Each year, thousands of motorcycle fans descend on Birmingham, Alabama. They come from all over the world to race and showcase their bikes — some more than 100 years old. Triumph Bonnevilles, Indian Chiefs, Ducatis and Hondas — that’s just the start. Held on the grounds of the world’s largest motorcycle museum, the annual Barber Vintage Motorcycle Festival is more than a show — it’s a three-day weekend of racing, of trading bike knowledge, and cycle culture.
Last year’s event was a record breaker, with more than 73,000 people in attendance. We went inside the race to bring you a snapshot of the three-day event. Go ahead, be jealous. (And if you want to mark you calendar for the event in 2017 -- it's October 6-8).
1. Many of the riders have been up since the early morning hours, fine tuning their bikes. They stay on property, pitching tents and pulling up trailers and RVs behind pit row.
2. Races are held throughout each day. It’s affiliated with The American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association Ltd., one of the largest vintage racing groups in the world. The four disciplines of AHRMA competition at last year’s Barber Vintage Festival – road racing, trials, cross country and vintage.
3. Eric Bahl of Huntsville, Alabama displays his 1915 Harley Davidson Model 11F. It only holds four to six ounces of oil. So when he drove cross country in the 2016 Race of the Century, he needed to refill the oil on nearly every stop.
4. The paddock (pits) are open to spectators, who are encouraged to walk around and interact with racers and crews, making last minute adjustments. Here Larry Morris, owner of New York City Motorcycles. Morris works on his 1975 Triumph twin-cylinder Daytona Sport 500. The bike was raced for many years by Tim Joyce, the fastest vintage racer in the country.
5. Ducati celebrated its 90th-anniversary last year, and are in abundance on the track.
6. Tom Heyser raced his 1954 Gold Star on the sands of Daytona in the late 50s. It has the original stock frame and ABSAF engine.
7. Indian, America’s first motorcycle, saw its heyday with the Scout (made from 1920 to 1946) and the Chief (made from 1922 to 1953). Today there are nine modern Indian models on the market, including several released in 2016.
8. Among the workshops held throughout the weekend: “How to Repair Broken Carburetor Float Pivot Pins,” “The Factor Records For BSA, Triumph, Norton, and Ariel,” and “What Riding Gear Can and Should Do For You.”
9. Greg “GT” Tomlinson lives in Dana Point, California and is the national title holder for the Classic 60s 650 class. His bike, which he calls “Speedy Magoo,” is a 1969 Triumph. “This bike isn’t just for weekend racing,” says GT, the president of Von Zipper Sunglasses. “I ride it everywhere, every day.”
10. This Australian bike brand Deus Ex Machina has only been around for about 10 years, but has caught on with a certain rider. Their tagline: “There’s no right way to do individualism, its all the same juice.”
11. The swap meet features vendors selling merchandise at just about every price point —including parts starting as low as a few dollars. From petroliana collectibles to frames, you could spend an entire day at the meet.
12. Don’t like the ride you came in? The swap meet is also filled with sweet rides you can drive off the lot, like this Can-Am.
13. Jillian Rossi from St. Augustine continues the craft of pinstriping. A self-taught artist, the owner of Hellcat Pinstriping uses a squirrel-haired brush and a steady hand to detail bikes and helmets at events like this, and from her shop in Florida.
14. Jillian, like other artists and makers at the event, stays up late in the evenings to fulfill orders for custom work.
15. Penton is a brand of off-road motorcycle introduced in 1968 by John Penton.
16. It’s not all track racing — motocross is the third and final day of the event.
17. These dirt bike racers are leg and leg, or rather wheel and wheel. One rider is repping his Pan-Am gear, a moto brand that’s been around since 1942.
18. Susan Hiraoka is a fashion designer by day and a racer by night. The Pasadena resident drives a number of bikes, and is pictured here on a Dubs Honda 500.
19. With races in Europe, Australia, and Japan, sidecar racing is alive and well, and a crowd favorite during the festival.
20. Riding in the monkey seat is only fit for daredevils. So we'll see you this year in the seat, right?
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