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Four years ago we had the pleasure to meet Thor Drake, the owner of See See Motor Coffee Co. in Portland, Oregon. Prior to our initial meeting, we had kept a close eye on all of the two-wheel fun Drake and his friends were having with their collection of bikes and caffeine, so our first conversation in the garage of the shop was to learn more about what See See stood for. Fast-forward to the current time and Drake’s influence in motocross is easy to see, as See See has expanded to two more locations (another coffee shop in Nevada and a standalone KTM dealership in Portland), continues to organize The 1 Show motorcycle event, and collaborates with iconic industry brands for special projects. The most recent accomplishment was put on display at the 2018 Oakland Supercross, as Ken Roczen raced the night show in a special set of Fox Racing gear that was designed with the See See crew to celebrate The 1 Show that’ll take place this coming weekend in Portland (there will be plenty more to see about this gear in the coming days, so circle back later on). During some downtime in the day, we had a chance to catch up with Thor to learn more about the progress of See See, his various projects, and his continued love for two-wheels.
From the time I met you a few years ago to now, it's insane to see how much this has blown up. As a guy that likes this sort of stuff I knew what SeeSee was, but when I come to Washougal now, it seems like everyone on the fence has a SeeSee hat or shirt. And this project with Fox Racing over the last two years has been huge. How did all of this come about?
Just always doing things different and backward. I met one of the creative directors at Fox Racing during a backyard barbeque in the Portland area and we got to chatting. He had been watching us from afar and saw us grow from a small brand. They asked if we ever wanted to try something and my answer is always, yes let's see what happens. I don't really go into it thinking it'll be a lot of work or worrying about the small details that would discourage most people. I just dive headfirst and say yeah. The interesting thing about SeeSee is that we don't really have any walled-in confines, we can do whatever we want and we try to keep it that way. We're into riding dirt bikes so this was a natural thing for us to do. It's motocross gear that is in essence what we appreciate.
You had the vintage jersey a few years ago and I saw a lot of people that ride, not people that try to go fast, wearing that online. For this gear line to happen now is huge.
The jersey thing was funny and kind of happened by accident. We got a shipment of new old stock Viking jerseys and they sold out super quick. We thought we should remake them, so we reproduced our own in the same cut as the original. I reached out to the Viking owner and he said he was done with that business, so I felt I had the blessing to take the designs. It was just something that we wanted to wear that wasn't normal, so those first jerseys came out and got us thinking about what motocross gear is supposed to be. I think from 1972 to 1992, motocross gear didn't change. The colors changed, but it was a cotton jersey and durable pants and there was nothing else that you needed except for protection. It needed to withstand a season of racing. Now in the market, we see people adding a ton of stuff that is great, but for some of the technical features, it breaks down quicker. With anything that we do, we want to strip it of the bells and whistles and make it a standard, durable piece. There's nothing extra on the pants or jersey. The way we looked at it was that a leather jacket is cool because it's a leather jacket, and the more you do to it like with zippers or something, the goofier it looks. Thinking about that, moto stuff has the technical aspect but not everyone is racing at the technical level as the professional guys. In my humble opinion, I prefer tighter gear that is not restrictive but holds together when you go down.
I watch how companies like Alta Motors, BMW Motorcycles, Bell Helmets, and now Fox Racing are all taking advice from you. Are you actively seeking them out to be a consultant or do they come to you?
I've got them in the palm of my hand [Laughs]. I guess it's because I have a different take. Everyone is trying to do one thing and I'm trying to do the opposite, to my detriment. I guess if you just do something hard enough and long enough, people will take notice. I don't think that I'm any more right than another person, I just try to do things differently. If everyone is trying to do things one way, you'd better believe that I'm going to go the opposite.
You have another new shop that's opened in Reno with Drake McElroy. How is that going?
Well, when we opened the second shop Drake was in Reno, so I was hoping that would all fit in naturally. He's sort of taken a different occupation now, he's doing tattoo work now and he's amazing at it. Having gone back and forth to Reno so many times, I really liked the nature of the place. People are very humble and it has great riding conditions year-round. We're right downtown and it's been an interesting thing because it's made us realize who we are and what we're good at. There is no plan for what we're doing, we're just making it up as we go and we go off of our heart to figure it out. It's been really interesting to do something like the Reno shop, where there are no statistics to show that it was going to be a good move.
You did jackets and shirts with Fox Racing for The 1 Show. How big will this run of gear be?
It'll be a limited mid-season run. Most people at Fox can't even get it [Laughs]. It's been pretty exclusive and I don't think that was naturally the intention, but we had to start somewhere. We got our foot in the door and now it's wedged in there so no one can kick it out. It should be available at certain, select places that understand the quality over quantity style. With the spectrum of general moto shop and the boutique dealerships, we want our stuff to be premium.
The 1 Show is this coming weekend. Can you explain more about it?
Yeah, I'm playing hokey a bit now. I'm under a mountain of sponsor stuff [Laughs]. The show will be our ninth year and I've never done anything intentionally for nine years, so that's saying a lot for me. We started it with nothing more than a bad idea and now it's grown bigger and bigger. I do my best to discourage people from coming and despite my effort, it keeps growing [Laughs]. I never really fancy myself to be an event promoter, so I don't know what I'm doing with that, but we're pushing numbers that are on scale with a large event and the show has gotten better with the quality of bikes and sponsors. It's taken on a life of its own in some ways.
I don't get to come to Portland often, but I see everything that you do online. I watch from afar as closely as I can. I like the ways that you get people involved, be it learning how to race with the flat track in Salem or at Dirt Quake or in motocross at PIR. You do a much better job at trying to promote riding than some of the people who say that making the sport bigger is their job. Some people miss the mark because they try to make it about racing, where you just encourage people to get a bike and ride.
I think people forget why they do it. The main reason is that it's fun and it should always maintain that level of being fun. For us, that's the driving force behind the logo, that riding is fun and why we got into it. I came from a family that didn't ride at all, sort of forbade me from riding, so I took an outsider approach and thought there had to be people like me that didn't know. Instead of just being discouraged and pushed away, why not just have all of these goofballs try it out to see what happens? If you think about it, there is a small circle around the core motorcyclist. And the world is massive, so if you give someone the same opportunity that you would someone that is in the core group of riders, you might find there are lots of talented riders out there with their own perspectives. When you have to earn something, you appreciate it more and are concerned with its future. I really want to inspire the next generation to be like the generation before me with motorcycles, when it was an "outlaw" thing to do without a ton of rules to guide you. You did it until someone got hurt, saw it was bad, and then made changes. When you earn it, you stick with it, and when you stick with it, you learn a lot of things and see all that you can do.