I was introduced to the website, BikeEXIF.com by super agent Russ Stratton (Sherwood, Pourcel, Rebeaud etc.) a couple of years ago. This is a site that celebrates the wonder of motorcycles and, if you request it, sends you a daily offering of some glorious two-wheel creation that typically makes your head hurt and your mouth water. EXIF stands for "Exchangeable Image File" and is the format by which digital cameras save image information. So you use it all the time and don't know it.
Bike EXIF was started by Chris Hunter as a bit of a hobby at first, but has morphed into something much, much bigger. In fact if you check out the email inboxes of most of the motorcycle world, they probably get Chris' daily offering and it is quite often the highlight of anyone's email day. I checked in with Chris at the bottom of the world to find out how such a wondrous thing could exist.
ESPN.com: What got you into motorcycles in the first place?
Hunter: I've liked motorcycles since I was a kid, but then got sidetracked into cars. I had a Porsche 911 a few years ago and loved that, but when I moved to Sydney, it became redundant. Motorcycles are a much better way to get around the city.
What was your first bike?
A Moto Guzzi V7 Classic. I rode a Vespa before that.
Have you ever intentionally left the ground on your bike?
A couple of times on the Guzzi, on crests in the roads around the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales. It wasn't "big air" though!
Those big bikes don't fly so well! Have you ever owned a dirt bike?
No, but I'm about to get a couple: one for myself and eldest daughter, and one for my 9-year-old son. We have just moved to a farm in New Zealand, so I have the perfect excuse!
Nice! So how did you get from England to New Zealand anyway?
I met my wife when we were both working in London in the '90s. She's a Kiwi, so we moved to New Zealand after our first child was born. The plan was to give it a couple of years, but we stayed ten. Then I was offered a job in Sydney, so we lived there for four years. We're now back in NZ, with a farm and a change of lifestyle. New Zealand is like Hotel California: you can check out, but you can never leave.
I can hear the song now. What was your 'real' job before the website dream?
I was an advertising creative director. I had an absolute blast for twenty years, but it was time to move on. I'm now reconnecting with "real life."
When you started this endeavor, could you ever have imagined Bike EXIF being your full-time gig?
I was hoping it would provide a "way out" of advertising, but I never imagined it'd become this big. A couple of years ago it became a juggernaut, and I thought, "There might be something in this."
Seems like there is, but why did you start the website in the first place?
I couldn't find many motorcycle websites that I liked. It felt like there was an opportunity: not just in the format of the site, but in the content and the type of bikes shown. Four years ago, no one was focusing on what I call "new wave" customs and cafe racers, or retro superbikes. Several popular genres were languishing unnoticed.
I feel bad for all those "languishing" bikes. Where do all those incredible bike pics come from?
These days, a lot of builders and photographers send the images straight to me. Others I find around the net -- using RSS feeds and detective work. I also get a lot of tips from readers.
What do your family think of this motorcycle obsession?
My wife tolerates it. The men in her family have always had motorcycles, so she's grown up around them. My kids are now looking forward to riding themselves. I have to say that worries me a little -- I'll be making sure they're fully kitted out with armor.
Motorcycles allow an incredible degree of freedom. Where is the best place you have been on two-wheels?
Two places stand out for me, both in New South Wales. One is a tiny little heritage town called Tilba Tilba: a picture-postcard place, surrounded by wonderful roads. Another is the Robert Stein winery near Mudgee. It's a beautiful vineyard with a small motorcycle museum attached. Does it get any better than that?
Man, that sounds like a dream -- bikes and wineries. How many (and what) bikes are in your garage or shed right now?
Just the Guzzi V7 at the moment. Next will probably be a Honda CRF70 for my son. I'm not sure what to get for myself -- perhaps a 250 dirt bike, or maybe an older Husky or trials bike. A neighbor of mine has a 70s Honda CB450 with dirt tires and scrambler pipes that I covet.
Nice. The Honda sounds like an awesome custom job. Practical for the farm. You obviously like the old and exotic machines, but when did you become aware of freestyle motocross?
I think it was back in the early days of the Travis Pastrana phenomenon. Then when Pastrana did his double backflip, I really sat up. The skill and the spectacle were amazing, and that got me hooked. The X-Fighters is now the best personification of the sport, so I've been following it keenly.
Have you actually witnessed many FMX contests first hand?
Only the X-Fighters in Sydney. I watch all the other events on TV or online.
Who are your favorite freestyle riders?
Pastrana. Robbie Maddison: he's the Evel Knievel of our times. I love the exuberance of Dany Torres. But when it comes to the crunch, I'd be rooting for young Levi Sherwood. He's the local hero in NZ!
Of course -- all the Kiwis love the Rubber Kid! Forget the young guns though, who are your all-time two-wheel heroes?
I grew up in awe of Barry Sheene. Today, I'd go for Casey Stoner. I think he'll secure a place in history as one of the greatest riders of all time. But in the true sense of the word "hero," I'd nominate a guy called Pierlucio Tinazzi, an Italian who worked in the Mont Blanc tunnel. In 1999, a truck caught fire inside the tunnel, trapping many motorists. Tinazzi got on his bike, and rode into the inferno. He rescued at least ten people, each time going back to help more. He died in heat so strong that it melted the frame of his bike.
Wow! That's an amazing story. You can't outdo a hero like that. Lately there has been a lot of focus on Steve McQueen: Overhyped, or the real deal?
Both, I would say. He had talent and charisma in spades. But I think he'd be appalled at the hype that surrounds his persona today.
What bike are you lusting over right now?
Where do I start? I'd love a Hammarhead Jack Pine for zipping around the local gravel roads and fire trails. I can't wait to see the impending Moto Guzzi California in the metal when it's launched. I'd love to put one of AC Sanctuary's restored Kawa zeds in my garage. And old dirt bikes from the 70s, like Husqvarnas and Montesas, always get my motor running.
You're a British bloke -- so, Triumph or Norton?
Hard call. On balance, I'd say Triumph. I'm not sure that Norton has relaunched its brand in the right way. Whereas Triumph is doing good things, especially with the recent Triples. My favorite Brit marque is actually Matchless, with lovely machines like the G80CS.
Did you ever meet a café racer you didn't like?
Yes, I'm afraid. I'm getting really tired of the whole CB750-with-checkered-stripe thing, it's been done to death. Time to move on!
What was your most embarrassing moment on a motorcycle?
When I was about fourteen, a mate had a dirtbike and we used to scoot around the fields on it. The first time I rode it, I forgot how to use the brakes, shot forward into a small river, and went over the bars. A very inauspicious start. These days, I occasionally make a fool of myself by putting the Guzzi into gear before I've taken the side-stand up, and stalling the engine. The chances of doing this are directly related to the number of spectators, or the coolness of the nearest café.
Okay, last question: Zen and the art of "what"?
Chainsaw maintenance, I'd have to say right now. There's never a quiet moment on a 13-acre farm!