Bin this in the category of “The Road Less Traveled.” Recently, while enjoying the serpentine delights of motorcycling through the Pyrenees Mountains that separate France and Spain (EXTREMELY highly recommended, by the way. Alpine-like riding experience with considerably fewer cars/trucks/tour buses to interfere with your trajectory) I had the totally unanticipated experience of stumbling upon one of Europe’s finest vintage motorbike collections at the Museu de la Moto in the tiny village of Bassella, in Spain.
With a population numbering only in the hundreds, Bassella doesn’t exactly fit the typical profile for great museum locations. The fact that the museum building is co-located with a Repsol gas station perhaps even further lowers one’s expectations. However all that changes one you get inside!
The Museu Moto fills 1000 square meters of space on two floors of the modern museum building. Bright, well lit, and with documentation and placards in both Spanish and English the displays are both interesting and educational.
Like most good museums, there is a story to be told – in this case the story of the history of motorcycling in Spain. The early twentieth century years are well documented with examples of many models imported from Europe and the United States too. Both Indian and Harley-Davidson are represented.
There are also plenty of imported models from manufacturers seldom seen in North America, like the Belgian “FN” and the Swiss Motosacoche.
License built and imported units from the years surrounding the Spanish Civil War are also on display as are a number of Montesas, Ossas, and Bultacos from the glory years of Spanish motorcycling in the 60’s and 70’s.
Then there are also later, license built, models reflecting the industry to the current day.
An obvious question is why such a museum exists in such an out-of-the-way place. For this answer we look, again, to the history of motorcycling in Spain and, in particular, to the role of one Mario Soler. Born in Bassella in 1907, Soler was, from a very early age, fascinated by “things mechanical.” Having created, from discarded motors and parts from various BSAs’ and Harley-Davidsons, a series of small, light (and fast) cars Soler, in the 1920s began to focus his interest on machines of the two-wheeled variety. For the balance of his lifetime he was active in creating motorcycle racers, “specials”, and prototypes in his tiny Bassella workshop.
Ever mindful of the historical significance of many of the machines he worked with, in the 1940s he began collecting and restoring old bikes.
Following his passing in 1991, the family passion was carried on by his sons Estanis and Toni and the museum seen today was opened in 2002 as a tribute to not just the history of Spanish Motorcycling but to the Soler family, especially Mario.
Learn more about the Museu de la Moto at www.museumoto.com. Better yet go visit! On a motorcycle!