The Canadian Vintage Motorcycle Group wants you!
Article and image by Bill Hornbostel
Like vintage motorcycles? Join the Canadian Vintage Motorcycle Group. Fred Down, member of the Ganaraska chapter of the CVMG, gives the lowdown on the group. “It exists for people who like talking about riding old bikes; you don’t have to have one, you just have to have an interest in them.”
“We get together on Sundays at Rhino’s at 8:30, and chat about bikes,” says Down. “It’s a bit like the Masons: you get in the secret society of who fixes what, who to avoid, who has what parts. People do tend to help each other out a lot.”
“We don’t have an initiation rite that involves biting the heads off chickens- not that we own up to,” jokes Down.
“If you own an old bike – which is a fun thing to do, and they’re a lot cheaper than new bikes – your problems come when you need a part and you find that your bike is fifty years old, and Honda don’t make parts after 10 years. Then you need to know the secret underworld of people who know where parts are, or people who know that the Ford Transit fan belt will fit the Aerial Arrow or whatever.”
“That kind of knowledge is really useful, and people will help you fix your stuff, which saves you money,” adds Down.
What qualifies as a vintage motorcycle? “Twenty years is a good rule of thumb,” says Down. “If you’re thinking of getting a classic bike, and you haven’t got one, I would really, really recommend you join, because then you can find what you should pay, what you should avoid. Some bikes should of be avoided, like there are no parts for them or they’re incredibly unreliable or the insurance company will laugh politely when you go and try and insure it.”
“Motorcycle insurance is a subject of a stand-up comedy routine of mine,” adds Down. “It’s the only product I’ve ever met where you have to grovel to the person who’s selling it to you to be permitted to buy it.”
Why own a vintage bike? Down says, “The neat thing is that it’s unique. Anyone can go and buy a Harley big boy or whatever, and you’ll be like everyone else. But if you’ve got a bike that’s twenty or 30 years old, it’s probably the only one you know, and it’s got a unique character all of its own.”
“It’s a fun hobby, if you like fiddling with things,” continues Down. “Old bikes are much easier to fix because they’re not computerized. They’re not black boxes, they’re made of bits that move up and down and sideways. And you can see if they’re stuck, whereas more modern vehicles are fuel-injected with all manner of computerization. And if the computer goes there’s nothing you can do.”
In addition to the weekly breakfasts at Rhino’s and breakfasts at the Beamish on the second Wednesday of every month, the CVMG also has other events like the Ganaraska 250. “It’s a timed ride, it’s based on the MotoGiro from Italy,” says Down. “You basically have to follow a route where someone checks that you do the route and arrive exactly on time, and you have to perform agility tests – weave it ‘round cones and stuff – and that’s going to be on June 4.”
“The other big thing that happens is the Paris show – in Paris, Ontario – where even more old people with incredibly old bikes turn up and talk about their bikes and hang out and drink beer and have a good time,” Down adds.