Celebrity Rider: Kelly Hansen 

Text: Kevin Duke • Photography: Stephen Gregory

Foreigner has been rocking the airwaves for four decades and is one of the most successful bands of all time, with more than 80 million records sold. Founded by guitarist Mick Jones in the 1970s, the band had huge hits with iconic rock tracks like Cold As Ice, Hot Blooded, Double Vision, Juke Box Hero, and Urgent, as well as classic ballads like Waiting For a Girl Like You and I Want To Know What Love Is. Singer Lou Gramm split from the band in the late 1980s, and was replaced in 2005 by our celebrity rider, Kelly Hansen.

Hansen is an avid motorcyclist, enjoying rides on his 1995 Harley-Davidson Softail Nostalgia and 1990 Yamaha FZR1000. Hansen’s music and motorcycle worlds merged in 2018, when Foreigner headlined at the Buffalo Chip in Sturgis, SD, part of the band’s 40th anniversary tour. 

With COVID-19 interrupting Foreigner’s touring plans, we had time to catch up with Hansen on some of his favorite roads around Malibu, CA. 

RoadRUNNER: Why do you ride motorcycles? 

Kelly Hansen: Riding motorcycles showed me that I had a passion for other things beside music. Up until I rode a motorcycle, it was all music, all the time ... And girls. I really do enjoy just getting out on the bike—your mind goes blank and you concentrate at the same time, and you’re focused on just one thing. All your other thoughts and problems just aren’t there while you’re riding. 

RR: What motorcycle experience first hooked you? 

KH: When my best friend, Jay Schellen (current drummer for Yes), and I were in (the band) Hurricane together in the ‘80s, he rode in on a ‘65 Harley-Davidson Pan/Shovel that was just gorgeous. It was so cool that he inspired me to look for a bike. I found a ‘68 Electra Glide in really rough shape and I rebuilt it all myself. Up until then, I had ridden a motorcycle only one other time in my life. 

RR: What parallels are there with motorcycles and music? 

KH: One of the good things about them is that they use completely different parts of the brain. In music, you’re working with a bunch of different people in concert. While riding, there’s no collaboration, except between you and the bike. You become hyper-aware of sounds and vibration and feel on a motorcycle, but the motorcycle experience processes in a completely different part of my brain. Because I do so much music-oriented work, it’s so great to get my brain into a different place. 

RR: Which other musicians do you know who ride? 

KH: Jay and I ride a lot. Sean McNabb (bassist of Quiet Riot and Dokken) does too. I don’t see a lot of them out when I’m on a bike, but I’d like to find more musicians who ride. 

RR: What’s your best day on a motorcycle? 

KH: Whenever me and my girl are on the bike riding through the Santa Monica mountains, it’s always different even if you’re riding the same roads. I never get tired of that. 

RR: What was your favorite trip on a motorcycle? 

KH: I took a trip with Jay up to the Sequoia National Park. Although it was excessively hot mid-summer, when we got off the main highway, there was all this tall yellow grass, fields and fields of it, with the smells going through the farms. It’s always so great when you can have this experience. I really did enjoy that. 

RR: What motorcycle is your favorite and why? 

KH: I had a ‘76 Harley-Davidson that had a Paco rigid frame and an 18-over springer front end. It was a kickstart-only bike, king of the highway, with no front brake and suicide shift. It was a very cool, mechanically oriented bike. It was so easy, so non-temperamental, so worry-free. 

RR: What bike would you really like to ride but haven’t yet? 

KH: I really do like a cool, laid-back bike. I’d like to get a ‘48 Panhead bar-hopper rigid with drag bars. I enjoy the vintage quality of bikes, the mechanical no-computer vibe. I like to be able to work on it myself.

RR: If you could create your dream ride ... What bike and where? 

KH: I would really like to get on one of those European adventure-touring bikes. I’d love to be able to go across the country and travel the western states and go kind of hardcore. I was inspired by the Ewan McGregor series Long Way Around. I really like that vibe. You can get so into yourself and into your head, I think you really gain some introspection, and you’re able to think about life, your place in the world, and philosophy when you’re riding long distances like that. 

RR: What’s your favorite motorcycle story?

KH: With Foreigner, we played at the Chip in Sturgis, and there was this section in the front row where you could ride your bike to the stage in a little pen. Every time we finished a song, everyone just revved their bikes, and some would do burnouts. One dude was so wasted that he kept revving and his bike was blowing up, it was smoking like hell, and he finally fell off the thing!