Vintage motorcycles turn heads wherever they go.
That’s partly because they’re often mouth-wateringly beautiful, of course. But it’s also because they’re so rare.
Sometimes you’ll overtake a classic bike on the road as it rattles along in its own time warp. Or you might get to drool over a few at a specialist bike show.
But last week, I damn near overdosed on rare classic motorcycles. I got up close and personal with more than 300 vintage motorcycles under one roof.
It was intense.
The air was almost crackling with desire and longing.
And I wasn’t the only one feeling overwhelmed.
Grown men in leather jackets were gazing at these machines, stroking them gently, and quickly brushing away the odd tear.
Who could blame us?
We were inside the Classic Motorcycle Mecca, a temple to vintage motorcycles tucked away right at the bottom of New Zealand (the same little town that hosts the only motorcycle rally to combine Indians and hobbits).
This place is the biker equivalent of Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.
But instead of chocolate waterfalls, lollipop trees and oompa loompas, there are vintage motorcycles everywhere you look. Gleaming silently, they proudly drip oil onto the polished floorboards.
Stepping through the door of this wonderland, I turned into the greediest kid on the Willie Wonka tour. It was like standing at the edge of a river of chocolate.
I watched it flow past my boots.
I could smell its rich, creamy goodness.
I actually giggled out loud in anticipation.
Because I knew that in about 2 seconds I was about to dive right into that delicious river, and no two ways about it.
And dive right in I did…
I swam past a 1916 Thor, a 1913 Henderson and a collection of stunning Indians from the 1900s through to the 1940s.
I backstroked slowly past an incredible display of sidecars (wicker baskets to bullet style).
Eventually, I came up for air – right next to a row of five – five! – Brough Superiors from the ‘30s.
And I knew it was time to get out of this river of sensory overload.
These silvery works of art were so breath-taking that I suddenly forgot how to swim.
So What IS it About Vintage Motorcycles?
Why do classic motorcycles grab us so fiercely by the heart strings?
There’s no simple answer to this question.
But here are some ideas…
9 Reasons to Love Classic Motorcycles
- Vintage motorcycles intersect with your own history.
If you’re really lucky, maybe you used to actually ride one of these beauties. (Or at least desperately wanted to…)
And if you didn’t, your dad or your grandad did, way back in the day.
Bikes like these are woven into family stories.
They trigger old memories, desires, regrets.
That’s about as personal as it gets.
- Vintage motorcycles are the missing link.
Classic motorcycles are links in the evolutionary chain of bikes.
They’re earlier, more ‘primitive’ forms of the bikes we ride now.
It’s a little like seeing childhood photos of someone you love.
- Vintage motorcycles make corporate history interesting.
So many old motorcycles have their own fascinating back stories.
From the marques that were built as prototypes in a back shed, to the firms that went bust and rose from the dead again and again.
There are dramatic origin stories attached to so many of these old motorcycles.
We love that!
- Vintage motorcycles are a chance for reinvention.
It’s truly remarkable that old motorcycles can be restored to look better than they ever did when they rolled off the factory floor.
With expert restoration techniques and modern technology, we can re-create machines that are quite literally better than new.
- Vintage motorcycles are culturally important.
Plenty of classic motorcycles are directly associated with figures we admire.
There’s Steve McQueen and his Triumph fixation. And T. E. Lawrence’s fetish for Brough Superiors (he got a new one every year – now, there’s dangerous precedent)!
- Vintage motorcycles stand the test of time.
Classic motorcycles are classic for a reason. They’re the real deal. They get better with age.
You could apply the same idea to, say, Bruce Springsteen and Justin Bieber.
Bruce is an old-school musician with something to say.
40 years into his career, his concerts sell out in an hour.
Justin has an expensive haircut, and some pretty tattoos. Personally, I couldn’t name a single one of his songs – now, let alone 40 years into the future.
- Vintage motorcycles are accessible works of art.
A beautiful old motorcycle is a form of mechanical sculpture.
It’s a piece of art on two wheels.
It’s not pretentious.
It’s not some abstract smudge of colour on a snooty gallery wall.
You ‘get it’ right away – and the impact is like whiplash.
Oh, and no-one’s standing around sipping chardonnay and talking about light, space, minimalism or form.
- Vintage motorcycles have flaws.
These old motorcycles were made when clunky was normal, and leaks were expected.
At the Classic Motorcycle Mecca, I had to laugh to see little squares of glass positioned just-so under these bikes. They’re a subtle and sweet reminder that dribbles and drips were simply part of the deal back then.
That’s oddly endearing.
- Vintage motorcycles are an enigma.
Classic motorcycles combine fragility and brutality in one package in a way that modern bikes just don’t.
These bikes might throw a rod mid-ride. They could break down at any moment. At the very least, they’ll certainly need fixing by the side of the road in the rain.
But many of them could really move. They’ll rattle your teeth out of your jaw as you fly along on primitive suspension and those skinny tires.
Let’s face it, there’s just something special about vintage motorcycles.
Spend any time at all with classic motorcycles as beautiful as these, and you know one thing for a fact.
Love at first sight is real.