17 Vintage Motorcycles You’ll Want to Ride Today
The way motorcycles look has changed a little over the years, but people have always enjoyed cruising on the open road with the wind in their hair.
Two for the road
“My grandparents, George Zeman and Mabel Miller, hopped on his new Excelsior Autocycle in 1914, the year before they got married, says Dan Zeman of Central Point, Oregon. “My grandfather told me many stories of that bike, and I, too, took up motorcycle riding.”
Freedom of movement
Before paved roads, men and women on motorcycles like this Harley-Davidson Model 9-B rode some rough routes. Thomas Spitzig of Dayton, Ohio, shared this photo taken in 1922. These vintage circus photos are no joke.
“My younger sister Arline, 15, and I are fixing to go for a ride on my 1950 Powell scooter. We were only 15 months apart and attended California’s Leuzinger High School, a rival of Hawthorne, where the Beach Boys went a few years after us,” says Roger Valentine of Robertdale, Alabama. These retro vintage cars will make you want one for yourself.
Pinup girl Margie Stewart quickly rose to fame in the mid-1940s with millions of World War II GIs. This popular photograph from the era had servicemen gushing over the pretty “girl next door.”
“Ken and I met in Battle Creek, Michigan, in 1943, when he and some of his buddies followed my friend and me home. He asked if he could see me the next Friday. When the night arrived, he came roaring up on his Harley. He talked my mother into letting me ride with him and were off—and what a ride it was! We married in 1949, and this photo now hangs in our kitchen,” says Beverly Williams of Englewood, Florida.
“As a student at the university in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1972, I was considered cool, or at least I looked the part with my beard and long hair. I’d wear my hair in a ponytail or just let it flap in the breeze as I rode my motorcycle,” says Peter Abec of Galena, Maryland.
All in the family
Mabel Dameron (seated), now of San Francisco, California, saw the wonders of the West with her parents, William and Eva. Dad lived his life on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and took his family along for the ride. Mom and daughter took turns riding behind him on the double seat or next to him on the sidecar. Check out these photos to get a glimpse at what life was like in the 50s.
“Motorcycling has always been my passion, so when I was offered the change to ride for pay I took the job. After World War II, the Pittsburg police department had acquired a new 1949 Harley-Davidson motorcycle, and I was assigned to ride it and apprehend traffic violators,” says John Chester of Pittsburg, Kansas.
Learning to ride
After the German surrender, Bob Evans (left) of Statesville, North Carolina, found out his brother, Ed, was stationed just 30 miles away. Bob wrangled a pass and the use of a motorcycle—even though he’d never ridden a motorcycle before. When Bob finally met his brother, Ed wanted to know where Bob had learned to ride. “On the way over,” he said.
Bill Warner owned many motorbikes, but the 1954 Ariel was his favorite. His wife, Ginger, perched on it for a photo.
Down the line
Cheri Setzer of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, shared this photo of her uncle Henry Setzer working on the Harley-Davidson assembly line at the Juneau Avenue Plant in Milwaukee. The motorcycle was a 1965 Electra Glide.
All dressed up
“My daughter Cheryl loved to wear her brother’s cap and boots aboard his scooter in the 1950s,” says Daisy Henry of Monroe, Michigan.
A fine romance
“Honeymooning in Florida in 1963, we rented this 50 cc Honda motorcycle that my wife enjoyed riding on the beach,” says Joe Malhoit of Allen Park, Michigan. “We now have a 1500 cc Honda Gold Wing built for two.” These vintage cars prove how far automobiles have come today.
“My mother (far right) is shown circa 1940 with friends on a tour of rural New England,” says William Mahan of West Roxbury, Massachusetts. “She and Dad rode the red Harley.”
Hit the road
These three young men were on a cross-country trip when the photo above was taken in 1927. The trio was somewhere in Oklahoma at the time. Bill Pitts of Santa Rosa, California, shared the photo; his father is the one in the center.
“For some time, I’d toyed with the idea of a motorcycle trek from my home outside Washington D.C., to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. In the spring of 1950, I bought a new BSA motorcycle. With a ten-day leave from my job, I fulfilled my dream of traveling to the wild west,” says Lee Slaughter of Front Royal, Virginia.
Los Angeles to New York
George Bagge, now of Sun City, Arizona, trekked across the United States with two buddies, all age 18, in 1922. George rode his 1915 Harley motorcycle that he’d bought for $16. Roads, gas stations, motels, and restaurants were scarce, and they encountered many mishaps along the way. If you love motorcycles, you'll also want to check out the wackiest cars ever built.