FTR Bio:, John Carter Hensley
Born: Hyden, Kentucky on August 29, 1977
Starred in: The Sopranos, Nip/Tuck
Bike : Speed Triple R
Favourite sandwich: His wife's serrano ham breakfast sandwich
When Hollywood actor John Hensley was taken to a racetrack for the first time, it sparked a moment that would change his life forever.
“There was so much colour, action, this huge crowd, and at the centre of it these guys who looked like superheroes, all speaking a different language,” he said.
“A French friend of mine had taken me there and I was intoxicated by the atmosphere, so when he peeled back the tarp covering his race bike, I knew immediately that I had to race too and got a Daytona 675 soon after.”
That eureka moment came as Hensley’s love affair with motorcycles was in its infancy, following his 2003 move to Los Angeles on the heels of his big break as Eric Scatino in The Sopranos.
“It was so congested here that after a while the idea of riding a bike grew more and more alluring to me. What had been a passing thought soon became an obsession, and I dived in,” he said.
But Hensley, best known for his seven-year role in TV series Nip/Tuck, was totally unprepared for what happened next.
“I was completely caught off guard because I wasn’t expecting the entire shift in lifestyle that came with riding,” he said.
“As soon as I swung my leg over I was hooked. You are either built for it or you’re not, and if you are, you will never put it down again.”
Hensley, by his own admission a ‘not particularly gifted but persistent’ rider, is grounded, driven and arguably the least celebrity-obsessed celebrity you could meet.
He is happy to play second fiddle to wife Sandra Cordero at their motorcycle-inspired Gasolina Cafe at the start of Mulholland Highway, and is always looking for an opportunity to hop on his bike to pick up missing ingredients.
But the easy-talking father of a four-year-old daughter, who he concedes has totally changed his outlook, will never lose the aggressive, competitive edge discovered at that track back in 2006.
He said: “My first street bike was a Speed Triple 1050. I love the Triple engine. It gives out usable power at low to mid range, but if you want to crack the thing, it will scream for you.
“It was the perfect first bike as it taught me about self-regulation… I knew that if I pulled that throttle too hard I’d pay for it.”
That didn’t matter so much at a civilian racing level when on his Daytona 675, with Hensley stressing ‘I don’t think I’ll be hired by anyone in World Superbike anytime soon’.
I’ve also ridden Bonnevilles and the new Tiger XCX, but for me, the requirement of bikes changes in different phases of your life… it’s like finding that perfect-fitting pair of jeansJohn Hensley
“Racing is a real passion for me and it’s to do with a leaning towards the meditation of it all,” he said. “It brings that beat in time to an even more crystalised point where you’re pushing yourself to your personal limit until there are moments where it doesn’t feel like effort.
“There’s a rightness to it that is hard to explain unless you’ve done it. I guess it’s like surfers must feel when they talk about the perfect wave.”
No surprise then that Hensley is unequivocal in describing his riding style: “I’m a performance-oriented rider. I enjoy assertive riding with appropriate and refined aggression embodied in the Speed Triple.”
He’s currently riding out for the groceries vegetables on a new Street Twin he says is ‘packed with character, fun and limitless potential for building out’ that he’s ‘borrowing’ from his wife until his new Speed Triple arrives.
He’s clearly no stranger to Triumph, having weaved his Speed, Daytona and Thruxton through the heaving streets of LA.
“I’ve also ridden Bonnevilles and the new Tiger XCX, but for me, the requirement of bikes changes in different phases of your life… it’s like finding that perfect-fitting pair of jeans,” he said.
“Compared with other manufacturers, Triumph isn’t too big and looming, yet it speaks to the very essence of each bike segment out there without apology. I greatly appreciate that in a company.”
Every time I get on my bike I have instant engagement with the environment and the moment from tip to tail. Once you’re riding it’s like a movie unfolding in front of youJohn Hensley
With acting increasingly taking a back seat to scriptwriting and looking after his daughter, the Kentucky-born 38-year-old admits his adrenalin-fuelled track days may be slowing down.
The realisation – he calls it a ‘tipping point’ – that he’d have to swop the 675 for a Speed or Street Twin came as he hurtled down a strait in Fontana a few years back.
“I was in the second to last race running at top speed. I’d already had a couple of close calls when it suddenly hit me that no one was paying me to be there and no one had actually asked me to come,” he said.
“My priorities had shifted. Maybe it was due to my daughter arriving, but I wanted the adventure and speed without the racing. That’s why the Triple and Twin are perfect for me now.
“It’s funny it’s all come full circle. The Speed Triple was my first motorcycle and now, 10 years later, it’s the perfect motorcycle for me once again. It speaks to every bit of who I am as a rider today.”
His riding nowadays is almost an extension of his film career, with even the most mundane trip to a supplier a potential adventure.
“Every time I get on my bike I have instant engagement with the environment and the moment from tip to tail. Once you’re riding it’s like a movie unfolding in front of you,” he said.
“I’m delighted that the Triumphs I ride and the cafe I support my wife with reflect our passion for motorcycles. At the end of the day it’s all about passion and execution, whether you’re creating the perfect plate or going on the perfect ride.”