Looks can be deceiving. From a distance, Jim Hoellerich’s picturesque spread in northwestern Massachusetts looks like a dairy farm, the type that used to speckle much of the New England landscape. There’s a large red barn on the side of a hill, providing a focal point for some 400 acres of emerald pasture land. A country road separates it from the farmhouse and a two-story out-building. It’s the kind of place where a “barn fresh” motorcycle might be found if one went knocking on a stranger’s door. What’s inside that other building, though, isn’t a dust-covered, decaying relic of a once useful street bike. No, what’s inside is much more impressive — a meticulously displayed classic motorcycle collection of at least 100 vintage trail motorcycles. And, no, they aren’t for sale.
“I’m a collector. I don’t sell,” says Hoellerich, who is the owner and operator of the private Museum of Vintage Trail Bikes in Cheshire, Mass. He’s also the restorer, curator and the guy to call for an appointment to visit. Inside are more than 80 antique OSSAs and more than a half-dozen Bultacos, as well as hard to find marquees such as Penton, Dalesman, Yankee and Rokon, brands that are likely unfamiliar to street riders. Just how many bikes Hoellerich has is hard to peg because he’s always adding more.
Besides the bikes, the Museum of Vintage Trail Bikes also shows off signage, vintage leathers, boots and trophies from races past. It is truly a monument to one man’s persistence, one that got its start 20 or so years ago with some OSSA artifacts. “A guy had four or five of them in town,” he says, recalling how he bought the OSSAs and was able to salvage enough parts to make two complete bikes. The collection grew over time, with pieces from “here, there and everywhere. A lot of people find me. I’ve got some (bikes) that people donated.”
What prompted Hoellerich to start the museum was a desire to have something to occupy his time after retiring — and for the company it has brought him. “Everybody said, ‘You’re going to get lonesome when you retire,’” says the 76-year-old former dairyman, who figured “maybe a few people would stop to see.” He now gets 400 to 500 visitors a year — by appointment only. “I’m open whenever you call. I tell everyone to call ahead. I’m always getting calls. It’s worked out real good.”
Finding the museum isn’t difficult. It’s located up the hill at 192 Henry Wood Road, just off of state Route 116, southeast of Adams. The best time to visit is when a motorcycle club is making a pilgrimage. The Spanish Motorcycle Owners Group (S.M.O.G.) was visiting the day we stopped in, and Hoellerich had lined up more than a dozen Spanish-made vintage OSSAs outside as a welcoming beacon.
For motorcycle touring riders unfamiliar with the area, Hoellerich provides route sheets so they can visit other attractions in northern Berkshire County. One must do is a ride up Mount Greylock, which is the highest point in Massachusetts at 3,491 feet. For food, a popular stop is the Freight Yard Restaurant and Pub in Heritage Park in Adams, a short ride on Route 116 and north on Route 8 from the museum. The menu is filled with pub fare and the atmosphere is warm.
Hoellerich has no plans to divest himself of his impressive collection of restored trail bikes. When he dies, he says, “All the stuff’s going to auction. It’s in my will.” Maybe the collection will remain intact, but even if it doesn’t, “It’ll go to collectors anyway,” he says.
What: An impressive collection of vintage trail bikes assembled by a retired farmer for the pleasure of all riders. The emphasis is on the Spanish-made brands OSSA and Bultaco.
Where: Northwestern Massachusetts in Berkshire County, a comfortable ride from Boston, Albany, N.Y. and Hartford, Conn. Admission is free. Donations are accepted.
More info: Contact the museum at 413-743-0248. The Freight Yard Restaurant and Pub is online at www.freightyardpub.com, while Mount Greylock’s website is www.mass.gov/dcr/parks/mtGreylock/