There’s one way to look at a motorcycle: a small machine with an outsized engine that does nothing to protect its driver in the event of a crash and is hard for other vehicles on the road to see.
Then there’s another way, the way Neil “Morto” Olson sees it:
“It’s the feeling you’ve got in the spring when you get on your bike … That feeling of ‘I can go anywhere in the world.’ ”
Olson had four bikes at Montgomery Distillery’s fourth “Spirits & Spokes” motorcycle show, where they clear out the tables and open the basement to display almost 50 rare, collectible and downright cool bikes.
There’s Gina Olson’s (Mort’s wife) hand-painted, 1953 Triumph 500 Trophy, with Missoula landmarks drawn on the tank and fenders in memory of a longtime friend of the couple.
There’s a 1947 Indian Chief with a stick shift next to the gas tank.
A 2016 Norton motorcycle sat next to the front window. By far the newest motorcycle, it was one of a 20-bike run built by hand at the Norton Donnington Factory in the United Kingdom.
Another hand-built motorcycle was crafted in Philipsburg: a 1982 Kawasaki with a cowhide seat and sheet metal hand guards around an LED headlight.
Colin Cornberg, the owner of No. 8 Wire Motorcycles, built the “Cowasaki” for his girlfriend, who works at the Ranch at Rock Creek.
“It’s a unique bike,” Cornberg told a friend who stopped to admire. “You pull up at a gas station and people are like, ‘What the …?’”
Cornberg’s shop mostly builds custom motorcycles for clients around the United States. He’s currently hand building a motorcycle off a Harley Davidson frame for a Houston man.
He also works as a metal fabricator, which allows him to make almost any part he needs, even rebuilding frames.
His daily rider, a 1979 Kawasaki painted orange and black, has taken him to California twice and been modified at least that much.
“You build it one way and you don’t like it, so you build it another way,” he said.
The motorcycle show was started by Montgomery Distillery owner Ryan Montgomery on a sort-of whim four years ago, he said.
“This was just a way to get the coolest bikes in one place,” Montgomery said Sunday.
A handful of his employees ride motorcycles and they work on them together, he said. A lot of the local bikers know each other, making it fairly easy to get enough rides together to show off.
A 1969 Honda was custom built and painted by No. 8 Wire in bright yellow with the distillery’s logo on the gas tank.
Another of Montgomery’s motorcycles was a 1978 BMW with a sidecar.
“That’s for this little fella,” he said, picking up his son Heath.
“It’s so fun,” Heath said.
As the show continues, he meets more and more people with more motorcycles (Olson estimated he owned 80 to 100). Montgomery wasn’t sure any show bikes had repeated yet, aside from a couple of his own.
“We like to have bikes that are unique,” he said.