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 Giacomo Agostini, 15 times Grand Prix World Champion motorcycle racer and a legend of the sport, who is thankfully still with us, unlike many of his contemporaries in the dangerous years of GP racing – the 1960s and ’70s – as motorcycles became incredibly fast but safety equipment and track safety design was stuck in the 1930s.   Agostini was a guest of Team Obsolete in Brooklyn for their annual holiday celebration, and David Goldman took the opportunity to photograph and interview him.

A hero’s portrait, signed. Circa 1973, while Giacomo Agostini was still riding for Count Domenico Agusta, for who he won 13 of his 15 World Championships, before switching to Yamaha in 1974, for whom he won his last two Championships. [Stuart Parr collection]

Who are you?

I am Giacomo Agostini. I have won 15 World Championships with motorbikes, and I am in Brooklyn.

How did you get started with motorcycles?

When I was a bambino – a child – I thought about motorcycles. I don’t know why!  Also my family had nothing to do with motorcycles, but I loved motorcycles.  Sometimes my father said ‘danger’, and ‘you must go to school,’ and he said ‘no’.  I said ‘Papa I want to race, I want to race with the bike. Not with the car but with the bike.’ So I started to love the motorcycle just when I am six or seven years old. For me it was a difficult subject to raise because my family didn’t want me to ride, so I pushed a lot on my father. And my father said ‘no, I won’t sign the permission.’  But later, a lawyer convinced my father to give me the permission to do the sport. Because the lawyer understood I just wanted to race motorcycles. And once I had the permission I started to race.

My first race was in 1962 and it was my first victory. I won with a Morini Sette Bello, it was a factory bike from Milan, and my main mechanic we called Boulangero because he was a baker – he didn’t know how to change the spark plugs! And this is a very nice memory, because I went with my bike with no mechanics, and when I returned in the evening I was very happy because I beat a lot of riders with the factory bike.  I cannot forget this because it was alive, my first love. Your first love you will never never forget, my memory will carry on.

Agostini in 1968 at the Oulton Park racing circuit, taking delivery of a very special Triumph Trident from the factory, and is about to bump start it!  The bike was presented at the 2019 Concorso Villa d’Este. and remains in totally original condition. [Private Collection]

Tell us a story that could only happen with motorcycles?

I don’t think I have only one… no, I have three. One is when I went to my first race, as I said before, and I never forget because you know we never forget the first love.  The second of course was when I won with MV Agusta my first World Championship in Monza. Monza is very close to my home town, and they had 150,000 people come to the track, but I didn’t realize in that evening. Monday morning when I woke up and I read the the newspaper I understood I had won the World Championship. I cried a little because I was hoping for that from when I started to race, sure, but also from when I was a child.

The third one is when I when I changed from MV Agusta and decided to race for Yamaha.  It was a very difficult decision, because my second family was MV Agusta. I went to Japan to try the two- stroke bike, after I was used to racing with a four-stroke. My first race was at Daytona: when I arrived in Daytona I was very surprised – the circuit is fantastic. And there were a lot of good American riders, and with the 700 I won the race. My first time in America, and this I will never forget because some people said ‘now he’s changed from four-stroke MV Agusta to Yamaha, and maybe he never wins’. But I did win that first race, and after that I also won the World Champion with Yamaha. The story is very nice. I cannot forget.

David Goldman’s portrait of Giacomo Agostini, taken at Team Obsolete HQ on December 2, 2022. [David Goldman]

What do motorcycles mean to you?

The motorcycle for me is a love. I love motorcycles.




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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