A World of Two Wheels

Bicycles propped against an early morning street in Firenze.

The search for decrepit motorcycles, bicycles and scooters that I can photograph is one of my favourite activities. In Cairo I came across an old jalopy of a wreck in the old city and that photograph always draws clients in to what I do. Since that time, I make sure to stop whenever I come across parked bikes to size up whether any of the horses are worthy of the time to capture them on film.

It might be that people identify with the perceived freedom of a bicycle or a motorcycle. In our North American age of cars, shopping malls, and big box stores the two wheel vehicle becomes harder and harder to justify. However, when I have traveled to Europe or Asia these are the vehicle that makes the most sense due to parking and street access. The romance of scooting around Italy on a Vespa or Germany on a giant black bicycle is alive and well.

A gorgeous old style machine found outside a castle where my tour group left me behind.

Truth be told, people become most impatient with me when I am trying to take a photo with one of these machines in it. I suppose that a bike is a bike is a bike, but those little details make each ride different. In Japan, the rides with personality were carefully crafted to look that way – look authentic, but retain the glossy nostalgia of denim jeans and leather jackets. In other places, they are just pragmatic machines painted flat black to get from home to work each day.

A glossy scooter on the streets of Munich

Sadly, there were few cool Vespa, Moto-Guzzi or Ducati machines to be found in Firenze or Roma. I suppose that really nice machines were not to be left on sidewalks and that like Ferrari or Lamborghini the custom machines were out on roads where there was more sport than smog. I did find a killer Moto-Guzzi that was held together with hockey tape just outside the Colosseum – I am hoping it still remains safe on the last roll of film in the camera, because it would be a shame not to have that image in my series.

To do North American motorcycles justice would require a road trip on a bike, and my Ducati Monster is not the bike to do that on. Certainly this year’s Harley Davidson models are the most disgusting lot of machines ever – all 70s orange and cheaply assembled – which is a shame because I really was hoping to buy one for the long road trip.  Maybe they will get better in a few years, as I loved their Dark Custom series.  Ideally, I would like to soon have enough images for a series that might be exhibited or fill a cool cafe’s walls with in a nostalgia way. That idea is what keeps me snapping shots that I love: when I have enough in series the action of taking photos makes sense to others. One random photo of a motorcycle or fire hydrant seems silly, but a hundred is art.

Green machine in Berlin - The Simson


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