“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!” — Wizard of Oz
Tim Burke is what many might think of as the “man behind the curtain” in his motorcycle community. When in reality, he is an “organizing wizard” and he is hard to ignore! Burke is the head of Ohio’s Cincinnati Café Racer Club; store-owner of a motorcycle retail lifestyle shop; a visionary of small and large-scale motorcycle events; and as a result, a well-seasoned event planner – and that is in his spare time. Burke, who is the mastermind behind events such as Queen City Mods & Rockers Rally, Motoberfest, and Garaged Brewed Moto Show, still maintains a “day job,” in the field of technology.
Tim’s email signature captures the essence of his efforts best, “events that build community with moto enthusiasts,” and that is exactly what Burke does from behind the scenes. We convinced Burke to answer a few questions for us on how he found his way to the world of moto event planning. So, without further ado, and in true Q & A fashion, check out Burke’s answers and lessons learned along the way.
How did you get involved in the Cincinnati Café Racer Club?
I formed the Cincy Café Racer Club in 2011 after looking for a club like this and finding nothing more than the typical biker scene. Our current membership is close to 1,000. I like to tell people “don’t let the name fool you,” we love and welcome all styles of bikes and bike enthusiasts. If it has two wheels and a motor, most of us are fans.
Give us the “highlight reel” of the events you have organized:
We have created multiple events to help grow the moto culture in the Cincinnati area and to support a fun, safe environment for riding. The larger events like our Motoberfest offer live music and group rides – it is always fun. The Garage Brewed Moto Show has become our premier annual event. It is held each February inside of the Rhinegeist Brewery and offers food, beer made onsite at the brewery, and a look at more than 50 cool, custom bikes built by pro and amateur builders from all over the Midwest. We’ve had some spectacular bikes, interesting stories behind the builds, and it is great to hear how old friends were reunited over motorcycles at our events.
What is the connection between the Club and events that you organize?
Our club is a non-dues paying membership, we are a social club of motorcycle enthusiasts. Dues are “paid” through participation and volunteering at events, our members are giving of their time and talent in an effort to make it fun for everyone. The ultimate goal is to grow and support our community and help to create a “cool” local scene.
What has been your greatest victory in event planning?
That’s a hard question, event planning is about dozens of small victories coming together to make a fun event. One that comes to mind is how we’ve been able to keep the Garage Brewed Moto Show free of charge for attendees. We have found that if you want ensure people come see and learn about motorcycles, presenting as few obstacles as possible has the greatest pay off. I have to add that this is only possible because of the wonderful sponsors we have that support the show.
What was your greatest lesson learned?
Surround yourself with good people. I’ve learned I can’t do it all myself and choosing positive individuals that are as enthusiastic about the mission as I am is the only way to succeed. When I fail to delegate, things get missed and it becomes overwhelming to try to achieve the goals.
What inspires you to do what you do?
Nice people and I have found that the moto community is full of good people. It is not the machines that bring us together–they are just what we have in common–it is the friendships.
What is the biggest misconception people have about the motorcycle “culture?”
That there is only one culture. Within the motorcycle culture there are so many different styles, tastes, interests, and birds of a feather flocking together. Many have one stereotype in mind when they think of a motorcyclist, anything from the Sons of Anarchy-style gangs; to sport bike stunt riders; old guys with bikes more expensive than your house; the vintage bike owner; the long distance riders; the antique motorcycle museum collector; or the motorcycle garage custom builder. Whatever that stereotype is, it is too narrow. The community is as huge and as diverse as any group of humans with a common interest.
How does your Club work together?
Like any organization, there are hundreds of people involved and yet a few dozen are the ones who consistently give of themselves to make things happen. These “do-ers” are our core. They are what make our local motorcycle community special.
Burke gave us the scoop on his work with the Cincy Café Racer Club, but we wanted to know more about him. So, we cued up the game show format of days gone by and sent Burke to the “Lightening Round” for a few more questions.
Give us your life story in 5 sentences:
1. Blue collar upbringing in a family of five kids.
2. First motorcycle was a 1974 Harley Davidson Scrambler (burgundy).
3. Some art college (photography); lots of work, self-made entrepreneur in the tech and motorcycle industries; still trying to make it big.
4. Childless by choice (hence my ability to do events) with a lovely wife of 24 years and a dog named Siggy.
5. Trying to be a better person every day.
What are you most passionate about?
Motorcycles – specifically vintage BMW – but frankly, I’m distracted by all vintage bikes. I’ve always collected “things” since I was a young boy – stamps, matchbooks, beer cans, art, antiques, and of course motorcycles.
If you could be a motorcycle, what /type would you be and why?
I’d be a BMW R nineT – old school at its roots, but with shiny new clothes and dress shoes, ready for a night of dancing out on the town.
The best advice you have ever gotten?
You have two ears and one mouth. You should use them in that same proportion.