Interview – Monty Myrtle

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Editor’s Note: A few weeks ago, you were introduced to Monty Myrtle when he featured an interesting Russian hack for sale. At the time I mentioned that I thought Monty had an interesting story – now it’s finally time to share it with you! Read on to get his answers to my usual questions.

As a reminder, Monty is an American ex-pat that’s currently in Kiev, Ukraine. When he’s not working, he’s busy exploring the area on two wheels and chronicling his trips on his site, The Traveling Myrt.

1.) How did you get started with motorcycles – how did you learn, and what was your first bike?
When I was 19 I decided I wanted to learn to ride motorcycles. I wanted to sign up for a motorcycle education driving class but was too scared to do it on my own. Somehow I begged and pleaded with my best friend and cousin, Larry, to take the class with me. We did the weekend class and both got our license. If it wasn’t for him taking that class with me I might still be too scared to go and do it on my own.

From there I bought a 1981 Yamaha XS850. I had it a few years then decided it would be cool to buy a new bike so I got a 2008 Yamaha Road Star Warrior. I still have that bike and use it as my daily driver. It doesn’t look the same anymore but I don’t know if I can ever part with him. He is affectionately known as Yoshi, from Super Mario World. In the game Yoshi hauled that lazy Mario around took all the beating, occasionally would throw Mario on the ground and run away, he ate berries and shit extra lives.

My Yoshi hauls me all over this world, take a pounding from horrendous roads, has thrown me off a few times, eats gasoline and shits pure fun and excitement!


2.) How did you get from Kansas to Ukraine?
Well I HATED school. For me high school was like prison, I knew I had to be there 4 years but I wanted out. So after school I got into an Electrical Apprenticeship Program with my local Electrical Union. That took 4 years of on the job training mixed with a little bit of classroom study to finish. Then out of the blue one day I was bored and remembered seeing a show, probably on Discovery Channel, about Antarctica. So I started trying to find it online and stumbled across a company advertising jobs in Antarctica. I applied with the worst resume ever. No joke, “My name is Monty Myrtle. I am a licensed Journeyman Electrician from Wichita, Kansas.” That was it but for some reason they called me a day or two later to interview me by phone and as the say, the rest is history.


I lived a year at the South Pole doing some construction and maintenance. From there I took about 6 months off then wound up working on wind turbines before I got a call to go to Moscow,
Russia to work for the US Embassy there. I was in Moscow for 5 years. After Moscow my company asked me to go to Kiev, Ukraine. I have been here for a year but my time has come to an end here, rather surprisingly but an end none the less.


3.) What’s the most memorable motorcycle trip you’ve ever taken?
It’s hard to say. I try every year to take a 3 week trip somewhere. One year to Norway, another year to Germany and back to Moscow. I would say though my most memorable trip kept me mostly in Russia. I met some great people, rode through a restricted area and a tank training grounds, had a blow out on my rear tire twice ended up with a car tire on the back and then ran out of money…it was an adventure for sure!


Editor’s Note: Here’s a link to his ride report.


Also, in 2015 I spent 3 months traveling around Europe and my father joined me for 6 weeks. I think we visited about 8 countries together. He was by car and I on motorbike. It wasn’t really an adventure but it was grand fun! The highlight was going to the Diesel Museum in Copenhagen. If you ever get a chance you have to stop by!


4.) Do you listen to music while riding? If no, why not? If yes, what are some of your favorite tunes when you’re on your bike?
No, I don’t listen to anything while riding. I prefer to be alone with my thoughts and the motorcycle. I am a country music fan myself but and I might be singing a lot to myself in my helmet but never listen to music.

5.) What’s your favorite piece of gear?
I am not an ATGATT guy. I prefer to dress for the weather. If it’s cold I have more gear on, if it’s hot I ride in a t-shirt. I would say though I ALWAYS wear a helmet. At the moment it’s a Shark Evoline 3. I like that its convenient but it’s a bit too loud so I might be looking to upgrade in the near future. Possible my favorite though is a heated jacket liner and heated glove liners!!! Ohh I don’t know how I went without them!


6.) You have $25,000 to spend on anything in the world of motorcycles – 1 new bike, several old bikes, track days, a trip, you name it. How do you spend it?
That’s a hard question…I am hugely fascinated by old bikes. I would have to say I would use the money for a trip. I would keep Yoshi, because we are like brothers at this point, and take a trip. I don’t know where yet or for how long but I think that’s what I would do. Who know’s now I am done here in Kiev and unemployed, a trip might be in the planning stages! 

7.) Talk us through some of the modifications you’ve made to your bike.
This is difficult…my bike is about as far from stock as possible. I have widened the tank about 3.5” to hold more fuel. The headlight is from an old Dnepr. The front fender from an IZH-49. The rear fender was made by a friend of mine in Canada from fiberglass with a built in parts box under the license plate. The engine is more or less stock but I have raised the rear end an inch and upgraded to an Ohlins rear shock. Every winter I try to tear down my bike to the basics clean, fix and make any modifications I had in mind. It’s a work in progress with little tweaks always happening.


8.) Where are you off to next?
Right now I have not real plan. I am just finishing packing up all my stuff here in Kiev, to send back to Kansas. I and my motorcycle will stay behind but as far as a plan…there isn’t one at the moment. Now is the time life begins!

9.) What do you expect from the future of motorcycling, good or bad?
I don’t know really. Motorcycling has been so good to me in my life. It has helped make new friends. When on the road even if you don’t speak the same language a motorcycle is a common connecting point. It’s an ice breaker that everyone can either relate to or are interested in. I am much less shy and withdrawn because of the bike, it’s forced me to get out of my bubble and put myself out there. I say driving through a country is fine and all but riding in a country and feeling the air, the smells, the heat, the cold and everything else now that’s living!

If you like what you’ve seen, make sure to check out Monty’s site…and hopefully you’ll continue to see interesting Soviet bikes here thanks to him here on Bike-urious!