Motorcycle Cities

Image from Motorcycle Cities Feature.
A motorcycle riding through the streets of Hamburg.

Having recently discovered Motorcycling Cities, a new magazine exploring motorcycle culture in cities, we were keen to talk to founder Jonathan Wieme to hear about this project. 

Can you explain what Motorcycling Cities is and what gave you the idea to start it?
The idea developed over quite a long period. In the past, I’ve had a huge admiration and followed some great photographers. They all had blogs and published content through the usual social media channels. Over time, the amount they publish increased to dozens of photos daily. To me, it felt like it had become saturated and I found myself becoming less engaged with the imagery. This led me to question if these were the best platforms to support creative content.

With that in mind, I challenged myself to create something tangible and interesting for others. I love to ride daily in my hometown Brussels, and so I combined my passions - photography, motorcycles, magazines and cities into one. Motorcycling cities is something that represents me and the environment I feel comfortable in.

Did you have any experience producing a printed publication before this project?
Nope, none! I read a lot of magazines and love to analyse them, trying to understanding their approach but apart from that nothing. I hadn’t even written an article before but this was all part of the challenge. A lot of research was needed!

Warehouse in Hamburg.

What was the hardest part of the process?
The copywriting! Such a nightmare! I tried several different approaches over and over, but wasn’t happy and so, in the end, threw everything away. I then changed tack and decided to put down all the thoughts I had onto paper simply telling the story as I experienced it and including all of the smallest details. I combined that with some extra in-depth information to create a larger context. 

Do you see it as a magazine or more of a city guide?
No, I don’t see it as a city guide. The idea is to focus on a place and people in a city who create a community. Having said that I want to have that flexibility to change the feel of the magazine depending on the city or experience I had. So maybe the next issue will focus on portraits or historical facts. Whatever it is, it’ll be true to the city.

There’s a strong sense of movement from one article to the next, it feels like a continuous ride through the city. A real page turner. Did you collect the content in one trip?

Yes, I did. I haven’t yet worked out if it’s good or bad to collect all of the content in one trip. I can’t always afford to return to each city and as there’s so much to see, I use this constraint to help select the content.

In Copenhagen, I had an appointment with the Wrenchmonkees but unfortunately, they had to cancel our meeting last minute and so for that issue I missed them. It’s hard to talk about motorcycles and Copenhagen without mentioning them but that’s the way it is. I try to make the best of the few bits that I miss and see it as a part of the challenge when building the story. 

On the other hand, there are cities I went to several times, like London, or places I know by heart, like Brussels (my hometown). I’m curious to see how I’ll deal with the content differently and how the reader's experience will change.

Which other cities are you planning to visit?
I’ve already visited Copenhagen, spent ten days in Brooklyn last month and visited London several times last year and so am planning an edition on each of those. I’m also interested in the lesser-known cities but we’ll see… after Copenhagen and Brooklyn I’ll take stock and if I’m not bankrupt, continue with the others!

An images from the Motorcycle Cities feature.
Jonathan Wieme, founder of Motorcycle Cities.
Image of motorbike being fixed. From Motorcycle cities.

Aside from Motorcycle cities, we’ve seen that you run Hello James, a shop in Brussels. Could you tell us a bit about that?
Over five years ago my girlfriend and I started a leather studio called Niyona. We design and produce all kinds of leather goods from handbags to accessories, either for ourselves or commissioned work for other brands.

More than two years ago, we moved to a bigger workshop and found a place with a storefront in the centre of Brussels. We combined our atelier and shop under one roof and as we sell other goods, decided to give it another name. James is the name of my 5-year-old son.

Next summer I’ll be making a trip with a few friends from London to the Bavarian Alps, any places / roads that you would recommend?
Great! You have plenty options to go there from London… but if you’re passing Luxembourg, take the N27… It’s Disneyland for motorcycles. 

Finally, where can people pick up a copy or Motorcycling Cities?
In London you have Bolt, in New York, it’s in NYC Motorcycles and the magazine’s also in a handful of stockists in Portugal and Belgium. I’m really happy with the shops that currently stock Motorcycling Cities and am always open to talk to new shops for the coming issues. You can find all of my stockist on my website:

Photography : Jonathan Wieme | Portraits : Sėbastien Nunes

Ashley Watson