A Visit to the Morbidelli Museum in Pesaro, Italy.

The Morbidelli Museum in Pesaro, Italy.

The Morbidelli Museum in Pesaro, Italy.

Sometimes we find important motorcycle stuff in the least likely places. Pesaro is a sleepy little Italian city (population less than 100,000) on the Adriatic coast just about 1/3 of the way down the Italian peninsula and more or less directly east of Florence. Tourism, fishing, and the furniture industry are staples of the local economy. Fun fact: Graziano Rossi, father of many time world champion Valentino Rossi, is a native of Pesaro. But wait, as they say in the late night TV ads, there’s more. Jump back to that last comment about the furniture industry. Craftsmen working in wood require a variety of special tools – both manual and machine tools as well. In Pesaro, in the ’60s, one very reputable source for precision woodworking machine tools was Morbidelli – founded and operated by one Giancarlo Morbidelli. In that time frame Giancarlo’s business flourished and provided the necessary capital for Morbidelli to indulge his true passion for motorcycling and motorcycle racing. Beginning in 1969 in the 50cc class the tiny Pesaro based firm began entering Grand Prix races throughout Europe. By 1971 they were winning races in the 125cc class with a liquid cooled, rotary valve bike entirely of their own design. World Championships soon followed, first in the 125cc class in 1975, ’76 and ’77. A 250 class championship was added in 1977. Morbidellis were successfully raced in various categories up until 1982. All the while, Giancarlo Morbidelli was also quietly gathering up a substantial collection of significant motorcycles, both street and racing, which have now come to be displayed in his own private museum. It’s situated right there in the industrial heart of Pesaro, in the same building where the woodworking tools and all those racing bikes were produced some four decades ago. The more than 300 motorcycles in the museum, opened in 1999, capture both the detailed history of Morbidelli’s Grand Prix racing success and also the history of motorcycling itself, especially as it applies to moto-mad Italy. But make no mistake, there are a wide number of marques on display from Harley Davidson, the the big four Japanese, and a vast selection of other Europeans, to a wide variety of tiny Italian brands seldom seen here in the USA such as Linto, Ringhini, and Cimatti. The Morbidelli Museum is literally a complete compendium of motorcycling from just after the dawn of the 20th centruy through the 1980s. Below are just a few pics from my recent visit and private tour conducted by Giancarlo Morbidelli himself, now well into his 80s. Sadly, the Morbidelli Museum does not keep regular hours but, if you ever have occasion to travel in this part of Italy, see if you can arrange a visit. The pertinent contact info, as well as a lot more information and pictures can be found at http://www.museomorbidelli.it/

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Some 350 motorcycles, all brillantly displayed fill the numerous aisles of the Morbidelli Museum.

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Among the most famous of Morbidellis, the 850cc V-8. Built in very limited quantities in the 1990s, it was listed in the Guiness Book of World Records as the world’s most expensive motorcycle. Perhaps more accessible to Americans, another example of the Morbidelli V-8 resides in the Barber Museum in Alabama.

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Check out the name on the windscreen. I believe it is legally required in Italy for any motorcycle museum to have some manner of tribute to Valentino Rossi! Vale’s father, Graziano, successfully raced Morbidelli’s in the 250GP class.

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The museum is not just filled with motorcycles but fascinating memorabilia.

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A very complete selection of historic Morbidelli racing motorcycles fills an entire separate gallery.

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The Morbidelli racing gallery also includes an extensive collection of racing souvenirs and memorabilia.

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Ahead of it’s time. In 1942, during the height World War II, Benelli kept themselves occupied with this – a four cylinder, liquid cooled, supercharged 250cc bike that made over 50 hp at 13,000 rpm. Talk about technically advanced!

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Learning more about this Pre-War Benelli 175 GP Racer from Giancarlo Morbedelli himself.

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Bad picture. Incredible bike. 1964 Ducati, four cylinder, twin-cam, four valve 125cc GP racer. 23bhp at 14,000 rpm.

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One last look at the rows upon rows of incredible historic motorcycles at the Morbidelli Museum.

If the opportunity ever presents itself you need to visit this museum! Again, more info and pics can be found at http://www.museomorbidelli.it  And, to make things even more interesting, the recently re-opened Benelli Museum is just about 5 minutes away. http://www.officinebenelli.it/ Make a day of it!

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Your House is Full of Special Motorcycle Tools. (NSFW- Not Suitable for Wives)

Next week my wife is going away for a few days on business. I’ll miss her, for sure. However her travels do often seem to result in accelerated progress on my various motorcycle restoration and racing projects. It seems obvious that a spouse’s absence can free up time that might otherwise be spent on family/household/social responsibilities. But the increase in productivity may result from something even more fundamental. What we may be talking about here is access to enhanced tools.

If you happen to be the spouse of a motorcycle racer/engine builder/restorer or even just a mechanically “handy” enthusiast then it may be best that you read no further.

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Most guys have a passing familiarity with the battery of kitchen appliances found in most homes. They walk past them all the time.  Did you ever think about the time, money and effort saving possibilities offered by those “tools” in the creation of racers, restorations, or just routine rebuilds of your favorite two wheeled toy? Listen up. Below are just a few of the myriad ways to effectively employ your household appliances and even your furniture in the creation of your next motorized masterpiece. However, should you undertake some of these activities under the watchful eye of a skeptical spouse, we take no responsibility for any unintended results.

Every home that I know has, at minimum, an oven. Turkeys at Thanksgiving. Roast beef. Mmmmmm.  More importantly, when the service manual tells you to heat and engine case to facilitate the installation of some sort of bearing this is your tool. Need to bake some paint? There ya go! (Please turn on the exhaust fan.) Not sure that thermostat works? Boil some water on the cook surface. And on and on. Watch out for noxious smells and make sure you turn the oven off afterward.

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Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Season to taste.

Next up is your refrigerator, or more importantly the freezer. The most common application here is also related to the installation of bearings. You’ll may find that you need to both heat the case, or possibly a wheel hub in the oven as previously described and freeze the bearings here in the freezer. The resulting pieces practically “fall” in place.

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Frozen foods!

Fortunate enough to have a dishwasher? This device can also be used to good effect in washing both large and small components. A couple of cautions here. Don’t count on your dishwasher to remove larger amounts of grease and grime. Also, be very wary of machining chips and tiny loose pieces – the internals of your machine don’t like that sort of stuff at all. Also, regarding detergents –  some dishwasher detergents can slightly discolor aluminum bits. We’d suggest doing a test piece first. Also, there are aluminum-safe dishwasher formulas available for commercial kitchen applications.

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Hey. Those aren’t dishes.

In professional engine shops and race facilities you will often find a surface plate and precision measuring tools in play. Don’t have anything like that available? Maybe you could surprise the spouse with a stainless top kitchen island. This will gain you lots of points. It will also get you a worthwhile approximation of a surface plate. It’s probably not true enough to do high precision engine or transmission measuring bit it’s sure close enough to true-up the spoked wheels you just built. We’ll bet you can find some other uses too.

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My surface plate

While we’re touching on work surfaces we may as well just jump into the really advanced stuff. Its not just about the kitchen anymore! My buddy Kerry Alter is an ultra successful National and World Record Holding Bonneville Racer. Kerry Alter Land Speed Racing has no huge shop so they utilize what they’ve got to maximum effect. Like the den. Here’s some assembly work on the BMW S1000RR that (hopefully) can carry rider Loretta Flores to Bonneville Records in 2015. All laid out ready to assemble indoors in a safe, clean environment, and a skilled engine builder on site.

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Kerry Alter Land Speed Racing Engine Assembly Facility (and technician?)

Now back to another, very advanced usage of modern appliances. The old bike restorers among you will really warm up to this one. Got a nasty old gas tank with a light, or even moderately rusted interior? Don’t want to mess with noxious chemicals to try to clean it up? Some sources will suggest that you throw a big handful of nuts and bolts, or drywall screws, into the tank and shake it profusely. Great idea ‘cept for one thing. You can get pretty tired shaking a gas tank for a long period of time. But wait, we have the technology and it’s sitting in the laundry room. Load the loose hardware into your tank and seal up all the openings. Then pack that baby into your dryer with old blankets, towels, or rags. Pack it up nice and tight. Then put it on tumble (no heat!) and let it turn in there for an hour or two. Go do something else useful. When done make sure you open it up outside ’cause some rusty, dusty, and nasty stuff is going to come out. Don’t ask how I know this. The video at the link below will talk you through the entire process. It’s genius.

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No dryer sheets required.

In the title to this story you’ve seen the legend NSFW – in this case meaning Not Suitable For Wives (or maybe Women.) That’s actually incorrect, unfair, and hells, maybe even discriminatory. The fact is that forward thinking women also clearly see the brilliance of utilizing everyday appliances for the important work of preparing racing motorcycles. My Texas friend Jaylin, another Bonneville Land Speed Record holder, rider, scooterista (and avid rescuer and foster parent for dogs- yea Jaylin!) has been known to effectively utilize all the appliance/tools at hand. Bake paint in the oven? Sure. Shrink bearings in the freezer? You bet. For Jaylin everything, up to and including including the kitchen sink, comes into play while prepping her rides. Gotta be pretty proud of a girl like that!

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Jaylin’s Kitchen Sink

Two final thoughts. First, we take absolutely no responsibility for any damage you might incur to your rare motorcycle parts, your home or household appliances, or to any of your personal relationships while employing any of the above ideas. Use at your own risk. Secondly, we are sure that there are additional great ideas out there along these lines. We’d love to hear from you! And we’re just flat without a use for the microwave.

Motus MST – First Ride Impressions.

IMG_0467motus logo crYears ago, while in college, I had a friend who drove a 1970 SS 454 Chevelle. Riding “shotgun” in that car, and very occasionally driving it, are among the most pleasant memories of that period in my life. I’ve long since lost touch with my old buddy, and I’m sure that big block monster has gone on to the great junkyard in the sky (or possibly brought a high five figure sale price at some collector auction!) 109034_10621205_1970_Chevrolet_Chevelle+SS cropNow, four plus decades later, my overall recollection of that car is somewhat sketchy. Sure, I remember that it was black, had bucket seats, and was equipped with a four speed and posi-traction. I do, however, SS454 logoclearly remember that motor. The distinctive big block rumble is indelibly etched in my long term memory, as is the signature vibration and sense of endless power and torque that was transmitted through the floorpan and seat. And, when you pinned the throttle, well…….. Even today, If I close my eyes, I can recapture the sound and fury at will. Several days ago I had my first opportunity to ride a Motus MST motorcycle. I can honestly say that that the unique sound and feel of the 1650cc Motus “Baby Block” MV4 instantly transported me back to the aforementioned big block Chevy. Motorcycle version. If you are a product of that muscle car era and you have the chance to ride a Motus, then you will know exactly of what I speak.

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Motus, a Birmingham , Alabama based startup has been working toward the introduction of their comfortable large displacement sport tourer for several years. The story has been well documented in the powersports press – the unique 1650 cc pushrod “Baby Block” MV4, an all-american pedigree, premium specification equipment across the board, and performance levels somewhere up in the stratosphere. Now, with a series of dealer sponsored demo rides and the impending shipment of production bikes, it seems that the time has finally come. It was definitely worth the wait. The bike I rode was the MST version – the lower of the two price classes available from Motus.IMG_5263 It lacked the carbon fiber wheels, Ohlins rear shock, Brembo monoblocs, hotter engine (cams, Ti valves, 180hp!) and several other premium features found on the pricier MST-R version. Do not, however, mistake the MST for anything other than a magnificent and fully equipped sport tourer. For example, every Motus comes with electronic cruise control, integrated hard luggage, Sargent Seat (regular and “low” available), and the MST also features almost infinitely adjustable Heli-bars capable of accomodating a wide variety of rider sizes, shapes and riding positions.IMG_5249 Speaking of rider accommodation, the Motus was a very comfortable ride for my smallish 5’8″ (and 29″ inseam”) self. The available low seat, coupled with the extraordinarily narrow frame allowed me to easily flat-foot the bike at standstill – something I typically have no hope of doing on full size sport and touring offerings (and potential competitors) like the big BMWs or the tallish Kawi Concours.IMG_5272 Other standard amenities include adjustable brake and clutch levers and a manually adjustable windscreen – available in standard or touring variants. In a side note, the body and chassis fit and finish were excellent on the high mileage development motorcycles that we had the opportunity to inspect and ride. A 20+ minute ride on mostly country roads, led by Motus founder Lee Conn, left me with these initial impressions. First of all this bike works! IMG_0455The clutch is light, feel and modulation is excellent, and fueling is nearly spot on. And with so much torque available, launching the bike is a no-brainer. Under way, the sense of massive, and linear, torque delivery overpowers everything else. IMG_0461The gearbox’s six speeds are nicely spaced and with both 5th and 6th being overdrive ratios, warp cruising speeds at modest engine rpms are readily achievable – though I had no chance to test that conclusion on this abbreviated ride. The bike’s performance in the twisties belies it’s nearly 600 pound fully-fueled weight. Sharp transitions are the norm and throttle changes mid-corner (like when you get in a little “hot”) upset the chassis not a whit. Due credit to the Pirelli Angel tires, chassis tuning and to the pushrod engine design which concentrates weight considerably lower than overhead cammers can manage. IMG_5251And, as one would suspect, the Brembo brakes are more than capable of snubbing the big scooter from any legal (or extra-legal) speed one might choose.IMG_5260 If I had one complaint it would be this – in their interest in providing a maximum amount of information via the multi function/multi colored dash display screen Motus may have arrived at some symbology and characters that are a bit small for these old eyes. Pretty minor stuff, huh? Otherwise this is a very fully developed and well executed motorcycle. Now reflecting on my brief ride in the fullness of, well, just a few days, my thoughts run along these lines. The Motus is a handsome, contemporary, and well executed machine. It features an extremely competent chassis. It comes loaded with great hardware and features. But when the day is done, the one thing that will stick with me is that engine – a living thing that simply screams prodigious power and torque. It looks great. It sounds great. It delivers on its promise in every tactile and visceral way. And it is now, I suspect, indelibly etched in my long term memory. Right along side that old big block Chevelle. Martin Moto is one of only 17 Motus Dealers nationwide. Visit us in person, or online at martinmoto.com for more information Print

Museu de la Moto – Amazing Motorcycle Museum in Spain!

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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.

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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!

Montesa scooter on display in the museum lobby.

Montesa scooter on display in the museum lobby.

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.

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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.

 

Indian and Harley, head to head competitors in Spain as well as in the States.

Indian and Harley, head to head competitors in Spain as well as in the States.

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1922 Harley-Davidson Model “J.” Fitted with a sidecar, this particular unit was a Taxi in Barcelona in the days before the Spanish Civil War.

 

There are also plenty of imported models from manufacturers seldom seen in North America, like the Belgian “FN” and the Swiss Motosacoche.

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A 1914 750 cc FN (Fabrique National from Belgium.) Note the 4 cylinder powerplant.

 

1931 500cc Motosacoche (Switzerland)

1931 500cc Motosacoche (Switzerland)

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.

 

Period photo from the glory days of the Spanish Motorcycle Industry.

Period photo from the glory days of the Spanish Motorcycle Industry.

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A pair of Montesa Brio 50 machines

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It’s not just Spanish machines on display. Here a Gilera Motocrosser from the 70’s!

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Bultaco Sherpa T

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70s Spanish Motocrossers

OSSA road racer as raced at the 1967 24hrs of Montjuich.

OSSA road racer as raced at the 1967 24hrs of Montjuich.

 

Then there are also later, license built, models reflecting the industry to the current day.

The Montesa factory. Pretty big deal at one time!

The Montesa factory. Pretty big deal “in the day!”

 

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Did you know that Montesa exists to this day? Essentially a manufacturing arm for Honda, they continue to produce a Honda-based “Cota.”

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.

Mario Soler 1907-1991

Mario Soler 1907-1991

Ever mindful of the historical significance of many of the machines he worked with, in the 1940s he began collecting and restoring old bikes.

Mario Soler's tiny restoration workshop duplicated.

Mario Soler’s tiny restoration workshop recreated.

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!

 

 

 

 

 

Modern Classics Ride-In. In a Word, it Was Mega!

“Ride ‘Em, Don’t Hide ‘Em.” That’s the mantra espoused by our friends at Motorcycle Classics magazine. It’s an ethos we fully subscribe to, as witnessed by our 2nd Annual Modern Classics Ride-In here at Martin Moto last Saturday.

Perfect early autumn weather (low 80s, high overcast and a light breeze), delicious nosh from Skippack’s Italian Deli, and high-energy music attracted  throngs of old bike fans. Oh yeah, did we mention that there were over a hundred bikes – all ridden in from as far away as Pittsburgh and North Jersey. No trailer queens here!  The event attracted European bikes, Japanese bikes, bikes from the 50s through today, customs, choppers, cafes, and more.  It would be pretty hard to describe in words the energy and enthusiasm in our parking area but maybe this selection of pictures can help. If you missed this, you missed a lot! Next up – the 5th Annual Modern Classics Show on March 7th, 2015. And you can count on yet another Modern Classics Ride in late in August of 2015. Enjoy!

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A huge crowd of old bike enthusiasts.

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Kick Starting. A soon-to-be lost art?

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Kawi Z1. In it’s day, the world’s fastest production motorcycle.

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Every bike was ridden to the event!

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A Norton Commando rider in full kit.

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Vintage. In every sense of the word.

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Among the oldest bike at the event. 1952 Vincent.

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Honda CBX. Oh those pipes.

     

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Motorcyclists showing their colors.

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MV Agusta 750 America.

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The pride of Birmingham.

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Brits and Germans, side by side.

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Very cool 79 Yamaha XS custom fitted with R6 Inverted forks, monoshock rear, contemporary wheels tires and brakes. All Yamaha all the time!

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The view from overhead.

 

 

Classic Motorcycles at the Simeone Now Till Sept 12th !

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We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again……We love all motorcycles. Large or small. New or old. That deep seated interest leads us to some extraordinary opportunities.  Like the 2014 edition of the Classic Motorcycles at The Simeone Museum. If you don’t know about the Simeone, you should. Located in a warehouse area in West Philadelphia not far from Philadelphia International Airport, this undiscovered gem houses one of the world’s finest collection of classic, racing  and sports cars. Check out their web site to learn more about the museum and the remarkable selection of vehicles that has been assembled by founder Dr. Fred Simeone. OK, but what about motorcycles?

Each summer for the past several years the Simeone has presented a month long tribute to classic motorcycles. This year Vincent and Brough Superior were chosen as the show’s featured marques along with a selection of sub 250cc bikes from the 1974 and earlier period.  Despite the fact that we at Martin Moto have never sold a Vincent nor ever  had a Brough Superior on our showroom floor, we have elected to become the presenting sponsor of the 2014 Simeone Show. With such sponsorships come privilege. Last Saturday evening we were invited to the Museum’s Classic Motorcycles Show kickoff party. What a fascinating event! Not only did we have the opportunity to stroll the display floor and check out the amazing machinery on display but we had the chance to shmooze with many of the owners and other like minded classic bike enthusiasts. Later in the evening we had the chance to hear the featured speaker – Matthew Bieberman, author of the 2009 book, “Big Sid’s Vincati” speak of his famous (at least among the  Vincent crowd) father Sid Bieberman and the family’s love for, and great adventures with, the Vincent brand. And, oh yes, there were bikes.

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Hartman 2

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Currently on display at the Simeone are some 30+ classic motorcycles, including two of the ultra-rare Brough Superiors and nearly 20 Vincents of various ages, models, and pedigrees. Interestingly, among the bikes at the Simeone, there are some half a dozen that have previously been shown at our own Modern Classics show.

Classic Motorcycles at the Simeone runs from now until September 12.  The Simeone Museum is open daily Tuesdays through Sundays  (closed Monday – just like bike dealerships!) For more information and directions go to http://simeonemuseum.org/  If the classic motorcycles virus is in your blood then you will probably want to put a visit to the Simeone on your calendar.

If you want to see some more classic bikes in action then plan on joining us for the Modern Classics Ride-In next Saturday, August 30 at Martin Moto!

 

 

 

Modern Classics Ride-In Coming Up Saturday, August 30. Don’t Miss It!

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It won’t be long now. Coming up in just over a month, on Saturday, August 30th, is Martin Moto’s second annual Modern Classics Ride-In.

Imagined as a warm weather adjunct to the popular (but held indoors in the chilly month of March) Modern Classics Bike Show, the ride-in is a chance to show off your classic ride. It’s an unstructured event – no entry fees, no classes, judging, or awards. Just good times, fellowship, and the chance to ogle the eye-candy represented by a huge parking lot filled with well turned out classic and custom bikes. This year we’ll even have our friends from the Italian Market in Skippack on hand with a variety of delicious eats, and a DJ to keep the vibe alive throughout the afternoon!

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Last year’s event attracted a swarm of classic stunners, ranging from a Honda CBX, a beautiful 1959 Harley Sportster, a Vincent, and a selection of the requisite Triumphs, BSAs and Nortons.

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The Ride-In isn’t just for stock bikes either. We saw a very nice mix of customs and cafes too!

 

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We even had “period correct” people!

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If you love old motorcycles, or even better yet, if you have one  to ride, this is the day to come visit us at Martin’s. This casual event will run from 11am to 3 pm. Simply ride in with your best bike – there’s no pre-registration needed.  Time is short so go ahead and get that Modern Classic running! As our friends at Motorcycle Classics magazine say, “Ride ’em don’t hide ’em!”