Hot Wheels

Portland's One Moto Show Celebrates the Motorcycle in All Its Glorious Forms

The annual show, celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2019, features more than 180 bikes from around the world.

By Sam Pape September 18, 2018 Published in the Design Annual: 2018 issue of Portland Monthly

Image: Michael Novak

There’s a mysterious but undeniable correlation between motorcycles and meta-physics (famously explored in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and many bar stool soliloquys). Maybe it’s the freedom of flying down a highway, unprotected from and connected to the outside world you’re traveling through ... or the simple awareness of mortality that the pavement, blurring past your feet inches below, elicits.

For Thor Drake, it’s Plato’s theory of Forms.

“The idea in the mind is perfect,” he explains, “but when you start to build it, it just resembles the idea. First you get one bike, then all of a sudden you have 10 bikes, and you’re trying to make that one ideal bike.”

One Moto’s bikes are displayed on pedestals like fine art, often set to match the vibe of the room they’re in.

Image: Michael Novak

This was the inspiration for Drake’s One Moto Show. Now an annual event, it features more than 180 bikes from all corners of the world. There’s even an indoor flat-track race at a Salem fairground. This winter, in close-to-condemned warehouses around industrial Portland, will mark the show’s 10-year anniversary. (It runs February 9–10; info here.)

At One Moto, you’ll find every conceivable variety of bike, from rare, trend-setting classics to electric, Tron-inspired oddities.

“If it’s a cruiser, you can add more weight and parts and bling,” says Drake. “Or you can make something super polished and aluminum with a turbo engine, where, like a Swiss watch, it’s almost too nice to bring out. And then some people go the opposite way where they just weld on a bunch of rusty parts and have fun with it.”

Entries from the 2018 show

Image: Michael Novak

Some are built with aluminum, emphasizing minimalism for the sake of both sleekness and speed; others look more like matte black military tanks. Other than the barest essentials—wheel(s) (sometimes only one!) and a central motor—every part is in the hands of the designers. But these design elements are by no means simply cosmetic: they determine the entire riding experience.

“I’ve yet to experience a bike that I think is perfect,” says Drake, “and I don’t know if there ever will be. But that makes it fun.

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