By Dante Zuniga-West | Published June 2016

In a world of technologically advanced luxury sedans, hybrid vehicles, and driverless cars, riding a motorcycle is far from a necessity. Some would say it is a calling. No other method of transportation feels the way a motorcycle does. Piloting a two-wheeled motorbike, whether headed to work, cruising, or speeding down an open road, elicits a feeling of freedom enjoyed by those who dare.

Similar to any pursuit that can also be categorized as “a way of life,” the world of motorcyclists encompasses a wide range of enthusiasts, values, and customs. Cruisers, racers, hobbyists, weekend warriors, and soloists. . . all are united by two wheels, an engine, and the beautiful form of sensory overload experienced by riders of the open road.

“It is definitely different things to different people,” says Jeff Homolka, rider and owner of ProCycle shop (procycle.us) in Springfield. “Some are drawn to the status and style of a big, loud, shiny cruiser bike. Some are drawn to the precision and power of a 1000cc sports bike. Some see a motorcycle as the key to exploring out-of-the-way places.”

Not surprisingly, motorcyclists are a varied bunch.

The Happy Hobbyist

There is an old saying that goes something like “Happy is the man who can make a living by his hobby.” Homolka is one who could attest to this colloquialism, having turned his love of motorcycles into a lifestyle and a profession. Homolka was hooked on motorcycles at the age of 18, when a friend of his bought a bike—from the very moment his friend let him ride that bike, he was all in.

“Back then I was a bit of a sports car nut—a motorcycle had all the fun and excitement of a sports car without having to deal with temperamental English or Italian engineering,” Homolka says. “A lot of the motorcycle riders I know probably have more in common with car buffs or antique collectors than they do with other riders.”

As someone who sees such a wide range of motorcycle enthusiasts come through his shop, Homolka unsurprisingly perceives the world of two-wheeled dynamos as a bag of assorted flavors. As a retailer who provides the community with an expansive menu of bike brands and models, he sees quite the gamut.

“The motorcycle world is very diverse and compartmentalized,” Homolka says. “There are active groups of dirt bike riders, lots of Harley riders, people who commute on scooters, sport bike riders who take their bikes to Portland to ride on the race track, and dual sport riders who load up and go camping. For the most part these groups don’t mix much.”

A common thread that can be traced through Eugene’s motorcycle community is the environmental aspect of riding, Homolka says. There is an extrasensory element to riding a motorcycle that automobilists are unable to feel or partake in.

“When you are riding a motorcycle, you are much more present in the environment than riding in a car,” he says. “You feel the temperature changes, smell the smells of the countryside, feel the road beneath the tires.”

Community Heroes

Let’s face it, in contemporary American culture, sometimes motorcycle clubs get a bad wrap. Blame it on Hollywood, Hunter S. Thompson’s gonzo journalism, or the Hells Angels. There is a stigma attached to the very notion of many black-leathered, road-riding cyclists heading down the highway together. Heads turn, and not always comfortably. Although there are clubs on the West Coast who do embody the Sons of Anarchy lifestyle, the reality of most motorcycle clubs is far, far tamer. And frankly, inspiring, like Eugene’s own Anubis Ridans Motorcycle Club where family is of first importance.

It might surprise you to find club members spending most of their weekly meetings (called church), devising fundraisers to help fill the gaps of their own kid’s sincerely underfunded Bethel School District. Members of the club tithe money from their own pockets weekly, and plan events, annual gatherings, and rides to garner support and raise money for the school district. In 2015, they raised serious dollars, which the club donated to various local charities. Meet the boys in 2016 at the chili cookout, as well as other local events and thank them personally for all that they do for our community. Sure they’re not a tax-deductible 501(c)(3) nonprofit, but unlike a lot of nonprofit organizations, 100 percent of your cash donations are actually reinvested in the community–no salaries here folks!

Ladies Ride Out

And now the girls can get in on the fun too with Eugene’s very own all-female motorcycle riding group, The Headlights. “I’d actually been thinking about forming a women’s motorcycling group since attending the American Motorcycle Association’s Women & Motorcycling Conference in Carson City back in 2012,” recalls Lisa Lindquist, co-founder of the group and owner of Freudian Slip in the Fifth Street Public Market. “That was such an amazing event. There were seminars, dinners, group rides, opportunities to test-ride different motorcycles, and, best of all, a whole community of really fantastic women riders!”

Lindquist, alongside fellow club founders Alyssa Blackwell and Khrystal Berry, have created a close-knit community of riders who have been on the open road together since 2015.

“We have really enjoyed getting to know and ride with women here in our community,” Lindquist says. “We’ve also connected with the founders and members of the Rainier Ravens, a women’s motorcycling group up in Seattle, as well as women riders from Southern Oregon. It’s been so delightful to get together and ride with like-minded women. This is just what I’d dreamed about years ago. It’s such a thrill!”

Because Eugene is a smaller city growing into its motorcycle scene, The Headlights sometimes go up to Portland for events such as the Motorcycle Film Festival and the Spring Opener. But Lindquist and company love Eugene for the raw scenic beauty of their rides, taking full advantage of their surroundings.

The Fast Lane

For riders who crave the sheer physical thrill that a motorcycle can provide, nothing quite wets the whistle like the racing circuit. Imagine a place where a motorcyclist’s average speed is 98 to 100 miles per hour, and then try to bend your mind around such a feat, for a second. That world is a place rider Kinzer Naylor calls home.

“I want to ride the machine to peak performance,” Naylor says. “On the street you can’t go fast. On the track, it’s just you and your motorcycle. No obstacle; the only obstacle is you.”

Naylor knows a thing or two about this sort of endeavor. The born-and-raised Eugenean holds 10 Expert Race wins with the Utah Sport Bike Association club located in Tooele, Utah, at the renowned Miller Motorsports Campus. He holds two Western Eastern Road Racing Association national wins, as well as the King of the Mountain Turismo Unlimited Championship. These are some of the highest accolades a racer can achieve before going pro. Naylor is going pro in 2016, and can be seen racing with MotoAmerica.

After 15 years, racing motorcycles continues to inspire Naylor, who seems to approach riding race bikes the way a martial artist partakes in competition matches. “There is no perfect lap, but every racer is looking for it,” he says. “At 160 miles an hour you aren’t seeing anything around you, you’re just feeling it.”

Whether you’ve been riding for years or are saddling up for the first time, Eugene is the perfect locale to meet with like-minded riders who enjoy blazing down the open road, sharing the rush of adrenaline it elicits, taking in Lane County’s lush scenery, and feeling the wind beat your face as you speed down the road—destination unknown.