In part three of our series of interviews with the members of our Judging Panel, we're talking to Warren Milner. Ask anyone in the moto industry about Warren and they will tell you two things: 1) he knows everything about motorcycles and how they work; 2) he's a super nice guy. Warren rides about 50,000 km a year all over the world, but somewhere at some rest-stop he took some time to sit down and chat with us, which we really appreciate. Here's our interview with Warren.
TMFF: Tell me how you first got involved with motorcycles and your first memory of it.
Warren: My very first experience with a motorcycle occurred one day when I was walking home from a stable where I had been horse riding. A friend from school stopped to give me a lift on the back of his Honda S90 and of course took off at max speed as soon as I was seated. I can still remember flying down that mountain road with tears streaming back into my ears from my watering eyes being terrified and exhilarated at the same time. It wasn't much later that I got my first bike, a Honda S90.
TMFF: You spent a significant portion of your career at Honda Canada. Tell me about that.
Warren: I started at Honda Canada in the service department helping dealers with motorcycle technical issues first as a road rep then later as an in house resource accessible by phone. I moved on to work with R&D on product quality improvement at which point my career path changed. One of the Japanese managers recognized that the sales and marketing departments needed to have a product expert on staff to ensure messaging was on point and that the correct models were being selected for Canada so a product planning department of one was created. I eventually moved on to become the marketing manager and ended my career at Honda after almost 30 years as motorcycle division head; responsible for all motorcycle operations. I have often said to people that no matter what my official title was at Honda my job was always the same - I was the motorcycle guy. I have the distinction of being one of the very few people at Honda who worked exclusively in the motorcyle division never joining the car division (the dark side as we used to call it).
TMFF: Now that you’re (semi?) retired, you spend a significant portion of your your time exploring the world on two wheels. You’re noted to have ridden 50,000 km in 6 months. Tell me about that.
Warren: Since retiring from Honda I'm averaging between 40 - 50,000 kilometers a year which may sound like a lot but some of the trips I take rack up the miles quite quickly. For example in the first 6 months after I retired, I rode to Mexico and back on a three week 15,000 km adventure followed by a trip of similar distance and duration to Alaska. A couple of trips out to Halifax to visit my daughter who was attending university there and you can see how the mileage can add up. Basically as soon as the snow melts I park my car and ride till the snow flies again. When I left Honda I bought a new car and a new bike and the bike has significantly more mileage on it.
TMFF: What was the best and worst experience you’ve had on your adventures?
Warren: Worst experience is a toss up between a crash I had in my first trip to Alaska and being held up and shot at by bandidos in Mexico. In the crash I cracked my Sternum and couldn't pick up my bike. I was on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere and had to wait for some time before someone came along to help and all the time I was being eaten alive by the bugs that are particularly vicious up there. In Mexico we were held up at gunpoint by bandidos, in a moment of inattention by the bandidos we managed to escape but were shot at as we sped away. A bullet went thru the under-seat gas tank of my buddies BMW and went into his rear tire cracking the rim. We limped into the next town where we plugged the tire and used JB weld to seal the crack in the rim. The next day we took the tire off to vulcanize it properly and found the copper jacketed slug still inside the tire.
There have been so many great experiences but probably the best was a ride to the Kennecott copper mine in Alaska followed by a very scenic ride down to Valdez. In Valdez we went Salmon fishing in the bay and one of the traditions that they observe there is pull up to an iceberg and chip a block of ice off that you bring back with you. When you return to shore you barbecue your Salmon right on the beach and drink whiskey cooled by ice from the iceberg. The theory is the Salmon couldn't be fresher and the super dense ice from the iceberg melts slower than normal so it doesn't dilute your whisky. It was an all round spectacular day.
TMFF: What are some of your favourite movies and what do you like about them?
Warren: My favorite films tend to fall into one of two categories, either films that seem realistic without too much Hollywood artistic license or movies that hark back to a simpler time where the world seemed more straight forward. My favorite in each of these would be unforgiven with Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman, and Casablanca with Humphrey Bogart.
TMFF: What are you hoping to see in the films shown at the Toronto Motorcycle Film Festival?
Warren: What I'm hoping to see in the Toronto Motorcycle Film Festival is films from other countries or more obscure sources that offer something other than the traditional North American perspective. The problem I have with most motorcycle movies is that they tend to cover motorcycling in a never ending series of cliches. Freedom - wind in the hair, the open road etc.; or Extreme - fast, dangerous, crazy; or Good clean family fun - charity events, keeping kids off drugs etc. The problem being if you ask someone why they ride they will invariably respond citing one of these stereotypes. This is not perhaps because that's how they feel but rather it's what they think they are supposed to say. I'm looking for a more honest perspective that provider greater insight into the mystery behind the fascination with these machines.
TMFF: What is one thing about you that most people don’t know?
Warren: My mum and dad were dead set against me riding a motorcycle. They even bought me an old beater car in the hope that I'd forget about riding motorcycles. To their dismay I just kept pointing out that for the money I could get for the car that I was struggling to keep going I could actually get a half decent motorcycle. Eventually my father relented and gave me permission with the following speech. " well you're big enough, old enough and ugly enough (it's a Jamaican expression that means experienced in life) to make your own decisions so if you want you can buy a motorcycle. Within two weeks I owned one and have never looked back.
TMFF: What motorcycle do you currently ride?
Warren: Honda Africa Twin
TMFF: Thank you Warren for sharing your stories with us. Safe riding.