There are vintage motorcycle owners and enthusiasts all over the world, but perhaps the largest density of fans of those stalwart steeds from yesteryear live in the UK. The UK’s first vintage motorcycle club started way back in the 1940s, which might have something to do with the widespread love for motorcycle heritage, whether you see it as a cause or a symptom of motorcycle mania. The careful and reverent preservation of the old machines creates fecund conditions for those who would cultivate and curate collections. The UK has several general history museums and transportation museums with good vintage bike collections, but today we will cover those that focus on motorcycles. Here are five great choices if you want to visit a vintage motorcycle museum in the UK.
The UK National Motorcycle Museum
The National Motorcycle Museum houses the world’s largest collection of vintage motorcycles. Hard working self-made businessman Roy Richards carved time out of the wee hours to start the museum in his spare time in the 1980s. He began with his own collection of 350 motorcycles. He has passed away, but his legacy lives on. The collection includes over 1,000 motorcycles and includes at least one each of all 170 different marques (or brands). The oldest bike dates back to 1898. The collection represents every era of motorcycle from the pioneering machines to modern times. The museum hosts public events as well as special events like classes, tours and track days for those who join the “Friends of the National Motorcycle Museum” group.
The museum is open daily from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm. It is located directly on island J6 of the M42 motorway, near Solihull, West Midlands. If you don’t feel like riding there, you can get there easily on the Midlands Transport Network. The Birmingham International railway station is just a five-minute taxi ride away. Admission is £9.95.
The London Motorcycle Museum
The London Motorcycle Museum is a labor of love created by passionate volunteers. They now have a collection of over 170 bikes in their vintage motorcycle museum. Their collection stretches back to 1902 with an Ormonde Kelecom. The museum’s founder, Bill Crosby, first began displaying his personal collection in 1979. He bounced gamely between venues for three years before turning to friends to help him garage the collection.
Then in 1997, a friend spotted a possible permanent location – an old farm used as a depot by the Ealing Council. The community group in charge of the depot was enthusiastic about the plan put forth by the volunteers. The volunteers renovated buildings on the property and now have two exhibition halls to display the bikes. One offers an overall history of British motorcycles and the other focuses on Triumph Motorcycles.
The museum is just off the A40 in Greenford, West London next to Ravenor Park. Be aware – the museum is in a low-emissions zone, so you might want to take a train if you are not sure your ride meets requirements. You can take the Central Line to Greenford Station and walk less than a mile to get there. It is open Saturday, Sunday, and Monday from 10 am –
The Sammy Miller Vintage Motorcycle Museum
Sammy Miller is a versatile racer, with a career spanning road, track, grass and observed trial motorcycle competition. He won the British Trials competition 11 times and he’s got well over 1,000 trophies on display, to give you an idea of what he has accomplished in 50-odd years of competition. The curators have organized the collection of over 360 bikes into four halls. The first three halls are dedicated to racing, road, and sports bikes. The fourth hall shows Norton vintage motorcycles exclusively.
You’ll find the museum at Bashley Cross Roads, New Milton, Hampshire. It is open from 10 am to 4:30 pm, and admission is £7.50.
The Craven Collection Vintage Motorcycle Museum
Former sprinter and grass track racer Dick Craven decided to share his impressive motorcycle collection with the public. Since opening in 1994, The Craven Collection has grown to over 250 bikes stretching back to 1918. The collection features sections focused on military motorcycles, police motorcycles, trail bikes, and scooters. Dick also has a nice collection of sidecars. The collection is housed at Brockfield Villa, Stockton on Forest, York. The museum opens on Sundays from 10 am to 4 pm, but the schedule has some exceptions so we recommend you call 01904488461 to check. Admission is a mere £ 5.
Battlesbridge Motorcycle Museum
This is the smallest of vintage motorcycle museum on our list, but it makes up for it size with character, or perhaps we should say characters. The volunteers who run the museum ride their vintage bikes down every day. All are welcome to join the round-table discussion of the storied glory days of vintage and classic bikes. There’s a small but fascinating collection of bikes, accessories, and memorabilia to enjoy too. They welcome visitors from 10 am to 4 pm Sundays at their location in the Battlesbridge Antiques Centre, 5 Maltings Rd in Battlesbridge.
Vintage Motorcycle History
Here in the Gentleman’s Lounge we’ve got lots of articles on vintage motorcycle history. Discover the unbelievable story of Burt Munro and the 1920 bike he modified for years before setting a world record on the World’s Fastest Indian Motorcycle – a record that still stands today! Read how Lawrence of Arabia figures in the history of vintage motorcycle helmets and safety. Or find out about the history of vintage motorcycle engines and vintage motorcycle tires. Or maybe just go out and ride. Have fun!