The Glory of Rust and Patina

Story by Glenn Roberts// Photos by Glenn Roberts
August 1 2012
Big wheel bike at CVMG Paris Rally

With thousands of parts, hundreds of motorcycles and mechanical advice at every table, the CVMG’s Paris rally was a dream come true for a vintage motorcycle aficionado.A barn-fresh, flathead, V-twin Indian chuffed along the gravel parking lot kicking up a small dust cloud, and periodically I could hear a stone hit the sheet metal of the fender. Maybe because the bike was too unwieldy to avoid them, it would occasionally hit a pot-hole; its rider didn’t seem to mind. And the rider, with a long ponytail and full-sleeve tattoos, didn’t fit the image in my mind’s eye of what a vintage motorcycle rider should look like.

I should know better than to stereotype. I was happy to see all ages – even one guy I would peg to be in his teens – riding vintage bikes, proving that the appeal of classic motorcycles still touches riders of any age. An important factor for keeping the classic motorcycle movement alive and well.

The Canadian Vintage Motorcycle Group (CVMG) celebrated their fortieth annual rally and swap meet this past June at the fairgrounds in Paris, Ontario. The rally’s longevity, size and reputation attract vendors, participants and spectators from across the country and south of the border.

The appeal of this rally varies widely. It really is a family affair, as all ages come to see the sights for a day or camp onsite for the whole weekend. There were hundreds of stalls set up on the grass fields to buy and sell antique motorcycle parts and bikes in various stages of assembly, or disassembly. There were as many immaculate restorations on display or for sale as there were motorcycles in original condition. And to top off the excitement of seeing so many pristine classics, Vincent was the feature marque of this year’s rally.

One of the many bikes that caught my eye was a barn-fresh, 1936, four-cylinder Indian. Rusty exhaust and pitted chrome, worn and faded paint, dirt and tarnish; it was gorgeous. If only that bike could talk.

What I enjoyed most was seeing so many vintage bikes being ridden around the grounds and “daily riders” in the parking lots. It seemed a general consensus that motorcycles are made to be ridden, not stored in a garage or museum. It wasn’t uncommon to see a four-cylinder Excelsior Henderson with a sidecar filled with kids being ridden through the rally grounds. I listened to a Nimbus with exposed valve train purring like a kitten as a two-wheel drive Rokon Trail Breaker pounded the dirt roadway behind me. And it was the first time I had ever seen an ultra-rare Brough Superior SS 80 model being ridden.

I’m anxiously awaiting next year’s rally, and may even take along a bike trailer just in case.


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