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Retromobile 2017, Paris, France

The Koehler Escoffier, made in France, looked like it had an engine installed with a whip and chain.

Winter is hard on gearheads. Cabin fever kicks in and you find yourself having to be around like-minded enthusiasts – and look at or acquire something, hence the success of the winter motorcycle auctions in Las Vegas, Nevada, and the car sales in Scottsdale, Arizona. In Europe the tonic is Retromobile. While the primary focus has been on automobiles and “antiquities,” there is also plenty to entertain motorcycle enthusiasts in addition to three auctions at the event and around Paris, which include motorcycles.

At first glance you think you’re viewing a Velocette, but it is bevel drive Peugeot.

The venue for the show at the Paris Expo Porte de Versailles has expanded considerably in the last few years and now fills three halls. There is a one enormous hall dedicated to clubs. Europeans are an enthusiastic lot. Each marque will typically have a club and then there are some “blanket” clubs that cover all makes, like our Antique Motorcycle Club of America in the U.S.

This year, one of the highlights was the display of French motorcycles from the Musee de l’Automobile Henri Malartre in Lyon, France. Motorcycles pre-date the automobile and were first invented in France. The first steam powered bike was the Louis Guillaume Perraux, much like the Roper in the U.S. These were both bicycles of sorts that had been converted with steam engines. (Debate rages over whether the first motorcycle should be considered gas powered or just an engine that develops heat.) Numerous marques were built in France over the years, and their zenith was probably during the Thirties prior to World War II. Many were unable to come back, faced with the postwar devastation of France’s infrastructure. Names like Peugeot are known by Americans for their cars, but their two-wheeled ventures were much earlier. Others like Gnome Rhone, Terrot, Koehler Escoffier, Dollar, Monet & Gayon and Simca once crowded the motorways.

A nice original Rene Gilet V-Twin. Note the interesting drive for the generator off of the transmission.

The Jonghi had a small run. Their double overhead was pretty innovative for the early thirties.

The first motorcycles were steam powered. This was a great example of the Michaux-Perreaux. It was built around 1870. In the U.S., the Roper steam bike was running around.

This collection of AJS 7Rs was on offer for 750,000 Euros!

Each auction house had motorcycles on offer. Bonhams had around 10 lots at their Grand Palais auction, including a fully race kitted Ducati Tri-Colore that was sold for about $11,000 U.S. Artcurial, the resident auction house of Paris and the Retromobile event, had an NSU racer, an MV, and a Zundapp military sidecar unit.

On the streets of Paris and throughout France, you see how essential motorcycles and scooters are to them. For many, it is their year-round mode of transportation. Vive La Moto!

Ride ’Em, Don’t Hide ’Em Getaway Returns

The Ride 'Em, Don't Hide 'Em tour happens Aug. 4-6!

The Motorcycle Classics Ride ’Em, Don’t Hide ’Em Getaway at Seven Springs Resort in Seven Springs, Pennsylvania, is set for Aug. 4-6, 2017. Response to last year’s event completely exceeded expectations, so we’re doing it again!

The concept is simple; hang out and ride great roads. Eighty-three of you liked the idea enough to make the trek to Southwestern Pennsylvania, with six riders joining Joel Samick for a back-road romp from RetroTours headquarters in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, to Seven Springs. Last year’s ride included visits to Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural masterpiece, Falling Water, plus Coopers Rock — and of course great riding through the Laurel Highlands in Pennsylvania. This is truly stunning territory, a mixture of woods and open farm land punctuated by broad ridges and sudden valleys of idyllic farm land, with ribbons of two-lane black top slicing through it all.

RetroTours will once again offer rental bikes from its 20-strong stable of classic ’70s twins, and if you’re looking for more adventure you can link up with them for the round-trip run from Kennett Square for the event ( We’re still working on this year’s route and special guest — former Norton employee and current Barber museum restoration expert Brian Slark headlined last year’s event — but you can count on another great weekend filled with great people, great food and great riding. It really doesn’t get much better than that. For more information and to reserve your spot, go to

Show Time 2017: Motorcycle Classics Vintage Bike Shows

Lovely Moto Guzzi and BMW single at Rockerbox 2016.

With the 2017 show season fast approaching it’s time to start making plans to join us at our favorite annual events.

First up is the annual Rockerbox Motofest, June 9-11, 2017, at Road America racetrack outside Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. The Rockerbox Motofest Bike Show happens Saturday, and we’ll be helping with judging and awarding, including the Motorcycle Classics Editors’ Choice award along with awards for top bikes in five other categories. There’s great AHRMA racing and the Bill Dixon Stunt Show every day, plus live music, a Saturday microbrew tasting, a sunset cruise, and a chance to lap the track on your own scoot Saturday. More details on Page 55.

Labor Day weekend we’ll head west to the Utah Motorsports Campus in Tooele, Utah, for the 12th Annual Bonneville Vintage GP, Sept. 1-3, 2017. As always there’s great AHRMA racing, plus the ever popular Battle of the CB160s LeMans Start at noon on Saturday and Sunday. We’ll host the annual Motorcycle Classics Vintage Bike Show, with the Norton Commando this year’s feature bike. It’s been 50 years since the Commando was unveiled at the Earl’s Court show in London, England, in 1967, and since then it’s become one of the most coveted motorcycles of all time. We’ll award a trophy for the top Commando, plus trophies in five other classes, with awards for Best Restored and Best Rider in each class. Top tip: Come early for the 2017 Bonneville Motorcycle Speed Trials at the Bonneville Salt Flats, Aug. 26-31, for an experience you’ll never forget.

Five weeks later, we’ll be at the 13th Annual Barber Vintage Festival, Oct. 6-8, 2017. This is the single largest vintage gathering in the U.S., attended by over 73,000 enthusiasts in 2016. Look for the Motorcycle Classics Barber Vintage Bike Show, with the Norton Commando our featured model, and join us for our Sunday Morning Ride, a leisurely run through the beautiful Alabama countryside. There’s also great AHRMA racing on the incredible Barber track, and the excellent Barber Swap Meet returns, as does the Ace Corner, the Century Parade for bikes 100 years old and older, the Globe of Death stunt show and much more. Don’t miss it! MC

Recipe for Adventure - Isle of Man Tour August 2016


Vintage Italian motorcycles
Vintage bike lovers from the U.S. and Italy

Mix in some British back-road charm, Manx hospitality and Italian spice, stir slowly for 9 days, and serve!

Mark Scott posing with – what else – a Scott Flying Squirrel at the Festival of Jurby.

Like most vintage motorcycle fans, seeing the races and riding the Mountain Course at the Isle of Man has been near the top of my bucket list since I was a boy. This is Mecca for international motorcycle racing, with hundreds of epic stories of the rise of global motorcycle brands and riders over its 100-plus year history. To win on the island assures your name in the annals of motorcycle stardom.

Enter Eligio Aturi and When I saw the notice in Motorcycle Classics about Eligio offering a tour for this year’s Manx GP event, I immediately cleared the calendar and signed up. The plan was to begin in London, ride across England, take the ferry from Heysham to Douglas on the Isle of Man, ride around the island for five days during the Classic TT and Manx GP, then reverse the trip back to London. On vintage Italian bikes. Organized and led by Italians. On the “other” side of the road. Now THAT’S the way to see the Isle of Man!

As you would expect on a 900-mile ride on 40-50 year-old motorcycles over a bit more than a week, many adventures ensued. Throughout the adventure of electrical gremlins, running out of fuel, broken clutch pushrods, busted clutch cables and carb failures, the Italians always came up with a solution. Even begging around the Manx GP pits for an oil pressure sender to replace one damaged in a loose-bandana-meets-chain incident on the Honda CB500 Four.

Richard Backus at Henley on the Themes

Day by day

Day one took us on backroads from London through quaint old towns, including a stop at Henley on the Thames River. In the midafternoon, we arrived at the British Motorcycle Museum in Birmingham. What a fantastic exhibit! Room after room of stunning examples of the last century of British motorcycles. We were met there by Roger Moss, President of the Scott Owners Club, who regaled us with details and anecdotes of the various brands. We spent the night in Birmingham, with the first of our post dinner scotch and cigar debriefings outside the hotel door.

Chris, Richard, Roger Moss and I at the museum

One of the museum rooms

Debriefing outside Hotel Latour in Manchester

 On day two we struggled a bit to keep the group together, which saw us take six hours to do the 100-mile run to Liverpool. Traffic on the M6 was horrendous due to construction, but that gave us the excuse to practice lane splitting for more than 20 miles. We had a couple people run out of gas, resulting in wrong turns and desperate calls to the backup truck. This led to a slightly more “assertive” ethos of the riders, who tightened up the spacing and began to see just-turned red lights as “suggestions” rather than hard and fast rules. All’s well that ends well, and we spent a couple hours at a wonderful port area in Liverpool.

The next 80 miles to the ferry in Heysham went more smoothly, but it did include the final 50-mile run on the M6 highway at night. On a 250cc Benelli from the mid ‘70s. With no lights. My buddy Chris was riding a 350cc Moto Morini whose lights also said ciao about five miles from the ferry. Fortunately, all the other bikes had varying degrees of illumination, so we managed to keep the group together. As the ferry sailing was at 1:30am, we had reserved bunks, so I did get a good three hours sleep before the landing in Douglas at 5:30 a.m. the morning of day three.

Two views of the Gooseneck, outside Ramsey, which leads up to the mountain part of the course. In the second photo you can see what awaits a rider who ends up too wide at the exit. Not your typical hay bale.

Not to waste any time, we ate breakfast at 7 a.m. and then saddled up for a run to the north of the island to catch some of the racing at The Gooseneck, a famous turn on the Mountain Course as it rises up Mount Snaefell. We rode back into town in the mid-afternoon, and then went to the paddock area, which is open to the public. It was an early dinner and early to bed that night, to catch up on some much needed sleep.

Day four was a rest day for racing on the mountain circuit. However, there was a massive vintage motorcycle festival and race meet at Jurby, on the northwest tip of the island. After breakfast, we set out to Jurby, taking our first ride on the famed mountain circuit. What a blast!

Jurby parking lot

Chris and me at The Crosby near Ballacraine

The parking lot at Jurby was a vintage bike show itself, with the brave English riding in on bikes ranging from brand new to 100 years old. The pits were open, with huge crowds wondering around between race bikes of all vintages. There was also a car show, and an air show with WWII Spitfires. We ran the mountain side of the circuit on the way home, getting back to Douglas about 3 p.m. As it was such an experience and the weather was great, we set back out to do a full loop of the course. However, the beautiful little MV Agusta 350 twin that Richard was riding had not been charging its battery properly, resulting in a dead ignition. After the rescue van left with the MV, Chris and I rode the course just about a quarter of the way to Ballacraine, where we stopped for a pint. We made it back to the hotel for dinner, followed by the now requisite post dinner scotch and cigars outside the hotel with the group.

Parade laps on the track at Jurby

Richard and the MV with a dead battery waiting for the rescue truck


Monday was day five and a race day, when the roads closed to the public at 9:30 a.m. To beat that closing, we woke up early and left for a full loop of the course at 7 a.m. Fantastic! No traffic, and I spun that poor Benelli 250 for all it had (which really only meant about a 75mph top speed). After the roads closed for racing we took the back roads to get to the Creg-ny-Baa corner to watch the action. We walked up the hill towards Kate’s Cottage, and sat on the berm along the road to watch the racers go by about 3-4 feet away. Holy crap. That would NEVER be allowed in the U.S. We spent a beautiful afternoon in the stands at the Creg, then went on to Governor’s Bridge, which is the last turn right before the front straight. Again, we were right up behind the track wall, as they came out of the last corner to the front straight. We watched the champion’s parade lap of over 150 bikes, including a replica of Kevin Schwantz’ #34. The day ended with dinner at an Italian restaurant with the group, again followed by the requisite scotch/cigar de-brief on the steps of the hotel.

Chris at Creg-ny-Baa

Richard and Davis sitting on the berm

Parade lap coming out of Governor's Bridge

August on the Isle tends to see about 15 rainy days, so the event is scheduled over two weeks with racing every other day, to allow for rain delays. This also eases the burden on the locals, who have to put up with the traffic and road closures. A TT regular said that this was the best weather he had seen in 15 years of coming to the Isle, with five straight days of mostly sunny skies and highs in the 60s.

The VMCC Concours in St. Johns

The scene across the street at St. Johns

Paulo at Peel Castle

Group shot in Peel

Tuesday (day six) was an off day for racing again and, as usual, there was still a full load of vintage events to attend. After breakfast, we rode to the VMCC concourse bike show in St Johns on the west side of the island. We then took a tour to the south side, with a stop at Peel Castle then lunch in Port Erin. We pulled in at Castletown on the way back to Douglas, with a visit to Castle Rushen, which was the Manx capital until 1869. As it was only 5 p.m. when we made it back to Douglas, we suited up again and swapped bikes for another lap around the mountain course. This time, I got to ride the much more modern Ducati ST4, which only cemented the true level of guts/insanity of those racers who lap at well over 100mph average speed.

Entrance to Quarter Bridge

Exit at Quarter Bridge

The boys at Quarter Bridge

Wednesday (day seven) was the last day on the island. Our ferry sailing was not until 7 p.m., giving us the whole day to see the racing. We began the day at the Quarter Bridge corner, where the course swings west. The ease of access to some of these corners is amazing. We parked our bikes less than 100 feet from the corner, and walked right up. For the second race, we rode back through Douglas up to Creg-ny-Baa to watch. We stopped off at the downtown shopping area to pick up some souvenirs before heading to the ferry for a melancholy 7 p.m. loading.

Me next to the course up from Creg-ne-Baa to Kate's Cottage

Emergency headlight on Chris' Moto Morini

The Manx people add a new meaning to the phrase “island hospitality.” To a man, woman and child, they were truly gracious, friendly, and very tolerant of the invasion of their beautiful island. On the road, they would stop to let our group through even when they had the right of way. The Manx are a confident, happy people, as reflected in the national moto “Quocunque Jeceris Stabit,” meaning “it will stand whichever way you throw it.”

A perfect example of the disposition and grace of the Manx was a sign on a private driveway near the hotel. Instead of a “NO PARKING” warning on the gate, it said, “Polite Notice: Please do not park in such a way that blocks access.”

The ferry made it to port in Heysham at about 11 p.m., and after the usual adventures (this time, a dead battery due to an ignition being left on), we left as a group for the hotel in Lancaster. On the ride there, we had a run in with an angry truck driver that brought us quickly back to the reality of no longer being on the road with the friendly Manx.

On the road through Shakespeare's country

What it takes to swap the BMW R60/5 for the spare Benelli 250

Novel way to secure your phone/GPS on a Benelli 650

Thursday (day nine) meant a 250-mile run from Lancaster through the middle of England back to London. We made good time, despite the usual hijinks of getting lost, running out of fuel and a weakening BMW R60/5 that was swapped out in a highway gas station. Thursday night was the farewell dinner at the hotel, with the last of the post dinner scotch/cigar debriefs in the parking lot. A truly epic adventure that will stay with me forever.

Group photo at farewell dinner

Mototouring is planning a Cuba tour, with Cuban guides on their own motorcycles. Hmmmm …

Click here to read what other tour participants thought of the 2016 Isle of Man Tour.

Upcoming Vintage Motorcycle Events: March/April 2017

A 1972 XS650 at the 2016 Black Hills Motorcycle Show. Photo courtesy Black Hills Motorcycle Show

Featured events

March 3

Back for its seventh year, the Modern Classics Motorcycle Show will feature “The Quickest and the Fastest” as the featured class, celebrating a selection of period bikes that were acclaimed as the fastest production bikes of their era, as well as a sample of drag bikes from the era. Check out the Friday Night Modern Classics Kickstart Party from 7-10 p.m. at the show’s home, Martin Motorsports in Boyertown, Pennsylvania.

March 10

This year marks the 76th Anniversary of Daytona Bike Week, which runs March 10-19 in Daytona Beach, Florida. The racing kicks off on Saturday night, March 11, with the Daytona Supercross. The rebranded American Flat Track series debuts this year with the Daytona TT on Thursday, March 16. The 2017 Daytona 200 takes place on Friday,  March 18, featuring American SportBike Racing Association’s (ASRA) 600cc sport bikes racing on Daytona’s famed road course. For more info, schedules and specific locations of activities visit the Bike Week site.

March 18

Visit Rapid City, South Dakota, for the 29th Annual Black Hills Motorcycle Show, March 18-19 at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. There are more than 20 judged classes, including People’s Choice.

March 25

The Clubman’s All-British Show and Swap Meet is back for the 30th year. Held at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds in San Jose, California, this year’s raffle bike is a 1970 Triumph TR6. The show is Saturday, March 25, with the “Morning After Ride” on Sunday.

April 21

Head to Willow Springs International Raceway in Rosamond, California, for the Corsa Motoclassica, April 21-23. Rounds 5 and 6 of the AHRMA Historic Cup Roadrace Series will be Saturday and Sunday. There’s a vintage bike show on Saturday, a swap meet both days, and famed racer Rich Oliver will serve as the Grand Marshal for the event.

More events

Mar. 4-5
27th Annual Super Show and Swap Meet

Colorado Springs, Colorado

Mar. 5
Walneck’s Swap Meet and Show

Princeton, Illinois

Mar. 10-11
AMCA 2017 Sunshine Chapter National Meet

New Smyrna Beach, Florida

Mar. 10-11
Vintage Motorcycle Alliance 6th Annual International Vintage Motorcycle Swap Meet and Bike Show

Eustis, Florida

Mar. 10-12
14th Annual Inland Northwest Motorcycle Show and Sale

Spokane, Washington

Mar. 12
Walneck’s Swap Meet and Show

Springfield, Ohio

Mar. 18-19
41st Annual Vintage Motorcycle & Bicycle Rally, Show and Swap Meet

Caldwell, Idaho

Mar. 19
45th Annual Kalamazoo Motorcycle Swap Meet

Kalamazoo, Michigan

Mar. 25
Giddy Up Vintage Chopper Show

New Braunfels, Texas

Mar. 26
So-Cal Cycle Show and Swap Meet

Long Beach, California

Mar. 31-April 2
AHRMA Road Racing at Carolina Motorsports Park

Kershaw, South Carolina

Apr. 2
Jeff Williams Motorcycle Swap Meet

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Apr. 8-9
Eurobike 2017

Raleigh, North Carolina

Apr. 9
Walneck’s Swap Meet and Show

St. Charles, Illinois

Apr. 15
14th Annual Cadillac Swap Meet

Cadillac, Michigan

Apr. 21-23
The Handbuilt Motorcycle Show 2017

Austin, Texas

Apr. 21-23
AHRMA Road Racing at Willow Springs Raceway

Rosamond, California

Apr. 23
Walneck’s Swap Meet and Show

Woodstock, Illinois

Apr. 23
Jeff Williams Motorcycle Swap Meet

Kansas City, Missouri

Apr. 23
So-Cal Cycle Swap Meet

Long Beach, California

Apr. 26-29
35th Annual Laughlin River Run

Laughlin, Nevada

Apr. 27-30
3rd Annual AMCA Cherokee Chapter Concours D’ Pate

Texas Motor Speedway, Ft. Worth, Texas

Apr. 27-28
AHRMA Road Racing at Sonoma Raceway

Sonoma, California

Apr. 28-29
AMCA National Meet Perkiomen Chapter

Oley, Pennsylvania

Motorcycle Classics wants to know about shows, swap meets, road runs and more for classic motorcycles. Send details of upcoming events at least three months in advance to

Inside the Isle of Man Tour

Isle of Man participants

If there’s one place every vintage bike fan wants to visit, it’s the Isle of Man for the Classic TT and Manx GP. Since 1907, this island in the Irish Sea has been ground zero for motorcycle racing, making it perhaps the most storied place in all of motorcycling. All the greats raced here back in the golden years of GP racing, and in 2016 we finally made the pilgrimage, linking up with tour leader Eligio Arturi of Moto Touring and riding vintage bikes from London across England with 13 Motorcycle Classics readers. It was, to put it mildly, the trip of a lifetime, a bucket list item each and every one of us was thrilled to check off.

We published a full report on our Isle of Man tour in the March/April 2017 issue, and we thought it would be cool to catch up with some of the tour participants to get some feedback from them about why they went, what they expected and what they got. To give you a better idea of the people who rode with us, we asked them to round out the picture with a few details like how old they are, what they do for a living and what they ride today. Vintage bike fans appreciate modern bikes as much as old one, and not surprisingly many of our tour participants ride modern bikes when they tour, keeping their classics ready for special occasions and shows. Although there were a few stalwarts, for many riders, riding yesterday’s bikes in today’s traffic — on the “wrong” side of the road! — was a new experience, which made them love it all the more.

As you’ll read below, the experience was a thrill. It wasn’t always perfect, but it was memorable to the point of motivating some tour participants to write their own stories about their trip to the Isle of Man. Tour participant Mark Scott was so besotted by the experience he penned a full article on the tour — with photos — fully describing his experience. Speaking of Mark, this is an appropriate moment to acknowledge his input in shaping our own tour article referenced below. We weren’t halfway through the Motorcycle Classics Isle of Man Tour when Mark, after successfully conquering some roadside snafu, suggested that any story about our ride simply had to be titled “A recipe for adventure.” Mark hit it the nail on the head, and we followed suit — as did he! If you’ve been on the fence about going, read our story, read Mark’s story and read below what other tour participants said about the experience: You’ll be ready to start packing your bags for the 2017 races!

2016 Motorcycle Classics Isle of Man Tour Riders

Joel Parks
Age: 70
Years riding: 54
Occupation: TV writer/producer (ABC News, Fox, CBS, NBC)
Current bikes: 1966 Triumph Trophy, 1981 BMW R80 G/S, 1974 Moto Guzzi Eldorado, 2000 Suzuki DR650 and 2014 BMW R1200 GSW.

“I signed up to celebrate my 70th birthday. I had few expectations for the trip, other than being able to see great old bikes being ridden as they were intended by like-minded fools like myself!

“For old bike lovers, the Isle of Man is quite simply the Holy Land. After reading about the TT for better than 50 years, and playing “V Four Victory” over and over on my ancient VCR, places like Kate’s Cottage, Ago’s Leap, Ballaugh Bridge and the Creg-ny-Baa, had assumed biblical status in my mind, so actually going there and riding the storied island course on classic machines was a dream come true. But, looking back over the scribbled notes of my 10-day pilgrimage to this vintage bike promised land, it looks like I should have changed my name from Joel to Job. And I wasn’t alone.

“Broken clutch cables, leaking and flooded carburetors, dodgy electrics that threatened to plunge us into darkness -or prevent our bikes from running at all –and, of course, the ever-popular disappearing fasteners, made for what, on paper, looked like a pestilence, not a pleasure.

“But it wasn’t. It was magical.

“The weather was what locals called a “20 year event” (meaning it was nearly picture perfect and virtually rain-free) and our small “congregation” instantly bonded over the day’s trials and tribulations — which also provided great conversation-starters for our nightly beer-soaked “prayer” meetings.

“Not surprising considering most of us had ridden, or still ride and wrench on old bikes back home. We’re the kind of bikers whose face visibly brightens along with our turn signals when they are actually working; we marvel at the miracle of the “magic button” and how it sometimes spins an old engine to life without having to kick anything; we equate successfully tracking down a false ground with discovering a gold mine in the Nevada desert. So mechanical faults — and the bodges needed to right — them are nothing for us. Indeed, just the opposite. For this group of old bike pilgrims, the Motorcycle Classics 2016 Isle of Man Festival of Motorcycling and Classic TT was a real religious experience. And, best of all, we didn’t have any droughts, plagues or swarms of locust to deal with.”

Richard “Dick” Nash
Age: 69
Years riding: 50
Occupation: Retired tool maker
Current bikes: A pair of Suzuki V-Stroms; a DL1000 with a trailer for touring from my Wisconsin base and a DL650 for the back roads of Arizona from my winter home in Mesa.

“The Isle of Man TT races have been a bucket list item for 50 years. When I saw the ad for the tour in Motorcycle Classics I signed up on the spot!

“I have had a mental image of the Isle of Man ever since I first read of the races when I was a kid in school. As with such things, the reality is always different than the image, but I was not disappointed! I have long imagined what it would be like to ride the mountain course. I got to fulfill one of my fondest fantasies. That is, riding a screaming machine flat out on the mountain! Yes, it was only an old Honda CB500 Four, but it felt like a nimble TT racer at full song and it made 75mph feel like a 150! When we finished that ride as a group there were shit-eating grins on every face!”

Davis Aites
Age: 43
Years riding: 23
Occupation: Enterprise software architect
Current bikes: 2007 Triumph Thruxton 900, 2001 BMW F650GS Dakar

“While I used to do yearly local trips around the Pacific Northwest, I’d been promising myself for a couple years that I’d get back out for a long ride. I realized that the combination of vintage bikes, a trip through the UK, going to the IOM — all were a trip of a lifetime. The whole idea struck me instantly as something I could not pass up, as I’d been passing up too many things in pursuit of work. I know the camaraderie that comes with multiple days on the road with a group, and instantly knew that I could never pass it up.

“The experience surpassed what I thought it could be. I wanted to ride old bikes on the Isle of Man; I’ve ridden enough non-new bikes and been around old machinery enough to realize that means adventure. I wanted the real experience of riding real bikes with real people, come what may, and found new friends as well as a country and a bike that I fell in love with.

“The entire experience was one big smile-inducing adventure, starting out on the first morning riding on the left side of the road, on a bike with right hand GP shift and kickstart only, and promptly taking a wrong turn and walking the bike back along the highway. This after snapping the key off in the ignition on my first kickstart, and spending the rest of the trip starting the bike with a multi-tool.

“Highlights included starting the cold Benelli on the first kick getting off the ferry to the Isle of Man and waking at 7 a.m. and riding the Isle of Man Mountain Course for the first time on my own at dawn, the Tornado singing sweetly as the open road unwound and the sun burned away the fog over Snaefell Mountain. How many times do you get to ride the full IOM course for the first time on a 1971 Benelli Tornado 650 in fine fettle? Then rolling back into town just as the rest of the group was ready to go, not even turning off the bike, and going back out for a second time.

“I’ll never forget the first nod of approval from Paulo as I began to learn to start the bike, or being tired, wet, cold and lost, with darkness looming and traffic getting bad, with two Americans and two Italians who couldn’t speak English. We called a taxi and paid the driver to drive to our hotel, following him through rush hour Birmingham traffic. I laughed in pure joy as we rolled into the hotel, pulled off my helmet, and couldn’t help exclaiming ‘That was awesome!’ And I’ll also never forget lane-splitting for 40 miles during incredible traffic on the M40 and M42 and watching news reports the next morning about the ‘worst traffic in recorded history.’

“We swapped bikes regularly, and handing the Benelli off to another rider, he asked me ‘anything I should know?’ ‘Nothing major,’ I said, ‘it’s running great.’ Later at the petrol station:
Him: ‘You could have mentioned the reverse shift pattern.’
Me: ‘Oh, right, forgot.’
Him: ‘The low beam doesn’t work.’
Me: ‘Ah, yes.’
Him: ‘The rear brake also locks up.’
Me: ‘Right, forgot to mention to not touch that.’
Him: ‘And all the gauges aren’t responding.’
Me: ‘Hmm, true.’

“I just hadn’t noticed, as every bike had its own personality, and little things like the above simply no longer registered. I’ll also never forget the pure politeness of everyone, guest and locals, on the IOM. Never rushed and always smiling, everyone was simply happy to be there. No trash, not a single cup or can even when there were 10 thousand people gathered at the Festival of Jurby. Everyone was too respectful to litter.”

Ken Maher
Age: 49
Years riding: 40
Occupation: Electrician
Current bikes: 2002 Harley-Davidson Superglide with frame-mounted Vetter fairing and a barn-find 1966 Harley-Davidson FLH waiting to be restored ... and a mini-bike.

“I’d looked into making this trip before. It’s not an easy thing to set up on your own, even for someone who travels a lot. From the U.S., it’s best to go with a tour group, unless you’re tagging along with friends from Europe. When I saw it in the mag, I knew this was my chance. My wife said, ‘Why wouldn’t you go, what’s stopping you?’ She was right, it was the chance to go to the Mecca of motorcycle racing. I registered by week’s end.

“I’ve had a fold-out of the course from a European mag, with McGuiness explaining the track, pinned up in my garage for close to 20 years, and I’ve been reading about or watching the race on TV for years, along with the Northwest 200 and a handful of the other European road races. So I kind of knew what to expect of the race and the paddock and such. But once you’re there, it’s more than you think.

“The whole vibe of the island is something of its own. There are people there from all over the world, yet it maintains a small town feel, a camaraderie of strangers brought together by a passion for motorcycles. The ferry sticks out most in my mind. They hand you a piece of foam as you’re riding to the ramp, minutes later you’re parking your bike as tight as you can against a railing, all while the crew is running around lashing bikes to the rail or to each other. In the morning a horn blows when you dock and the scramble starts: Get to your bike, untie it, load your gear back on and go — the whole time engulfed in exhaust fumes and revving motorcycles all around you.

“Sheer joy for me was riding down the ramp onto the Isle of Man flanked by two old Vincents, and riding the Mountain Course everyday was a dream come true. It was a great group of people and I really enjoyed myself. Might see me on the next tour — Viva la Cuba!

John Stockman
Age: 74
Years riding: 50-plus
Occupation: Industrial designer (trying to be semi-retired without much success)
Current bikes: 2016 Honda CRF250L, 1997 Yamaha Virago XV1100, 1992 Yamaha XJ600 Seca2, 1980 Yamaha XS1100 (not running), 1967 Bultaco Metralla MKII (being leisurely restored), 1972 Bultaco Alpina, 1999 Bultaco-branded Sherco trials bike

“I think I was the old man of our group. I’ve been riding for more than 50 years. My first bike was a Honda CB90 in college. It’s the only bike I’ve ever sold, and I wish I hadn’t. Craig Vetter was a class mate at the time and riding a Bridgestone 90. I think he drew his first fairings as part of a senior project.

“The tour struck me as the opportunity of a lifetime so I didn’t think twice. I had looked into getting to the Isle in the past and it seemed fraught with hassles and costs, so having someone else deal with that and provide vintage bikes to boot was too good to let pass.

“My expectations were exceeded in every way and our shared experiences are still in my thoughts daily. Aside from my untimely get-off on our way to the ferry the last day, I couldn’t agree more with Mike, Joel, and Tim about the memories and experiences. The ‘herding cats’ analogy, riding on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, the endless bikes, the Mountain Course, great weather, spectacular scenery, good ale, the breakdowns and our Italian cohorts diligently making repairs were all memorable, but as always the people make the experience special.

“I actually enjoyed my extra time on the island to do some non-riding things and get to know some local folks. My stuff beat me home and I’m glad everyone made it safely (but not without some more adventures, it seems). Ride safe, everyone.”

Editor’s note: John had the misfortune of clipping a curb and going down on the Honda he was riding — at literally the last hour on our last day in Douglas on the Isle of Man. Although he was going quite slow at the time, he suffered enough injury to have to stay in hospital in Douglas for the better part of a week before finally flying back home, having missed our ride back to London and our last few days as a group.

Tim Ivers
Age: 70
Years riding: 55
Occupation: Veterans claims adjudicator and vintage bike restoration.
Current ride: 1958 Ariel square Four, 1961 Matchless G12 CSR, 1971 BSA Lightning, 2000 Honda Valkyrie Interstate and a 2016 Triumph Bonneville T120.

“I turned 70 on the trip. Through the years, I’ve owned just about every brand of post WW II British bike that was sold in the US and at least one of each of the Japanese brands. When I was a very young man, I thought I could be a racer, The Isle was the pinnacle of road racing. In the Sixties there was a famous picture of Mike Hailwood dressed in all black leathers on the Honda 6-cylinder going around the Island. I wanted to be Mike Hailwood, I wanted to ride the Honda Six and I wanted to race the Isle of Man. My racing career went nowhere, but I was still always fascinated by the Isle and the guys who raced there: Phil Read, Giacomo Agostini and Joey Dunlop were my heroes.

“In 1992, I lucked into a Vincent basket case, and I bought it and restored it. After 24 years, I sold it for an obscene amount of money, and a portion of the proceeds paid for the trip.

“I had no expectations other than to ride the course, which I did several times. On one lap, I took it slow just to drink it all in, stopping at special places like Ballaugh Bridge and downtown Ramsey just to sit and absorb it.

“The unexpected pleasure was the beauty of the Isle itself. All around the course, the scenery was spectacular. The Isle itself is a kind of time warp back to the 1960s: I only saw one fast food place on the whole Island. The people were extremely kind and patient. In central Florida, where I live, I would have been run over several times, but folks there just waved.

“I’ve been on other group tours, and those all made sure the riders knew where we would end the day, so that if we got separated we could still find the group. This tour, you kept up or got abandoned. When we were riding through Birmingham we got broken up and those left behind had no clue where we were headed. We eventually found the lead group through blind luck. On the trip back some folks got lost in Windsor. I think Eligio could have made better preparations, and with a group as big as ours was, there should have been at least two leaders who knew where we going.

“This trip was still the fulfillment of a dream for me, and I had a wonderful time. The people in the group were all very nice and wonderful traveling companions, with no negativity from anyone. It was a great time.”

Mike Courtney
Age: 62
Years riding: 46
Occupation: Retired computer software designer
Current rides: 1981 Yamaha XV920

“All my brothers (four of ’em) and my dad have been into bikes for as long as I can remember. At one point my roommate and brother and I had 11 bikes in our apartment garage.

“When I saw the advert in Motorcycle Classics for the Isle of Man trip I knew my teenage dream was finally gonna happen. I rented a new Triumph 900 in the San Francisco bay area and took some practice runs to all my old favorite riding spots, including stopping at Alice’s Restaurant several times.

“The trip, well now, the trip was better than all the day dreams combined, starting with incredible weather and great riding buddies. The stories and adventures that you all shared filled a 20-year hole in my biking soul.

“I took hours of GoPro video and in some segments you can hear me laughing over the sound of the bike. Every turn has been mentally imprinted and stored for years of play back.

The bikes, the bikes, the bikes. I got to see and hear bikes that I’ve only read about before. The Flying Millyard V-twin was fantastic, and the Kawi 666 4-cylinder blew my mind — a couple of times. The bikes parked on the sidewalks and in the parking lot at the Festival of Jurby were just as beautiful as any of the bikes in the race paddocks. And the British National Motorcycle Museum ... incredible.

“Were my expectations met? Oh hell yes — and exceeded in every measure. It was a great adventure, warts, wiggles and all, and the highlights ... well, there’s too many to mention them all, but they include sitting with our feet dangling over the edge of the course on the run past Kate’s Cottage and down to the Creg-Ny-Baa turn on the back side of Mount Snaefell, with bikes flying by just in time to hit their braking points and some (the really fast guys) still on the gas for another few yards before popping up and railing the turn. Wicked!”

Vintage and Classic Motorcycles on Display at Glenn H. Curtiss Museum

Wintercycle Therapy flyer

The Glenn H. Curtiss Museum, a top family travel destination, once again is hosting “Wintercycle Therapy,” a display of more than 100 vintage and classic motorcycles from 1904 through the 1970s. The free event will take place Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017, and Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Attendees will see an exact reproduction of the famous 8-cylinder motorcycle that earned Glenn Curtiss the title of “Fastest Man on Earth” in 1907 with a land-speed record of 136.4mph. Vintage bikes from American, British, German, Italian, Japanese and Spanish manufacturers also will be on display.

In addition to classic motorcycles, the Wintercycle Therapy event will feature motorcycle vendors, raffles and food. The Glen Curtiss Museum is located at 8419 State Route 54 in Hammondsport, N.Y.

Wintercycle Therapy is presented by Odd Ball Old Dog Cycles, a Western and Central New York motorcycle group.

About the Museum

Open year-round, the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum is located in the town of Hammondsport, N.Y., in the heart of New York state’s Finger Lakes region. The museum is home to a priceless collection of items related to early aviation, motorcycles and local history. It also celebrates the life and accomplishments of Glenn Curtiss, the father of naval aviation and a pioneer in motorcycle manufacturing. For more information, visit the museum’s website at or call 607-569-2160.