“I ride to experience adventure, to listen to the beat of my own heart, to feel the confidence and empowerment of achievement, and sometimes to process both grief and joy. I always come back from a ride in a positive frame of mind and the feeling that I’ve had a little adventure. “-Alyson Oshust
First Name: Alyson
Last Name: Oshust
Bike Year: 2016
Model: Africa Twin
Current Job: Software Consultant
Home Town: Canadian Prairie born and raised, all over BC since 1997. Don’t really “belong” anywhere. 😊
When did you get your first bike and what was it?
In 2015, I got my license and my first bike – a brand new Honda CTX 700, which was christened “Night Fury” when one of my kids said it looked Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon. Night Fury still sits in my garage, having logged almost 58,000 kms with me, including through every province and territory of Canada. I’m having a hard time thinking about selling her.
Why do you ride?
The answer to that question is a bit evolutionary. I came to riding after my kids were grown to adults and I had the time and resources to do so. It started out being an adventure that I could now pursue, having had an interest since I was a teenager. Immediately, I felt the exhilaration and freedom that riding elicits. It soon became a decompression tool for shedding the stress of a very demanding job at the time.
Five years later, having completed a 27,000 km solo Canadian journey, losing my sister in a car accident a few months before that trip, and having learned through both of those experiences what is really important in life, the reasons I ride are a little deeper. I ride to experience adventure, to listen to the beat of my own heart, to feel the confidence and empowerment of achievement, and sometimes to process both grief and joy. I always come back from a ride in a positive frame of mind and the feeling that I’ve had a little adventure.
What motorbike related book, movie or show would you recommend to a friend?
I don’t really read motorcycle books or watch motorcycle movies – I’d rather be riding. But I do like motorcycle magazines. I like to read about other people’s adventures and read the bike reviews and learn different things about different types of bikes.
What does your dream bike look like?
While I would have 6 bikes in the garage if I could, I’m pretty much riding my dream bike. I’ve always coveted the Africa Twin, and now I have it. If I had a bucket of $$ and all the space in the world, I would keep Night Fury forever, and also have a Triumph Street Scrambler, a vintage Honda Rebel 250, a Kawasaki Versys 300 and a Yamaha XT 250
What’s your favourite route to ride these days?
Don’t really have any. Living in the lower mainland means it takes an hour to get out of the city to enjoy a ride, so that sucks. Once you do, the “loop” from Coquitlam to Whistler/Pemberton and down the Fraser Cascades is nice. Otherwise, it’s a zip out to Harrison Hot Springs or Belcarra Park – just short, scenic routes that are close by.
Earbuds in or out?
Depends on my mood. Sometimes I have the tunes in and sometimes I’m just enjoying the solitude of the ride and my own thoughts.
Never had one.
What place/route do you dream of riding?
I was home from my Canadian journey about 4 days when I had New Zealand planned. I would love to continue the Explore My Nation series with New Zealand, New Caledonia (my daughter Bronwyn’s desire), Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and Japan. I’ve also thought it would be very emotional and satisfying to follow the route of the Canadian soldiers through Europe, including sites from both World Wars.
What’s something unique to the motorcycling community?
The community. I had the stereotypical idea of what a “biker” is. Really, a biker is just someone who rides and the community is incredibly supportive, no matter what type of bike you ride or how you choose to experience riding.
Liam Berry asks: If you had nobody but yourself to answer to, what would you do and why?
I would spend my life travelling the world by motorcycle, learning the history of the areas I travelled, meeting people, telling their stories, promoting unity. If you take the religion and politics out of conversations, people are just people – kind, friendly, generous. Along with the sense of personal confidence I gained from my journey through Canada (all I need is me), I saw for a fact that people everywhere were friendly and welcoming and helpful and it restored my faith in humanity amidst all the negativity and divisiveness that social media promotes. It’s long past time we should be just seeing “people” – not race, religion, culture, or country. Just people.
What question would you like me to ask the next rider?
What adventure would you like to set out on next?
Any thoughts in closing?
Riding is a personal experience and people experience it differently. Care little for what other people think or say about you, your bike or how you “should” do things. The act of riding itself, denies convention. Just do it.
Post Shoot Analysis
The response to this project has been amazing. Over the last 6 months, 30 riders have signed up to take part and for that I’m grateful. On the application form I request a fair bit of information. I’m looking for a thread that leads to a story. Some riders fill in the blanks with the minimum, link to stock photos of their bikes and leave the locations and planning to me. Others link to multiple personal images of themselves, their bikes, and they know where they want to ride and why. I gravitate to the those who supply me with more information because then I can find the narrative which results in confines and I love working creatively inside of those.
When Alyson got in touch via email, shared that she had ridden across Canada, and that riding was one way for her to process the untimely passing of her sister – I was eager to push myself to go beyond the LCF (Look Cool Factor) in an effort to infuse these images with a little more meaning and symbolism.
Did I succeed? Kind of…
Alyson made the trip to the island on her way home from Washington, after having custom seat work done for Spectre. At the Timmy’s near the start of the Malahat we soaked up a few sun beams while we got to know each other over a morning brew and cream cheese bagel. As soon as we turned onto the highway the drizzle began. If would rain relentlessly for the rest of the day.
Shooting this project in the rain proved to be much more challenging than I had expected – but why? I must have shot at least 20 rain days in my career. For starters this rain was different. West coast rain is relentless. If it’s not pouring it’s just constant and eventually soaks everything. It also occurred to me that I didn’t usually shoot IN the rain, I shot WHILE it was raining at that’s a big difference. In the megalopolis of Seoul, population 9.7 million, there was always some place I could seek at least a little shelter for myself and my subject. In Chemainus, population 3,035, there wasn’t a whole lot to stand under. It also didn’t make sense to have this Africa Twin with a woman who’d ridden through thunderstorms on the prairie hiding from the rain.
So far it has rained on every motorbike shoot I’ve done on the island. My flashes can handle a little drizzle but I didn’t want to risk getting zapped by god knows how many volts arcing off a soaking wet flash. This meant flat light all day long. Keeping the rain off my wide-angle lens was a big challenge too – it required constant swabbing. Being soaked simply slowed us down considerably as I tried to piece together an image sequence that would make sense: arriving at Chemainus via the ferry, candids with murals, posing with murals, coffee, riding out of town and then the most important “crystal keepsake” and “embracing adventure” shots.
I really wanted to have more bike action shots on this shoot. Due to the downpour I couldn’t use my drone for the aerial shots I had envisioned. When I thought to shoot it from my bike, I realized I didn’t even think to bring my camera strap. Riding with my left hand on the throttle down a wet highway holding an already drenched DSLR in my right hand that wasn’t secured to anything just seemed like a bad idea – so I used my iPhone instead 😀
From now on the camera strap will always come with. I’ll add some wood blocks for propping kickstands to my photo kit as well. I need way more B-roll such as details and landscapes to make smoother transitions between the key shots. I also need to learn how to make the most of rain and Canadian scenery. I think I’m used to shooting tight, always trying to eliminate distractions in the city. Here I need to go wide to emphasize the nature. This is getting crazy long…
Many thanks Alyson for taking the time to shoot with me. It was awesome getting to hear about your adventures. Thank you for lunch at that cafe whose menu seemed to cater to every nationality. You’re an inspiring rider, person and parent! Looking forward to when our paths cross again!
Make sure you check out Alyson’s blog detailing her trip across Canada and many others.
Interested in being part of the Bike & Rider project? Just sign up here!