Motorcycle collections all seem to start the same way: With one person’s passion for two wheels. Across this country, you will find personal collections of motorcycles stuffed into barns, living rooms, hotels, restaurants, offices and just about anywhere else you can imagine.
Then there are those collections that take on a life of their own, one their owners want to share with the world. This is a look at some of those motorcycle museums that are accessible to the public. Some, like the Barber Museum and the AMA’s Motorcycle Hall of Fame, have a huge collection of various brands highlighted by special events and exhibits year round. Others specialize in single brand collections, like Bob Logue Motor Sports, who has one of the finest collections of Hondas in the U.S.
On your next trip, see if your travels get you near any of these museums. The Wheels Through Time museum in beautiful Maggie Valley, North Carolina, for example, rests in the shadows of the Blue Ridge Parkway and some of the best motorcycling roads in the country. The modest California Oil Museum in downtown Santa Paula sits on the Highway 150 corridor, a twisting scenic ride through the Los Padres National Forest to the quaint Ojai valley.
Bob Logue Motor Sports
Founded in 1978, this collection of Honda classics was recently featured on Discovery Channel’s “Seven Wonders of Motorcycle” (they selected the Honda Cub 50 as the number four “motorcycle wonder” of all time). Located in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, Mr. Bob Logue’s collection of Honda motorcycles is dedicated to “help perpetuate the work of Soichiro Honda and the Honda Motor Company.” If you’re a student of Honda history, this is one collection you must see.
Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum
In a quaint California town best know for smorgasbord and Danish butter cookies, you’ll find a gem of a motorcycle museum, the
Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum. An easy day ride from
Los Angeles along Highway 154 through the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley, the Solvang Motorcycle displays a collection of rare motorcycles and race bikes. The display operates on a rotating basis, and the motorcycles are from the private collection of Virgil Elings, who has been collecting motorcycles for nearly three decades. The museum is located in a former Brooks Brothers store, maple floor and all, which adds considerably to the ambiance.
California Oil Museum
Santa Paula, California is where Steve McQueen housed his collection of vintage motorcycles and cars, and it’s where the California Oil Museum displays artifacts of the oil industry as well as a revolving collection of motorcycles. Jeanne Orcutt, director of the museum, says Santa Paula has long been a motorcycle friendly town.
“With the (Highway) 150 going up here into Ojai and such, we get a lot of riders through here, so it seemed a natural to have an exhibit that celebrates the motorcycle,” Orcutt said about a recent exhibit.
Check before you go to see what dates motorcycles are on exhibit.
Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum
Even if you are not planning to attend the AMA road race national at the Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama this year, a trip to the museum on the grounds is a must for all motorcycle enthusiasts. With the near limitless means to fulfill his vision—to preserve the history of motorcycles by collecting, restoring and displaying significant vintage and current machines previously gathered only in the pages of books and magazines—George Barber’s motorcycle collection is arguably the most comprehensive in the world. As stunning as the machines themselves is the architecture of the building and the innovative displays that showcase his early sports car and massive motorcycle collection.
Mungenast Classic Automobiles & Motorcycles Museum
Dave Mungenast had a very successful career as a motorcycle racer as well as a Honda dealer. The Mungenast Classic Automobiles & Motorcycles Museum is a 6,000 square foot display dedicated to the memory of Dave and his family’s passion for everything on wheels. More than 200 automobiles and motorcycles from a wide variety of manufacturers are on display, many restored to their original condition. The collection has something to pique the interest of every enthusiast, young or old.
AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame
The AMA’s museum is also a must see, especially if you are a fan of AMA racing. This museum in Pickerington, Ohio, not only houses vintage racing machines as well as other motorcycles, it also celebrates AMA Hall of Fame inductees, racing heroes and others who have helped elevate motorcycling in the U.S. There you will find a Wayne Rainey Superbike; Gary Nixon’s Formula 750 racer; one-of-a-kind Craig Vetter bikes; Doug Henry’s YZM400–the bike that started the four-stroke motocross revolution; Denis Manning’s 23-foot-long Tenacious II streamliner, and a lot more.
The National Motorcycle Museum
Founded in 1989, the National Motorcycle Museum is dedicated to the engineers, racers, bike builders, tuners and others who made motorcycling what it is today. The museum houses interpretive exhibitions built around a rare collection of more than 300 machines, plus photographs, posters, racing leathers, apparel, advertising art, motorcycle toys and other memorabilia that document various eras. Located just off U.S. 151 in Anamosa, Iowa, the museum is a great place to spend an afternoon traveling back through motorcycle history.
The Rocky Mountain Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame
Unlike other museums, The Rocky Mountain Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame focuses on people. Pioneers of motorcycling and their contributions are captured in photographs and biographies throughout the museum. The museum is dedicated to preserving vintage motorcycles and collectible memorabilia that impacted American culture, as well as the stories of those who created a name for themselves in the sport.
Route 66 Vintage Iron Motorcycle Museum
Located on Route 66, this museum opened in 2006 on Main Street in Miami, Oklahoma. Known in the world of collectors for selling the Steve McQueen collection in 2011 at Bonhams and Butterfields auction—McQueen’s Husqvarna sold for a record-setting $144,000—Route 66 Vintage Iron Motorcycle Museum even offers free Wifi to visitors.
Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History
Though their collection is small, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History (NMAH) has some rare motorcycles, including one of the earliest American motorcycles, a Smithsonian staff member’s daily commuter that dates back to 1913, and one of motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel’s bikes.
Wheels Through Time Museum
Located 5 miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway, in beautiful Maggie Valley, North Carolina, this museum houses over 300 rare and historic classic motorcycles, with over 24 marques on display ranging from board track racers to hill climbers. Founded by Dale Walksler in 1993, the museum houses tens of thousands of motorcycle photographs, historic memorabilia and other motorcycle artifacts, and has been featured in hundreds of motorcycle publications, including American Iron, Cycle World, Cycle Source, and American Motorcyclist, and the American Pickers televisions how as well to name a few.
Art In Motion Vintage Motorcycle Museum
Along with its collection of motorcycles, this museum houses jukeboxes, slot machines, and early advertising. The collection belonged to Art Sigal, a pioneer in the collecting of vintage bikes, who was also the second president of the Old Bike Club. Even though Jay Leno was in attendance at the auction of Sigal’s estate, it was a Pennsylvania investor who purchased most of the collection, and he subsequently sold it to a Georgia collector. Now you can enjoy the collection in Warm Springs, Georgia.