Vintage. The word itself conjures up images of fine wine, art deco wall posters, and old clothing of a bygone era. And motorcycles. I love vintage bikes, especially Cafe racers. I consider myself a touring motorcyclist, and probably ninety percent of my moto time is spent doing just that. But there’s that small part of my motorcycle persona that keeps tugging in the direction of vintage and modern retro two wheeled art. Yes, I have a split motorcycle personality.
I view vintage bikes and Cafe racers aesthetically and viscerally. I didn’t ride these machines in my teens and twenty’s, so there is no personal connection to them. Nor did I ever tune an engine to wring out more power or build a bike from scratch. Viscerally, what motorcyclist worth his Pirelli’s doesn’t get off on the intoxicating smell and sound of a 1960’s Triumph, BSA or Vincent? Aesthetically, I find them to be works of art, which, of course, was the last thing on the minds of the men (boys) of the 50’s and 60’s whose sole objective was to “do the ton” (hit 100 MPH). Little did they know the following that would blossom fifty years later.
So, with much anticipation, on a beautiful Saturday morning on the last day of April, I rolled the ST out of the garage for a visit to Hendersonville, North Carolina, and the 16th annual Motorcycle Meltdown Vintage and Cafe Racer Motorcycle Show. I would have loved to ride Roo’s little Suzuki Cafe TU ( she would fit right in) but afternoon weather called for heavy rain, and that’s no bike to be caught on when weather turns dicey.
The motorbikes, of course, are the main event. But, just as much, what brings me back to this event, are the people and the atmosphere. Folks here are unpretentious, not caring what you ride. The only colors flying here are the Ton Up Highlands club who sponsor this amazing show each year. Men, women, kids, dogs, all running about. Old men who rode these bikes “back in the day” talking shop with hipsters that weren’t even a horny moment in daddy’s eyes yet, that rediscovered the bikes and culture and who restore these machines today. Everyone is happy & smiling; it’s a carnival atmosphere around motorcycles, because of motorcycles.
All the big players from the “ton up” days were here.
Moto Guzzi was a show in force
The lone Suzuki: 1967 125cc. Wish I rode our’s up……….
Triumphs, of course, were everywhere……….
Back in the day, this is the bike everyone wanted but couldn’t afford. Some just built it……………. the Triton
Beautiful to behold, the power of a Triumph engine surrounded by the steadfastness of a Norton frame. This was the quintessential British Cafe Racer to have in the 60’s and 70’s.
The one thing all these bikes have, both vintage and modern retro, that other modern bikes do not, is the cool factor. They just exude cool, like Steve McQueen and the 1960’s Twilight Zone’s Rod Serling. Cool cannot be faked or fabricated. You either have it or you don’t. Steve had it, Rod had it, and these bikes have it. Cool.
THE PEOPLE – Rockers & Mods…….NOT!
As I mentioned earlier, the folks gathered here for the love of vintage and retro motorbikes and to participate at an event in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina on a beautiful southern spring day.
Old, young, old hippies, young hipsters, women, girls, teens, kids and dogs. All mixing it up among the bikes.
and personalities abound……………….
and the band played on
Passing on the knowledge
These guys are the new generation of vintage and Cafe bike builders. Carrying the torch, keeping the bikes and the Ton Up culture alive……………
All too soon, it was time for me to head back home.I made numerous passes through the lineup of bikes, seeing something new and interesting each time. Satisfied, I got back on the big Honda, and headed south towards the state line.
Oh, the rain. Did I get caught in the wet weather? Sure did. The sky’s opened up exactly 1/2 mile from home. But I was still smiling!