TheMotoSocial is a monthly event taking place in several major Canadian cities throughout the summer, and Vancouver’s first season on the roster has just ended. Riders, or people who are curious about riding, meet up for a couple of hours on a designated weeknight at cafes, sandwich shops or ice cream parlours to hang out and talk bikes — or more. The hosts focus on creating a friendly atmosphere, no matter what you ride or if you have a motorcycle at all; the motto is “Everyone is welcome.” The Motorcycle Hub talked to Viktor Radics, a photographer from Toronto and one of the founders of TheMotoSocial, about the motivation behind his idea and the different factors that successfully spread it on social media, across Canada, and even the world.
The Motorcycle Hub: Viktor, you and your wife Samantha founded TheMotoSocial 2013 in your hometown Toronto. What was your initial motivation to create a community event based on bikes? What is different about it compared to other biker meetups?
Viktor Radics: Sam and I had been riding and selling bikes for a while, but despite working in the industry and living in a big city with an active moto community, we still felt a certain lack of camaraderie. We missed positive connection and a common sense among all riders, since people were mostly separating by the type of bikes they rode. We both also really enjoy meeting strangers and bringing new friends together. That’s when we had the idea for our event to mesh socializing with riding — people first, motorcycles second.
TheMotoSocial is not about hosting a typical biker crowd, but about connecting all kinds of different people, who not only identify as motorcyclists and also have other interests. Sharing your interests with friends is great, but sharing them with fellow motorcycle-enthusiastic friends is even better. Similarly: having riding buddies is great, but ideally you want to share more than just bike talk and road trips with people, right? Besides the camaraderie of riding, we would love for people to ride away with new friends from our socials.
TMH: 2017 was the first season for TheMotoSocial in Vancouver. You hosted five events in the city on every second Tuesday of the month from May to September. What stood out for you here in beautiful British Columbia?
VR: The beautiful landscape is an obvious one, and on one of our first visits, my wife and I went for a spectacular ride up the scenic route to Cypress Mountain with some local buddies. Regarding the motorcycle community, we heard similar things about slightly segregated groups as we have back home in Toronto. In such big cities, there are a lot of people passing through, which creates a certain reservedness and skepticism. It was a leap of faith to bring our social to this city that was pretty much brand new to us. That is why we were so happy with the turnout of our Vancouver event series, which quickly grew from around 40 people in May hanging out at a coffee shop, to around 100 people lined up in front of a brewery in June.
TMH: You also host events in other Canadian cities: Edmonton was a first-time location in 2017 as well, but Montréal and Ottawa have been part of your series since 2016. What made you choose these places?
VR: There were a lot of reasons why we chose to start TheMotoSocial in Ottawa and Montreal before any other city in Canada. A lot of our closest friends in Toronto were from Ottawa and had local friends that rode motorcycles there. Ottawa is also Canada’s capital, so it just felt right. I think it was a mix of knowing that there already were existing motorcycle communities in Ottawa and Montreal, and that both cities were close enough to Toronto — so we gave it a try. We could ride out, host the events and be back at work within three days. It was the perfect scenario to test our model outside of our home turf Toronto.
TMH: There is also one non-Canadian location on your event list, namely Cape Town in South Africa. The first season there began in the southern hemisphere’s summer and ran from February to May 2017. How did this odd-one-out get on the MotoSocial map?
VR: We wanted to keep our events all-Canadian at first and never planned to go somewhere outside the country — however, we also like to think big, and don’t always go the simply practical route, but follow what feels like an honest, true connection. When the guys from Woodstock Moto Co. in Cape Town reached out to us on Instagram one day, we ended up having long FaceTime conversations. They seemed like the right people from the get-go and soon after we kicked off the series down there. It started with a personal connection which resulted in collaborative action to build community and camaraderie in Cape Town.
TMH: Is your goal now to expand this more-than-motorcycles type of community around the world?
VR: Absolutely! We realized early on that TheMotoSocial is indeed helping people to connect and feel more at home in their cities. We want every major city around the world to have a positive, welcoming, constructive community. We currently have local friends organizing and leading the events with us in their home cities. Samantha and I are making adjustments on our end to build teams of local hosts and to continue creating the community in new places around the world. We don’t want to expand just for the sake of expanding, or bite off more than we can chew, but we really do want to positively change the world. We’re motivated to expand with the right people by our side.
TMH: Talking about people and connections: What role do social media play for your event?
VR: Social media have been amazing tools for us. It’s how we spread the word, but it’s also how we have connected with a lot of like-minded people and current hosts of TheMotoSocial. It’s how Devin and Archie discovered us in Cape Town and the reason why we’re hosting TheMotoSocial with them. Besides announcing our monthly meeting locations, we don’t really do much to promote the event.
We put most of our energy into creating a positive environment where people can feel comfortable and get excited to meet one another. When people have a good experience at our event, they invite their friends along to the next one. So I think both word of mouth and social media are mostly how the news spreads and the event grows.
TMH: How do you choose the businesses to collaborate with? It seems like there is a focus on local, independent places. What are your priorities?
VR: We host our events at local independent cafes, sandwich shops, ice cream parlours, pizza places, etc. We focus on these types of businesses because they are by default community-building businesses that contribute to the creative culture of each city. We want to support them. These businesses also naturally create the warm neighbourhood feeling and environment that helps make people feel more comfortable.
We avoid bars and restaurants, since they have their own vibe, and also because drinking and motorcycling don’t go together anyways. We also avoid parking lots that are cut-off and don’t really feel like a part of the city’s buzz. Easily available street parking is a must! It’s both stressful and exciting to score good spots early and fill them up with lines of motorcycles, but always worth it when the night picks up.
TMH: So motorcycles, cafes, riders socializing… Do you draw any inspiration from the historical Café Racer movement?
VR: Honestly, we did not think of that at all and had our very own vision and very modern motivation to start TheMotoSocial!
TMH: What is your favourite memory of a connection of motorcyclists made at your events so far?
VR: The most rewarding story I witnessed was the one of a German traveler who first visited the Cape Town event and a couple of months later showed up at the social here in Vancouver — a truly international connection. Or the one of these three individual guys I knew who rode by themselves. I introduced them at our Toronto night and now they ride together and even have similar bikes. That’s a brotherhood vibe right there!
TMH: As a host you mix in with the crowd, take photos and shake a lot of hands. Do you also eavesdrop? What do people talk about most at TheMotoSocial?
VR: Of course — the conversations start with motorcycles. “What do you ride? Tell me everything about this awesome bike! What year is it? I can’t believe we did the same road trip!” These things are perfect icebreakers and lead to further chatting about backgrounds, jobs, travel, life in your neighbourhood and other hobbies or sports. If deeper connections are made, that begin with meeting a fellow rider but then lead to making friends beyond motorcycles, our goal is reached.
TMH: Will TheMotoSocial return to Vancouver next season?
VR: Yes, of course! We have teamed up with our friends Oren Darel and Warren Fenton to be our local hosts and organizers, and together we will keep #TheMotoSocialVANCOUVER rolling on the second Tuesday of every month between 8 and 10PM from May to September 2018.