Whether you’ve been riding for 50 years or five months, whether you’re a seasoned racer or a dedicated rail bird, or that you happen to be a lone biker who simply enjoys pointing a bike’s headlight into the wind, chances are you’ve collected some motorcycle memorabilia that’s meaningful to you. Those trinkets, trophies and souvenirs typically represent what we’ve ridden or raced, others document landmark occasions in our biking lives, and still others simply chronicle lesser adventures that might have taken you beyond the horizon and back. No matter, they’re all part of the archeological dig that helps define and describe our individual pasts as motorcycle enthusiasts; the older we get the more layered our individual memorabilia strata layers become.
I’ve been riding for 55 years now, including 50 spent as a motojournalist, and throughout I’ve gathered more than a few meaningful wall-hangers and such. The collection includes items autographed by notable World and National Champions, group shots that include me posed alongside more meaningful industry players than myself, and an abundance of motorcycle carnage, much a result from overly exuberant riding on my part.
We collect our memorabilia in many ways, too. Race trophies and personal glory photographs are the obvious icons, and event paraphernalia such as souvenir shop rags bearing company names and event dates, key fobs identified by brand logos, and of course the ubiquitous trophy queen posters (hopefully autographed by said model), are the obvious memorabilia stalwarts in our collections. T-shirts and hats rate high on the list, too, along with race programs and posters.
Other more personal items like bent or broken motorcycle parts (I have more than a few of those survivors … ), discarded number plates (I saved two from my championship race bikes) and well-worn helmets (I kept three of my favorites) fill the clutter, too.
And this raises the question: What to do with all this gear we’ve accumulated from our bygone days? My suggestion is to pass it on to friends and family, — even fans, if you have them — to enjoy when it’s time to move on with your life.
But don’t just leave bits and pieces of your celebrated motorcycling past scattered about like abandoned belongings. Instead, take time now to identify or make note of each item’s significance for posterity. As a reporter I learned the importance of this long ago. Often, when researching an old race or event, the person I interviewed shared accompanying photos, some stored in crumbling shoeboxes, others neatly cataloged in photo albums, to help tell the story. Sadly, many of those photos lacked captions citing specific dates and locations, not to mention the names of other people in the picture, making it hard for me to utilize the photos in a magazine article. So I’ve acquired a habit of preaching to anybody who listens to inscribe tidbits of information on the back- or bottom-sides of race trophies, photos or subsequent keepsakes in question to assure that there’s some documentation to support the collectible’s significance. Once you begin scribbling with that black magic marker you’ll be surprised at how relevant some of what you recall will mean… to you and to future generations who happen to see what you experienced.
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