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In Movies & TV

Kevin Knuth's Honda CB160 at the Vintage Motorcycle Classic, held each June in Elkhart Lake (Photo: Kevin Knuth).

In Movies & TV

Knuth's Spanish-made Bultaco motorcycle (Photo: JC Maldonado).

Moto movie appeals to alternative biker community

The "Mid-winter Moto Movie," an event meant to help relieve winter madness among Milwaukee-area motorcyclists, is on for Thursday, Jan. 26 at The Times Cinema, 5906 W. Vliet St.

Doors open at 6 p.m. and the movie begins around 7:30. There is a social hour before the film from 6:30 to 7:30 with music and old racing footage on the screen while people enjoy a beer and each other's company.

An after-party immediately follows the film at O'Brien's Pub, 4928 W. Vliet St.

"This event is a gathering of the like-minded, an excuse to get together and have a good time. By late January, motorcycle people have a bit of 'cabin fever,'" says Kevin Knuth, who has organized the event for the past three years.

This year's moto movie is "Faster," a 2003 documentary by Mark Neale that follows some MotoGP bike racers during the 2001 and '02 seasons. MotoGP, which is short for Motorcycle Grand Prix, is a series of international races. The film is narrated by Ewan McGregor (or Obi-Wan Kenobi to many of you).

Knuth, who is affiliated with a number of local motorcycle groups, believes that holding the event when temperatures are at their coldest and when motorcycles are, for the most part, at their idlest, accounts for a good turnout each year. With numbers in the hundreds the first two years, Knuth expects to fill the theater to capacity this year.

Knuth added the after-party at O'Brien's Pub, up the street, last year.

"People kept asking me, 'Where's the after-party, where's the after-party?' I didn't have one planned the first year. Last year, we drew about 60 people to the bar. It will probably grow this year," says Knuth.

For the first time this year a bike will be on display at the theater during. The motorcycle – a 1960s Triumph motor – was built by two local guys and set a land speed record for its category during last year's Bonneville Salt Flats "World of Speed" racing week, held annually near the end of summer in Utah.

Knuth designates his moto movie event as part of Milwaukee's alternative motorcycle culture, which isn't necessarily anti-Harley, but simply attentive to other kinds of bike, predominately vintage Japanese and European motorcycles built between the 1950s and the 1970s. The "cafe racer," as these bikes (and bikers) are often called, draws from a fairly long and storied sub-culture that began after World War II.

"Milwaukee is so well know for Harley, but it also has a really vibrant alternative motorcycle scene," says Knuth.

In addition to Knuth's movie screening, participants in this "alt-moto-scene" hold a variety of events, including the annual Rockerbox on Center Street in Riverwest.

Milwaukee's alternative motorcycle crowd includes people who organize rides and events via email listserv, like Milwaukee Vintage Motorcyclists or Milvinmoto.

Milvinmoto has a related club, the Chivinmoto (Chicago), from which Knuth says a group of riders came up for moto movie night last year.

Other folks who attend the moto movie include those from the British Biker Cooperative, a group of enthusiasts "dedicated to the preservation of the British motorcycle," as well as BMW motorcycle people and celebrators of almost every kind of motorcycle receiving the designations "vintage" and "cafe."

Other area alternative bike clubs who attend the event include the Slimey Crud Motorcycle Gang, a group of motorcycle enthusiasts originally founded by UW-Madison graduate students and often written about by "Road and Track" and "Cycle World" columnist Peter Egan, who lives near Madison. The Slimey Crud's annual "run" (a long, organized motorcycle ride) was documented in the 2010 film "American Cafe Movie."

"Slimey Crud is a goofy club with a bunch of really nice guys in it," says Knuth.

Knuth owns and rides a Bultaco motorcycle, which was made in Spain from the late '50s to the early 1980s. He also rebuilt a Honda CB160, which he races in vintage racing events. This class of Honda was the subject of a 12-minute film short that Knuth screened alongside the feature at last year's moto movie.

The biggest event in Milwaukee's alternative motorcycle scene remains the American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association (AHRMA) event at Elkhart Lake, Wis., the annual host to races, swap meets, camping and bike shows.

Knuth expects 250 people at his moto movie this year, which is the new capacity of the Times after installing new, more comfortable seats.

To reserve a spot at tomorrow's event, Knuth recommends buying tickets for the movie in advance on The Times website; otherwise, he'll see you at O'Brien's for the after-party.


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