Classic bikes roll through town
June 10, 2010
They ride Harley-Davidsons, BMWs and Triumphs.
But the difference between this 15-person motorcycle posse and others you might see on the scenic byways of Colorado is the age of their bikes.
Ranging from a 1935 Harley-Davidson to a 1966 Triumph, the bikes carried their passengers over Gore Pass then on to the Continental Divide this week, staying over for a few days at Daven Haven Lodge in Grand Lake.
Todd Vinzant of Golden, owner of the 1935 Harley, said the crew travels farther than 100 miles a day without any back-up vehicles, preferring instead to go rogue.
“Out of necessity, everybody’s a wrench here,” he said.
Without mechanical help, they seek to avoid the “Turd” award given to the sorry souls caught touching a wrench to their bikes on the side of the road.
By Wednesday, the owner of the 1946 Indian Chief, Nate Mitchel, and the owner of the ’41 Indian Sport Scout, Jack Walz of Wyoming, shamefully carried the group’s dubious brown-rubber prize.
The rider of the 1947 Knucklehead Harley-Davidson, Tom Freed, gloated that he somehow avoided being caught the day before, fixing his carburetor on the side of Trough Road.
The riders find original parts for their bikes on E-Bay, or at Antique Motorcycle Club of America swap meets, and carry as many tools as they can in leather saddle packs attached to their bikes.
Although the group travels at an average speed of 45-55 mph and can get up to speeds of about 70 mph, back in the day, bikes such as the 1935 Harley topped speeds of about 80 mph, which was “faster than just about any automobile at the time,” said Robbie Knight of New Mexico, the owner of another 1947 Knucklehead – incidentally the last year Harley made that model.
All of the group’s vintage motorcycles are designed to have a side car, and they all have a foot clutch and a hand shift – whereas modern-day motorcycles have a hand clutch and a foot shift.
In other words, vintage-bike riders have to take one hand off of the handle bars to shift gears.
According to the Antique Motorcycle Club of America, “vintage” qualifies as 35 years old or older.
“This one was born in 1975, so he just turned vintage,” Vinzant announced of fellow rider Mitchel.
Part of the enjoyment of owning these vintage bikes is the “attraction of building and restoring them, then going out on rides,” Freed said.
“It’s always a decision whether to totally restore (a vintage motorcycle) or leave it in the condition you found it in,” Vinzant said.
Kevin Linville of Durango chose to keep his 1939 Indian Sports Scout, a popular dirt-track racing bike in the 1940s and 1950s, unrestored. Although the paint is not original, he said, the paint job still predates 1966.
Also among the pack were a 1945 police motorcycle and a pair of two-person seat bikes: one Indian “Chummy Seat” and one Harley “Buddy Seat.”
Saddles on the older bikes are shaped like bicycle seats, and since antique motorcycles have no rear suspension and minimal front suspension, the seats themselves have suspension.
“They actually are quite comfortable to ride. It’s amazing how smooth they actually are,” Knight said, saying the old bikes were built for dirt roads.
But the jury is still out, some said, on the comfort level of the two-person bikes.
Freed said back in those days, more consideration was given to the seat comfort of a passenger, less for the person at the handlebars.
On Wednesday, Greg Barnes, owner of the Daven Haven who collects vintage juke boxes on the side, set outside two of his 1946 models for a photograph opportunity; parked next to the Wurlitzer juke boxes were two 1946 vintage Indian motorcycles – a glimpse into a nascent rock-and-roll era.
– Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.