It’s a question we’ve studied and considered for years. We’ve asked it to ourselves and answered it many times. If you ask enough motorcyclists, you’ll understand how important a motorcycle can be to the lives of humans. Sounds a little melodramatic, but no matter how slight or epic the reasons might be, we’ve discovered that motorcycling stimulates emotions in people and heightens life experiences. Why do you ride?
On December 3rd, we attended the Indianapolis screening of Why We Ride, a motorcycle documentary exploring this simple question. The answers aren’t always the same from the people they featured, but they strike a similar chord. If you’re a motorcyclist, you’ll relate to the different perspectives and nod your head or pump your fist in agreement. You’ll want to say, “Amen” at certain moments and your eyes may water during others. If you’re not a motorcyclist, you’ll be made aware that motorcycling isn’t just for speed junkies or people who seek danger. This documentary exposes the genuine desire that motorcyclists have deep in their gut. It carefully shows that motorcycling isn’t merely a superficial hobby as portrayed by stereotypes or posers.
Here are the top 5 reasons why we really enjoyed and respected this documentary:
1. It’ll Make You Wanna Ride
The entire vibe of this documentary makes you want to twist the throttle, throw a roost on a dirtbike or lean into a sweeping curve. You’ll want to plan the next ride and reminisce about the family or friends who introduced you to motorcycles. We believe it did what it set out to do.
2. The Hero of the Doc is Motorcycling
We’ve all come across blowhards and braggarts who sour motorcycle conversations. We’ve all seen moto-related TV shows or YouTube videos where the characters are far too camera-aware. In this documentary, the people talk about their accomplishments in a way that praises/credits their motorcycle. It’s devoid of feuding families, angst or awkward interaction.
3. Great Insight
Why We Ride introduces characters that passionately express why they ride. You’ll hear statements that will impact and inspire you. Note: When Ted Simon’s segment comes around, turn your ear toward the screen and absorb what he says; it’s good stuff.
4. Humble Perspectives Over Commercialism and Star Power
Though many of the characters in the film are quite notable, the concept of ‘celebrity’ is downplayed. In fact, you’ll wait for a caption or title that tells you who is talking, but will have to wait till the end of the movie if you missed it the first time. Guys like King Kenny Roberts and Mert Lawwill simply state their relationships with motorcycling in an honest sit-down interview format. Though there are a few mentions of things you could buy into (i.e., Keith Code’s superbike school, Ted Simon’s book, Sturgis, etc.), the tone is far from commercial throughout. This day and age, you might expect some sort of obvious ‘sell’ or endorsement, but this documentary came across as a legit exploration of how motorcycles have brought joy and meaning to many people’s lives whether they’ve won world championships or own a dry-cleaning shop.
5. Great Cinematic Presentation
Conceptually, they nailed the storyline, but it’s the cinematic presentation of the theme that really made it a pleasure to experience (especially on the theater’s big screen). While the slow pans, wide-screen views and high-end filming of majestic scenery were hypnotic, the sound mixing was incredible. Some of the instrumental compositions could’ve accompanied the most dramatic of Hollywood scenes (a la Braveheart or a Last of the Mohicans). Music was merged beautifully with engines thumping and the faint sounds of dirt falling during slow-mo offroad clips. The high speed film helped convey the introspective grace you can find while riding a motorcycle.
Here are some other aspects of the movie worth mentioning:
Lack of Danger
We kept waiting for the segment on danger and clips of crashing, but it never came (aside from a few photographic vintage pics of racing spills). We’re okay with that; it was probably something that would muddy the overarching theme. But because the risk is such a big reason why people don’t ride, it would be interesting to hear the same subjects address what makes them continue to ride.
Lack of Smut
No scantily clad people. No foul language (not that we can remember). No innuendo. You can watch this with your kids. It even features a segment with a kids-eye view of riding and racing.
The name Ed Kretz will stick in your mind after watching WWR. The guy was amazingly committed to winning before the spotlights and glitz of today’s marketing-saturated racing. A lot of history is covered to help set the stage, but not so much that it turns into a Ken Burns kinda thing.
This documentary not only respected the sport of motorcycling, it respected the people it featured. This is a big deal in our minds. If a subject can trust the filmmaker and feel completely comfortable with the interviewer, wonderfully honest material will result. For their audience, it appears the editors and team behind Why We Ride took their time and carefully crafted this piece.
This is not a 2013 version of Bruce Brown’s On Any Sunday; it didn’t need to be. It was in the back of our minds when we wondered how this film would resonate with motorcyclists, but it smartly avoided mentions or obvious mirroring of the surely inspirational 1971 documentary. Why We Ride has accomplished a top notch, feel-good, sincere portrait of the love people have for motorcycling. If you have a chance to watch this on the big screen, it’s worth it. If your city isn’t showing it, tune in to the film’s website to see how/when you can watch it at home.