The One Motorcycle Show

Motorcycle culture is alive and well in Portland.

By Thomas Kinzer, Photography by Thomas Kinzer, Andy Cherney

And despite the fact that the show has grown from 68 bikes and around 1500 people attending in 2010, to more than 120 bikes and 10,000 attendees for the fourth annual event, the show's creator, Thor Drake, has somehow managed to keep the spirit of this concept intact.

It all started in late 2009. Bored with his project-building a trade booth, of all things-Thor got together a few friends and decided to put together a show of cool local bikes. Being an advertising student at the time, he was able to make the show look "a little more official than maybe it really was." Not really knowing how many people to expect and then having 1500 people show up for the inaugural event was a big surprise for the small group of friends. But the One Motorcycle Show was born.

Like most shows, The One Show has awards, handing out hand-refurbished 1960s and '70s trophies for a range of categories, many of which are silly. "The only one I try to make really serious is The One Show award," Thor points out. "Last year's winner wasn't even invited to display at the show. He had a mini-bike that he took apart, strapped it to his Harley Panhead and rode seven hours in the rain. He just showed up mid-show soaking wet, rolled right in, and started putting his mini-bike together."

The One Motorcycle Show award doesn't have strict guidelines, instead it's presented to the person who most embodies the spirit and lifestyle of motorcycling in some unique way. For 2013, that went to "Big Al" McElroy; he brought his custom super-single YZ450 dirt-to-roadracing conversion and said, "Go ahead, draw on it."

A majority of this year's 60 invitees came about by the owners running into Thor in the local Pacific Northwest motorcycle scene. Thor explains the invite process, "I just try to feel out each person and why they do it. I like people who build bikes because they love to do it and I try to get those guys. I just think that's cool. There are a lot of people who build bikes because they're worth a lot of money. There are plenty of shows for that. I don't think those guys have a hard time finding shows for their trophy bikes. But I'd rather just be a show for the people who actually like to build and ride motorcycles."

Next up for The One Motorcycle Show is testing the waters outside Portland with an event in Austin, TX, during MotoGP weekend, April 19. If you can't make it to Austin or the fifth annual show in Portland next year, you'll be happy to know there (could be) a next-best thing: a series of beautiful coffee table books that are on display at See See Motorcycles' coffee shop in Portland. Visit the Kickstarter page ( for details on how you can help make the books happen-yet another example of the grass-roots approach that permeates this event.

In person or on the page, Thor Drake's aesthetic manifested into a show appeals to a broad audience. It's not something he really thinks much about. Instead, it's about hanging out, having a beer, and looking at motorcycles with your buddies. To him, that's "just cool." And an activity as natural and essential as breathing. To judge by The One Show's success, thousands of other motorcyclists seem to feel the same. And it's not just about keeping the dream of the '90s alive, it's about a strong, vibrant motorcycle culture flourishing in the rainy PacNW.


By Thomas Kinzer
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