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Billy Joel Motorcycle Show

by Richard Backus


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Billy Joel with Knucklehead
Billy Joel with one of his new/old Harleys, a reworked Knucklehead 
(Photos by Phil Fazin)
 

We all know Billy Joel for his rock-n-roll piano playing, but how many knew the Piano Man is also a hardcore vintage bike fan? Turns out that Joel, whose first bike was a BSA back in the Sixties, has a collection of over 31 bikes, 20 of which he’s exhibiting at the “Billy Joel’s Motorcycle as Art and Icon” show. Oh yeah, and he’s displaying Motorcycle Classics at the event!

We found out about Joel’s planned exhibit when his publicist called to order a couple of cases of Motorcycle Classics. Turns out Joel’s not only a classic bike fan, he’s a fan of Motorcycle Classics, as well, and he wanted copies of the magazine on hand to pass out to friends and attendees during the exhibit.

Billy Joel's Sportster
Billy Joel's take on the original 1957 Harley-Davidson Sportster, this time
with modern hardware including disc brakes and belt drive.
 

Joel’s collection is remarkably diverse, ranging from classic mounts like a 1977 Harley-Davidson XLCR Café Racer and a 1975 Honda Gold Wing to a 1952 Vincent Rapide and a 1975 Ducati. He also has a collection of Harley-based specials designed to look like vintage Knuckleheads and Panheads.

Billy Joel's 1945 Panhead
Billy Joel's 20th Century Cycles 1945 Panhead bobber 

The exhibit, which runs through Saturday, June 20, is being hosted by Christy’s Art Center in Sag Harbor, N.Y., on Long Island Sound. Joel has picked 20 bikes from his collection spread across three categories, American Classics, Metric Culture and Café Racers. But the center point of the exhibit is clearly his interest in recreating vintage bikes with modern technology. Joel has teamed up with Lighthouse Harley-Davidson in neighboring Huntington Station to create his own line of bikes, 20th Century Cycles. The bikes, which include a 1957 Sportster and a 1945 Panhead bobber, are his interpretation of how modern technology can benefit the classic lines of yesterday’s machines. The bikes use period-correct engines, but are built on newer chassis and incorporate updated electrics, suspensions and disc brake hardware. On first look, most look like an original that’s been updated, when really they’re newer machines that have been, for lack of a better description, back-dated.

Billy Joel's 20th Century H-D
Another of Billy Joel's bikes from the 20th Century Cycles collection he's creating
with Lighthouse Harley-Davidson
 

It’s an interesting take on building customs, and as the pics show, the results are quite impressive. The show, which also showcases Joel’s collection of vintage motorcycle signage and paraphernalia, is scheduled to end this Saturday, June 20, so if you’re in the area, get to Sag Harbor before Joel’s show takes leave. - Richard Backus