The One Motorcycle Show, Party at the Pickle Factory
Portland’s One Motorcycle Show is different in all the right ways. Now in its ninth year, this massive indoor bike show is known for bringing “more than 100 custom, vintage, weird and rare motorcycles from all over the world to you.” A tall order to say the least.
It’s hard to recall exactly when I first heard about the One Motorcycle Show, but I can tell you that as a college student in Missouri, I always dreamt of making the big trip west to get a taste of the action. One year there were two shows—Austin, Texas, and Portland, Oregon. One year it snowed which resulted in the creation of the One Motorcycle Snow. From an abandoned warehouse to a red brick laundry building to its current home in an old pickle factory in the northern part of town, the show is constantly moving, shifting and growing bigger than anyone could have ever imagined.
The entire One Motorcycle Show experience wouldn’t be possible without Thor Drake and the See See Motorcycles team. Together they track down the 100+ custom machines, invite the builders, prepare the space and ensure everything runs smoothly all weekend long. From the bikes to the bands to the Flat Track races to the breathtakingly large amount of moto-art that covers the factory walls, the One Show pulls out all the stops.
From inside the cab, we watched the jagged skyline shift to rolling hills and then vast evergreen forests. We raced towards the snowy peaks of Mt. Shasta, which seemed like it was a world away from the honking horns and gridlocked streets of San Francisco that we had left behind a few hours ago. We ate a late lunch at a motel diner where they served hamburgers the size of my face (no joke), and with a full stomach I tried to buy a ’32 Ford three-window from an unsuspecting farmer somewhere in Oregon (he wasn’t home). We rolled into Portland under the cover of darkness.
On Friday morning, I walked my bike through the Pickle Factory’s front gate, completed registration and then pushed it up an oversized wooden ramp with a little help from my friends. From there, I made my way to the Harley Room—a vast space on the building’s north side with high ceilings and large banks of windows that allow the warm winter sunlight to flood in during the day. With my bike positioned on one of the show’s signature white “bike boxes,” I was free to roam around for the remainder of the weekend. And that’s exactly what I did.
That night, the Pickle Factory roared to life like an uncorked Big Twin. Thousands of enthusiasts young and old flooded though the gates, anxious to see what the show had to offer. The unexpected was everywhere. A flathead Indian with a sidehack to haul another flathead Indian! A troupe of custom-painted helmets hovering in a carefully choreographed formation. A steampunk BSA with a long-neck dual-carb intake and an M&H drag slick. A pearl white Harley chopper with a tranquil alpine scene on the fuel tank that would have certainly made Bob Ross proud.
“This one’s called ‘Phases of the Moon,’” a thin man from a northern California surf town noted as I eyed his BSA 250. Rather than having the bodywork polished, he commissioned a local artist to paint astrological happenings, a pelican and a shark on its flanks. When it was finished, he covered everything with a clear varnish. He said it wouldn’t last forever, but that was okay with him.
There were Yamahas with racing fairings and vintage Hondas dating back to the 1950s. Some bikes were stock and looked like they had just been pulled out of museums, while others had the grit, grime and oil that can only come with regular usage. Gasoline was the fuel of choice, although there were a few—including a particular Harley from Germany—that were boasting electric power. “This is the future,” I was told.
A few steps away, there was an unrestored 1950 Triumph Pre-Unit that looked like a some sort of wild animal ready to pounce right off its white box. I crouched down to read the cracking waterslide decals on the tank and fender. “Bonneville National Speed Trials, Safety Inspected, 1967.” “H&C Racing Cams—Tiger Power.” “Equipped with Champion Spark Plugs.” It was a champion in my book, there’s no doubt about it. I took a moment to take it all in.
Live music echoed from the downstairs stage. Conversation filled the rooms, the stairwells, the parking lots and made its way across town. This excitement never waned throughout the course of the three-day event. The staff gave away a few fun awards on Sunday, but winning wasn’t on anyone’s mind. How refreshing. Instead, everyone was focused on gathering in Portland for a non-stop weekend of motorized mayhem and zany two-wheel expressionism. Come on out for the 10th annual show in 2019—you’re sure to see things you never dreamed you would.
Full Size One Motorcycle Show Photo Extra!