Researchers rely on a technique called sampling to create a manageable research project, from which they can then extrapolate the results or the findings to the larger population. It is a valuable technique, but you are always at risk of missing nuances or the full effect and magnitude of some aspects of the whole population. Sort of like using a small midwestern city to predict what New York City is like. It is only going to be partially accurate. And so it is with vintage events. Smaller can often be better in many ways, but to get a full appreciation, you need to attend a large event where the full splendor of the community is laid bare before you. One such opportunity is presented by the AMA's vintage motorcycle days (VMD) held at the Mid-Ohio Sportscar Complex.
VMD is the largest vintage motorcycle swap meet in the country. It is 330 acres of the bold and the beautiful, the cool and the collectible, the rare and the rusty. I am talking the bikes, as well as the people. It is Oley on steroids + viagra + testostomax. Regulars will tell you that it is down somewhat from its heyday, but it is still the top of the heap. It has grown to become more of a long weekend with activities that include racing on both dirt and the race track, seminars, exhibitions, shows within the show, famous grand marshalls, etc. The 2012 edition took place in the middle of the heat wave in July, so attendance might've been impacted a bit, but that would be hard to tell from the large crowds everywhere.
You could easily spend a day at this event just wandering through the parking lot looking at motorcycles. In just finding a place to park, I had to stop several times to check out interesting pieces of two wheeled history, like a Munch and a Parilla. Vowing to return to stroll through the parking area, I headed for the swap meet zone. The swap meet area should have its own zip code. You probably need a few days to get through it if you want to see it all. The most prevalent theme seems to be vintage trail bikes, but that is like saying the prevalent type of restaurant in NYC is a pizzeria. Probably true, but there are hundreds of other options within mere yards of wherever you stand. How about a stall full of all things Steve McQueen, or the handlebar guy, or the guy with the motorized racing igloo coolers (I kid you not, see slideshow!), or the naked Honda Goldwing club (the bikes, not the people). Then there was the guy who had a stall where nothing was for sale. He was busy unloading things from his trailer and putting them out like everyone else. He had some rusty old Honda trail bikes and a Penton in poor shape, and some assorted parts and gas tanks, but he told anyone asking that none of it was for sale! These guys would not show up in a smaller sampling.
Telling you what was for sale as far as motorcycles and parts in the swap meet area would just be a pointless and lengthy listing of makes and models from the entire 20th century. You like British singles (the bikes, not the people) ? You like Harley Knuckleheads ? ( the bikes......) You like 1980s Japanese sportbikes ? This is the place. And if you prefer your motorcycles to be completely assembled and running, there were some great options as well. Within the grounds, there were several bike shows taking place. Some official and in the program, and some not so much. One great official example was the mods and rockers show put on by the folks from Café Racer Magazine. It was more rockers than mods, but there were some great examples of craftsmanship and artistic interpretation of the café racer in this tent. There was also a show at the vintage Japanese motorcycle club corral. Again, some really nice examples (the bikes....) Another option for you to view assembled running motorcycles was presented by the racing action on the tracks. The road course had racing action throughout multiple days, and included my favorite, the vintage sidecar races. I was even able to chat with some folks campaigning the vintage BMW sidecar rig. Very cool. Not too far away was the dirt track, where a series of AMA races took place over the course of several days as well. Great fun to watch.
It is almost possible to miss the fact that there is an amazing display of artistry, of craftsmanship, and of ingenuity not only in the pit bikes, but in the pits, and in the shows, and in the vendor stalls. Such is the spectacle. If you are in the market for bikes or parts, this is a dangerous place. Chances are, you will go home with more than what you came for. And if you are not in the market for anything, you will have the same result.