New York Vintage Motorcycle Show
As an inveterate car and bike geek, maybe the single most difficult thing for me when I moved from Los Angeles to the East Coast was getting used to the lack of easy-access to weird and wonderful car-culture. I mean, it’s here, but you have to work way harder to find it.
On any weekend in LA, you can drive around and see 1960’s Ferraris parallel-parked with the meter running down in Hollywood, Porsche Carrera GT’s slipping like beads of mercury along the Pacific Coast Highway, Vincent Black Knights and Bimota V-Due’s ticking as they cool at the Rock Store next to a race-prepped 1961 SWB Ferrari 250 that’s been relegated to parking in the dirt. If you don’t see anything worth seeing on the road, you can just swing by The Garage Company, with its showroom full of well-used classics and a back lot full of works-in-progress, the walls covered with shelves and glass cases full of random bike parts, vintage helmets and racing posters.
The Wednesday-night Ducati bike night in Venice was full of characters of all ages and styles. They had diverse backgrounds and jobs, strafed the canyons on weekends, and loved to talk about their bikes: modding bikes, riding bikes, bench-racing… We had a couple of 916 Superbikes, Monsters of all years, the occasional Aprilia RSV, a Kawasaki Z1000 (later traded for a Speed Triple), an old 860GT painted all tricolore-y, and a 1980’s Honda Magna ridden by a guy whose Monster 800 was waiting for a new crank.
I went to a few bike nights in Central Jersey when I got back to the East Coast, looking for the same sort of vibe, the same sort of enthusiasm, a sense of history, but was sorely disappointed. While burnouts, wheelies, neon lighting kits, and chrome spikes screwed into perfectly nice sportbike fairings are amusing distractions, that sort of laughing-at-you thing gets old pretty fast. And dangerous.
I filed conversations like, “We just got back from a group ride for my buddy’s funeral. Good guy, but maybe he shouldn’ta run from the cops on that stolen R1.” And, “Yeah, the cops threw down a spike-strip, but I wheelied over it” away for later retelling to my friends. I worked with a guy who rode his nearly brakeless, battered Yamaha R6 in flip-flops, claiming that wearing protective gear made you more likely to crash: “If you think you might crash, you will crash,” sort of an inversion of my “hope for the best, plan for the worst” philosophy. I met a bunch of nice guys at those bike-nights, but none I wanted to ride with.
Then I nearly got clipped by some TapOut tank-top, shorts, and cross-trainer wearing jackass blasting through the parking lot and I started thinking, “Maybe this isn’t my scene.”
Which was followed quickly by, “Where hell is my scene, anyway?”
Brooklyn, it turns out.
I managed to trip over a flyer for the New York Vintage Motorcycle Show at the end of the first summer I moved east and have made it a point to show up every year since. It reminds me that there are people who ride that don’t worship the latest and greatest plastic-bodied road missiles or the most globe-trottingist techno-tourers or pointless, chrome-encrusted cruisers, people who ride even though they don’t have a ton of money and aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty, rewiring a rattle-can 1970’s Honda twin in the street with a grungy printout of a Haynes Manual they found on the internet.
The photos below don’t include year and model information, since I generally didn’t make good notes. Or any notes. Most of the images are from this year, but I threw in a couple from last year as well.
Really nice Yamaha ‘tracker and a Honda CB350 racebike.
Salty old guy on a BMW and a very unconventional two-stroke mongrel that featured on some cafe TV show or other…
Below, we’ve got the world’s least comfortable BMW (yeah, he really rides it like that) and a Yamaha bobber.
Suzuki RG500 two-stroke and a Triumph chopper.
BMW racing sidecar rig and a trio of small-displacement Italians.
A cafe Honda with a very polished tank and a gorgeous custom Triumph chopper.
Vincent twin and a vintage beer-cozy.
Another Triumph and a very cool, very loud Yamaha one-lunger cafe.
Very nice Enfield Bullet and an MV Agusta single.
Nice, clean bobber and a couple guys looking at a very home-brewed cafe.
They run this thing rain or shine in late August: it poured last year, but the turnout wasn’t much different than the previous year. It happens at the end of August and I recommend it: the vibe is casual and run-what-you-brung. There’s music, performance art, beer, and a roast pig. Moto-gear and tchotchke vendors. Lots of tattoos, skinny jeans, and hipster Grizzly Adams beards. Gorgeous restorations, ratbikes, and well-used classics ridden in from New York, Pennsylvania, Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.
If you’re within two hundred miles of Brooklyn, you should put it in your schedule for next year.