Talking with Oliver Solaro/Brokentooth

As we told you yesterday, the Toronto Motorcycle Film Festival opens tonight.

 One of this year’s Canadian entries is Jory Lyon’s short film titled A.K.A Brokentooth – Canada’s Ice Road Biker. It stars Oliver Solaro, the Ontario rider who likes to challenge the ice roads in the winter (you might remember that we talked to him about cold weather riding tips last fall).

All of this year’s festival lineup looks compelling, but considering that we’re just around the corner from winter, we thought Lyon’s film rings home for many Canadians who’ll be parking their bikes in just a few weeks. But while they’re parking their rides, Solaro will be prepping his for long-distance riding in the cold. We talked to him to ask why he does it, and about what it was like to film his adventures.

 CMG: Why go north, when the riding is so much easier to the south in the winter?

Oliver Solaro: I wish I could give you a straightforward response for that one. Whatever answer is going to be different from the one I give you tomorrow and the day after that. I’m not trying to be aloof, but the truth is I’m just as confused as anyone. It’d be too easy to cart in a wheelbarrow full of clichéd adventure-isms like “I wanted to be the first to…”(insert endeavour)  or  “the land calls to me and I must answer” and of course my personal favourite ” it was time for me to rewrite the book of my life, in essence to change the narrative.”


If transport trucks can do it why can’t a motorcycle? It’s really not that much different from snowmobiling. Besides who knows, maybe someday someone’s going to make a movie out of it and I’ll finally get my 15 minutes.

Just another sunrise, while camping out in the frozen wastelands of northern Canada.

CMG: When did Jory first approach you about making the film? Did you have reservations at first?
OS: I don’t recall there being a distinct moment where we sat down and decided, hey let’s get together and make a movie about this whole ice road thing. I think it was just sort of bandied about until D-Day crept up and we both had to shit or get off the pot. I was worried I’d have to babysit him and anyone else he might bring along but that turned out to be wholly unfounded. The entire thing was almost cancelled because there was a bit of a snafu trying to get a chase truck setup so that Jory could film while I rode the ice. In the end he and our co-driver/cameraman Timothy Ashley piled up in my crappy old Jeep Cherokee and rolled the dice to Attawapiskat. Prior to lift off Tim had never been north of Barrie so putting him behind the wheel for the run-up the Wheetum Road must have been a kick for him.

CMG: What challenges did Jory and Timothy face while filming?
OS: The run from Cochrane to Attawapiskat was fairly uneventful weather-wise except for temperature dips down around – 35. We had a few “issues” but the biggest challenge I think was dealing with the muffler tearing off the truck and wrapping itself around the axle in the dark. This necessitated getting under the truck and hacking away at it with the camp axe so they could maintain forward motion. Speaking of momentum, it switched from being friend to foe, the result of poorly crimped brake lines letting go, thus emptying the master cylinder. Jory and Tim had to scrub off speed using a combination of semi-controlled weaves with the occasional foray into a soft snowbank—while hanging out the tailgate filming at – 30. Good times.

Behind bars, mid-winter. Most Canadians have their bikes stored safely away at this point.

CMG: Obviously, riding a motorcycle on ice is tricky. What other challenges did you face that the film didn’t focus on? Bears? Calorie deficit?
OS: As far as “incidents” are concerned this was about par for the course. Although we did amass some killer footage, many of the great shots fell to Murphy’s gavel due to the cold, humid conditions. That’s right, humid. It can get to 100% even at -35 which coats everything in thick hoar-frost making it impossible to see. Camera lens rings lock up, lithium-ion batteries become useless and then there’s frostbite. Seems I got a nip of it on my right foot; I can no longer feel three toes. Oh, right … and bears … Jory and Tim could only go as far as Attawapiskat which really was a bummer because the real fun didn’t happen until after they left. I was still shaking off the hot fog of a sweat lodge west of Peawanuck when I found myself stalked by a hungry nursing female, necessitating spirited riding with a painfully full bladder for quite a ways. I still had six pounds of butter in my pack and hell or hard water, there’s no way she was getting any of it.

CMG: When did you and Jory decide to submit to the Toronto Motorcycle Film Festival?
OL: That was always in the cards. As soon as we confirmed it was on, there was no way we were going to miss our chance to be part of this. Caius gave us an outline for the event layout and I knew he was going to do it right. Pinch me, I still can’t believe my luck at being in the same room with this incredible caliber of moto-centric personalities and filmmakers. The bald guy in the kilt is going to be doing some serious fan crushing this weekend.

Catching a mid-day nap, roadside.

CMG: Will you be attending the film festival all weekend?
OL: Start to finish, every minute. (except when I gotta take a leak).

CMG: Of the other films at the show, which one are you most interested in seeing?

OL: Tough one. I’ve already seen a few of them from the New York Fest so if you preclude them I’d have to say Talan Skeels Piggins’ story, (love the middle finger to the naysayers’ narratives), Shinya Kimura – (met him back in the day when I used to build choppers for a living) and Hill Climb (’cause that’s just nuts)

CMG: With this short film done, have you considered doing a longer feature film, like the stuff put out by Austin Vince? Or would you rather focus on the riding?
OL: I have 25 odd projects being researched, 11 ready to go pending funding, four awaiting approval from my significant other and one or two I might knock off before I next change my underwear. Some will be filmed, some will be personal and some will just be low enough under the radar so as not to attract attention from the local constabulary.

Here’s Solaro during one of his summertime expeditions, a retracing of Samuel de Champlain’s route around Central Canadian waterways. Except, Solaro did it on a KLR-equipped raft.

CMG: Have you been back to the ice roads since this was filmed?
OL: Indeed, I got a chance to ride up near Bearskin Lake, Ontario this past winter covering about 1,600 kms of a First Nation’s winter roads. This was probably the easiest run ever. No polar bears, wolves or frozen corneas and the temps stayed a balmy -25 to -30 the whole time. On top of that I only fell seven or eight times.

CMG: Where and when is your next northern trip planned?
OL:  Everything I do past Christmas depends on two things. The first of course is the weather. If the season holds out I might take a stab at covering every kilometer and visiting every community sewn together by Ontario’s lifeline lattice of winter roads. Given more time, I might extend that into Manitoba or even Nunavut. If the Polar Cap/Vortex phenomenon ends up setting over Siberia this year, then a western run might be in the cards, which would include a ride up the Dempster and onto the new road to Tuktoyaktuk. There’s always Hudson Bay if the ice is clear for a run to Rankin Inlet or I might strap a snowbike kit on to a dualsport for the 3500 km Cain’s Quest race …

Then there’s the polar expedition … but I’m not sayin’ anything about that yet.

a.k.a Brokentooth Trailer from Brokentooth DOC on Vimeo.


Check out all the pics that go with this story!


  1. I loved that interview, for the likes of me that live in a sun bathed country riding in the snow is the same as walking on the moon. I’ll be following the web site to get updates.

  2. Great interview! Oliver – I laughed out loud several times. Really appreciate the humour. I’m sure I’m one of many who have repeatedly urged you to submit your short documentaries to some film festivals – to get them “out there”. Great to see this taking shape. I’m really looking forward to watching this one. Take care! Mike

    • Thanks Mike! I can’t imagine anyone would have considered a grubby old mug like me fodder for for a doc but I guess it’s just proof that (day) dreams can come true.

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