I didn’t know what a vlog was before I started riding. As a writer, I was more interested in blogs, and YouTube was a place where you could see your dear friend’s child act in the school play, a compilation of the sexiest ice-bucket challenges, or the footy game you missed last weekend (if you were willing to follow the sketchy link). Then GoPro entered the market and it changed everything. Suddenly you could get a rider’s-eye view in HD with sound that didn’t seem like the guy was riding underwater, or through Hurricane Katrina, or both. Companies also woke up to the idea of advertising for free under the guise of providing product reviews, and a generation of unemployed video editors found work. The video blog, or vlog, was born.
Perhaps I’m already thinking of those long winter months when the bike is up on a jack in the shed with a 40 watt bulb pointed at it. If you’re like me, product reviews midwinter is like a balm to a wind-chapped itch to ride, and a helmet-cam is the closest thing there is to throwing a leg over said motorcycle stored in the shed. I spend a lot of time during the winter on YouTube, learning stuff, buying stuff, or planning on buying stuff once spring hits. In prep for those regrettably not too distant months ahead, here are my favourite motorcycle vlogs and YouTube channels. Enjoy!
Because I subscribe to the free (i.e. cheap) version of WordPress, I can’t embed videos. You’ll have to click on each hyperlink to have a sample vlog open in a separate tab.
Weekly Rides With Rueben was my entrance into not only vlogging but also motorcyling in general. Before I even had my full licence, I went searching one day for tips for newbies, and after a few scattered hits, I stumbled upon Reuben’s vlogs. Reuben (I don’t know his last name) worked for Competition Accessories in North Carolina, and they decided his vlogs would be a good way to generate traffic to the store, I guess. A new video was uploaded every Wednesday and together they were, as he says at the beginning of each video, “a random collection of motorcycle adventures, life on two wheels, and product reviews.” If that sounds eerily familiar, I guess Reuben’s videos heavily influenced my thinking about this blog. Topics covered included riding in the rain, riding at night, avoiding obstacles, and preparing for fall riding, for examples. Then his store started partnering with a nearby dealership and he started doing bike reviews. Reuben also did product reviews from the store in front of the camera, but I think he was more comfortable behind the camera. He never seemed at a loss for words, and was articulate and knowledgeable. I learnt a lot from Reuben over his 74 posts. The posts abruptly stopped without notice because, as rumour has it, the store was bought out. A new guy from another location took over, but it was never the same. Hope you’re doing well, Reuben!
The ancient Roman poet Horace wrote that poetry should both “delight and instruct.” The same could be said for a good vlog, so while I might find it “delightful” to watch Rosie Gabrielle ride through Oman or Ottawa, if I want to learn how to ride, I go where the experienced riders are. Sorry Rosie! Zack and Ari, co-editors at Motorcyclist Magazine, have been riding together for a long time! (Like, since childhood.) They are good riders. In fact, I’ve watched Ari break a track record on a KTM 390, and Zack is no slouch either. Just watch his MC Commute, where he rides a different bike to work each day and gives a review en route. Their show On Two Wheels (again, a rip off from yours truly) is a lot of fun with their humour keeping things light but rarely stupid, and always the bikes are front and centre. One of my favourite episodes is the one on the BMW GS, yeah, the bike that opened up the adventure touring market and spawned my f650GS. But even more than On Two Wheels, I love MC Garage, where Ari walks us through some simple maintenance of our bikes. I have a lot of respect for people who are both good riders and good mechanics. I’ve used some of Ari’s tips to fix not only my bike but also my car. I think Horace would agree that instruction for a hungry audience is also a delight.
If Ari and Zack are good riders, Lyndon Poskitt is a great rider! How great? Dakar great. Podium finisher in Baja great. And he knows his way around a bike too. In fact, he built his bike from the frame up. In Races to Places, Lyndon travels around the world, stopping at various rally races like the Mongolian Rally, The Baja Rally, and of course the Dakar, to try his luck and skill. His key sponsor, Adventure Spec, put together the vlogs of his adventures. Production quality is high, which is especially impressive since Lyndon does all his own filming. I’ve done enough adventure riding to know that when times get tough, the last thing you want to do is stop for a photo (or cutaway, or take 20 minutes to set up a 20 second shot), but Lyndon is committed loyally to his project and followers. I’ve also learnt a lot about different countries vicariously from Lyndon. I’ve followed him across eastern Europe, down into Asia, and now over to Australia. I’ve really been enjoying this series, now starting its 7th season. I’m trying to savour them because I’m almost entirely caught up and will soon have to wait for each new episode.
If you are more into street riding, or rather street racing, you want to check out Lockk9 TT Racing’s channel. Nobody does video editing as well as this guy. I can’t get enough of this video: great editing, great music, not bad riding. It’s a shot of adrenaline on a cold mid-winter morning to get you out the door and to your job.
For product reviews, I go to two sources: Fort Nine and Revzilla. I love Fort Nine because the reviews are thorough and I know that whatever RyanF9 talks about I can get from this Canadian-based online store without the hassle of cross-border issues. I bought my 50/50 tire based on his rave review of the K60 Scout (i.e. “I’m not even going to say this is my favourite pick of the video because the K60 is my favourite tire on the motorcycling market right now”). He’s knowledgeable and funny, and tells it like he sees it, which is not always the case with product reviews. Usually they end up being positive, pointing out only the merits of a certain product. In fact, many so-called “reviews” are really just product descriptions, with very little if any evaluative comments thrown in. Ryan also does pretty good vlogs. In his vlog about how to legally ride off road in Canada (his split infinitive, not mine), I found out about Chemin Scotch north of Hawksbury, and checked it out, and had a blast. In a recent vlog, he talks about having a degree in Art History (Art History!) which really is evidence that what you study in school doesn’t have to be what you do in life. And no one does bike reviews like Fort Nine. They are creative works of art. Apparently Ryan writes the scripts and some guy named Steve handles the editing. Just check out this review for example, in rhyme, of the new BMW 310R. I’m so old I can’t say exactly what he’s parodying, but I think it’s hip hop videos. In another, he says he’s heading back west to BC to start a new chapter with Fort Nine. I hope that includes more vlogs.
For more in-depth product reviews, I go to Revzilla. I don’t know what Anthony drinks in the mornings but I know I want some. A 19′ review of the Klim Badlands jacket? Really? He strips that bad boy down inside and out. Meanwhile, world population has increased by 4,750 by the time he’s done. It’s thorough! How much do Klim pay him to represent their product? How long does it take him to learn all the details of that jacket? Because of the currency conversion and cross border brokerage (motorcycle gear is duty-free, however), Revzilla is not always the cheapest option for me, but I never buy a product without checking out the Revzilla review and user reviews there. Thanks guys! And just to show my appreciation, sometimes I do buy there and have it shipped to Burlington and ride down to pick it up. I especially like their Gear Guides, where they compare a number of select products in the same review. You can salivate all winter long, and drop Christmas hints to loved ones by sharing, or create a wish list of your own for when you’re stinking rich.
I’ve saved the best for last, but I’m going to cheat because it’s not even a vlog. It’s a podcast, but I’m including it because I’ve probably learnt more about the adventure touring experience from Adventure Rider Radio than from any other single source. Yeah, the show caters to adventure riders, but host Jim Martin is always careful not to exclude other types of riders and riding, and much of the information is relevant to motorcycling in general. I’ve learnt everything from the esoteric (e.g. the nitty gritty of motorcycle chains) to the mundane (how to prepare tasty meals in camp, or first aid). One of my favourite things to do during the winter is run a hot bath and listen to ARR on my iPad while I soak away the chills. I’m always keen to learn new skills, especially if it’s from the comfort of a hot bath, and one of my favourite segments is the rider skills segment with Bret Tkacs of PSSOR. The show functions on a donation and sponsor basis and it’s pretty impressive that Jim and his wife churn out a show every week. I’ve been meaning to send a token of my appreciation, and will, because while the show is obviously a labour of love, these kinds of shows don’t survive if not supported by those who enjoy and profit from them.
There are a few others I cruise past from time to time, but I’ll stop there. Drop a comment about your favourite motovlog or channel and I’ll check it out. Or let me know what you think of some of these. Happy fall riding, while it lasts.