It was a beautiful fog-free weekend at Laguna Seca in Monterey. The American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association (AHRMA) had staked out a motocross track on the rolling hills above the famous circuit, cut a small flat track oval out of the grass infield, and built a trials section, creating the four-ring circus atmosphere of vintage motorcycle events. On each of these courses, thriving in their respective disciplines, immaculately maintained racing machines from past eras were circulating, being put through their paces with a surprising degree of intent. It was a smorgasbord of motorcycle activity capable of sending any enthusiast with a sentimental pulse into sensory overload.
On the road race course, the sound of tapped out two- and four-stroke engines filled the air, riders pushing their cherished machines to the limit. The designers of those motorcycles would be proud to know they are still putting down laps in anger. The flat track oval—although small—provided plenty of sideways action, with Pursangs, Champion-framed Yamahas, and a plethora of vintage iron turning laps. The riders were a mix of old and young, with a wide range of styles—from careful plodding to full throttle pitching into corners. The vintage trials event was presented as the gentleman’s discipline, maintaining that air of sophistication the class had in the old days—before the sport went ballistic—with beautifully-restored machines tiptoeing their way between the ribbons under spotters’ eyes.
My Personal Heaven
My personal heaven, given my background, was the motocross venue. I arrived before a single knobby had been put to the perfectly groomed loam. When practice opened, I was pleasantly delivered back to my youth. Maicos, CZs, Bultacos, Husqvarnas, Elsinores, Pentons, and BSAs came blasting past. There was no babying of these precious mounts. Instead, the riders grabbed handfuls of throttle, sending up roosts hammering their bikes into berms, and banging elbows. The entire scene was bathed in the sweet scent of burnt pre-mix.
All around me were motorcycles I’d owned or longed for in my youth. The bike show presented pristine examples of old machinery, while the swap meet offered up thrashed versions of them. These well-loved bikes often came with a milk crate of parts alongside—like pets at the pound hoping to be taken home—conjuring notions of late nights in the garage to bring them back to their former glory. Sentimentality—that’s how we enthusiasts get into trouble.
Down Memory Lane
Wandering between the various tracks had me thinking of the bikes that passed through my hands over the years, wishing I’d hung onto them instead of selling them for the paltry sums I got. My Trail 70 and Yamaha 100. A DKW 125. My 1973 Honda Elsinore 250. The Penton Six-Day. A 1974 CZ 250. A 1976 Suzuki RM 250. The Maico 250s, including a ’76 AW, a ’79, and an ’80. Perhaps the most moving remembrance was seeing an immaculate ’73 Husqvarna 125, which is what my now-deceased best friend rode when we were just teenagers.
The weekend unfolded in a wonderful collage of the past, brought to life with the sounds and smells of vintage racing. Walking around in this realm of memories, I realized I wasn’t alone in my savoring of a motorcycling past, as evidenced by several senior riders wearing the famous red and white leathers with the winged BSA logo. As I made my way back to the parking area, I found myself wondering whatever happened to my prized yellow Martini jersey I bought in an effort to emulate Joël Robert.