Talk about your mixed media. The seventh-annual Venice Vintage Motorcycle Rally welcomed bikes and riders of all stripes, and polka dots, ribbons, bows, tattoos, skinny jeans, Esther Williams bathing suits, porkpie hats, retro, techno, punk, funk, goth and every fashion statement in between.
As the last of Southern California’s sleazy beach towns, Venice maintains much of the hippie ambience it’s held for 50 years. Bordered by tony Marina del Rey and upscale Santa Monica, the Venice boardwalk is still the unreconstructed beach bum at the party. And the obvious locus for a swinging celebration of SoCal motorheads.
This Dogtown gumbo of brassy babes, rockin’ bands and bitchin’ bikes is steamed up by the Venice Vintage Motorcycle Club, and produced by Brady Walker, TV audio engineer by day, vintage road racer and multi-media production maven the rest of the time. The jumbo parking lot venue, a few blocks from the beach, usually hosts the regular farmers market and doubles as a homeless campsite. Good land use planning.
The Saturday morning ride could have been mistaken for a casting call for a new mystical surreality show, “Mad Max meets the Sons of Anarchy,” with a mix of ’60s-style cafe racers, choppers, customs and sportbikes. Most riders geared up in period-appropriate attire, so the run to Malibu and back attracted some attention.
By far the most popular engines across the custom/cafe/cruiser/bobber spectrum are the early Honda CB Twins and Fours. And the BMW Boxer is showing up in more special builds. The appearance of several restored vintage and classic machines made for an entertaining variety show.
Among the vendors, Alpinestars won the size award with a large showroom tent, and this reporter’s nostalgia prize for Roger DeCoster’s 1975 Suzuki RM370 motocrosser. (Still have photos of him on it at Carlsbad.) Rev’It had a nice inflatable arch enclosure, and down in the corner near the bandstand sat an unobtrusive mini-bar with a sign reading “American Born Moonshine.” That’s right, gents. Right across from Sailor Jerry’s rum-running Airstream trailer, you could have a taste of genuine corn likker out of a Mason jar. (Well, a replica with a pour spout.) Plus, just across the way, next to the barbecued pork and tri-tip sandwiches, was the Angel City Brewery booth, with some high-hop IPA. Beginning to sound like a party?
The show bikes were lined up in the alley between the vendor booths in a stretched horseshoe profile. The Best Of categories included Japanese, British, American, European, Custom, Race Inspired and Ugliest. Entry fee was only 10 bucks. The afternoon awards presentation was followed by the Miss Venice Vintage Pinup Contest. Four bands kept the place rockin’ all day, and they all could play!
The Venice Vintage Motorcycle Club is an active bunch, with few rules: Ride a bike made before 1978, attend club functions for a year to establish membership, and “don’t be a major tool.”
Walker and his crew put in some long hours to pull this show off, and plenty of coordination with the city, police, vendors and volunteers shows in the result. That it’s been running for seven years indicates the effort has paid off. And Venice makes the perfect showcase for the motorcycling kaleidoscope that is southern California. As you can see in the visuals.