Jason Fulford on Motorbike Travel

Photograph by Jason Fulford

1. Was biking always a childhood dream for you? Or did you grow into it?

I started riding a motorcycle in college, under the influence of my boss-turned-friend, David Kucera. He runs an architectural sculpture shop that was in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in the early 90s. That’s also where I learned welding and carpentry, and various other skills like sand blasting and mold-making.

2. For a non-motorcyclist, what’s different about traveling by bike than by car?

It’s much more physical – both to hold up the heavy bike, and also just to be out in the elements. There’s an old joke: Q. How can you tell how happy a motorcyclist is? A. Count the bugs in his teeth.

3. How does the bike change how you photograph?

It’s somewhere between driving a car and walking. There is less separation between you and your surroundings.

Photograph by Jason Fulford

4. How has the bike connected you to places and opened doors to people you’d never meet otherwise along the way?

Once in India, I was going through a crowded roundabout, and the luggage rack on my bike got intertwined with another motorcycle. We carefully pulled over to the side, unhooked the bikes, and then went and had a coffee together.

5. Tell us about a trip you went on: where did it start and end? What are some memories that stuck with you?

The longest trip I’ve made on a bike was from Brooklyn up to the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Minnesota, zig-zagging down the river all the way to New Orleans, and then back up to Brooklyn. It was a cross-country trip, but vertical. This was in 1997. It was the first time I had seen the Midwest.

I was overwhelmed with the beauty of it all. Not like sunset beauty, but signs and buildings and neon and people. I had just read The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon and White Noise by Don Delillo, and I was in my early twenties, so the world felt very mysterious, and I loved it.

Photograph by Jason Fulford

6. What’s the nicest bike you’ve ever ridden?

My friend’s BMW 650 Dakar.

7. What's the most risky or foolish thing that you've done on one of your bike trips?

A few years ago on a curvy mountain road in Crete, a honeybee flew into my helmet. I guess it knocked itself out and then fell down into the collar of my shirt. When it woke up it started stinging my neck. You need serious self-control to not wipe out in that situation.

Photograph of Jason Fulford by Harriet Dean

8. Are there any books or movies that capture what riding a motorbike is like for you?

Maybe Il Sorpasso? But I think it’s more closely related to music, like Doolittle by the Pixies or Hasil Adkins’ Out to Hunch.

Photograph of Jason in Milan by Tamara Shopsin

9. Do you still travel by motorcycle now? Or have things changed?

I don’t own a bike at the moment, but I rent one sometimes when I travel. Tamara, my wife, likes to ride on the back.