Vintage Bikes Are Cool. The People Are Cooler

The founding editor shares his highlights of the Motorcycle Classics Ride ’Em, Don’t Hide ’Em Getaway, which included old bikes and guest of honor Dain Gingerelli.

Reader Contribution by Richard Backus
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by Richard Backus
Guest of honor Dain Gingerelli joins the group photo at the Getaway.

Vintage motorcycles are cool. No argument there. Cooler still are the people who collect and ride them, a fact that hit home again in a big way during the 4th Annual Motorcycle Classics Ride ‘Em, Don’t Hide ‘Em Getaway this past August, a two-day romp through Pennsylvania’s beautiful Laurel Highlands with 70-some vintage bike fans. Attendees are riding machines typically 40 years old or older, and more often than not they’re on bikes they’ve personally brought back from the dead, or tendered since new. That speaks volumes to owner engagement and enthusiasm, two ingredients in the old bike mix that make this such a rich corner of the world.

There are plenty of newer, more comfortable and, frankly, better performing motorcycles available for pounding down the back roads of Pennsylvania than the 1967 Moto Guzzi V7, 1973 Triumph X75 Hurricane and 1976 Kawasaki KZ750 — to name just a few — that joined our group. But for those bikes’ owners, that misses the point: Anybody can ride a new bike, but it takes a special person to brave the blacktop on a 50-year-old BSA or Benelli. And contrary to what people outside the category think, the old bike group isn’t just a bunch of motor-crazed nut cases. That’s definitely core, but it’s so much deeper than that, and if you went to Seven Springs, Pennsylvania, you couldn’t miss that fact.

For two-plus days, we explored some of the most beautiful roads you’ll find anywhere, reveling in the discovery awaiting us around each turn and over every rise. But more than that we gathered as a community, engaging our shared passion and exchanging valuable knowledge of our bikes learned over years of ownership. You might not own a 1988 Ducati Paso Limited, but it’s fascinating learning the more arcane details of the one-year-only model (only 50 made it to the U.S.) from its enthusiastic owner, who upon hearing me say I’ve always wanted one handed me the keys so I could take his for a spin. Awesome. And just what I didn’t need: I’ve often thought about getting one, now the hook’s set.

A highlight of the weekend was the opportunity to get to know Dain Gingerelli, this year’s special guest. A well-known face in the California race scene of the 1970s and sport editor at Cycle Guide from 1979 to 1987, Dain is one of the most under-recognized figures of the last 40 years of motorcycle journalism. I’d met Dain briefly a few times before, most memorably riding behind him down California’s Palomar Mountain during Royal Enfield’s 2014 intro of the 535cc single-cylinder Continental GT. Dain’s imprint at Cycle Guide was instrumental in forming my interest in motorcycle journalism, so it was something of a pinch-me moment riding behind Dain, watching him effortlessly swing his bike through the 20-plus hairpin turns heading down from Palomar’s 6,140-foot crest to its 2,800-foot base. I’ll never forget getting to the bottom and catching up with Dain, who’d pulled over to wait for the rest of the group. Pulling off my helmet, I remarked what a job it was trying to even come close to matching his pace, to which Dain replied — with absolutely no sense of boasting or ego, just raw enthusiasm — “Yeah, that was fun, I was practicing not braking.”

When Cycle Guide folded its tent in 1987, Dain decided it was time to get out of the corporate world and go freelance. He’s continued working in the motorcycle industry ever since, actively engaging the sport he loves, keeping abreast of the people and companies that define the industry, and maintaining the same wide-eyed enthusiasm for the sport that he’s had since he bought his first bike, a Honda S90, as a teenager in the Sixties. Fit and agile, Dain’s natural competitiveness in the saddle shines through every time he swings a leg over a bike, and getting to ride with him — and everyone else who attended this year’s Pennsylvania event — was a lifetime treat, and a powerful reminder of the incredible people who surround us. Ride safe.

Motorcycle Classics Magazine
Motorcycle Classics Magazine
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