Stories of Bike – Discovery

The Stories of Bike episode has been released featuring me, Kristen Reed. Come experience NYC from my perspective on my 2013 Bonneville, from hanging out with the Miss-Fires, to band rehearsal with The Rosewood Girl, to riding in the annual Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride. It’s a beautifully made video by Cam Elkins and Brian Stansfield. Thanks to everyone who helped make it such a wonderful experience!

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The Miss-Fires featured in Triumph’s Spirit Magazine

The more I ride, the more I seek to absorb moto culture and literature. I discovered Triumph’s digital magazine, Spirit, when I purchased my Bonnie two years ago, and always enjoy reading the quarterly features full of inspiration and life on two wheels. Last year, I noticed they were soliciting pictures from readers, so I sent in a few that my 18-year-old sister had taken of me in Brooklyn.

And then forgot about it.

Months later, the editor contacted me requesting a story to go along with the photos, which I happily and carefully drafted. Triumph published [a highly scaled down version of] my submission in their spring issue #15, and I am very honored to be included.

Read it here!

Stories of Bike

I’ve heard that either life happens to you or you happen to life. I often find myself bouncing between a healthy mix of the two. I thrive on new experiences yet love the surprise of things outside my control. I timidly joined the Miss-Fires crew earlier this year without knowing a single member, and I often reflect on and appreciate the special friendships I have made and the countless days of fun we have had together since. I continue to be amazed at how my life has taken a turn for the better.

Through this lovely group of ladies, I was informed of an opportunity to be part of a special project undertaken by the talented Cam Elkins, a filmmaker based in Sydney, Australia. He was coming to New York for the showing of two of his films in the Motorcycle Film Festival and wanted to shoot an episode for his web-based series, Stories of Bike, while in New York. I admittedly knew nothing about Cam’s project at the time, but the idea sounded like fun so I spontaneously put together an application and sent him some photos. To my surprise, he contacted me a few days later to say I’d been selected.

Photo by Hayley Reed

Photo by Hayley Reed

Wasn’t there someone with a more compelling story than mine? Wasn’t there a rider who’s father’s dying wish was that his son carry on the tradition to ride like they had spent their lives doing together? At first I was excited. Then nerves set in. I never thought of myself as a natural in front of cameras, and I doubted my ability to provide an interesting experience for Cam and his viewers. But there was no turning back so I disregarded my concerns, went with the flow and followed his lead. Then I called my best friend, Jill, who owns a salon and spa in Oklahoma to get her to fly to New York for moral support and beauty assistance.

Cam arrived a week later and wanted to have an informal dinner together before shooting began in order to get acquainted with each other so I took him to a local favorite in Wlliamsburg, where I live. He greeted me with a friendly hug, and I immediately found him incredibly easy to talk to. His down-to-earth vibe comforted me and peaked my interest in his life. Reversing the roles a bit, I inquired extensively about his life and experience with photography. At that point, I had finally watched one of his episodes, thinking I should probably educate myself on my upcoming adventure, and I found the show to be incredibly professional so was surprised to learn he had been working solo for a year and a half. This guy’s ambition and creativity impressed the hell out of me. The rest of the evening was absent of any awkward silences and full of laughs and story sharing. Any remaining nerves were completely shattered, and all I could anticipate was the fun that laid ahead.

Two days later, shooting began. A local cinematographer, Brian Stansfield, had contacted Cam to offer support to his project, and Cam agreed after recognizing some benefits. It would be the first time Cam collaborated with someone on Stories of Bike. Brian and Cam showed up at my apartment with loads of equipment at dusk after a rainy day, just when the clouds were beginning to clear. We b-lined it to my rooftop where the orange sun seeped through a cloud clearance over Manhattan creating a fiery halo over the city with multiple rainbows above. The timing could not have been more perfect for cityscape footage for the show.

Photo by Cam Elkins

Photo by Cam Elkins

Photo by Jill Johnson

Photo by Jill Johnson

Once the sun settled on the other side of New Jersey, we retreated back inside where setup began for the interview portion. They converted my living room into a temporary studio complete with professional lights, cameras and makeup. I sat with a camera in my face for three hours while getting drilled about my relationship with my Bonneville and how it has transformed my life in New York City.

Cam and Brian

Cam and Brian

To some questions, my answers came easily. To others, I found myself struggling to articulate sentiments that coincided with Cam’s vision of my story. Notwithstanding the speed bumps that littered the interview, my answer to Cam’s final question came out emotively and without hesitation. He showed his approval with a big smile and a thumb’s up. Once the camera stopped recording, he shouted a loud “Yeah!!”, which gave me a strong feeling of relief and accomplishment, and I stood up to give him an enthusiastic high five. Then I wiped off my makeup and we went for tacos.

The next phase of shooting was the “b-roll” (the alternate footage intercut with the interview, for those who need to google it like I did). We rented a minivan that Jill drove around with Cam and Brian shooting from the back with the trunk wide open.

Brian and his partner

Photo by Cam Elkins

Photo by Jill Johnson

Photo by Jill Johnson

Pausing for a photo op

Photo by Jill Johnson

I followed them around Williamsburg on a sunny and lively Saturday morning while pedestrians watched with curiosity. Then I had to head to band rehearsal, which Cam wanted to get footage of, so we swung by Susan’s place (the singer/songwriter of the band). The two of us straddled the bike with our guitars slung over our backs, followed the minivan and headed to our rehearsal space in Bushwick.

The next day, Cam suggested I get some friends to ride with me at the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride so I recruited some Triumph-riding girls to join me in dressing dapper for the occasion.

Photo by Cam Elkins

Photo by Cam Elkins

Photo by Cam Elkins

Photo by Cam Elkins

After getting some cool footage again riding behind the minivan on the way over to the meeting point in the West Village, we pulled up to join about 100 bikes just before departure time. I immediately noticed that we and a couple of other Miss-Fires who met us there were the only girls riding bikes. I spotted two other dapper girls daringly adorned in short dresses riding on the backs of others, but our gang definitely skewed the gender ratio.

Adriana in the front!

Adriana in the front!

Photo by Cam Elkins

Photo by Cam Elkins

We had a blast riding through the city streets garbed as we were. The highlight for me, surprisingly, was the route through Times Square where almost everyone stopped to watch and take pictures of remarkably well-dressed people overtaking the tourist haven on vintage-style bikes. I couldn’t help but take advantage of the attention to show off a little and do some tricks on my bike, such as standing up on the pegs (my bravery only goes so far). Unfortunately, Cam and Brian only got footage during the meeting points, so this scene will have to live on in the memories of those present and in this blog post. They did however, get the best shot of the group photo we took at Washington Square Park.

Photo by Brian Stansfield

Photo by Brian Stansfield

Cam had to depart New York a couple of days later and we didn’t get the chance to finish shooting, so I’ll be meeting with Brian soon to wrap that up. I’ll definitely be missing Cam’s presence though. We spent the days shooting so focused on the experience that we often forgot to feed ourselves. My mind was completely consumed by the fun I was having and the project we were working on. Between the work we did in making the episode, the time spent at the Motorcycle Film Festival and evening dinners and rides, the experience surpassed all my wildest expectations all because of the great new friend I had made. After seeing some still shots of the footage and hearing Cam’s excitement over it, I think the final product will be incredible. Stay tuned!

Photo by Brian Stansfield

Photo by Brian Stansfield

By Kristen Reed

Deus Ex Machina Sunday Mass Ride in NYC

Photo by Stefan Wigand

Photo by Stefan Wigand

Deus Ex Machina, superheroes among custom bike builders based out of Sydney, Australia, brought their Los Angeles crew out east for a premier spring weekend and converted New York City into weather-loving, lane-splitting criminals, reuniting us with our long lost true loves once again.

It was Sunday in mid-May and one of the first beautifully sunny and warm days of the year. As usual, the Northeast was fashionably late in joining the rest of the country in the most welcomed season, but we greeted it with pure and unbridled enthusiasm. The warm sun finally shared its most elusive quality with the city that never sleeps, and we finally got the opportunity to straddle our summer flings that had begun to feel like distant memories and forget about the winter warfare from which we realized we had survived, not unscathed but unphased. In other words, we had overcome our seasonal blues, pulled up our literal and proverbial bootstraps, and got the fuck out of the house.

Keeping in mind that I’d purchased my first motorcycle almost one year ago, I’d heard of Deus Ex Machina but admittedly knew very little about the Aussie company. I was gratefully informed of the ride by a digital newsletter that infrequently has free, appealing events to do; and my interest was doubled when a motorcycle buddy received a flyer hand-delivered to his dealership by the very guys who orchestrated the entire day. It was on.

I’d never had the privilege of joining a group ride before, and I was equally curious and nervous. I wasn’t entirely concerned that I might crash into another rider, but I had also only recently joined the motorcycle community in my home of nine years, and I was mildly shy about not knowing anyone. Additionally, remnants of the chaos that occurred on the West Side Highway only months before still irked many motorcyclists and left cops and drivers similarly suspicious of us. But nerves had never inhibited me before, so I awoke at 8:00 a.m. to break my fast and meet my buddy in time to mingle for a few minutes prior to kicking up stands at 10:30.

From Brooklyn, I crossed the Williamsburg Bridge on my black 2013 Bonneville, took in the Manhattan skyline and headed to the Lower East Side (LES). Upon arrival at the meeting point, Freemans Sporting Club where Deus had installed a stylish pop-up shop, I turned onto Rivington Street where Triumphs and custom street bikes lined the hidden block surprisingly free from random passersby. I immediately felt like I was in-the-know. I quickly found a spot to tuck in my Bonny between other bikes, whose owners had obviously spent hard-earned money to customize, and was startled to look up to find a tattooed photographer squatting nearby documenting my arrival with his Nikon D3 (or some kind of fancy camera). I timidly returned my divided attention to parking my ride, because I was surprised that anyone would find any interest in photographs of a girl from Oklahoma riding a machine that, although sexy enough, still wore all its original, boring stock parts. (These insecurities came from the fact that I’d been fantasizing about the modifications I’d been wanting to make but had yet to have the funds to fulfill.) I quickly got over myself and noticed my buddy was parked nearby on his crotch rocket. Later in the day, he confided in me of how out-of-place he felt among all the cafe racers.

There was a good, but not intimidating, crowd outside Freemans. I noticed only a handful of other brave girls lingering about and walked over to join the relaxed group of people with whom I felt an immediate connection. I somehow related to the familiar strangers from the unpretentious vibe cast from their scruffy attire of trucker hats, t-shirts and jeans.

The Deus staff welcomed our presence by introducing themselves and engaging in friendly banter with us, which further reinforced their solid reputation from the positive personal experience I now had with them. We learned each others’ names and discussed our riding histories and their stay in New York thus far. After the small talk wound down, I noticed the motorcycle clothing meticulously organized just inside Freemans. I was curious to enter not only because of my consumerist upbringing but also because of my intense attraction to cool bike wear. Once inside, I was disappointed to learn that the clothes were designed for men. Despite having a few masculine traits to my personality, my scrawny, feminine body type isn’t becoming in XXL shirts. So I ventured back outside. Shortly thereafter, a Deus associate having limited knowledge of both New York streets and its traffic, gathered everyone for a briefing on the upcoming route through three of the five boroughs, crossing three different bridges and one river twice. We were stoked and ready to ride.

We headed to our bikes, started our engines and woke up any remaining sleepers within a five-block radius. I let those parked behind me pass first to ensure I wouldn’t cut anyone off. We poured one-by-one out of the LES and thus began our invasion of New York City.

We cut through traffic. We turned heads. We ran red lights to stay together. But despite our best efforts, the large group quickly splintered into several smaller ones causing confusion as I tried to determine which riders I was meant to follow because the beautiful weather lured other random riders out that day as well. Despite my doubts, I kept with my crew. This could have been due to the monotony of bike style or ubiquity of tattoos or the various characters found upon further inspection of the group. I kept my eye on the 6’5″ guy who struggled not to overpower his modified Thruxton possessing super low handlebars that made him appear like a hunchbacked giant, yet still incredibly cool; and the cute girl whose vintage Honda kept stalling at every stoplight, backing up the line of bikes behind her but inciting sympathy and assistance from their riders. And I definitely couldn’t overlook the photographers who rode on the back of some bikes because I envied that their arms were free to hold cameras and snap shots of us all over the city. (Thus, you’ll find a link below to their photos in lieu of any I would have loved to have captured myself.)

Our bikes stayed in second gear most of the ride through Manhattan, but once we crossed the Brooklyn Bridge and hit the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE), I was able to shake out the cramps in my left hand and feel the spring wind through my leather jacket. I relished in those few minutes down the BQE more than I’d enjoyed myself in a while. I was finally able to say “good riddance!” to the 19 snow storms we’d had this year and reconnect with my passion for going fast and feeling free. Nothing could divert my attention. It felt like the Buddhist teachings of living in the moment and practicing gratitude united perfectly in my mind. And even though we were all on separate machines speeding at 80 mph with plenty of lag between each bike so that it was no longer apparent we were traveling as a group, each one of us shared the same purpose – we were acting out the mantra that the journey is the destination.

It took a good half hour for all the riders to reach the midpoint meeting location at the base of the Verrazano Bridge. But once we did, our spirits were even higher than when we began a couple of hours earlier. We’d just bonded in the most unusual of ways – by sharing the experience of facing the open air at top speed while ignoring civilized behavior and any obstacle inhibiting our intrepid swarm through the city. We happily posed for more photos and took in the breathtaking view before hitting the road again to finish our day. The most significant part of the ride was behind us, and all that remained were a few more miles and some further bonding time.

We arrived back at Freemans ready to avail ourselves of Deus’ hospitality. They kindly offered us some BBQ and memento t-shirts and charmed me further by complimenting my riding. I’d been on some form of motorized bike since the tender age of 13, despite purchasing my Bonny just one year ago, but I hadn’t ridden since moving to New York. Those comments supported my feeling of the day that my riding had improved. I’d taken mental notes and mimicked others I knew were infinitely more experienced than I and, although subtle, moved my body and bike in ways that felt more skillful. The thrill of my first group ride became so much more in that moment. I not only possessed bragging rights of having ridden with a respected custom motorcycle company but now had an emotional connection with them as well. They helped pull me out of my comfort zone, which although is not that difficult to do, still is not frequent enough in my life. They helped introduce me to others with whom I now have a history and have also helped increase my level of riding. My bike is now in the shop undergoing those modifications I’d been fantasizing about, and the next time Deus graces New York City with their presence, I’ll no longer be a novice stranger but a friend and more confident rider. Until they announce the date in August, I’ll be riding with my fellow Miss-Fires and looking forward to doing it all over again.

To read the blog by Deus Ex Machina and to view their photos, click here.

by Kristen Reed