To the avid motorcyclist, you might not think classic Harleys, custom choppers and off-road Ducatis have a lot in common. But Thor Drake, owner of See See Motorcycles, is a unifier in the disparate world of Northwest motorcycling. Through the last decade he has managed to corral legions of riders together under a common roof … actually, several roofs. Founded in 2008 in Northeast Portland, See See Motorcycles, is a hybrid motorcycle garage, coffee shop and retail space. A hub of Oregon motorcycle culture, the space serves steaming hot cups of their own locally roasted blend and hosts bi-monthly art shows, swap meets, bike racing, bike maintenance basic nights — most notably, the annual One Moto Show, the biggest custom bike show in the world. The One Moto Show showcases over 200 custom-built bikes, with 60,000 biking enthusiasts attending annually. The builds range from classic Harleys, cafe racers, off-road adventure bikes, to interpretive art pieces and more, representing a full range of moto interests, all intermingled.
Drake says his secret is inclusivity. The idea for the motorcycle shop and garage hybrid space came about when he started building bikes. At the time, Drake’s background was in snowboarding and skateboarding, both of which have very shop-centric communities. In fact he was originally drawn to Oregon from Northern Arizona as a snowboarder working at the summer camps at Mt. Hood. Later, after settling in Portland, he started building bikes, “You know, really crappy ones,” he jokes, “I had no idea what was going on.”
Soon Drake found that, not having grown up riding, motorcycling could be kind of exclusive and judgmental. He says, “I decided, if I ever created something it would be accessible to the people who were curious about it. The mission would be to create a motorcycle-inspired brand that’s also a bridge-builder to allow people the opportunity to learn.”
Drake points to the See See logo, a friendly smiling face with two Cs for eyes, as an example of the welcoming vibe. All bikes are welcome here, says Drake, “I always say if it’s got two wheels and a motor. It’s okay in my book.” The model has proved successful with motorcycle café locations expanding to locations in St. Johns (Portland) and Newberg (Willamette Valley).
The Biggest Custom Bike Show
At the same time Drake founded See See, he also serendipitously staged the first One Moto Show in a small space among a group of friends. Now in its 12th year, the show is a melting pot, blending the independent Portland lifestyle with motorcycle art and culture. It’s an opportunity for custom bike builders, both hobbyists and professionals, from around the U.S., and internationally to show off their builds. The custom-built motorcycles range from vintage restorations to one-of-a-kind creations. You’ll see adventure bikes, sidecar bikes, café racers, mini-bikes, electric bikes … even motorcycle-inspired vehicles. There’s moto art (a special shout out to Sara Flynn’s moto-inspired quilts on display this year), a display of custom helmets, bike demos, food vendors and more. Drake says, “The One Show is for riders, non-riders, moto-curious, and everyone in between—young and old. It’s really a celebration.”
For 2021, the show was scaled back and moved to a larger indoor-outdoor venue at Zidell Yards, an old barge building space on the waterfront. Drake is looking forward to “hitting it hard next year,” which means bringing back live music and more of the social aspects of the event, but was grateful to offer a scaled-down bike focused show this year.
Oregon is a Hot Spot for Motorcycling
Drake doesn’t see the enthusiasm for riding or the motorcycle culture in general slowing down. In fact, many people are only just discovering the land of plenty that Oregon is for riding, both on the scenic motorcycle routes and the OHV designated trail system. Drake says, “I’ve traveled the world and I’ve never been to a better place. From the volcanoes to desert valleys, rivers, and the coast.” He adds, “It’s so unique because Oregon has so much history of industry, all of these backwoods roads that were developed for logging and mining, take you to these really unique locations.”
There is a seasonal rhythm to the riding here in Oregon, Drakes says, “Mid-summer is too hot and dusty in the mountains, so we ride bikes out on the roads and go camping. In the spring and fall, we ride the dirt bikes; you can ride and commute in every season.”
Favorite Motorcycle Rides in Oregon
Drake shared some of his favorite rides out of Portland along Oregon Scenic Byways, through national monuments, along the Columbia River, to the Pacific Coast, into Oregon wine country, over dormant volcanoes and more:
Highway 26: Journey Through History
Ride from Portland on the Mt. Hood Scenic Byway along Highway 26 over Mt. Hood. Continue following Highway 26 to 216 through Maupin. You’ll notice the landscape changing as you head into the wool-capitol-turned-ghost-town of Shaniko, where you connect to the Journey Through Time Scenic Byway. Follow the route heading southeast on Highway 218 to Antelope, through Fossil, past the famous “big bend in the road.” Following along the Scenic Byway past the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument and finishing at the historic mining town of Sumpter. There’s plenty of opportunities for camping and exploring along this route.
Highway 30: North of Portland Along Lush Waterways
A great short ride originating from See See Portland, take Highway 30 following the Columbia River to Sauvie Island, ride around enjoying the lush landscape and waterway views and then circle back to Portland.
For a longer version, continue following Highway 30 past Sauvie into Scappoose. From here, gas up and follow the Scappoose Vernonia Highway West, you can follow Highway 47 north to Clatskanie. (Drake also recommends an alternate route exploring the network of logging roads leading to Clatskanie). Follow Highway 30 west to Astoria with the option of exploring the Nicolai Mountain OHV Area. Astoria is where the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway originates. Follow the Byway south to Seaside along the Pacific Ocean and then loop back on Highway 26 back towards Portland or connect through Vernonia back to Highway 30 and south into Portland.
Highway 219: Willamette Valley Hillsides and Vineyards
From See See Portland, cross over the St. Johns Bridge to Highway 30 West, head east on Newberry Rd/Skyline Blvd to Highway 219/SE Cornelius Pass Road through the Willamette Valley and on to See See Newberg. Drake considers it one of his favorite scenic rides.
Interstate 84: The Historic Columbia River
Head out of Portland on Marine Drive along the Columbia River on to the I-84 to Troutdale. From here, follow the Historic Columbia River Highway Scenic Byway east passing waterfalls and hiking trails. Circle back over the Bridge of the Gods and ride west back toward Portland. Drake suggests listening to Woody Guthrie’s Columbia River Collection album for this ride.
Highway 224 to Highway 26: Cascades to the Painted Hills
From Estacada, follow the West Cascades Scenic Byway/Highway 224 south to Detroit. Continue on the Byway to where it connects with Highway 20 east to Sisters, then follow Highway 126 east to Prineville. Follow Highway 26 to the Painted Hills outside of Mitchell. You’ll find great swoopy corners, old mining towns to stop at and stunning scenic overlooks.