Motorcycle Mania: Barber Vintage Motorsports Musuem

10 08 2011

I’ve been trying to talk myself out of my desire to own a motorcycle for years. They’re unacceptably dangerous, I tell myself–and completely useless during Michigan’s endless winters. Besides, I’m the last person who needs another form of motorized distraction. So as seductive as the idea of buying and building up a cheap mid-seventies Honda is, I’d been able to shelve my bike lust to focus on matters that I’ve been told are important. Like college.

More and more, though, I've begun to realize that this guy had his priorities straight

That’s why, in retrospect, visiting the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum was a terrible, terrible idea.

The Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum is a veritable Guggenheim of two-wheeled transportation. It’s amazing. It’s completely over the top. It’s the surprisingly well-executed vision of George Barber, a motorsports enthusiast (and Porsche racer) who cared enough about preserving motorcycle history to accumulate a 1200-bike collection, then build this to house it all:

Hey, are those towers of motorcycles next to the elevator? Yes. Yes they are.

The five levels of insanity that you can see a small part of above cover motorcycle history pretty exhaustively, from primitive motorized bicycles…

Bike + motor = motored bike

A post-WWII example very similar to the popular Whizzers. I built a strikingly similar bike–it's the closest I've ever come (so far) to owning a motorcycle

…to advanced performance and racing bikes.

No clutter, just bikes

Starting at the top of the museum and walking down the spiral ramp, I walked backwards through history. Tasteful displays broke up the floors full of stand-alone, placarded motorcycles. They wouldn’t look out of place in a modern art museum.

They're real and full-sized. Even cooler in person.

The museum building is situated next to the Barber Motorsports Park road course, and a group of riders on racing bikes were tearing up the track while I visited.

View from the museum

The wail of high-revving engines formed the perfect background for browsing the otherwise silent museum. If the intent was to make visitors want to take the plunge and get a motorcycle, they did a great job. Should you ever be near Birmingham, AL, the museum is worth a visit–even if think you have no interest in bikes.

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