THE MELTDOWN!

Spring! Our favorite time of year. Not only is the weather wonderful for introducing my motorbikes wheels to some lean angles again after a shitty winter, but end of April marks an event Roo & I wait for all year. Putting rubber to pavement in Hendersonville, North Carolina, the Ton Up Club of Highlands stages a fantastic vintage and café motorcycle street show: The Meltdown.

I have expounded profusely about this grass roots, family oriented, all-comers show in this blog every year. Young bikers, old bikers, non-bikers, women, kids, newbies, dogs. All gather here to ogle over beautiful vintage iron in all stages of preservation or restoration. And the majority of them  are ridden. No trailer queens in this group!

Southern Appalachian Brewery offers up food trucks and their excellent libations, while in their courtyard bandstand two or three bands play good old rock n’ roll and rock a billy, befitting the era of these motorcycles.

Oh yeah. THE MOTORCYCLES!

DID THE KING OF COOL RIDE THIS BIKE?

The Meltdown is a very Cool moto show. The bikes here are Cool. Way Cool. One motorbike in particular could be The Coolest. Not because it is exceptional, it is. Not because it is an uncommon ride, it is. But because it may have been ridden by the King of Cool himself, Steve McQueen.

It is known that McQueen had an affinity for the Rickman Metisse, and is believed to have had one built. If it was this particular bike, no one knows. What is known (from the current owner) is that Bud Ekins, McQueens good friend and stunt double in The Great Escape, did own this particular Metisse. So, it stands to reason that during Ekins ownership, McQueen could have thrown a leg over this Rickman. Did he or didn’t he?  We’ll never know. But it’s Cool to imagine that the King of Cool just might have.

IF YOU MADE AWAY WITH THIS BIKE, YOU COULD TELL YOUR FRIENDS YOU’RE TAKING A WHIZZER!

RANDOM MOTO PICS

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As mentioned earlier, this is a grass roots event, showcasing bare bones motorcycling as it was in the 60’s and 70’s. Real bikes, real people. No poseurs (bikes or people) were to be seen. No riders dressed like pirates or space aliens. Almost all the bikes we saw were ridden to the show. Of the very few that were not, they were trailered by vehicles like these. Doesn’t get any Cooler.

THE CAR ENTHUSIAST IN US WAS SMILING:

A HOT ROD

AND THEN, NOT SO MUCH. A JUSTY??? IT ACTUALLY DROVE HERE!

Our time at the show was winding down, and we needed to head back down the mountain to the waiting beagles. But there was one more machine that caught our eyes that we had to see up close and personal. It put a smile on our faces, even though I was only five or six years old when this motorbike came to the US. Roo wasn’t even born yet. But we knew the history. This bike changed the course of motorcycling in America, and changed Americans perception of motorcyclists and motorcycles forever. It was a Honda, and Honda’s marketing team hit a home run with their “You meet the nicest people on a Honda” campaign. It was the Super Cub, and it’s back for 2019.

2019 HONDA SUPER CUB

” YOU MEET THE NICEST PEOPLE ON A HONDA.”

See you at The Meltdown in 2020!

VINTAGE

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.

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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.

THE MOTORBIKES

All the big players from the “ton up” days were here.

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Moto Guzzi was a show in force

The lone Suzuki: 1967 125cc. Wish I rode our’s up……….

Triumphs, of course, were everywhere……….

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Back in the day, this is the bike everyone wanted but couldn’t afford. Some just built it……………. the Triton

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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.

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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.

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and personalities abound……………….

and the band played on

Passing on the knowledge

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These guys  are the new generation of vintage and Cafe bike builders. Carrying the torch, keeping the bikes and the Ton Up culture alive……………

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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!