It is our utmost pleasure to bring you closer to Valentin a.k.a. @schaaf_gopro_only today.
Amidst endless motorcycle riding channels on YouTube, schaaf_gopro_only sets himself apart with a particular RAW video style. His videos truly are breath-taking, allowing viewers to enjoy his rides through the bendy mountain roads of Austria. Even just a glance at one of the videos will tell you that Valentin is a very experienced rider. The sounds of his bike and scraping pegs on the road make your palms sweat and raise your adrenaline, making the videos addictive and impossible to stop watching.
schaaf_gopro_only videos are massively shared on Instagram these days, including some of the biggest and most popular profiles. That’s no wonder, because aside from making awesome videos, schaaf_gopro_only is also a cool and funny guy. Never Ride alone has asked him some questions about his life as a biker, and here is what he said. Enjoy!
NEVER RIDE ALONE: For those who don’t know you yet, please tell us a bit about yourself.
Aloha y'all, my name's Valentin a.k.a. Schaaf. I'm 27 years old and for one more year I'll be studying digital media technologies, trying to get my Master's degree. I started riding mopeds in 2006 and got my first motorcycle, my beloved CB500, in early 2008.
NEVER RIDE ALONE: When did you first start riding?
In 2006 I got the Austrian “Mopedausweis” which allows you to ride 50cc bikes. I was 16 years old back then. My first own two-wheeler was a Vespa PK50S with not exactly legal 102ccs inside. I rode that thing in 2006 and 2007. Until I became old enough to get the actual driver's license for cars and bikes.
NEVER RIDE ALONE: When did you realize that you have ‘a biker thing’ inside you?
The moment I got my Vespa. My first vehicle. Suddenly I was free to go wherever I wanted at any given time. This was especially nice because at the time my parents went through an ugly divorce. I just hopped onto the Vespa anytime I couldn't bear my parent's fighting any longer. Plus I never had to ride alone. I usually met with friends who also had Mopeds. We were always having so much fun day and night. Whenever we were bored we just went for a ride. I didn't realize I had a “biker thing” in me but I did realize how happy I usually was whenever I was riding. I saw what a brilliant “escape tool” the bike can be. I still consider the time when I was 16 to 18 years old as the best of my life. So far.
NEVER RIDE ALONE: Tell us how the idea to record riding videos and start your YouTube Chanel came about.
I never really had the idea to create a YouTube channel. I discovered photography when I was 13 years old and started to make videos when I was 15. My first videos were compilations of the coolest goals I scored while playing Pro Evolution Soccer by the way. Those were the reason I created the YouTube channel back in 2006. Back then I also discovered the Canon Powershot's video mode. I think this camera was capable of making videos in 320xx something resolution. For me it was the most obvious thing to do, taking the camera with me whenever I went riding my Vespa. I think it was 2007 (2006 actually, now that I saw the upload date from my very first RAW) when I DIYed a small chest-mounted bag for the Powershot camera in order to record a Vespa Onboard ride. You can still watch the video on my YouTube channel. It's how the onboard videos started actually. And boy was I glad when I discovered the GoPro back in 2009. This thing made recording those onboard videos so much easier :) At the time I was riding my (restricted to 27bhp) CB500 already.
Schaaf's first chest-mounted bag for the Powershot camera in order to record a Vespa Onboard ride.
Early days of onboard videos:
NEVER RIDE ALONE: You have 25,000 followers on YouTube, which is very impressive. How long did it take you to reach this number, and what were some of the struggles and tasks involved in achieving this goal?
Like mentioned I created my channel in 2006 so actually it took incredibly long to get to 25K. But people actually started to discover my channel after I made the WINTER & MOTORCYCLES video in early 2013. That one was my first “hit” on YouTube ever. I still remember the feeling when checking my mails the day after uploading to see hundreds of YouTube messages because so many people left nice comments. For a moment I was incredibly proud and pleased with myself. From that point on I 'dedicated' myself to making videos quite a bit more.
I have to admit though that I'm struggling with being part of the moto YouTube world quite often unfortunately. My channel is tiny compared to other moto YouTubers. And I realized that it will stay this way as long as I decide to stay 'true' to myself and only provide videos and pictures I myself consider worthy and entertaining. And that's just the way it should be actually. However there's a bit of an entertaining spirit inside me as well and this spirit doesn't like to accept the fact that only the most obvious forms of entertainment will be able to cater to the broadest of audiences. I'm often thinking about at least partially selling my soul to the devil and hop onto the 'trending train' too in order to be able to reach much bigger audiences. So far I could prevent myself from doing too much of that. And usually a couple of minutes of reading through the supportive comments coming from my dear subscribers immediately reminds me of why I started all of this in the first place: because I simply love to share all kinds of aspects of my personal bikelife.
Although at this point I also realized that motorcycles probably are my only real passion. The German word for passion is “Leidenschaft” and in my opinion it's one of the most intelligent German words ever created. Because it literally means “creates suffering” and that's just what having a passion means. You can't have tremendous highs without the ugly lows. The motorized two wheelers are the only topic where I can't manage to contain myself in any form. Where I can't hide my true feelings. Where I'm having a hard time 'keeping it professional'. Which is especially terrible when trying to get a foot in the door of the Austrian motorcycle media world. Although looking at how emotional I immediately become when bikes are involved it's probably the best idea to keep the passion of simply sharing my adventures alive. Instead of turning it into some sort of profession.
NEVER RIDE ALONE: You are recording your videos and photos only with a GoPro camera. Can you tell us what made you go that way? We know that GoPro is limited in comparison with DSLR cameras.
Because I'm the type of guy who wants to master simple and easy things instead of always using the most advanced technologies. Even though I'm pretty good with DSLRs and other small cameras these days I usually feel a little overwhelmed whenever I'm working with them because there are so many settings and options to choose. The GoPro however opened up a whole lot of new possibilities while being very limited regarding manual controls at the same time. I always loved this combination and how this small camera forces you to think outside the box quite a bit.
NEVER RIDE ALONE: You are famous for your RAW Videos. For those who are not familiar with this kind of videos, can you explain what they are?
I take my bike and look for beautiful and twisty stretches of road. As soon as I've found one I turn on the GoPro which is mounted to my helmet, turn on the sound recorder which is located in my backpack (for clean engine sound without the annoying wind noise), and just capture the ride. No music, no cuts, no visual effects. Just a couple of text-based captions for additional info from time to time. Those videos should make my viewers feel as if they themselves were sitting on the bike. This season I started to record RAW rides on bikes other than my own Honda too. It's quite fascinating for myself to see how good or bad I'm dealing with different kinds of bikes. My subscribers apparently also enjoy seeing me on all sorts of machines, looking at how well the non-CB500-RAW videos performed this year. Having some sort of collaboration with a motorcycle dealer in order to be able to create lots more of those would be ideal but unfortunately the Austrian dealers show zero interest in my offers. Maybe I should move to a country where they understand my passion rather than being afraid of it ;)
NEVER RIDE ALONE: Tell us what it takes to make a good RAW Video?
Good sound quality and a clean riding line. Unfortunately there are very few people out there making good motorcycle RAW videos. A couple of years ago I even produced a tutorial video explaining how my engine sound recording method works in order to inspire more people to do the same. I was tired of watching my own stuff all the time. It's a pity that very few folk decided to follow my lead though. A couple of weeks ago the Motobasterds uploaded a RAW video showing an R1 riding up a Swiss mountain pass. Take a look at it. That'd be the kind of RAWs I'd like to see more often!
Check some of Valentin's videos:
NEVER RIDE ALONE: What kind of bike do you ride, and why that particular one?
A 1994 Honda CB500 PC26. Because back then it was the only bike I could afford which offered fun riding characteristics and was capable of longer distance touring as well. Around three or four years ago I started to realize how much good this bike is doing to my riding style actually. Nowadays I'm not the worst rider any more. It's the CB500 which is responsible for that. Every skill I own I learned on this bike. There were times in which I could've afford to buy something more powerful but back then I had already realized that in order to maximize my riding capabilities I better stick to the CB500 for a bit longer. That was one of the best decisions I made bike-wise. Nowadays again the CB500 is the only bike I can afford to ride and maintain so for now I'm quite happy with it.
NEVER RIDE ALONE: Is there any other bike that you would like to have right now to ride on?
I think I'd need to own at least five different bikes to really feel 'complete'. Although at the moment there is a clear favourite to replace my Little Honda in the far future. A Triumph Street Triple R(X). But even when I can afford this wonderful British machine there'll always be an old CB500 PC26 or PC32 parked in my garage.
NEVER RIDE ALONE: What is your dream bike?
Just recently I tested out a BMW 1200 GS Adventure and the Ducati Multistrada Enduro. Because a voice inside my head told me that these 'touring enduros' are the type of bike which would suit my riding style best. After testing both I now know I was right and sooner or later I'll end up on one. So you could say my dream bike would be one out of this category. I'll have to test all the models though before deciding who's my favourite one :)
NEVER RIDE ALONE: Your best and worst moment on the motorcycle? Something that you can never forget.
My best moment sure was back in the summer of 2011 when I rode into Südtirol (Alto Adige) for the first time in my life. I was riding with two great friends. At one point we were on a stretch of road which I remembered very well from my childhood days. You have to know that my Mum's dad was born in Glurns, Südtirol. My Mum is from Zams, Tirol. When I was a kid we spend many summers in Tirol and often we took our trusty Mitsubishi L300 van for a daytrip into Südtirol. Of course as it's always the case in Südtirol in the summer we were surrounded by bikers. I was 6 or 7 years old and thought that motorcyclists were the coolest people in the world. So I was glued to our van's side window watching all the bikers passing us. The faster and louder they were the more I was smiling. So back in 2011 when we were riding on that particular road I remembered from my childhood-staring-out-the-Mitsubishi's-window-days I had tears of joy in my eyes. As kid I used to fantasize and dream about riding there on my own bike one day. And there I was, doing just that. A lot earlier than I expected actually. Unfortunately I'm very unhappy with how my life went for the last 10 years but at least I'm always grateful for deciding to get a motorcycle license and bike as early as I could. It's one of the few decisions in my life with which I'm 100% satisfied.
I'm sure I had bad moto moments too but since riding bikes always was and still is a positive escape for me I'm having a hard time thinking of bad times on the bike actually. But I do remember that riding in cheap rain gear, with 10 hours of non-stop rain and less than 10 degrees Celsius outside temperature ain't the most comfortable thing to do.
NEVER RIDE ALONE: What are you up to next? Are there any interesting new projects in sight?
For the next one and a half years my studies should be my top priority. I'll have to wait and see how much time and money will remain for living and sharing my bikelife during this time. So for the near future no big projects are planned. Just like there are no plans for my far future. I actually have no idea what to do and where to go once my studies are finished. I enjoy filming, photographing, writing, and entertaining in front of a camera. I still don't know which of these 'directions' I should choose. A combination of all four would be ideal but unfortunately so far I haven't found a job or task where I could do so.
I do have a lifelong motorcycle bucket list though. It's listing all kinds of things I want to do on two wheels before I die. There are two projects on there which I'd like to realize sooner than later: getting my ass on a racetrack and taking the Little Honda to see the ocean, preferably somewhere in Croatia.
Thanks a whole lot for the interview, it was my pleasure and honour answering these questions :)