Ask any motorcycle enthusiast what they love about the motorcycle scene, and you’re bound to get just about as many answers as the number of people you ask. Still, for as many differences as riders might have, there are certain things that a lot of folks who are drawn to bikes have in common.

First and foremost among those things is a strong do-it-yourself attitude. You know, the kind of mindset where if the thing you want to see doesn’t exist yet, then you’ll get out the appropriate materials and you’ll try to make it yourself. Depending on your background, that may also involve teaching yourself new skills to get it done, but that’s hardly any deterrent to your brand of determination.

And maybe it won’t come out like you see it in your head at first, but if you really want it, you’ll just keep on going until it does. Along the way, you might end up changing your approach, and you might tweak little things as you learn more about what works and what doesn’t. Eventually, if you’re lucky, you’ll get to where you want to go.

It doesn’t even have to be about a bike, necessarily. The thing you might want to see could be something related, like posters. Or It could even be a magazine (fancy that). Maybe it’s a series of photographs documenting the culture of the particular place and time that you’re enjoying. Or a documentary film.

The One Moto Show 2023 by Mr. Pixelhead

Or perhaps it could be a combination coffee/motorcycle shop and community gathering place, like See See Motorcycles. For Portland, Oregon’s Thor Drake, the idea of combining two things he loved—motorcycles and coffee—just made sense.

Well before he got into motorcycles, Drake was deep into snowboarding and skating—two areas where community and a sense of inclusivity are both urgent and key. Bikes have obviously proven to be an important part of his journey, but they didn’t enter the story until later.

But, as is true in many cases, Drake’s early background informed how he approached motorcycling once the bug finally bit him and held on tight. Coming from those snowboarding and skateboarding communities informed the way that he and his buddies approached motorcycling as well.

Instead of being too cool to share your passion with the newbies on the block, Drake’s idea was one of inclusivity and support for anyone interested in bikes, no matter where they were coming from. They could be into it for years, or they could just be discovering it and checking it out for the first time. You think it’s cool? Awesome, so do we. Why don’t we hang?

As the story goes, that’s the type of moto community that he and his buddies wanted to build in Portland. So, that’s why they built See See. It’s also why they built The One Motorcycle Show, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary in 2024. Times, venues, and people may have changed, but the ever-broadening sense of community and inclusivity remain the same. Bikes are cool. Art is cool. Cars are cool. Building a community is, dare I say it, cool.

I recently had the chance to catch up with Thor Drake on the phone ahead of the 2024 One Moto Show, where he was kind enough to give us some insight into what it all means and why The One has been and continues to be so special to so many people.

The following conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.

So, 15 years of The One. How... 

Yeah. How the hell did that happen? 

I was going to ask, is this just something you're just like, "Yeah, okay, it's just another year," or is it like, "Wait, I feel like I just started this, and now somehow we're at year 15"?

The craziest part about it all is that I never really imagined that this would be the job that I would... It's just so farfetched from what I thought I was going to be as an adult. But that's the stop and like "what the hell" moment, you know? It's like I'm interested in building things, but I'm more hands on, you know? 


So, building something essentially using your mind and parts of things is similar, but it's so different, you know? It's so much more stressful. I always in my free time will go work with wood because I'm like wood never argues or decides to do something different. You just can work with wood, and if you cut it in half, you can always glue it back together or screw it back, you know? 

But no, the cool thing about it is that it's like a human, after enough training and trial and error, you kind of grow something into something that can have its own life in a way, you know? Like, after 14 years of trying different things, it's built more momentum than I can stop. And so, it's just interesting to see how it grows without me having to do as much as I used to have to do. I mean, it's still, of course, it's more than ever, but for somebody with my brainpower to put on an event this big is nearly impossible unless it has the momentum that it's had over the last 15 years. 

Well, how did it get started? Like, what made you go, "Yeah, I'm going to do this," that first year? 

Yeah, it was kind of a little bit of luck. So, I had this idea of building motorcycles, I was into dirt bikes.

But then I started to get into street bikes and the cafe kind of culture was something that was appealing because it was very easy to get into and there were not really border walls around it, it was pretty free and open. And so, I kind of mashed the two up and I built a cafe racing looking dirt bike thing.

But then it didn't really quite fit into the normal style of custom bike shows. I think at the time it was heavily chopper, kind of West Coast chopper. Yeah, like 2007-2008, like that.

Building a cafe bike just wasn't really, outside of vintage motorcycle gatherings and shows and things, it wasn't really like you would take an XR400 and build a cafe racer. That wasn't really a thing then. So, we did that. I built those bikes, and this will be a common theme with everything I say. I sort of ‘cart before the horse’, start with an idea and then build a lifestyle around it. But the idea was these cool lightweight little street ripping dirt bikes.

And then we traveled around with IMS. And it wasn't the right fit. And then my day job, well, I had two day jobs. I was building trade show booths.

And I guess it was more my night job to pay for my day job, which was interning at an advertising agency. Sorry, I'm jumping around here a little bit. 

That's okay.

Because there's a couple of details that matter. During the economy crash, I was doing creative design and construction for set design and doing commercials and trade show booths. Anything that was creative building, that was my zone. Restaurants, whatever, just anything I could get my hands on that was creative and building.

So, when that hit, I sort of wasn't making good money, but doing twice the work. And so the only people hiring were advertising agencies for doing commercial work.

So, I'm like, "There's got to be something to this." And so I went and applied to a very exclusive advertising program at Wieden & Kennedy, and I got in. And basically they had me fooled, so I paid an immense amount of money to intern for Wieden & Kennedy for a year. 

Oh, wow. 

And so I learned a lot in a short amount of time. But to pay for that, I would work at night building trade show booths. And so towards the end of the year, the trade show booths I was building would be shipped out to the trade show circuit for snowboarding and stuff.

So, I'd rented this building to do that, and it was the cheapest building I could rent, and I had the space for the rest of the month after the thing left. Simultaneously, to keep my brain interested in advertising, I was concepting the show, as in like, role playing it.

And then I was getting my fellow students to help me design posters. I was sneaking posters out the back door of the studio. And just using the concepts that I was developing in the advertising program to a real-life situation with something I was passionate about was motorcycles.

Yeah, so I guess those three things. I was working on a trade show booth, I had the space. I was working as an advertising dude, and so I was using those concepts. And then my passion was motorcycles.

And I just threw them all together and a Hail Mary and the first show definitely had quite a bit of magic. It was super well attended and just had a cool vibe to it, and the concept of the show resonated.

And the concept is like the oneness, the idea of a motorcycle in the mind changes from person to person. Like if I say motorcycle, you envision something different in your mind than what I probably envision. 


And that's sort of the case for every single type of motorcyclist. But the idea is that you become sort of over time this, not expert, but knowledgeable in one style of motorcycle and try to always, if you're a builder or a racer or a tuner, whatever, you're always trying to strive for that perfection of what's in your mind there. So, it's a little bit heady. It's Plato's idea of the table. 


It's a little bit nerdy, but I always sort of like philosophy. I'm not trained...

No, it's cool. any stretch, but I dig the concepts of philosophy. I thought that that was an interesting way to think about the culture that I was into. 

Yeah, that is definitely an interesting and different way to frame it. And I mean, even beyond what you were talking about with like taking the SR500 and turning it into a cafe racer. Yeah, it can be whatever you make it. 

Yeah. Yeah, I was into SR500s, right? And they don't make those... Well, they make the SR400 now, but at the time, you couldn't find those anywhere. And they're expensive. You could find XR400s everywhere, and that was a far superior motor, a similar platform, it's just the layout was different. So, we just took the things I knew about the SR and transferred them over to the XR and tried to kind of come up with something that looked familiar. 

The One Moto Show 2023 by Mr. Pixelhead

Cool. So, how did it grow from there over the intervening 13 years? 

A lot of hard work and determination. 

The second year, like any sequel to a movie, was hard and some hard lessons learned as well. But I'm just stubborn enough that instead of giving up, I told people that had any sort of negative input that I would do it for the next 10 years. 

[Laughter] Got it. 

[Laughter] So, it was like, "Well, you're stuck with me for the next 10 years so

[More Laughter] 

And then I didn't really know what I was saying at that point. Just 27 or maybe I was 28 by that time. Yeah, I thought that would be a substantial amount of time that would sort of encapsulate a point in history in the motorcycle world. So, I stupidly said 10 years after the second year, which, like I said, the second year was probably the toughest show outside of the fifth year where it snowed two feet in the middle of the show. 

Oh, no. 

Which doesn't sound like a ton if you live in Chicago, but if you live in Portland where they have one snowplow driver that got stuck at home probably because he couldn't get to the snowplow. It just locked up everything. There's only two businesses open that weekend, the fifth year. That was The Snow Show, is what everybody calls it. There was the strip club across the street. And the One Show. 


And everybody were at each place and crisscrossing back and forth. Everybody says it was their favorite show, and I always say it was my least favorite outside of number two. 

So, what happened with Number Two? 

Just I think that you try to duplicate the magic of one, right? Like you try to do the thing and then you set yourself up for disaster.  Maybe. And I was pretty naive. I mean, we all are in our 20s, right? 

Of course. 

That's the magic of being in your 20s. 

Oh, yeah. For sure.

And so I didn't think about certain aspects of motorcycle culture that I probably should have. And it was just tough because you're trying to relive that success of year one. And either people say thanks, or they say something negative. If you're in this line of work and you pour your heart out to everybody and somebody has something bad to say, it's like, "Gosh, is this not good enough for you?" I tried everything.

That was just a tough, I mean, just a tough year for me. It was a life lesson. It was a good year though. Like I said, instead of giving up, I went full headfirst at full speed the opposite direction, which is good. In the end, it was a good thing. And then we'd gotten to 10 years.

And everybody was like, oh, they heard this is the last year. It's been so awesome. I can't believe you guys are shutting down the show. And at that 10-year mark, a lot of new shows were popping up.

Which was great. It was confirming that there's a lot more people interested in this thing than I initially had imagined. And that was a good life lesson too because we started off the conversation, I said I never imagined myself in this position.

The sort of magic of life is that you're living the life that you're creating, and it's creating a life for you that's bigger, you know? 

That's true. 

The magic of it is you never know what's going to happen until sometimes life has bigger things for you, right? So, we've gotten into 10 years, and I'm like, "I'm kind of good at this. It'd be a shame to just give up now."

So, it was just this realization that we'd gotten sort of good at the thing that we were doing, and it was exciting to keep it going, and there was no reason to stop. I mean, people were still excited about it. So, yeah. 

You've talked about some of the challenges, but are there specific things that stick out in your mind as challenging moments, other than shows two and five? 

Well, I would say that, I mean, everybody's got their own perfect idea of what you should be doing.

And the challenge is to skate the line of what you hold yourself to. As a show, you can't survive by just saying it's going to be small.

There's no interest. Unless you're completely content with 10 people showing up and 5 bikes, there's no point in continuing to do a show that stays the same size, stays the same. For me, okay, I'm just speaking about for me. Progression, to me, is the excitement of trying to grow the show, but keep the vibe the same, so it doesn't feel like this experience that nobody wants.

It still has the cool, edgy, wild, but the truth of it is the reason people like to go look at motorcycles is because they're into that thing. They don't want to go to a big convention hall to do that. They'd rather just stay in their garage and look at motorcycles. 


But if they want to see other people's bikes, they might as well want to be in a place that's comfortable and unique. And so, for me, it's really creating those spaces. In each show we basically erase the drawing board and kind of put pieces that we know will work into place and really invent each show differently.

And we've been doing the show down at this place called the Zidell Building, and it was an old ship manufacturing place. It's really dirty and slated to be torn down at some point, but it's just unique and cool, and it feels like going over to your friend's house. It has that feeling of you're at something unique or something with a bit of style.

And so, that's hard. That's hard because everybody, all the core motorcyclist guys, they want it to be core and exclusive. And so, you have to address that.

And I get that too. I'm a motorcyclist. If I'm out riding my favorite trails or on my favorite roads, I don't want hundreds of people there. I mean, I get that sensibility.

But at the same time, I also want to talk to other people who've ridden those roads. So, it's just skating that line of big and small, and that's always a challenge. And with the growth comes more liability and work and money to cover those things. The first eight years of the show were completely free. And about year eight, I realized that I was paying a lot of money for toilets. And I was like, "Wait a second here. I'm paying for you to take a crap at the show, and you're complaining because the crapper was overflowing."

This is not a scenario that's going to continue.

So, I realized that the people who want that customer experience to be better and to feel like they're at something unique, that charging a little bit, a modest amount, is worth it because then you can have clean toilets. 

Everybody's happy. 

Everybody's happy. And I don't have to pay for people to take a crap. It makes me happy.

They can pay for their own crap. 

Yeah, you pay for your own crap. [Laughter] But anyway, yeah, I mean, it's just the toils of business. Everybody likes to think of me as an artist. So, I try to use that as my first lead-in foot, and then try to put my second foot in with a little bit of business. 

How is it balancing those two things? Because that can be difficult for some people. 

Well, in my time riding motorcycles, being involved with motorcycles, when the money runs out, the passion better have a full tank. And when the passion runs out, the money better have a full tank. I make an honest living doing a little bit of See See stuff and a little bit of One Show stuff. I kind of round it out with doing extra credit jobs here and there.

But in all of it, it's just hard work. I mean, regardless if I'm inventing my own job or not, it's just never stopping.

There's a saying I heard when I was younger that says if you love what you do, you'll never work another day in your life.  It just always stuck with me. I was like that's stupid. If you love what you do, you'll work twice as hard to keep doing it. 

[Laughter] That's more my thing. That's been my experience. How can I keep doing this? Yeah. The people that I've met, the places that I've been, and the experiences that I've had, I would say are invaluable. I would probably be making a lot more money doing anything else than what I'm doing, but it's what I like. 

Yeah. So you find ways to make it work.

Or I tell myself that anyways. 

[Laughter] I mean, you've made it this far. 

Yeah. [Laughter] 

I mean, year 15 is kind of impressive.

I don't think I've done anything for 15 years outside of maybe brush my teeth and breathe. 

[Laughter] What would you say is the most memorable thing that you've taken away from all these years of doing the One Moto Show? Or are there too many? 

Well, there's just so many great things. But the thing that I love the best is just realizing how cool motorcycle people are, you know? Because there's this inherent danger and then there's this simplified mechanism that doesn't really work without somebody on top of it, it just creates a super unique type of person. I've just met really interesting people all over the world, and I've gotten to do really interesting things all over the world because of the motorcycles. I mean, that's first and foremost, that's the most memorable thing about it.

There's a lot of really cool things that go into. I love, I don't get to do it much, but I love building motorcycles and having that start-to- finish gratification.

And the show is like the treat, right? You finish your bike and then you get to put it in the show. Regardless if people care about it or not, it's still like a stamp of approval. And as the show promoter, it seems ridiculous to want to put your own motorcycle in your own motorcycle show. It's still fun. I still like building bikes. I just don't get to do it very often. 

What's your favorite bike that you've built so far? 

Well, the current one that I'm building was a bike that I got when I was 15. 

Oh, cool. 

Yeah. And it's a bike that I've... It's one of my first bikes essentially, and I've rebuilt it a few times already. It's never really gotten the whole treatment. It's just always been like parts and stuff that I found laying around and bolted on.

It's a really ugly bike, or it was, and my hope is to design it and build it like I imagined when I was first starting out in this whole thing at the age of 22 or 23. So, using the parts that I always wanted. Now that I got adult paychecks, I can put proper paint on it.

And make it safer. I think I rode that thing without a rear brake for probably at least six or seven years. But yeah that's a cool bike. Last year I built my son a custom bike and put it in the show, and it was really neat to have him see the bike in the middle of the show with all these people around. That was cool. It was a PW50 that my little brother dumped on me that was just trash pile of junk that I, in my thrifty ways, thought I would save money by rebuilding. 

The One Moto Show 2023 by Mr. Pixelhead

Did you end up spending more in parts than buying a new one? 

Well, yeah. I mean, that's the way it goes. I should have known that that was going to happen, but you always fool yourself going into building a bike. Yeah, I'll just spend a couple bucks. 

Yeah, it'll be fine. It'll be fine. I'll replace some gaskets; I'll get some O-rings. It'll be all good. 

Put some gas in it maybe. Fire it up. Ride it forever. 

It'll be fine. Maybe a little Sea Foam. It'll be fine.

Yeah, yeah. But some neat bikes that I've built. Every year we have a bike in the show that has a full espresso machine and all the inner workings of making coffee. That's a cool bike because it makes great coffee and it's fully functional as a sidecar motorcycle. 

And then, similar to that one, I built a Traeger, like a wood pellet smoker grill. 

Oh, yeah. I'm pretty sure I've seen that. 

Yeah. And that one you can actually grill and ride, which really speaks to the two things I love most in the world, which is eating and riding motorcycles. 


So, that one's very cool. When I debuted it in Sturgis, I threw some hot dogs on and rode into town with the hot dogs rolling around in there. And they heated up so hot and so evenly that they exploded inside the grill and there was just hot dog particles smattered all around inside the grill. 

Did you have all the neighborhood dogs following you around? 

Oh, yeah. We had a whole smoke trail coming out the exhaust pipes of the grill. It smelled good. 

The One Moto Show by Mr. Pixelhead

Wow. Is there anything else you would like to tell us about this year's show? 

Yeah, we've brought racing back. We teamed up with Wisconsin's very own Flat Out Friday. 

Those guys are awesome. Like I said earlier, it's the people. And just getting to know Jeremy and Warren and Scott, and they're the same type of person, completely different. Right? 

They enjoy probably the same sense of humor and same everything, but just in a completely different way. It's been great to get to know them. That's really exciting to bring their races over and collaborate with another great show. 

And just for anybody that's never been to the show, I can't stress this enough, it's something that you have to experience. There's no cool photo or video that could ever do the show justice. It truly is the One Motorcycle Show. It really has this magic to it that brings all types of weirdos together. It's a bit of a circus. You'll get something out of it. Everybody does. It's unclear what that might be but it's pretty fantastic. 

That's awesome. Yeah, when I saw that you guys were teaming up with Flat Out Friday, I was like, "You know, that makes so much sense." And at first I thought it had already happened because it felt like a thing where the math was right there. So, I was surprised that this was the first year that that was happening. 

Yeah. I've put on races before. 

I've just done it, and it's... I like to collaborate. It's more fun to collaborate. 

That's where I was like we don't really make any money on the races, so let's just at least have some fun with it and collaborate with somebody that does a great job at it.  Yeah, we partner with them, it's been really fun and exciting, and I hope that that goes off really well. I hope that it continues to grow. 

How big do you think it's going to be as far as people bringing bikes and displaying art and all the other parts that are part of the show? Like, what are you expecting for this year?

Well, last year it was a pretty epic show. The weather was really nice, and we had, I think, through the door over the weekend about 23,000 people.

And we had 600 submissions last year. I think we're about pretty close this year with bike submissions.

A little less. Lots of cool vendors, tons of art, tons of great... Like lots of bands. We have 12 bands playing over the course of the weekend. We've got the Seattle Cossacks doing their stunt show again, and freestyle motocross, BMX. For the first time ever, we're doing a skateboard contest inside the show to try that out. 

That's cool. 

Yeah, so it's really it's like a motorcycle show, but it's kind of just an event that's got motorcycles at it, and cars, and everything, really. 

How many cars do you get? 

There's about 40. And it's real broad too. Everything from a military tow truck that pulls tanks out of the desert, a pretty wild thing, to custom Corvettes, rare cars. It's like kind of the One Show in the car world. There's not like a hot rod show where you go and everything's held to a certain standard. It's really kind of interpretive as far as what the person submitting thinks is cool, and we think that's cool. 

Is there anything else you would like to tell us about the show or in general? 

Just, I guess, I don't know, take this for what it's worth, but every detail, we curate down to the sponsors and all the vendors. We do it at these old weird locations so that we're able to control every aspect of the show and really make it have that punk rock sensibility, but in a good and positive way instead of it being left to a catering company to do all the liquor. Every part of it is done by a group that's invested, and I think that that's sort of a unique thing in this day and age. 

So, you can really sort of feel the character and the fact that the people who have their hands on it care.

Yeah, I mean, even down to the sponsors. I was just on a sponsor call today with Progressive, and all those guys are just so excited about the creative aspects that we can activate on at the show. There's not much creative things about insurance, but the fact that the people that are involved with even that side of things, right, are trying to bring creative outlets to a show. So, yeah, it's like a fun project just to work on in that regard. Yeah. 

Cool. Since you've been doing it for so long, I would imagine that you've got certain things that let you know that you're on track for having everything ready. But do you feel like you guys are ready for this year? 

[Laughter] All I can say to that is that I've got 15 years of worrying about the show not being successful, and every year it doesn't. So, the only confidence I have is that I had 15 years of worrying about it, and it's always working out. It's sort of a grim view of confidence, I think. 

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It's like it's going to work out, but what if it doesn't? 

Yeah, totally. Yeah, I mean, it couldn' might... As far as I know, we're pretty good at it. But there's also the sentiment if everything is going good, you've obviously overlooked something. 

Right. You start wondering what you forgot. 

Yeah. No, but I just trust the process, right? Like, you get in an's the same thing. There's been a history of process that has developed a successful, sounds like a funny analogy, but a successful outcome. But any one of those things could break down and have an unsuccessful outcome.

You’ve just got to trust the process. Yeah, it's like motorcycling. 

Putting on a show is just like motorcycling. You gear up, check everything that you can, you get ready, make sure that your bike's not going to explode, put the oil in it, air up the tires, trust the process. 

Of course, you can hit a bit of gravel and slide out, but you can usually recover from that. Trust the process, it's a process. 

Yeah. And hope that your muscle memory holds up. 

Yeah, totally. So, that's where I'm at. 

I think it's going to be successful. I mean, it's a show that people seek, and you get a lot of attention from all different areas. A few people leave one year and then a few new people come the next year, so it always balances out. 

Cool. Awesome. Well, I hope it goes spectacularly well for your 15th anniversary. 

Yeah, me too.

The 15th edition of the One Motorcycle Show runs from April 19 through 21, 2024 at the Zidell Yards in Portland, Oregon. This year, Flat Out Friday racing will take place on Friday evening (obviously) of the weekend at the Portland Expo Center. Find full details, including ticketing information, here.

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