Friday, January 02, 2015


A highlight of 2014 was riding in the Motorcycle Cannonball, and with my partner Susan McLaughlin, we've shot enough Tintypes (like this one of Shinya Kimura, currently on view at the Ransom Gallery in London) to fill a book...which will be one of 2015's highlights!  Stay tuned for the first MotoTintype publication... is approaching its 9th anniversary - an overnight success story!  I'm often asked how one 'makes it' in the motorcycle writing/blogging/website game, and my only answer is 'a combination of passion and patience'.  During the first 4 years (2006-10) of The Vintagent I also ran my own business as a master craftsman decorative painter/plasterer, where I learned that a commitment to quality will take you a long way in this world. Giving up a lucrative career of 25 years (in 2010) to follow a totally new path was risky, but timely, and by drastically 'reducing my circumstances' (ie, going from 3 mortgages to basically zero overhead) my writer's/webmaster's/consultant's income was sufficient, but certainly not generous.
16 months' work, but it looks good on the shelf! 
My income in 2013/14 was supplemented by writing 3 books ('The Ride', 'Cafe Racers', and 'The Chopper'), although the book-writing game today is more about prestige than money.  Each of these books netted me around $6-7000, which sounds reasonable until you actually have to write 20,000 ('Cafe Racers') to 60,000 ('The Chopper') entertaining and accurate words, do your research, and find hi-res photos with permissions to use them, over the course of many months.  'The Chopper' was especially arduous, being a field in which I was no expert, with a pathetic body of prior 'research' published on the subject.  Breaking new ground as a historian is exciting, but hard work, and I was frankly happy to be done with the job last August - two months late according to Gestalten, but a year early to my eyes!  Let's hope someone takes up the torch on the subject of 'chopper as Folk Art', and we see a big exhibit at a major museum soon, to follow up both on the 'Art of the Motorcycle', and Robert Hughes' wish to see choppers taken seriously as Folk Art (Hughes was the true inspiration for 'The Chopper').
Judging the 2011 Cycle World Rolling Concours with Peter Egan and Mark Hoyer
My newest job title is Custom & Style Editor at Cycle World magazine, still (I believe) the largest print motorcycle mag in the world, helmed by my friend Mark Hoyer.  I met Mark at the very first Cycle World Rolling Concours at Sears Point racetrack in 1999(?), where my 1925 Norton Model 18 flat-tank racer won Best in Show, to my great surprise, after I thrashed the capable old beast through the narrow, winding hills of Sonoma County.  It was the first time I'd entered any kind of concours, and it's still the one I most agree with -  requiring a good, long ride before judging.  Mark is a not-so-secret Vintagent, being a big fan of Nortons and Velocettes (and Jags and MGs and old fire trucks), but as the page count for CW has shrunk, there's been little space for vintage...but Cycle World is honing in on a sweet spot for both web and print today.  Their website is already generating 1.5M unique visits/month, which is excellent, and I'll be adding spicy content - emphasis on content - to their website every week, so we should see the results soon enough.  It's also possible CW readers aren't ready for my voice!  Let's hope they like a healthy dose of culture with their motorcycling...
That first Rolling Concours at the turn of the Millenium...adjusting the 'muffler' bracket as I recall - the Norton rejected any sort of silencing!

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David Blasco said...

As one of those who wrote you for advice on blogging, I'd like to say thank you again and best wishes in 2015.

GuitarSlinger said...

Congrats on the CW post ! But if you would .. please pass on a complaint to the powers that be at CW from a long time [ like ... forever ] reader about both the print and online versions of late ;

1) The print magazine keeps getting thinner and thiner ... with shorter and less informative articles and many of the reviews coming across as merely cut and pasting the manufactures hype .

2) The online site has become more about repeating articles from the previous issue than anything new worth checking into

Suffice it to say .... more content .. and less hype would go a long way towards guaranteeing CW's long term future in this current zeitgeist of rapidly diminishing print worthy of ones dollars

Anonymous said...

thought you were building up to 'signing off as the Vintagent due to other commtments'. Whatever, you fill the gap left by LJK Setright and forge ahead with your own entertaining style.
best wishes for 2015 and new venture.


The Vintagent said...

BMG - the Vintagent c'est moi, and vice-versa. While my energies are naturally focussed elsewhere, and the content changes to reflect new concerns, the Vintagent will continue as my space of unhindered enthusiasm for Everything Old Motorcycle...

Thierry Vincent said...

A really interesting read about your 'behind the screen' whereabouts. I really appreciated the honest words about how much the motorcycle world isn't one to make loads of easy and quick money. You know that I've been here in there in the two wheels world, and with passion too, so I quite understand what you mean. Yet, to speak only in my name, I figured that my passion for cars and bikes is too precious to me to be wasted, so I intend to keep it alive as a pure pleasure by 1/ riding my bike as much as I can; 2/ attending events of my choice only for fun (and not to be seen in 'the place to be'); 3/ taking photos of what I want, the way I want and not expecting anything in return. In no way I want to struggle and think in terms of what sells and what doesn't. So, to earn a living, I take commissions in different fields and I grab any possible opportunity to have fun on wheels the rest of the time (which is not always so easy, as being a photographer, my aim is to display the things I like or that I find interesting or important). So I really respect your achievement as I truly know how nerve-breaking the words "passion and patience " can be. Bravo Paul!

By the way, your CAFÉ RACER book is my shelf, I got it for christmas. Really love it (there would be lots to discuss about, if ever we meet again one day)!