Classic Bikes: Ride ‘Em, Don’t Hide ‘Em

Reader Contribution by Richard Backus

As our treasured classic bikes get older and older with every passing year, it wouldn’t come as much of a surprise to discover fewer and fewer of them out on the road. Yet motorcyclists tend to define themselve by a high level of engagement, and in old bike circles indications are that as time marches by the reverse is true, with seemingly more vintage two-wheelers out plying the roads than ever before.

Across the country, local and national vintage bike happenings back me up on this impression. Yesterday, I got a call from Bill Bibbiani of the Southern California Norton Owners Club, letting me know he and his merry band of Anglophiles had successfully wrapped up their Route 66 Ride. Covering 2,000-plus miles on the “Mother Road” from St. Louis, Mo., to Santa Monica, Calif., most of those 30-plus riders were piloting  — you guessed it — vintage Nortons.

As I write, participants in the 2012 Motorcycle Cannonball are somewhere in Idaho or Oregon, wending their way to their final stop in San Francisco, Calif. Almost 70 riders, tracing a 4,000-mile coast-to-coast route on pre-1930 BSAs, Hendersons, Harleys, and Indians, to name a few. That’s engagement.

This year, the folks who put on the twice-annual MotoGiro USA in New England for pre-1969 small-bore motorcycles — 65cc to 305cc engines — are taking their show on the road, mapping out a 170-mile, one-day MotoGiro USA South to run the day before the Barber Vintage Festival in Leeds, Ala., in mid-October. That’s guaranteed to be an exceptional day, riding through one of the most beautiful areas in the country.

I’m hoping I’ll get to make that one, but even if I don’t I can rest happy from the three days I spent with Joel Samick’s RetroTours, our group riding a half dozen different 1970s-vintage Italian twins through the back roads of West Virginia in the tongue-in-cheek Redneck Giro. Or the full day I spent riding Alan Comfort’s 1948 Moto Guzzi Astore — my first time ever astride one of MG’s famed “bacon slicers” — in the shadows of Washington’s Mount Rainier following the inaugural Meet at the Ace Vintage Motorcycle Festival at the new and astonishing LeMay vintage car museum (think Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum for cars, only bigger) in Tacoma, Wash. Some 100-plus riders gathered early Sunday morning for that spectacular back road run.

And that’s not to ignore the excellent 40-mile romp led by Dennis Weinhold during the Motorcycle Classics Ride & Show at this year’s Road America Vintage Motorcycle Classic 2012, or the upcoming two-day vintage road run mapped out by Jim Sneegas and our local AMCA chapter, a route that will guide mostly American vintage iron through the hills and dales surrounding historic Atchison, Kan.

Those are just a few of the “official” runs I’ve paid attention to. Outside of those rides — and hundreds more just like them — vintage fans are routinely getting together for short-notice Saturday and Sunday breakfast rides like the ones pals Keith and Ken have been taking on their Norton Commandos, or the upcoming — and from what I’ve heard the last — Ralph Wayne’s Backyard Vintage Nationals in suburban Kansas City, Mo. Twenty years in the making, this ride-in show is legendary around here, drawing an unbelievable selection of rare and desirable vintage motorcycles, including Ace fours, Ducati twins and Harley singles, all crammed into Ralph’s yard and the surrounding streets. Amazing.

This is good stuff, underscoring the abiding passion and enthusiasm of the vintage motorcycle community, qualities that make our little corner of the world shine.

Ride ’em, don’t hide ’em. — Richard Backus

Motorcycle Classics Magazine
Motorcycle Classics Magazine
Motorcycle Classics Magazine Featuring the most brilliant, unusual and popular motorcycles ever made!