Snow pelts our faces us as we Tango down the icy sidewalks from the Jupiter NEXT hotel to a local pub in a suburban Portland, Oregon. “I can’t feel my feet,” offers a gruff voice from behind a gaiter as we cautiously scurry alongside Burnside Street’s frozen road. “Riding motorcycles on this terrain is gonna be rough!” I nod in agreement, driving my fists deep into the pockets of my winter jacket. In fact, it’s going to be nearly impossible.
I’m stoked to be joining Chris Cole, iconic professional street skater, to attend the One Motorcycle Show sponsored by Indian Motorcycle in Portland, Oregon. Aside from our visit to The One Motorcycle Show’s 10-Year Anniversary celebration, Cole and I will also get to test ride pre-production models of the new Indian FTR 1200 motorcycle; one of the most anticipated and revolutionary two-wheeled machines in the past decade.
Cole became famous for his mind-blowing skateboarding and physics-defying video parts, winning noteworthy skate competitions, and being crowned “Skater of the Year” twice. (With tremendous prestige, only Chris Cole and Danny Way have been named SOTY two times).
But more recently, Cole acted on his passion for motorcycling and has quickly become a significant player in the moto-culture arena.
ASN sat down with Cole to discuss why skateboarders flock to motorcycling, how skating makes him a better rider, and which bike he currently has tucked away in his garage.
As an already iconic professional skateboarder, what inspired you to recently start riding motorcycles?
Funny enough, I have been obsessed with motorcycles since I was a little kid. I’ve kept myself at bay, considering I’ve always needed my legs to create a business for myself in skateboarding. And my mom always wanted me to stay away from motorcycles. She is an ICU nurse, so she had obviously seen some horrific stuff from bad motorcycle crashes.
But I’ve always loved motorcycles: street bikes, dirt bikes, café racers, choppers, bobbers, you name it. I wanted to get out there and enjoy that freedom with the wind whipping in my face on a machine that moves the way physics works.
So I held off until I felt I had skateboarded professionally long enough that I could maintain a career as a pro skater whether or not I’m skating every day.
Are there other skaters that you like to ride with?
There’s a real sense of camaraderie riding with other skateboarders, that’s even deeper than just the motorcycle connection. We experience the sense of thrill and risk assessment in the same way and we are constantly looking for the geometry in our environments – shapes, bumps, and angles that we want to just send the bike off of it.
I recently rode down to the Linda Vista skate park with Elliot. Having our boards on our bikes and riding to a destination feels so cool.
What was the catalyst that made you get your motorcycle license?
You guys, actually [Cole is referring to writer Eric Hendrikx, Steve Caballero and Elliot Sloan]. I had learned how to ride a motorcycle on different occasions, but then I left it alone for a long time.
After your accident [Cole is referring to a bad motorcycle crash I had in the Swiss Alps leaving me with a dozen broken bones], when you came back to the U.S. and expressed your intention to continue riding motorcycles, I was like, “Dude, I gotta get a motorcycle.” As weird as that sounds [laughs]. So I went and took the three-day safety course and got my license.
It’s so important to learn the ability to navigate trouble and become a confident rider. Like the flat track lessons you and Elliot just did here in Portland on the new Indian FTR 1200. That’s the kind of stuff I want to get down with, for no other reason other than getting better at staying calm and instinctively knowing what to do and how to react in that one second when it matters.
Why do you think so many skateboarders are attracted to motorcycling?
The same thing that makes you good at skateboarding will make you good at riding a motorcycle. As skateboarders, our brains work very quickly. Information gets processed extremely fast: obstacles, objects in motion, speed, and our surrounding environment.
On a motorcycle, if something is kicked up from the road, I have a very small window of time to assess what the object is and whether I need to move quickly out of the way or if it’s just a piece of paper. And I feel like the way a skateboarder processes physics is very similar to the way a motorcyclist needs to process physics in order to stay alive.
It’s all starting to feel very native to me, like I should have been riding a motorcycle my entire life.
What do you think are the biggest challenges of riding motorcycles compared to skateboarding?
Street skating feels more scientific to me, where you gather information, form a hypothesis, test it, make adjustments, and then see if you can get the results with the tricks you hope to land.
Motorcycles are a bit more dire, so you really need to know what you’re doing. If you don’t, you get checked real quick. And bailing on a motorcycle is obviously way gnarlier than bailing on a skateboard, in most cases.
So I would say the biggest challenge is just that motorcycles are way less forgiving. When you’re riding a motorcycle, it’s constant risk assessment.
What motorcycle are you currently riding?
I am riding a 2019 Indian Scout Bobber (matte black with ABS). It’s really awesome and I love the look.
It’s so professionally done. When you walk around it, the engine, the design, it looks like a million bucks. I love that it sits somewhere between a cruiser bike and a café racer in a way. As much as I love the café look, I don’t want something that I have to pin my chest down on the gas tank when I’m riding all the way to Los Angeles.
I constantly get compliments about what an awesome bike it is. Around my area, I definitely ride to skate parks and skate spots all the time.
How do you transport your skateboard?
My friend Matt taught me how to weld and helped me with a custom sissy bar with hooks that lock in perfectly with my 149 trucks on my skateboard. The board sits straight up, right behind me, and then I tie it up like that.
We cut off the backrest of the original passenger seat and then welded the new skate sissy bar right into that. It’s really clean and looks like it was meant to be on the bike.
What did you think of the new Indian FTR 1200 motorcycles we test rode in Portland?
It’s such a rad bike with great performance. It’s beautiful and a totally different kind of bike than the Scout Bobber. Just the little riding on it that I did do, I was leaning in a way that I don’t lean on my bike.
Because of how badass this bike looks, if makes you try to be a better rider. But what’s funny is, all I could really think about was how I could weld a sissy bar onto that back of the bike, so I can take my skateboard with me.
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