Solvang California is a strange and delightful little town. It is seemingly pretty remote being inland and up in the hills well north and east of LA. But more importantly, it is also designed to be a misplaced Swiss alpine village. All of the architecture is Tudor style on the exterior, it has a fine bakery, and it even has a windmill. You might expect Pinochio to come running around the corner at any moment being chased by Gepetto, and disrupting the orderly march of the seven dwarfs. But they don’t. This is a lovely tourist destination, and home of the Solvang Motorcycle Museum.

The museum itself is just one large hall, but it is completely full of motrocycles except for enough space to walk around. Some motorcycles in the room are only accessible if you carefully slip between perimeter machines to get into the interior cluster. Only the most well-mannered and obedient children should visit. As you walk through the door, the sea of vintage bikes is very impressive, and it leaves you not sure where to begin. At the beginning of my visit, the place was empty. which was perfect. I decided upon a counter-clockwise approach.

Having seen quite a lot of vintage bikes, it always seems incredible that such a variety of pedal and lever combinations were tried. Foot clutch, hand shift, handlebar spark advance, left shift, right shift, throttle levers, oil injectors, mixture dials, etc. It seems that humans of the late 19th and early 20th century had several more appendages than we do today with which to operate some of the early vehicles. Or perhaps they were designed, like the pyramids, by a race of alien Octopi who visited but then left in disgust at the primitive bipeds they had encountered. But I digest….  The beauty and artisan craftsmanship of the early bikes are stunning. The use of brass or polished metals in general, and the routing of the plumbing creates engines and mechanicals that are simply works of art. The FN, the Mars, and the Yale in particular could just be studied and admired in the same way as any painting in the Louvre.

BMW was well represented with a lovely R12, a 1954 Rennsport, and an R69S. And just to prove that horizontally opposed cylinders were not exclusively a BMW trait, there was a Douglas Deluxe. However, I was most pleased to discover two other German marques of which I knew nothing. There was a beautiful 1921 Mars 1000 replica which was my favorite bike of the entire museum and which cannot be fully appreciated in pictures. There was also a 1928 Neander. An unusual bike with some very interesting design features.

There were two lovely Vincents, several Nortons, a V8 Moto Guzzi, a Brough Superior, a signed 1952 Agostini race bike, A Honda Black Bomber like I formerly owned (only this one was museum quality), an early Husqvarna race bike, and many more. All were interesting, most were captivating. There is no rhyme or reason to the layout that I could determine, and that made it all the more enjoyable as you went from surprise to surprise. Even without the excellent dutch pastries I grabbed before leaving Solvang, this museum is worth going out of your way to visit.

4 Replies to “Solvang and the Octopi”

  1. Dear Wayne:

    These are great pictures! I wish there was a bit more narative though. What do you think was the purpose of that white box with the metal mesh top on the running board of the Mars?

    Fondest regards,
    Jack • reep • Toad
    Twisted Roads

  2. Dear Peter,

    This was a work-related trip where I had a spare day, so I did a lot of driving to hit a few places. The collection is great. I have many more pictures than shown.


  3. Dear Jack,

    I considered writing a much longer article, but I’ve been on the road a bit and wanted to post while the memories were still relatively fresh. I have more pictures and thoughts which will probably make their way into a post at some point. I liked your post containing leftover bits and pieces, so I may try that. I was told by the one person on duty (I’m guessing a college student working on the weekends) that it is a box for sparking plugs since they fouled very often…..Thanks for reading.


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