PICKERINGTON, Ohio--For many of the thousands who trek to the American Motorcyclist Association's (AMA) Vintage Motorcycle Days each summer, the allure of old bikes going fast is a powerful one. In fact, it's not unusual to discover that many fans are racers themselves. A case in point is Will Harding, one of scores whose passion for vintage racing will be on display at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, July 25-27.
Harding is co-founder of the American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association (AHRMA) and one of the more active racers in the paddock. He's often spotted pushing his own race bike to the grid and this year he's campaigning a Vintage Superbike BMW and a sidecar rig in a sport that is experiencing a surge in popularity.
"The people who are taking interest now grew up in what I think of as the great motorcycle boom, the end of the '60s, when stuff started to come out that was reasonably priced and reliable," said Harding. "Maybe they're getting back into it, finding their first bike again. We're also seeing people who never had motorcycles take it up. Probably a lot of guys can spend the money now when they couldn't then."
While vintage racing attracts past AMA champions like Jay Springsteen and Gary Nixon, there are few barriers to vintage motorcycle racing newcomers. "We have novice classes, so there's a place for everyone," explained Harding. "We'll get guys who have never raced, or guys who maybe raced once or twice. I think the appeal is they don't have to go 200 mph, and they're able to ride with older ladies and gentlemen who are a little more sedate."
One of the big attractions of AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days is that all forms of racing are on display at Mid-Ohio's modern complex and the nearby Ashland County Fairgrounds, including road racing, motocross, cross-country, trials and dirt track.
"The dirt side has been growing very, very well," said Harding. "I think one reason is that it's fairly inexpensive to get into. A lot of people have those old bikes in their garage or barn, and they're easy to get going. We've added cross-country to the program this year, and that will be popular. Then there's trials, the simplest form of racing we have-just get on a bike and try not to fall down!"
Harding's love is road racing, and he's been an AHRMA national road-race referee for many years. "I try to make it run smoothly, so some guy can get from the pits to the grid, and never knows anything about all the work that went into it. He's just having a good time and finds that his scoring sheet is correct. If we're doing our job, the average racers don't even know we're there."
There's something for everyone at AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days
In addition to vintage motorcycle racing, AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days offers many attractions. Swapmeet™, sponsored by Motorcyclist Retro magazine, is the biggest draw. Collectors, bargain hunters and curious motorcyclists from throughout North America flock to the event each year to enjoy what has become the world's largest motorcycle swap meet.
Triumph is the featured Marque of the Year for 2008, and 1970 Grand National Champion Gene Romero and seven-time AMA Grand National Enduro Champion Bill Baird will be co-grand marshals. Triumph motorcycles from past and present will be on display, and there will also be a Triumph-only bike show. An added bonus is the Vintage Triumph Roadshow with Triumph expert and Baxter Cycle owner Randy Baxter, who will be on hand to appraise classic Triumphs and Triumph memorabilia.
Other AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days activities include:
* 2002 World Champion Triumph stunt rider Kevin Carmichael, Team FMX Freestyle, Team Extreme Motosphere and Ryan Young's Trials Stars Show.
* Motorcycle demo rides provided by Triumph, BMW, Buell, Can-Am Spyder, Harley-Davidson, Kawasaki, KTM, Kymco USA, Moto Guzzi and Vectrix.
* Motorcycling seminars sponsored by Kymco USA, featuring noted world travelers, authors, writers, builders and experts such as Zack Coffman, John Healy, Don Hutchinson, Clement Salvadori, Mike Seate, Alice Sexton, Ted Simon, Bob Vail, Craig Vetter and Mark Wilsmore.
* A special display by the North American Laverda Owners Club, featuring Laverda founder Piero Laverda.
* The Motorcycle Hall of Fame Auction.
* Guided rides of the rolling countryside around Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
All proceeds from AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days benefit the non-profit Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum in nearby Pickerington, Ohio. Advance tickets to AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days can be purchased at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course - Lexington, Ohio. Racing and Driving School. or by calling (800) MID-OHIO. For more information, visit 2008 AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days.
About the American Motorcyclist Association
Since 1924, the AMA has promoted and protected the motorcycling lifestyle. AMA members come from all walks of life and they navigate many different roads on their journey to the same destination: freedom on two wheels. As the world's largest motorcycle organization with nearly 300,000 members, the AMA advocates for motorcyclists' interests in the halls of local, state and federal government, the committees of international governing organizations and the court of public opinion. Through member clubs, promoters and partners, the AMA sanctions more motorsports competition events than any other organization in the world. Through the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum, the AMA preserves the heritage of motorcycling for future generations. For more information, visit American Motorcyclist: The Official Site of the American Motorcyclist Association.