Backmarker: Austin The One Show

May 16, 2013
Mark Gardiner
Mark Gardiner
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In 2001, Mark Gardiner gave up his career in advertising, and moved to the Isle of Man to live out his childhood dream of racing in the TT. After returning to the U.S., he wrote a memoir of that experience, Riding Man, which is now in development as a feature film. His column, Backmarker, looks at everything from the motorcycle industry as a whole to intensely personal 'inside stories.'

Portlands Thor Drake drove all the way to Austin  towing a trailer with about a dozen One Show bikes  but most of the machines on display in Austin were sourced through Alan Stulbergs network of friends and clients.
Portland’s Thor Drake drove all the way to Austin, towing a trailer with about a dozen ‘One Show’ bikes, but most of the machines on display in Austin were sourced through Alan Stulberg’s network of friends and clients.

Austin’s Power, Part II

Regular readers know that the first-ever MotoGP race at the zooty new Circuit of the Americas gave me the excuse I needed for a road trip down to Austin, Texas, earlier this spring.

As sort of an unofficial part of the MotoGP weekend, Alan Stulberg (he runs Austin’s Revival Cycles vintage/custom shop) teamed up with Thor Drake to put on an Austin edition of The One Show; it was the first time that the show had ever toured beyond its home town of Portland, Oregon.
The show, which included 60-plus bikes, a display of ‘art’ crash helmets, and an incredible collection of Evel Knievel memorabilia including the infamous ‘jet bike,’ was set up in an empty warehouse in East Austin. The bikes were displayed on low white plinths, with minimal descriptions. A DJ spun tunes with an emphasis on rockabilly, there was locally made beer on tap; there was even an espresso bar — which is the sort of hipster accoutrement to a bike show that could grate on my nerves, but somehow it all worked.

The One Show was, in founder Thor Drake’s own words, “a hair-brained idea.” Thor (it’s pronounced ‘tor’) is a partner in See See Motor Coffee Co., aka CC Motorcycles up in Portland, with Drake McElroy (he was one of the first pro freestyle riders). When they staged the first edition of the show four years ago, it was for people who were inclined, as Thor put it, to “buy a bike they can afford, and turn it into a bike that they want.” One of the bikes in the show was a Honda CT90 trail bike that Thor built himself; he turned it into a sort of urban assault vehicle, with a rattle-can black paint job and a huge black dagger hanging in a sheath off the front fork. It was built for a budget of less than $1000.

The show was and remains free, both for exhibitors and visitors. Basically, their bike-obsessed pals all brought their custom and classic (or merely old) bikes indoors; they shone lights on them, listened to music, drank beer and walked around looking at them. It was a mad success.

This Deus airhead Beemer might show where The One Shows cool factor is headed.
This Deus airhead Beemer might show where The One Show’s ‘cool factor’ is headed.

In the late 1800’s, the biggest Parisian art show was the annual ‘Salon’. But the stuffy judges from the art academy rejected the entries from Impressionists like Edouard Manet. Instead, those artists created their own show. They called it the ‘Salon des Refusés.’ Of course, tastes changed and now, if you could own a painting from that period, you’d want to own one painted by one of the artists who was rejected. The One Show is a show for riders the way the Salon des Refusés was a show for painters. It makes a concours seem stuffy and precocious; it makes a chopper show seem affected.

Austin was fated to be the first city outside Portland to hold the show. “Someone told me that I should get in touch with Thor, and ask him about promoting The One Show here in Austin,” Alan Stulberg, told me. “And when I called him, he said, ‘People have told me that I should call you!’”

To put on the Austin show, Thor brought a dozen or so bikes from the Pacific Northwest, and called friends who lived closer to Austin who had cool bikes to display. Stulberg, who’s obviously well-connected on the local scene, rounded up most of the machines.

Alan Stulberg is a designer and partner in Austins Revival Cycles shop. This heavily breathed-upon Moto Guzzi 850T is a prime example of their work.
Alan Stulberg is a designer and partner in Austin’s Revival Cycles shop. This heavily breathed-upon Moto Guzzi 850T is a prime example of their work.
Revivals style is influenced by Art Deco. Heres a nice touch  in the form of an extensively hand-worked fuel filler cap.
Revival’s style is influenced by Art Deco. Here’s a nice touch, in the form of an extensively hand-worked fuel filler cap.

Stulberg showed several of his own Revival Cycles bikes. His shop’s style involves re-imagining vintage bikes, and freely incorporating modern technological improvements. He walked me through one of Revival’s machines that begun its life as a mid-‘70s Moto Guzzi 850T.

They fitted a beautiful four leading shoe brake from a Yamaha TZ-750, and mated the improved stopping power to a cartridge fork, lifted from a GSX-R750. At the rear, the original Guzzi swingarm/driveshaft was braced and converted to a monoshock. The shock absorber is an Ohlins unit that was original equipment on a Ducati 998. This rolling chassis was set off by a sweet, one-piece aluminum tank and seat. Another modern touch was a MotoGadget keyless ignition.

The highlight might have been Shinya Kimura’s personal, ’46 Harley land-speed record bike. Kimura’s bike won the top prize at Pebble Beach, so that illustrates the range in prestige of some of the machines on display. It also illustrates the way The One Show, originally a Salon des Refusés, is now forced to refuse some exhibitors. Thor told me, “It’s hard to turn people away, but I have to, because it’s a limited space. It’s curated; we pick and choose who we invite, but it’s inclusive, not exclusive.”

The official show hours were 6 p.m. to midnight, and the place was rockin’ by the time I got back into town from the track. I was with a friend of mine, who puts on my own club’s bike show in Kansas City, and he marveled at the number of attractive women in the crowd; somehow, Thor and Alan managed to turn The One Show into a date night. It might’ve been the beer (or, more likely the Texas girls in miniskirts) but I have to say it was the most entertaining bike show I’ve been to in, well, ever.

For more information about The One Show, visit They’ve just published a book, too.

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