Ultimate Motorcycling 20th Anniversary – Kelly Callan Reflects

Ultimate Motorcycling 20th anniversary - Kelly Callan in Colorado
Kelly takes a break on Colorado State Highway 145.

You know how they say time flies, and it speeds up as you get older? Totally true. It’s the only way I can fathom that Ultimate Motorcycling is hitting its 20th anniversary. While I wasn’t there from the beginning, I truly don’t feel 17 years older than when I started contributing. But, of course, that’s because motorcycle riding keeps us young, right?

Editor’s Note: This month, we are celebrating Ultimate Motorcycling‘s 20th anniversary. We will be publishing reflections from members of the Ultimate Motorcycling staff and team. Ultimate Motorcycling Associate Editor Kelly Callan recalls some highlights.

When I look back at all the things I’ve gotten to do since becoming involved with Ultimate Motorcycling, it’s truly an embarrassment of riches. I was still relatively green when it came to street riding when I started doing occasional reviews of small bikes for Robb Report MotorCycling.

Kelly waiting to hit the track at Femmoto on a Kawasaki Ninja 636.

Before Robb Report MotorCycling, my motorcycle riding experience had been heavily weighted toward dirt bike riding. I rode trials bikes and dual sport bikes and had occasional street time on borrowed bikes. I followed the Supercross and motocross series on TV, but had no idea what MotoGP, WSBK, or MXGP were. When I became involved with Robb Report MotorCycling, my two-wheeled life expanded, seemingly exponentially.

Early on, it drove Editor Don Williams crazy every time I swung a leg over a motorcycle I’d never ridden before. We’d head out on a test ride, and I’d be soooo slow he’d ask, “Is there something wrong with the bike?” Nothing was wrong; I just needed a good half hour before I was comfortable and trusted the bike. I can’t remember how long or how many different bikes it took, but I finally got it. Thereafter, I could jump on anything, fire it up, and just go.

Not too long after Robb Report Motorcycling transitioned to Ultimate Motorcycling, I became the Copy Editor. I still kinda miss the late-night proofreading of every piece in the magazine before it was sent off to print. I remember how exciting it was to get each new issue in hand, to flip through the pages and see everyone’s hard work memorialized on that high-quality glossy paper.

2011 Triumph Speed Triple pricing
Kelly somewhere between London and Brighton on the Triumph Street Triple.

One of my most treasured memories—which led to being on one of the last print-edition covers of UM—was a trip with Editor Don Williams to London to test the Triumph Speed Triple and Street Triple R. We had an epic day of test riding from London down to Brighton and back that included an adrenalin-pumping high-speed run following a local Aprilia Tuono rider down backroads. When we got back into London, we were lane-splitting between opposing lanes of traffic (local custom) so as not to miss our deadline returning the bikes to the now-gone Metropolis Motorcycles shop along the Thames. We still talk about that trip.

Over the years, I’ve done a lot of the more structured press launches. Early on, I found them stressful. I wasn’t sure I belonged, as everyone else had years more experience in moto-journalism than me. I didn’t appreciate that there is value in a less-experienced rider’s perspective, as we were all beginners at some point. On entry-level bikes, I might actually be the best person on the staff to send on the launch.

Deep in Death Valley, Kelly guides the Kawasaki KLX250S down a rock slab.

In 2008, I was sent off to the Kawasaki launch of its updated 2009 KLX250S dual sport bike in Death Valley. Because of my extensive trials and dual-sport riding background, dealing with the miles-long, deep desert gravel section and a subsequent serious rock garden stretch had me totally in my element. As I watched other riders struggle, I admired their efforts. It was a reminder that everyone has different skills and experiences. I’ve tried to remember this when I’m in an uncomfortable setting and wanting to shrink away—it’s always an opportunity to grow and expand one’s skills.

Not too long after joining the Robb Report MotorCycling team, I started watching MotoGP and WSBK. I quickly became a fan and squeezed those weekend races onto my TV calendar. In 2011, when we got an invitation to take the Two-Day Skip Barber Superbike School at Laguna Seca, I jumped on it! I still remember how exciting it was to speed down the famed Corkscrew, remembering the epic battle between Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner. Okay, so I wasn’t exactly speeding around the circuit—just learning the basics of body positioning, line selection, braking technique, and timing from the Lead Instructor, the late Michael Czysz. Still, it was a favorite experience that I haven’t forgotten.

Ultimate Motorcycling 20th Anniversary - Kelly Callan in Morocco
Yes, there are tree-climbing goats in Morocco. Kelly had her photo taken with the goats and a local kid.

On the other side of the world, just before the pandemic struck, I had one of my most exotic riding experiences—Morocco. It was another Triumph press ride—a two-day test of the Tiger 900 Rally Pro and Tiger 900 GT Pro. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be riding a motorcycle in Africa, much less haggling over the price of a hand-knotted rug in Marrakech. Our ride took us down to the coastal town of Essaouira for the offroad testing of the Rally. We got to ride on the beach and dirt backroads, but the biggest highlight was the next day on the ride back to Marrakech. One of the best photo ops ever was pulling over to the side of the road to take pictures of the goats in an Argan tree. Yes, goats in trees, it’s a thing in Morocco.

I’ve just cherry-picked a few of the ridiculous number of cool things I’ve gotten to do over the years with Ultimate Motorcycling. To say I’m grateful for being a part of the incredible group of people behind it is a huge understatement. There have been some tough years, but everyone hung together, and that’s what it takes to reach a milestone anniversary like this.