What are the attractions to collecting motorcycles? We look at what makes this sector of the hobby tick, and why you should be looking for a classic motorcycle for that garage or man-cave.
Motorcycles are easier to store and display than cars. “With bikes, you can drain the oil and gas and park them, and they’ll wait for you for 15 years. You can’t do that with cars,” says Mecum Motorcycle Auction’s Ron Christensen.
They’re functionally beautiful. “Motorcycles have to adhere to a narrower set of rules in weight, size and function, so their refinements are more concentrated and visible. Ideally, you can look at a motorcycle and see exactly what things do, so function and style are almost inseparable – more distilled into their essence, you might say,” says longtime Cycle World magazine columnist Peter Egan.
There’s a huge variety of interesting models. “There are literally hundreds of brands throughout history. Each of them tried to build a better mousetrap, and the engineering and technical advancements make them fascinating to collect,” says Jim Balestrieri of the Throttlestop Motorcycle Museum.
Motorcycle collectors tend to be passionate enthusiasts, not yet investor-class. Price run-ups by speculators have yet to hit the classic motorcycle market, making many interesting bikes still within reach of the everyday enthusiast. “You can still get into the hobby affordably with Shovelhead Harleys, old Japanese bikes or Triumphs,” says Dan Krause, Vice-President of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America. “Bikes built in the 1980’s are now technically considered antiques.”
AMA Motocross Champion and IndyCar racer Jeff Ward got his start on a Honda 50.
Motorcycles evoke early childhood memories. Many car collectors had their first motorized experience with motorcycles and minibikes. Brown Maloney of the Northwest 100 Collection, says “Like a lot of kids, I started out with a little Honda Mini Trail. Even as a 15-year old, I never broke it, and it took me everywhere. That just left a pretty good impression.”
They reflect personal experiences and relationships. “As collectors, we have multiple bikes as much due to emotional considerations: the rides we’ve had on them, the people we bought them from, affection for the person who wrenched on or built them. Our bikes become imbued with spirit and reminiscence,” says Marilyn Stemp, Editor of Iron Trader News.
They are logistically easy to move. Most fit into a pickup truck or van, and a non-running display bike can be pushed onto a concours field, auction block or man-cave a lot easier than a non-running car which can require a team of professionals.
They are easier to achieve and maintain perfection. “The financial entry point for restoration is a quarter or sixth of what it would take to do a car, which is another level altogether,” says Brady Ingelse of motorcycle restorer Retrospeed.
Motorcycles are imbued with a sense of derring-do. Whether it was Kenny Roberts dragging a knee through a 100-mph curve or Evel Knievel jumping nineteen cars, motorcycles have always had a built-in sense of excitement commensurate with their level of danger.