The National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa, Iowa. You Need to Go There. Now!

Dateline Anamosa, Iowa.  Anamosa you say? What’s happening in Anamosa, Iowa? Well, let’s see. Anamosa is the county seat of Jones County and just about 6,000 friendly folks call Anamosa home.  Come autumn Anamosa celebrates its exalted status as the Pumpkin Capital of Iowa with October’s Pumpkinfest – a pumpkin weigh off and festival. I’ve just visited Anamosa and, sadly, won’t be hanging around for Pumpkin Fest 2013. I’ve come to Anamosa for the usual reason, motorcycles.

Motorcycles are a common sight in Anamosa. Anamosa is home to J&P Cycles, the huge aftermarket motorcycle parts and accessories retailer. But J&P isn’t the reason for the visit to Anamosa either (though there are doubtless many items in their inventory that I could put to good use.) Nope, the reason I’ve taken the 50 mile detour off of I-80 in the course of my westward trek is for the opportunity to visit the National Motorcycle Museum.

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Don’t be fooled by the simple storefront exterior. This re-purposed K-Mart, Kroger, or whatever houses a stunning collection of motorcycles and bike related artifacts.

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The National Motorcycle Museum was founded in 1989 by people who love motorcycling, including museum president John Parham, the “J” in J & P Cycles – just about the largest purveyor of Harley Davidson accessories anywhere. Despite its slightly off the beaten path location it thrives today because of the founders’ sound plan. The Museum’s goal is to capture and present the passion of the engineers, racers, bike builders, tuners, and other enthusiasts who have built motorcycling into what it has become since its inception at the very end of the 19th Century. The museum offers a variety of interpretive exhibitions built around a fine collection of machines and historical objects from around the world, all presented in a high quality way.

Today, some 400+ motorcycles can be found on display. And don’t think that the J & P Cycles influence means that the museum is an all Harley Davidosn show! Mainstream brands from all around the world are on display including a number of long-gone classics. Brands like Thor, Reading-Standard, and Henderson werre once mainstream offerings. Now we can only inspect then in places like Anamosa. Some bikes are owned by the museum while others are on loan from collectors and museums worldwide. The bikes themselves are supplemented by a huge mass of motorcycle paraphernalia and relics of every sort. I’ve only got limited space to share some of the amazing contents of the museum, believe me, every bike in the collection warrants a closer look! Just take a look at these.

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Yes, there are Harleys. Lots of Harleys! But the National Motorcycle Museum is so much more!

IMG_2293One of the museum’s centerpieces is this “Captain America” custom from the classic film “Easy Rider.”

IMG_2294Despite the signed “Certificate of Authenticity” from actor Peter Fonda, some experts raise questions about the true provenance of the bike on display. Nonetheless it is a stunning period piece and is surrounded with lots of fascinating movie souvenirs.

IMG_2277Evel Knievel was another motorcycling icon of the 70s and the museum pays substantial homage to E.K. with bikes, riding gear, stories, posters, and the wide variety of trinkets (dolls? lunch boxes?) available to fans of that era.

IMG_2283Ed “Big Daddy” Roth was a custom car and bike legend from the 60s and the artistic genius behind memorable characters from the era such as the “Rat Fink.” . Here is his Buick V-6 powered “Asphalt Angel” custom.

IMG_2284The “Rat Fink.” You remember. Right?

IMG_2289It isn’t just movie bikes and customs. There are just gobs and gobs of true relics. Here a 1914 Yale twin. The price at the time? $260,

IMG_2324A 1912 Henderson. Claimed to be the only four cylinder Henderson still wearing it’s original paint.

IMG_2316A Reading Standard. In the early days there were motorcycle manufacturers right in our neighborhood in Pennsylvania!

IMG_2336European bikes are well represented. Here a 1948 Moto Guzzi GTV.

IMG_2305Glenn Curtiss was a both a motorcycle builder/racer and a noted aviation pioneer from upstate New York. At one time he laid claim to being the “fastest man alive.”  Here a rare 1906 Curtiss twin.

IMG_2362Japanese bikes get their due too. Here afleet of tasty 70s Kawasakis

IMG_2355A entire wall full of rare and exotic powerplants from all eras.

IMG_2354The museum is also packed with motorcycling related art, books, signage, and every manner of item related to the sport.

IMG_2363It’s not just the bikes but how they are displayed. Here a tribute to the sport of hillclimbing.

IMG_2346Board track racing display – with not one but two Flying Merkels!

IMG_2383A special exhibit on display through the summer months is this!

IMG_2378You can’t possibly have a “Dirt Track Heroes” discussion without a Harley XR 750. Simply not possible.

IMG_2373A personal favorite – the “old school” race shop display!

I could go on with pages upon pages of additional pictures but I think you get the idea. This is an extraordinary collection that must be experienced! Plan on spending half a day at least. And, as I mentioned, don’t think of this as a Harley, or V-Twin, or just American bike museum (I counted four Brough Superiors and seven Vincents during my visit!) This is simply put, one of the finest collections of motorcycles in the world. It’s not to be missed by any motorcycle enthusiast of any age. Go there. Go there now!

Learn more at the National Motorcycle Museum’s website at http://www.nationalmcmuseum.org/

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