This past Saturday marked the tenth installment of one of Southern California’s favorite vintage motorcycle events, the Venice Vintage Motorcycle Rally. Established in 2007, the Venice Vintage Motorcycle Club (VVMC) is comprised of a band of motorcyclists faithful to and united by the love of riding and maintaining old machines. They’re dedicated to the preservation and celebration of motorcycle culture and everything that goes with it.
For 10 years the VVMC has been orchestrating this rally, complete with cold beers, hot BBQ, live music, a pinup girl contest and, oh yeah, more ogle-worthy vintage and custom bikes than you can imagine. The day started off with a group ride up the Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu before turning back to Venice for the festivities, just a few blocks from the beach. This year’s pre-event ride saw several hundred riders and even received a police escort, making it extra convenient not having to stop at any red lights or stop signs.
This year was the third VVMR I’ve attended, and after saying hello and exchanging pleasantries with friends and some of the VVMC members, I couldn’t wait to be left alone to nerd out on the plentiful array of non-stock, custom bikes that were littered everywhere. There were tons of café racers, trackers, scramblers, bobbers, choppers and other one-offs that each had their owner/builder’s unique touch.
I’ll start things off with the event’s crown jewel, a 1950 Triumph Thunderbird Bobber dubbed “El Dorado,” curated and built by the VVMC. Farin Hoover, a VVMC officer and bike builder, explained they wanted to do something a little different for this year’s build. Inspired by the vintage bikes at The Race of Gentlemen, they decided to build a hardtail. They found the Triumph on Craigslist and purchased it from Rooster Machine, a custom bike shop in SoCal. The bike had good bones but its engine was leaking out of every place imaginable, so the VVMC had it torn it apart and every part of the parallel-Twin was meticulously gone through.
Wes White, a Triumph guru at Four Aces Cycle Supply, handled the motor rebuild, and Lucas Joyner of The Factory Metal Works fabricated a hardtail section made to the VVMC’s specs. The rest of the design and fabrication was done in house by VVMC members. The frame, rear fender and gas tank are powdercoated ‘Illusion Dorado’ by Safeway Sandblaster, and there is no chrome found on the bike, it’s all nickel plated. The seat was sourced from River Seat Co., and Sonny Boy laid down the pinstriping. This custom scoot could be all yours with the purchase of a $10 raffle ticket… and a lot of luck.
Another showstopper, was the extensively custom engineered ‘Skyway’ R80 Boardracer built by Jeremy Hutch of Hutchbilt. Acquired from a friend, the bike began its life as a 1979 BMW R80 that Hutch had radical plans for. He explained that a combo of the board-track racers of the 1910s and ’20s, mixed with an iconic ’80s Skyway BMX bike and famed white plastic Tuff Mag wheels played a huge role in his inspiration for the bike’s build. It came as no surprise that the bike also won the Best in Show Custom award later in the day.
The R80 features a Yamaha R6 front end that’s been lowered by 35mm and dual disc brakes that were fitted to BMW R65 mag wheels painted to replicate Skyway’s BMX wheels. Not a fan of exposed wires or cables, Hutch wanted a clean and simple cockpit. The handlebars have no levers and feature an internally wired throttle as well as a twistgrip clutch from Exile Cycles. For stopping power at both ends, the brake pedal operates two master cylinders mounted side by side. He also converted the rear drum brake into a hydraulic disc unit with an internally run steel-braided line. As for the paint job, the inspiration came from a pair of socks (yes, like the kind you wear on your feet) that Hutch had, resembling BMW racing colors in a Mexican blanket style pattern.
Another cool, custom BMW was a reworked 1992 R100R with a major facelift consisting of a host of high-end upgrades, built by Plam Werks out of Watsonville, CA. They call it the R1070. The bike featured a newer BMW R Nine T front end, an Öhlins rear shock, custom subframe and a trick MotoGP-inspired exhaust that was the result of a three-way collaboration between Siebenrock, Lossa Engineering and Plam Werks.
Oftentimes there is a trade-off between form and function, however, there was no shortage of uniquely engineered components that not only looked good, but also functioned well. Check out this sleek handlebar and lever setup on this 1976 BMW R90/6 built by Spirit Lake Cycles – bar end levers with internally run cables that disappear under the gas tank.
This same bike that they call the CBMW (former Best in Show winner at the 2014 VVMR) also featured a louvered headlight cowl that started its life as a fog light on a 1960s truck. Why is it named the CBMW? Well that’s because it has a blend of parts from a mid-70s CB360, most notably the gas tank. See what they did there?
Other cool examples where form meets function:
On top of all the vintage and custom bikes at the rally, there were also a number of incredibly rare bikes – to me anyhow. I’m sure many of our readers are familiar with some of these cool scoots. Take for example this 1929 Scott Sports Squirrel, a 600cc water-cooled two-stroke race bike.
Or this 1959 Italian made Moto Rumi Sport Bol d’Or 125cc twin-cylinder two-stroke scooter that is famed for winning the French Bol d’Or 24-hour endurance race multiple times, hence its gold color.
How about this year’s Club favorite Best in Show winner – a 1934 Cotton 25J. It has a 490cc overhead-valve, twin-port, JAP motor with exposed valve springs. The most interesting part of the bike however is all the controls on the handlebars that you have to take into consideration. From left to right (see pic), you’ve got your front brake, throttle, choke lever, compression release, twist-grip timing advance and finally your clutch lever. There’s a lot to grasp here, especially for someone like me who can barely walk and chew gum at the same time.
Of all the bikes at the rally, or anywhere for that matter, I enjoy the race/performance-inspired bikes most. Putting around on motorcycles can be fun and relaxing, but sometimes you just have to open her up and really give ‘er the beans! There’s a flipside to going fast however, and that’s stopping fast. Braking parts are just as drool-worthy as any go-fast parts.
Any vintage or custom motorcycle show wouldn’t be complete without any old-school choppers. From survivors and period-correct-built bikes to more modern interpretations and show bikes, choppers certainly bring a unique flavor to the table. Harleys were the most abundant, but the smaller British and Japanese chops didn’t go unnoticed.
And finally there’s the weird and ugly, the “what the hell is that?” category. Taking the cake this year is a Böhmerland. All I know about this ketchup and mustard motorcycle is that it’s a 600cc overhead-valve, single-cylinder motor built in Czechoslovakia sometime between 1924 and 1939. It also happened to bring home the overall Best in Show award at the rally!
Another specimen in the strange category is this fire-breathing, wheelie-ripping, chick picker-upper 1986 Honda Helix. Its owner, Jackson McGovern of Lucky Wheels Garage, calls it a trash pile. Well, while that may be true, at least he’s got a great sense of humor about it.
Best in Show Contest Winners
All in all, the tenth annual Venice Vintage Motorcycle Rally was a fun-filled day that provided a plethora of old and custom motorcycles that were as unique as their owners. The VVMC has a strong grasp of what it means to ride a motorcycle as well as an appreciation for the community that arises from it. Their next event will be this Christmas when they host a two-wheel toy drive benefiting less-fortunate children.