Seldom in the course of a single weekend can you attend two vintage motorcycle events that are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Last weekend was seldom. The Antique Motorcycle Club of America event at Oley was one end of that spectrum. It has been chronicled here before (see Oh Oley), but it surprises and delights every time. The focus is on old, with a lot of proud American heritage. Harley, Indian, Excelsior, etc. However, there are also a lot of Japanese and European vintage parts as well. And that brings me to another point of focus; Parts. Oley is about parts and pieces more than it is about complete running motorcycles. There is a small for sale corral, but it is a single stall in a sea of stalls of parts and pieces. Oley is set in a field at a fairgrounds, and is a swap meet. Blue tarps are spread on the ground with parts in various shades of rust.
Tents contain rare and unusual items. This year I witnessed the sale of an Elvis lamp, and a one year only prewar Headlight bucket. I bought a pair of EMGO goggles, and a book. You never know…Lest I paint an incorrect picture, there were some nice complete motorcycles around including a 1952 Victoria for sale, and the Norton gang was out for a ride as part of the weekend package (see below). There are always many non-running motorcycles. Barn finds and finds that should be returned to the barn asap. There are signs that say things like “motor turns freely”, and “epic restoration project” and “needs love”. To be clear, the condition of machines and parts should not be confused with their value. There was plenty of unobtainium laying around on tables and tarps. Oley is not for the faint of heart.
The Gathering of the Nortons at Washington Crossing just sounds impressive as a title. It is not quite The Quail Gathering, but it has that word “Gathering” which sounds upscale. And compared to Oley, it certainly is. This event has also been covered before (see The Gathering 2012), and continues to grow. It is the coming out party for the riding season, and given the winter this year, it could not be more anticipated. The event boasts hundreds of motorcycles, and they are almost entirely fine examples of vintage machines in excellent condition. Almost everything at the Gathering is ridden to the event. There is no swap meet, and there are no parts for sale. You sign a waiver to cover the insurance at this AMA sanctioned event. Vintage bikes of all kinds occupy a central show area. A special section is reserved for the Nortons, with another for other British bikes. With that said, this is one of the larger gatherings in the region for vintage Japanese and European bikes as well. There is no organization for these bikes, so you get to walk through an amazing variety of machines. A Guzzi Le Mans next to a Honda CT90, or a Sears next to a Rothmans Suzuki next to a Laverda. A number of the bikes are for sale. I bought a cup of coffee. The Nortons are spectacular, and always make me want to own one again. John Player Specials, Manx (the plural of Manx is Manx, right?), Cafe Racer customs, an ES2, a Norvin, etc.
Two events, diametrically opposed, fundamentally different, equally enjoyable.