Is the fun in vintage clubs and rallies actually making it or trying to make it? By Mark Hoyer
FUN FACTOR: Looking for good times? We all know that two wheels are the foundation for the best experiences to be had on Earth. So we asked each of our editors to go out to find their own fun factor and bring back the essence of what makes the riding experience great. Ride with us!
Some people say they like vintage motorcycles because the bikes “need” them. I think, in some sense, it’s a mental problem in which we need the bikes.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying a modern motorcycle that needs virtually no maintenance. But for some of us, to paraphrase Socrates, the unexamined motorcycle isn’t worth riding. Well, it totally is when you can’t get your vintage bike on the road, but that striving for understanding and mastery of the strange puzzle that old bikes represent brings a deep satisfaction and an appreciation that manifests as pure, effervescent joy on the right road at the right time on the right bike when all things mechanical are running right.
Of course, the flip side of that joy is total depression. I had one vintage bike depression last for two years. The bike, the joy, was in the back corner of the garage under a dark sheet, drooling oil and gathering dust.
But endurance in life is important. And we bounced back.
It wouldn’t be possible without a proper support group. Just as there are clubs for knitting, bird watching, fighting addiction, riding bicycles, welding, and for just about anything else that is worth doing, the vintage motorcycle club is there to help you find victory and joy in your riding life.
I lucked (?) into 1954 MSS ownership more than 10 years ago and joined the Velocette Owner’s Club of North America to find some help untying the Gordian knot of these unusually satisfying and quirky British singles. It helps both to know you are not alone and to have a depth of experience and expertise available to lead you from the darkness.
Other clubs have rallies, but nobody I have talked with in the vintage world can think of another club that has consistently gathered every summer to ride their machines roughly 1,000 miles in a week the way the VOCNA has since 1983. It’s an uncommon level of dedication.
Maybe it’s like in war or other struggles, where the strongest bonds form, or maybe it’s just too much fun. It’s both for me. The sense of teamwork on the Velo rally is the gravitational force that brings people together and ultimately pulls them through to the next destination. Well, gravity and some spare parts.
And even though the bulk of the machines on this ride are Velos, all brands and machines are welcome. So Norton Commandos and Ducati singles mix with modern BMWs and even Hondas and Yamahas. I mean, style points for showing up and riding a Velocette, but like most vintage bike clubs, you only need to be an enthusiast to be accepted. And you can see from the riding shot that families are welcome: Pete and Kim Young, club officers and rally stalwarts, give their son Atticus a low-speed spin through the camping area on this year's rally held in the Cambria, California, area. My three-year-old son Ian got his first two-up ride on a motorcycle ever in the parking lot on my MSS.
A good vintage club experience means that even when I am out riding solo, I am never riding alone. Through actual mechanical work or advice or shared experience, a little piece of your friends is always with you. That’s fun.