Gunning for the rumble of freedom

Mike Avetikian—motorcyclist, professional photographer, gunslinger and former Soviet citizen—has realized many of his dreams

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“I want to wish to all motorcycle communities to ride free and safe roads." — Mike Avetikian — Dragan Balac photo

Mike “Yukon” Avetikian does not see motorcycling as merely a sport. Or a hobby. It is a portal into the soul of people who, like him, are freed by two wheels in motion.

Based in Calgary, Alberta, Avetikian is an accomplished photographer whose professional work (Yukonart) has appeared in motorcycle magazines throughout North America as well as in hunting magazines in Europe and on book covers around the world. He has also photographed weddings, animals and scenery. His most prized images even decorate the walls of some private and commercial establishments.

Avetikian, who was born and raised in the Soviet Union (now Russia), got his first camera when was 14 years old. Coincidentally, that was about the same time he started riding motorcycles. His first bike was handmade by a neighbour on the street, using various parts from Russian motorcycles.

Later on in life, he immigrated to Canada and after watching Harley-Davidson And The Marlboro Man and Terminator, acquired a Fat Boy Low. Loyal to Harley, Avetikian cruises the streets of Calgary every chance he gets and, when weather permits, hits the open road, heading west through the Rockies and into B.C.

Inspired by the culture

When he became involved in the local motorcycle community and met riders who care about each other, Avetikian’s passion for photography really took off. Capturing memories that people can keep forever brings him a great deal of satisfaction.

“All what I’m shooting with my camera makes other people happier,” he said. “This is the best way to make my art better.”

Avetikian practises every day to keep his photography skills sharp. He also enjoys giving back to non-profits.

“As a veteran, I’m involved with and volunteer with many veterans support organizations and veterans motorcycle club events,” he said.

One Broken Biker, an organization that assists injured riders and their families, has also recognized Avetikian for his contributions to its cause.

A Top Gun of the World

When he’s not riding or taking photos, Avetikian enjoys hunting and the cowboy-style shooting sport known as fast draw. Over the years, he’s won many trophies from competitions throughout North America and is recognized as a Top Gun of the World.

Competing gunslingers are required to dress in late-1800s period clothing to resurrect the spirit of the old west. — Dragan Balac photo

“Two years ago, the legendary Howard Darby and I went to Japan to represent North America in the fast draw competitions, and we were the first Canadian champions in the world history who come to his competition to Japan,” he said.

Being able to experience and resurrect an unforgettable time in North American history is a dream come true.

“I was born in the Soviet Union and for me this Wild West style of life was only in childhood dreams, but now I’m a real shooter of the Wild West, and trust me, I’m really proud of it,” he said.

Riding free

Avetikian doesn’t take anything for granted, especially his freedom. Years of repression under Soviet rule has instilled in him a deep appreciation for Canada, a country where people are free to hop on their motorcycles anytime they want, chasing the sunset, and for no apparent reason.

When asked what he gets from riding, Avetikian said, “It’s hard to describe when your soul has magic feelings when you ride. It’s better to try by yourself and to understand how we feel when we ride.” 


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