For a hardcore, longtime motorcyclist, reviewing the new documentary, Why We Ride is a tricky thing. Certainly, I’m completely biased about the subject, and it is a huge part of my life. So, before I review Why We Ride, I can tell you this—go see it, regardless of what I tell you about the move. There are no spoilers, so read on.
Let’s start off with the good. Why We Ride is filled with fantastic photography from Andrew Waruszewski and Douglas Cheney (though a bit slo-mo heavy), evocative music from Steven Gutheinz (full disclosure: my wife works for a company that represents the composer), and a story well told by Chris Hampel. Much of the narrative focuses on 1930s and ’40s great Ed “Iron Man” Kretz, an important, though often overlooked, part of motorcycling history. It’s great to see Kretz get some modern-day attention.
An important thing to remember when going to see Why We Ride is that the “We” in the title is not the collective “We”. The movie focuses on telling us why the people in the documentary ride, and it does so in an intimate way. However, in a strange editorial choice, the people interviewed are not identified until the end—some of them you will recognize, while others you will not. Unfortunately, you’re kept guessing, and that detracts from the stories they’re telling as you’re lacking a context for the information.
Probably my biggest problem with Why We Ride is that the movie is oddly devoid of humor. I didn’t laugh once. I don’t recall anyone in the movie laugh, and smiles are fairly rare. Motorcycle riding is portrayed as a deadly serious endeavor, indulged in by people who feel compelled to participate, without truly explaining the motivation of their compulsion. Even the youngsters in the movie are serious beyond their years.
For me, motorcycle riding is much more fun. It’s something we do because we simply enjoy it. When we’re out riding, there are lots of laughs and friendly camaraderie. Sure, we care about the sport, and when we race we can get serious, but at the end of the day, it’s laughing, smiling, back-patting and bench racing that is a big part of why most of us ride—or at least why we ride with other people.
There are three ways of looking at Why We Ride.
One way is that Why We Ride is a movie for motorcyclists. It succeeds on that level, as we already know why we ride, and much of the imagery and testimony in the movie reminds us. We can fill in the blanks ourselves and come out quite happy we spent some time in the theater enjoying seeing motorcycles portrayed positively on the big screen.
A second perspective is that it’s a movie motorcyclists can use to hook in their friends. In this case, Why We Ride is lacking, as it doesn’t capture the casual fun of motorcycling. A non-rider watching this may find the sport to be a bit foreboding, rather than welcoming. The interviewees are so serious, that you almost feel like you’re joining a cult. Fortunately, if you take a friend, you can let him know why you ride.
The third is that the documentary is simply there to show non-riders what the sport is about. Again, the sport will look like a very serious endeavor, with little room for smiles and fun. This is where the opportunity is lost. It’s amazing that a movie that gives a good amount of screen time to comedian Alonzo Bodden (I had never heard of him, and didn’t know his profession until the end of the Why We Ride), yet he doesn’t say anything to make you laugh and break up the heavy tone of the movie.
Why We Ride is a powerful motorcycling documentary that does, indeed, tell you why the people in the movie ride. Unfortunately, it didn’t tell anyone why I ride or, I dare say, why most of the people I know ride. We don’t do it because we feel a compulsion—we ride because we love it and it’s fun. But, don’t let that stop you—go and see for yourself.
Why We Ride opens November 1, 2013 at the AMC Puente Hills 20 in the City of Industry, California, and runs 89 minutes.
Why We Ride Credits
James Walker – Producer
Bryan H. Carroll – Producer and Director
Chris Hampel – Co-Producer and Writer
Walter Zuck – Executive Producer (Financing)
George Gier – Executive Producer (Creative)
Andrew Waruszewski – Director Of Photography
Douglas Cheney – Director Of Photography
David Blackburn – Editor
Ryan Wise – Editor
Brenda Blair – Production Manager
Ed Kretz, Jr. – Technical Consultant (Deceased)
Andrew Hilton – Consulting Producer
Vicki Hiatt – Music Supervisor
Steven Gutheinz – Music
Brian Klock, Laura Klock, Ed Kretz, Jr. (deceased, September, 2013), Valerie Thompson, Keith Code, Dave Ekins, Kenny Alexander, Melissa Paris, Josh Hayes, Don Emde, Ted Simon, Mert Lawwill, Arlen Ness, Cory Ness, Zach Ness, Troy Lee, Alonzo Bodden, Michael Lichter, Buzz Kanter, Jay Allen, Kenny Roberts, Sr., Jason Disalvo and Joey Pascarella.