I don’t ride, but I think that I know why some of us do. For one thing riding a motorcycle is an unparalleled thrill: my friends who do ride say that there is almost nothing else quite like it. They all, in what I have gleaned from my conversations with them, seem to articulate in their own way what Robert Pirsig wrote in his novel Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, “[y]ou’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.”
Riding also appears to have few equals in promoting camaraderie: like many things people do, riding has its own community, but a community made up of people with a passion for what they do like few others I have seen, experienced, or heard about. Yet despite belonging to a group of like-minded people, each rider is an individual, and how each rider expresses his or her passion is as varied as the individuals themselves.
And then there is the beauty and technology of the machines, as works of art and as exemplars of engineering. They seem to be near-perfect artifacts for a museum. And they are. Located on the second floor of the Pikes Peak Harley-Davidson in Colorado Springs, Colorado is the Rocky Mountain Motorcycle Museum where you can see a broad and comprehensive display of motorcycles, memorabilia, and appurtenances. Also included is a hall of fame that displays biographies and vintage photographs of motorcycle pioneers, innovators, and contributors.
Despite being located in a Harley-Davidson dealership, the museum houses a wide-ranging collection. Bikes of all makes and eras walk you through much of how the modern motorcycle came to be. Obscure, and in some cases, now defunct brands such as Ariel, Zundapp, and Royal Enfield are displayed alongside historically-significant examples of more well-known brands such as Harley-Davidson, Honda, and the iconic Indian.
More than 75 motorcycles line the walkway or stand on top of the display cases. Some are impeccably restored, others, as a result of their completeness and originality, remain unrestored. Therefore, you will see the bike exactly as the person, back in the day, would have ridden it. Regardless, each displayed piece is a part of biking lore and history.
Let’s not forget, however, that the bikes are not the only focus of this museum. Hanging on the back wall are the names, photos, and bios of numerous people who were, and still are, significant contributors to biking history. Learn about people like WWII veteran, Walt Timme who, until not long ago, had one of the most popular motorcycle dealerships in Colorado, and Nita Camp who was one of Colorado’s most active members in, along with her husband, the American Motorcycle Association. By the way, her stunning 1950 Indian motorcycle is on display at the museum too. There are more, far more, people to learn about here, so take as much time to learn about these motorcycle pioneers as you do seeing the bikes, vintage photos, gear and other memorabilia.
Regardless of whether you are a biker or not, this museum is well worth your time. It is small as museums go, but, don’t let the small space fool you. Much of what biking is all about is packed into this small space, yet I challenge anyone who has any interest in motorcycles to spend less than two hours learning, admiring, and just plain staring. This is a stop well worth making on your endless museum journey.