Meet at the Ace: Great bikes and a great ride

Reader Contribution by Richard Backus
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A stunning 1939 Matchless at the 2012 Meet at the Ace at the LeMay in Tacoma, Wash.

Picture-perfect weather and 200-plus vintage bikes greeted attendees to the inaugural Meet at the Ace Vintage Motorcycle Festival at the LeMay vintage car museum in Tacoma, Wash., Saturday, Aug. 25. Hosted by the LeMay museum in partnership with Mark and Linda Wilsmore and Ace Café London, the event was the museum’s first to celebrate vintage motorcycles.

You couldn’t have asked for better weather, with temperatures in the mid-70s all day and barely a cloud in the sky as participants strolled around the museum’s 3.5 acre show field taking in an impressive selection of machines. Bikes on hand ranged from an immaculately restored 1954 Vincent Black Lightning to Roy Ivalters’ lovely and very original 1965 Honda 305 Dream, which, incidently, took 1st Place in the Japanese category. Best of Show went to Ron Rumbolz’s fantastic 1963 Norton Atlas.

1963 Norton Atlas with period fairing took Best in Show.

Former Cycle World editor-in-chief David Edwards led judges through the task of assessing the bikes and rendering a verdict. I was fortunate to be one of those judges, along with former Isle of Man TT racer Mark Gardiner, Motorcycle Classics regular contributor Robert Smith, the Cretins Motorcycle Club‘s Kevin Wiebusch and collector and vintage bike restorer Dennis Merwood.

The quality of bikes on hand was excellent, and in the end we were able to narrow down our top three choices in 13 categories. My favorite of the show? Hands down it was Terry Johnson’s completely original, 15,000-mile 1948 Harley-Davidson S-125, which took 1st Place in the American category. Bought new by an uncle who then rode it from his home in the Midwest to Seattle, it has a unique history in having been shipped around the world in a sub when said uncle took it with him on assignment with the Navy. Abandoned in a shed for some 30 years, Terry says that after a simple cleaning and flushing it started on the third kick.

1948 Harley-Davidson S-125. Completely original and an excellent runner.

Saturday’s show was followed with Sunday’s Ride to Rainier, which turned out to be a huge draw with what must have been 125-plus riders sharing a leisurely 50-mile ride to the tiny hamlet of Elbe in the shadow of Mt. Rainier. Although the ride was open to all bikes regardless of age, there were plenty of classics making the run. Alan Comfort brought his 1938 Velocette MSS – featured in our May/June issue, read the story here – along with a 1948 Moto Guzzi Astore, which he handed over to me for the ride. I’d never ridden one of MG’s famous “bacon slicers” (so named for their signature outside flywheel) and it was a hoot. Alan’s bike ran beautifully and handled the two-lane roads with aplomb. It’s slow, sure, but it’s also sure-footed, and endowed with so much charm you just have to love it. It starts easily, reminding me more of a vintage farm engine than a motorcycle, and runs faithfully, returning a satisfying thrump with every rotation of its single cylinder.

Editor Backus on Alan Comfort’s 1948 Moto Guzzi Astore.

All told it was a fantastic event, and plans are already in place for next year’s 2nd Annual Meet at the Ace Vintage Motorcycle Festival at the LeMay museum. Don’t miss it. – Richard Backus

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