The bikes: 2010 Triumph
Scrambler, 1971 BMW R50/5
- Previous work includes Runaway, Wolf Lake, In God’s Country
- Directed, wrote, and produced the film Interview with a Zombie
- The Listener airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CTV with encore episodes Sundays at 7 p.m. ET/PT
- Producing a feature-length documentary called Finding Ricky, shot by director Michael Nguyen
- A partner/owner in Raw Canvas, a wine and tapas lounge/art studio/gallery in Vancouver
At 14, he landed his first big acting gig – a role in the multi-award-winning flick, Margaret’s Museum. Since then, actor Craig Olejnik has appeared in numerous films and TV series – including Murdoch Mysteries, Thir13en Ghosts, and The Timekeeper.
Nowadays, he’s probably best known as Toby Logan, the telepathic paramedic, on CTV’s hit series, The Listener. When the Nova Scotia native isn’t acting, he’s riding. He’s a huge bike enthusiast who owns a 2010 Triumph Scrambler and a vintage 1971 BMW R50/5 bike, which he fully restored.
Why did you buy a vintage bike?
For me, it’s the pure design of the bikes in the ’60s and ’70s. They’re beautiful, pure bikes. I didn’t realize there’s a massive culture around old BMWs. The people who ride a particular era of BMWs are called Airheads – I don’t know? The carburetor or something juts out of the engine. It doesn’t look like a normal engine.
The old German BMWs are so reliable – everything is mechanics on them – there’s nothing electronic. I’ve enjoyed riding that bike. It’s the bike I will never get rid of. It was okay when I got it, but each season I went a little further and was able to put more money into it. Now it’s fully restored, gorgeous and beautiful. I really don’t ride it – I’m waiting for the future when I have a cottage or something. It’s a piece of art.
I had been dreaming of owning a motorbike since I was a kid. I know a lot of people who grew up riding motorbikes and I was not one of those kids. I envied those kids. Whenever you’re driving along on a highway inside your nice, cozy car and there’s someone outside in the elements going through the weather on this motorbike, I always wondered what was going on their head. I always wanted that experience – that’s what drew me to learning how to ride six years ago. There were many, many years when I was sleeping on couches and had zero dollars to my name where I would dream and, in my dreams, I was riding a motorbike and the freedom of it was enough to keep me motivated and moving. About five years ago, I had just done a pilot for the show and I had the opportunity to finally get a bike. I started looking around on Craigslist and I found it.
Did you restore it yourself?
Yeah. I took a pen and I wrote a cheque. I was very hands on with that. That’s the extent of it for me. I’m not mechanically inclined, unfortunately.
Why did you buy the Scrambler?
In season two, one of my directors pushed for my character to ride a motorbike on the show. I was like, ‘Yeah, let’s do this!’ My producer said, ‘What bike do you want?’ Oh my God – I could choose any bike?! I knew there was this completely retro looking – but brand-new – Scrambler. So we got one. I started riding it and fell in love with it.
My BMW is old. It’s temperamental. But a brand-new bike was amazing. I fell in love with it on the show and when we were finishing that second season I followed my gut and I bought a similar bike.
Is the Triumph your TV persona and the vintage BMW your real-life persona?
I think both of them fit right into my character. When I’m not doing a show, I do projects. The BMW became my project – it’s about how to make it as great as you can. Maybe it’s my military father in me, I don’t know. With the Scrambler, it was already a perfect bike. It’s just rock and roll. It’s real. It’s urban. It’s a good bike. I’m actually now going through the process of modifying it and customizing it to my own personality and style.
What do you think about when you’re riding?
I call it time travel. It is one of the most unbelievable, unexpected phenomena. I didn’t expect it to happen. Because you’re so aware of everything on the road your brain and eyes are calculating everything. What’s ahead? What’s on the right? Everything begins to slow down. It begins to become like a meditation and you’re in this pocket. When stopped, you’re in the elements. Your feet are on the ground. It’s like any good dance, good song, or anything where you lose yourself. You’re so hyper-aware that you lose yourself. Whether I’m riding 20 minutes or four hours, when I get off the bike, I look around at where I am now and it never feels like you were on a motorbike to get there. All of a sudden it feels like you’ve transported yourself, time travelled to a new place. I call it your own private roller coaster.
I go down and live in California when I’m not working. The bike culture down there is resurging massively – there are bike cafes and clubs. Everyone in California is used to riding year-round because the weather is so nice. They make a lot of room for you. The most incredible thing is being able to go through the cars at red lights. It’s a genius thing. I love it – they do it in Europe, too. I feel so imprisoned when I come back to Toronto and I’m at a red light and there’s so much room for me to move through, but I can’t because they don’t do that here.
Any accidents or mishaps on your bikes?
No. Nothing. Bikes are extremely safe. It’s the cars that are unaware.
What’s your best and worst riding memory?
I just came back from Costa Rica with a good friend of mine, Jonny Harris on Murdoch Mysteries. We rode brand-new BMW GS 650 Sertaos around Costa Rica for seven days, about seven-nine hours a day. That took my riding to another level. It’s an incredible way to see the country.
Worst riding would be in Costa Rica. The first two days of riding we caught the end of a hurricane storm and it was raining, so we were completely miserable. On that same trip, you had the most epic and some of the worst riding we’ve ever gone through.
This interview has been edited and condensed.