Springtime in the Lone Star State typically brings fields carpeted with wildflowers, but this year something special has popped up in the middle of Central Texas: a new museum full of classic bikes.
The Hill Country Motorheads Vintage Motorcycle Museum in Burnet, Texas, had its grand opening on April 14, 2018, after a dozen years of planning and more than two years of hard work. The museum is the brainchild of Pat Hanlon, a baby boomer who first fell in love with motorcycles in the 1960s and 1970s. Not surprisingly, the bikes from that era are prominently featured in the new museum, and if you were riding motorcycles during those years, odds are good the museum will induce nostalgia.
Pat raced motocross in the early 1980s, and when he stopped competing he started collecting bikes. By 2005 he had acquired about 100 motorcycles and was faced with a choice: either preside over a large private collection of dusty old bikes, or start a museum and share his toys with the public. We can all be thankful that Pat chose wisely.
The museum occupies about 7,000 square feet and is comprised mainly of two large rooms: an exhibit hall where the collection is on display and a large, open communal room (the "Man Cave") with a pool table, big-screen TV, a long counter and a bunch of motorcycle posters and memorabilia.
When considering the layout for the new museum, Pat took inspiration from two other museums: the Early Years of Motocross Museum in Villa Park, California, set up by the late AMA Hall of Famer Tom White and the Harley-Davidson museum in Milwaukee.
There are more than 200 bikes in Pat's collection, with 70-80 machines currently on display. Even though most of the motorcycles seen on the roads surrounding the museum are Harleys, the collection is very international, with bikes from Japan, Europe and the U.S.
In addition to garden-variety Hondas, Yamahas and Suzukis, more obscure gems with names like Greeves, Hodaka, Bultaco, Sachs and Cheney are also on display. The majority of the motorcycles reflect Pat's first love — offroad machines — but there are also many classic road (and road racing) bikes represented in the museum, including examples from Vincent, BSA, Norton, Triumph, Moto Guzzi and others.
A number of the road bikes and race bikes are on loan to the museum from other collectors. Among that group is a classic Russ Collins dragster built around a pair of Honda CB750 engines fed by four Weber sidedraft carburetors, as well as a pair of Yamaha 2-stroke road racers. Pat's goal is to have something for everyone, and the plan is to rotate the bikes on display so that folks will want to visit more than once.
The museum obtains its bikes through ads, auctions and word-of-mouth, with folks approaching them and offering interesting additions to the collection. The museum has its own restoration workshop and plans to offer restored and restorable classic bikes for sale. Pat would like to assemble a collection of machines that would serve as good starting points for those who might want to acquire something as a project and build it up themselves. The museum will also serve as a source of information regarding sources of parts and availability of restoration/repair services for projects.
Pat sees the museum as a focal point for classic bike enthusiasts, and he plans to be deeply involved with the vintage motorcycle community in Central Texas. Club events, bike shows, poker runs and other social gatherings are all on the agenda. Pat also hopes the museum will serve as a local attraction that will help educate those who may not be familiar with the wide world of motorcycling.
The Hill Country Motorheads Vintage Motorcycle Museum joins the well-established Lone Star Motorcycle Museum in Vanderpool, Texas, as a must-see destination for classic motorcycle enthusiasts visiting the region. The new museum is at 2001 West State Highway 29, just west of US 281 in Burnet. Admission is a reasonable $7 (seniors, active military and veterans are only $5 and kids under 12 are free) and the hours are currently Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Look for more information on Facebook or on the museum's website, or call (512) 553-4078. MC
Hill Country riding
The town of Burnet — known as "The Bluebonnet Capital of Texas" — sits in the heart of the Texas Hill Country, about 55 miles northwest of Austin and 100 miles north of San Antonio. It's small enough to easily navigate, but big enough to have readily available services like motels, fuel and BBQ. Better still, it's surrounded by some of the best motorcycle riding roads the state has to offer. Buchanan Lake is nearby, as are the towns of Llano, Fredericksburg, Luckenbach and Blanco, and most of the roads in the area are twisty, two-lane affairs that wind through rolling, oak-covered hills.
Pat likes a few roads near the museum including State Park Road 4 (south off SR 29, west of Burnet) which goes through Inks Lake State Park. Another good ride goes up the east side of Buchanan Lake (take RM 690 north off SR 29 to RM 2341). Really, it's hard to go wrong.
Butler Motorcycle Maps, which specializes in maps for motorcycle riders, has one devoted to the Texas Hill Country, and we'd highly recommend it for anyone planning to ride in the area. You can also access their maps through Rever, an online route-planning website/app.