Inside Moto-Journalism

It's a job, a passion, a lifestyle, a love demanding complete devotion

Justin Dawes on his motorcycle in desert.
Riding is what a motojournalist does the least; writing, planning, and waiting fill the majority of our schedules.Sebas Romero

Scars, broken bones, and internal injuries happen with astonishing frequency. Careers have been cut short by maiming and death. My X-ray file includes a shattered tibial plateau, multiple fractured vertebrae, and more broken ribs than Jack’s BBQ Shack. Our insurance company has placed us in the same risk group as roofers and circus performers.

The life of motorcycle journalist is not what it appears. It is fulfilling work, undoubtedly. One punctuated with the perks of an ever-rotating supply of machines to ride and fresh gear. What it is not: business-class flights, caviar, champagne, and big money. Not a single editor does this to get rich; each of us does it because we love motorcycles and all that comes with them. We work hard, and the job permeates every aspect of our lives. Clocking out does not happen—ever.

Testing motorcycles is so much more than throwing a leg over a new machine, posing for photos, and figuring out another synonym for “corner” or “throttle.” There is a process. Data must be gathered, notes must be compiled, and photography and video must be captured, all while not crashing that shiny new machine. Limits must be pushed, and sometimes they are overstepped—with life, limb, and motorcycle hanging in the balance. Comfort is almost always the first casualty.

Hours are spent at desert test tracks, percolating in leather while we ensure every motorcycle gets its fair shake. Preconceived notions are heresy, biases worse than cancer. Once testing is complete, the clock is ticking to get words on the page before deadline, each of them scrutinized by senior and copy editors, and fact-checked for accuracy.

For every hour on the motorcycle, dozens are glassily spent in front of the laptop, traveling, or planning. Time on the bike is no less precious, but riding is different for us. Motorcycling affords a joyous disconnection from the daily grind for most riders. For the motojourno, the internal data recorder is always on, always evaluating.

This is a job we take more seriously than anything else in our lives. When someone learns of our profession, the most common response is some iteration of how lucky we must be. We always smile and say: “You are absolutely right. I wouldn’t want to do anything else.”