The Motorcycle Portraits is a project by photographer/filmmaker David Goldman, who travels the world making documentaries, and takes time out to interview interesting people in the motorcycle scene, wherever he might be.  The result is a single exemplary photo, a geolocation of his subject, and a transcribed interview.  The audio of his interviews can be found on The Motorcycle Portraits website.

The following Motorcycle Portraits session is with Dave Roper, a man who needs no introduction to fans of vintage motorcycle racing.  But for everyone else, Dave’s decades-long career racing the most interesting motorcycles in history, often under the Team Obsolete banner, makes his story almost unique in the motorcycle world.  Now 74 years old, he’s still actively racing, and his impish, positive energy is a breath of fresh air in the racing world.  Follow Dave Roper on Instagram here.

Dave Roper, the first American to win the Senior Historic Isle of Man TT race (1984). Photographed in Brooklyn, NY, on Dec 2 2022. [David Goldman]

Who is Dave Roper?

I’m Dave Roper and I’ve been obsessed with motorcycles for most of my 74 years. I live in Hicksville, Long Island, New York, spend most of my time playing with motorcycles. As a kid, I was riding bicycles. And that was a gateway of freedom explore. But I was also very much into sports cars, used to go up to Lime Rock Park and watch the sports cars and thought I wanted to do that, be a sports car racer, but some time in high school. 

How I got started: 

I was introduced to motorcycles. And I totally flipped and became obsessed with motorcycles and lost all interest in the cars. I started racing in 1972. On the club level, did novice professional AMA racing up through the clubs and got involved the team obsolete and started traveling around the world. My biggest win was winning the 1984 Senior Historic TT was the high point of my career. And it’s been all downhill ever since. 

Dave Roper captured on wet plate in 2105 by the MotoTintype team of Susan McLaughlin and Paul d’Orléans. [MotoTintype]

A great story that could only happen with motorcycles:

What’s important to me in racing, it’s varies a lot. I’ve been to a lot of high profile events, where there’s a lot of media and riding with famous racers and riding exotic bikes. And it’s great fun and very exciting. But there’s also something very rewarding about going to an absolutely nothing club race, people are there because they love doing it. And it’s very genuine, there’s no pretense and so in many ways, I enjoy that every bit as much as being at a Grand Prix or the Isle of Man or whatever. 

What do motorcycles mean to you?

Motorcycles are important to me mainly just because the motion, the sensual nature of the scenery wizzing by.  In a car, you turn a wheel which turns a shaft which turns a gear which turns a tie rod, and a motorcycle, you just move your body and and the bike responds to your body. And so it’s a very direct connection with this image one has in their mind about where they want to go and going there. And so whether I’m riding a bicycle, or riding a motorcycle as long as I’m on two wheels, I’m happy.

Ed note: Dave is a longtime friend, and supporter of The Vintagent. Here he’s modeling one of our signature tees: want one too? [Paul d’Orléans]

[To see more Motorcycle Portraits, click here]



David Goldman is photographer and filmmaker who has traveled the world on projects documenting human trafficking, maternal health and marginalized people. He also interviews and photographs motorcyclists in this travels for his series The Motorcycle Portraits. You can follow his website here, his IG here, and his FB here. Explore all his stories for The Vintagent here.
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