Robert Smith

Photojournalist

Was there a time before motorcycles? I suppose so, but as soon as I rode my first proper motorcycle around age 14, I was hooked. I found the crusty old AJS 350 single in a farmer’s field, learned how to kick-start it, and spent an idyllic afternoon thumping along farm tracks, mostly out of control.

In the UK, you could ride a motorcycle legally at 16, but not drive a car until 17. So most gearheads started on bikes. Mine was a Moto Rumi Formichino, a little two-stroke twin that sometimes even ran on both cylinders. After that came a Vespa, and then a Honda SL125 hauled me all over London while I studied at night school and commuted to my laboratory job. But the sound and feel of that old AJS never faded, and I soon acquired another thumping single: a BSA Victor.

When we moved to Vancouver, BC in 1987, the Victor was first out of the freight container containing all of our personal belongings, when it finally arrived from the UK. Our neighbors were initially dismayed, as they had literally just succeeded in evicting a biker gang. It wasn’t long before I’d added a “serious” motorcycle to my collection, a Suzuki GS850. Having left corporate world behind in the UK, I dabbled with freelance writing, went to college, got qualified, and settled on corporate communications. Along the way, I spent summers working as a motorcycle tour guide, and also studied for my motorcycle safety instructor’s license. I started contributing to motorcycle magazines for fun, an endeavor that also fed my passion for photography. The latter skill came in handy when I started working for RoadRUNNER in 2003.

So now the bike stable has grown to (at last count) 12 motorcycles, with a heavy leaning toward European brands and an average age of over 30 years  (older motorcycles just make more sense to me). So if I could spend the rest of my riding career strafing the mountain roads of Northern California on a vintage Ducati or a Norton Commando, life would be perfect!