, would you retain using? In all probability. But it surely wouldn’t be as a lot enjoyable with out sharing wild exaggerations or understated observations about what we simply rode by way of or how we survived it.

Blah Blah Blah Bikes was based in 2018 to have fun the kinship between riders. Extra importantly, the storytelling program gives a discussion board for swapping tales from the highway, storage, and elements between. Its founder comes from an extended line of riders, from bike cop to WERA racer.

Although her household had ridden for 3 generations, Season Clauss was a latecomer to bikes. However a Suzuki GZ250 bought her began by way of her first 4 years of using in Vermont and Colorado earlier than being bought earlier than a transfer to Southeast Asia. She stored on using 110cc machines and racking up tales till returning stateside 5 years in the past. Beforehand a little bit of a loner, Clauss immersed herself within the Windy Metropolis’s motorcycling neighborhood, the place the “blah blah blah” half got here in; they don’t name it the Windy Metropolis for nothing.

The title Blah Blah Blah Bikes was impressed by a former boyfriend’s long-windedness and a Gary Larson cartoon about canine. Backside line, motorcyclists love to speak about bikes, whether or not anybody cares or not. BBBM is a bit just like the Moth Radio Hour, and even TED Talks with out the annoying “thought management” angle. And clearly, it’s all about bikes.

On October fifteenth six eloquent members of Chicago’s motorcycling neighborhood, and the ineloquent author of this story, bought up on the stage of the legendary Hideout Membership to share tales of occasional woe, unlikely triumphs, and different poignant experiences. Storytellers have been requested to speak about something having to do with a “first” so far as using. They didn’t disappoint. Right here’s the quick model of their tales.

Oh, the place you’ll go and hopefully survive.

Oh, the place you’ll go and hopefully survive. (Anders T. Carlson/)


Anybody who spent 10 months using 30,000 miles round South America on a Honda 250 Enduro can in all probability promote a number of bikes. Pondering the identical, Helen Tornquist took a summer time job at Des Plaines Honda.

However some of us (learn: middle-aged males) weren’t shopping for it, actually. She bought a measly three bikes in her first 28 days and was about to get canned. However the day she was set to scrub out her desk, she bought 5 bikes and bought deposits on two extra. Properly, they stored her round a bit longer. She went on to promote a motorbike a day for the subsequent month for a complete of 37 bikes in 60 days.

Her secret? A sudden realization that she may “stroll like a person” earned her the nickname “Helen the Sellin’ Machine”. A self described introvert, she used the identical grit that helped her repair damaged chains atop Peruvian mountain passes to place patrons on machines, macho clients however.


With reference to “firsts,” I mentioned my first bike, first cross-country journey, and the primary “race bike” I constructed. The speak was titled “Issues I’ve f–ked up.” It was a Biggest Hits compilation of poor decisions, miscalculations and delusions of grandeur.

The purpose was to make folks snicker and deflate the self-serious puffery that so usually characterizes bike tradition. People who say they’ve by no means dropped a motorbike or damaged down aren’t telling a narrative; they’re mendacity. Life’s extra enjoyable after we confront our personal stupidity with the identical braveness we show when using. F–cking up is among the quickest methods to study something.

Motorcyclist highly unrecommends getting rear-ended, as storyteller Gail Swanson did.

Motorcyclist extremely unrecommends getting rear-ended, as storyteller Gail Swanson did. (Anders T. Carlson/)


Working a boutique dealership for high-end automobiles and bikes places an emphasis on pairing a discerning driver (or rider) with the fitting machine. However what about that good passenger?

Eric’s story had little to do with an unique machine. As a substitute, it was in regards to the good passenger and ideal trip, if just for a weekend. Eric doesn’t like passengers or group rides. A self-described sport tourer and adrenaline junkie, he’s used to life above 6,000 rpm.

Although reluctant to tackle inexperienced passengers, Eric relented one summer time weekend and headed into the countryside with a girl he’d simply met. It wasn’t a gap stanza to a budding romance, nor the start to a lifelong friendship. It was merely an ideal trip, with a passenger who instinctively understood and beloved Eric’s aggressive using fashion.

Lonely roads are meant for kindred souls: the right road trip can change everything.

Lonely roads are meant for kindred souls: the fitting highway journey can change every thing. (Johanneke Kroesbergen-Kamps/)


As proprietor and proprietor of Chicago’s Federal Moto, Mike is used to creating up options on the fly. Whether or not it’s ending a customized construct the evening earlier than an enormous present or fixing a motorbike he didn’t know existed earlier than hitting his store, he rolls with the punches. Naturally, he took the stage with no concept what he was going to say.

He made a spot choice to speak about his first bike. It was an $800 non-running 1977 Honda CB750 purchased expressly in opposition to his mother and father’ needs. He arrived on the vendor’s place in a truck with out a ramp to load it, and he didn’t have wherever to retailer it. However a stranger helped him get the bike loaded, and shortly he was headed to no matter storage facility answered his panicked name from the highway. His mother and father lastly found his secret bike, he braced for a minor household disaster. His mother’s first phrases? “Wow, that’s f–cking cool.” Dad and mom can shock you.

It’s a long story: great tales come from valiant but misguided efforts.

It’s an extended story: nice tales come from valiant however misguided efforts. (Anders T. Carlson/)


Did your first large bike journey go easily? Boring. Nice tales come from uncertainty, errors and perseverance. Babe’s Moto Lounge founder Jill had by no means taken any sort of lengthy trip. Bored with unsolicited opinions and recommendation from her male using pals, Jill deliberate her personal journey to the annual Babes in Motoland girls’s trip and campout, held on the far aspect of Illinois (just like the darkish aspect of the Moon, however flatter). She hoped her 250cc Insurgent was good for a pair hundred miles.

Then it rained. Lots. Having eliminated the entrance fender for aesthetic causes, Jill confronted an enormous rooster tail of water from in entrance of her bike, forcing a hasty retreat again to Chicago. The subsequent day, Jill bought again on the horse and gutted out the trip to satisfy a number of hundred girls she barely knew.

Now a veteran of dozens of lengthy journeys (and having upgraded to a Triumph Bobber), the journey was a turning level in her life. She made lifelong pals in a matter of hours and achieved “The Factor” she didn’t suppose doable. The best highway journey can reset your life.

The official 4-letter word of first-time mechanics everywhere.

The official 4-letter phrase of first-time mechanics in every single place. (Anders T. Carlson/)


Everybody deserves to personal their dream bike no less than as soon as of their life. Gail’s 2019 Moto Guzzi V7iii Particular was the results of a lot dreaming and no small quantity of sacrifice. Sadly, we additionally get breaks we don’t deserve. For instance, a not-so-funny factor occurs when a automobile hits your bike.

As Gail tells it, immediately you’re not holding something besides an imaginary set of handlebars. And the handlebars you have been holding are actually a number of ft in entrance of you. Gail had been rear-ended on Lake Shore Drive by an inattentive driver, and her subsequent journey, although undesirable, had begun. Like most hard-luck tales, they reveal hidden bits of probability, fortune and effectively, luck. An accident is a good way to search out out who your mates actually are. And it reveals the ability of the using neighborhood.


Well-known for her On Her Bike undertaking and YouTube movies of her travels, Kinga Tanajewska began her “Are We There But?” tour in 2017. Apart from the seat of her BMW F800GS, Tanajewska hasn’t referred to as wherever dwelling since. Initially from Poland, she labored in northwest Australia for plenty of years earlier than the highway referred to as.

Her story? Her first solo trip round Australia started with loads of warnings about what to not do and the place to not do it. Hazard, and harmful folks, have been apparently in every single place. However then she began assembly different vacationers, folks have been simply as good as she was. Seems these cautionary tales got here from folks whose travels have been largely imaginary. Ethical of the story? Individuals attempt to dissuade you from doing what scares them.

The inaugural BBBM Storytelling occasion will shortly be taking a visit of its personal. The subsequent occasion (time, date, location TBD) is going on in Louisville, KY in early 2023. Good transfer. There’s no scarcity of tales about using, wrenching and occasional redemption on the market. All you want are tables and chairs, some drinks and a prepared viewers.

Aspiring storytellers and lovers of excellent tales can get extra information at

The storytellers, clockwise L-R: Jill Sandmire, Eric Shropshire, Helen Tornquist, Kinga Tanajewska, Mike Muller, Anders T. Carlson, Gail Swanson.

The storytellers, clockwise L-R: Jill Sandmire, Eric Shropshire, Helen Tornquist, Kinga Tanajewska, Mike Muller, Anders T. Carlson, Gail Swanson. (Anders T. Carlson/)



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