After this years One Motorcycle Show we met up with the man behind the show, Thor Drake. We invited to him out to Caste Rock, WA to ride out our #BCBuilt Scrambler “The Dirt Bike.” and to get to know more about the man himself.
Thor is a builder. He builds everything. Literally. From homebrew stunt equipment (designed for the crew from Jackass) to motorcycle shows, custom bikes and successful business ventures — nothing is beyond his reach. The See See Motor Coffee Co., the Norwegian born Thor’s main vocation, is a long established cultural mecca for riders rolling through Portland and its also where Thor is hard at work, building, as we speak. With this year’s The One Show just having wrapped and his new bar, The Charlie Horse Saloon, up and running Drake has been able to make his way back into See See’s motorcycle shop, tools in hand.
Thor’s builder roots run deep. His father was a carpenter and, even though his dad was “never into motors”, as a kid growing up he would steal his dad’s tools to build makeshift skateboard ramps. “I was always attracted to things that went fast.” That all-too common affliction started with skateboarding and quickly grew to include snowboarding — a passion that lead him from Arizona to Portland originally. This quest for speed naturally grew into a love of motorcycles and his builder roots meant he just couldn’t leave them alone.
With two customer bikes on the go, his own custom Triumph Scrambler he built for the One Show just finished and a decent stash of others lying in wait (including a “hodge-podge” of a 1969 BSA A65 dirt-tracker and a CB750 in need of inspiration), the shop is where Thor will likely be for next little while – “even when I was getting things ready for this years (The One) show, I had to have a project on the go just to keep me distracted”. When I asked him how he copes with all of the stress of running multiple businesses, helming show organization and working one-on-one with a race team, he chuckled a little and joked “I have no candle (to burn at both ends), its really just a fuse at this point”.
His philosophy, developed early on in the skate community, is a large reason for his success. Thor believes “you have to foster the people that are in your community”. That is why Drake spreads himself so thin, why he firmly believes the motorcycle community will never go away. “Some people will move on eventually, to the next thing, but (motorcycle) racing will always captivate people, so that will always be a driving force. Custom builders will always be messing with stuff”. That is a large part of the reason people in the motorcycle community are so drawn to Drake. Despite all of his successes, he’s always working to do more: To help other builders gain exposure; to help up and coming racers find a place on the starting grid; to foster the community. It helps that Thor is incredibly affable. And yet he has very real goals.
With The One Show, Thor matter-of-factly stated that he has always tried “to double the experience every year: double the people, double the bikes… it’s just always gotta be better, so a minimum goal of double just seems right”. This year’s show was the easily the biggest yet — maybe not twice the size — and the community consensus is that it was also its best, showcasing incredible talent on both ends of the spectrum. “There’s always a spectrum when it comes to customs. At one end there’s an aesthetic to show people what’s possible in the realm of design and at the other end its all about performance… I love it though, I love the spectrum.”
I also asked Thor if he had any words of wisdom for budding builders out there. He replied “its not as fun as everybody thinks. Like anything its a series of steps and its a lot of work. The bike has to be safe and it has to work, but you just need to break it down into a series of simpler steps and go at it”. And if you’re thinking about entering a bike into next year’s show… “I’d like to see people try something different — take things to the next level, not just copy the retro style… that and I hope people are inspired to go out and destroy some of the beauty they’ve built”.
More than once during our conversation Drake accidentally tapped the icons on his phone. He was in the midst of removing the front end assembly from a Honda CR50 mini-bike he’s working on and, with his phone pressed between his shoulder and his ear, the beeps were frequent. He said “dang” a lot, apologized every time and never missed a beat, with me or that CR50.
Specials thanks to:
Brin Morris Photography
Brooks Sterling Photography
The team at SEE SEE Motor Coffee