Kulture Clash: Antique is vintage but vintage is so much more

By Bob Kay

It would be hard to argue against the huge influence vintage motorcycling has had on today’s motorcycle culture. But we must remember an antique motorcycle is vintage, but a vintage bike may not be an antique. Vintage actually represents the enduring characteristics of a period in time when quality aged into timeless perfection. Today’s cast of custom builders seek to combine the best of individual craftsmanship and modern technology along with flamboyant style to produce a new interpretation of traditional customization. The energy of this vintage revival is celebrated at such great events like Garage Brewed, Mama Tried, HandBuilt and Born Free. The J&P Cycles Ultimate Builder Custom Bike Show even features a “Custom Retro” class where any pre-1984 motorcycle, no matter the brand, competes to determine who can develop the most impactful custom design based on an original drivetrain. The J&P Cycles Ultimate Builder Custom Bike Show has been one of the top features at the Progressive International Motorcycle Show since its inception.

So, let’s get this antique versus vintage demarcation out of the way. In most circles, an antique motorcycle is over 25 years old, but many reserve the honor to anything pre-1980. The big difference is an antique is an original, unrestored bike or one that has been restored using as many original stock parts that can be found, with the exception that re-pops are used as a last-ditch solution.

The gentlemen and women that pursue the world of antiques are meticulous and anal to a fault, but that’s what makes their end results so amazing. Vintage, on the other hand, can just look as if it has aged with time, be a custom or original reproduction, or be a combination of a variety of different models and bikes that gives you that warm and fuzzy feeling. Vintage is enhanced by its surroundings and the lifestyle and apparel of its participants.

I have really learned to appreciate the results that come from a young builder’s casting, forging, welding and shaping of metal to produce one-off and/or limited production parts for their custom creations. These builders are able to create exaggerated dimensions and maintain functionality for a style you may not be familiar with. They build in meticulous detail and top it all off with an incredible paint job that just blows your mind.

The custom scene has broadened beyond the traditional V-twin scene to an unlimited palette of drivetrain and chassis combinations. It seems that an appreciation for functionality has expanded styling to include custom creations that can go from the showroom floor to the racetrack, from an off-road desert path or cruising through mountains to even a cross-country trip. Many new events and rallies include a racing element, a custom bike scene and of course a celebration reminiscent of the good old days.

Vintage is definitely a feeling to be absorbed in, hence the success of a new generation of motorcycle enthusiasts. The lack of formality harkens back to a simpler time with a focus on enjoying the day to its fullest instead of getting the perfect marketing message out and being politically correct. A big part of that euphoric feeling comes from an overwhelming appreciation for the impeccable custom creations on display. The appreciation for the hours of dedication your buddy put into his bike and the honor to be invited to one of these previously mentioned elite celebrations is what it is all about. The J&P Cycles Ultimate Builder Custom Bike Show has become a fertile breeding ground for new and up-and-coming custom craftsmen and women to get noticed and possibly invited to one of these premier events. The J&P Cycles Ultimate Builder Custom Bike Shows have also grown to include their own United States Championship where winners and runners-ups compete to claim a share of $50,000 in cash prizes and merchandise. Of course, there are other classes, which include Free Style, Custom Harley and Custom Street.

The Progressive International Motorcycle Shows have something for everyone, including non-riders that might be interested in motorcycles but don’t know where to get started. Shift at IMS is a new feature built around the vintage vibes millennials find so intriguing. Shift offers current motorcycle fashion and gear in a comfortably hip atmosphere. Right next to Shift is Adventure Out! where a group of exhibitors detail the best touring routes, give out expert advice and include presentations from riders who have ridden in remote areas of the globe. Another enticing feature of the IMS show is Discover the Ride. Discover the Ride offers children a chance to ride a StaCyc Electric-Powered Balance Bike, under the care of professional instructors.

Adults can also experience the world of motorcycling on a Yamaha electric bike or on an electric motorcycle by Zero Motorcycles. The best story I witnessed from Discover the Ride was when a young boy watched his father ride a Zero Motorcycle after years of suppressing his desire to ride. At the end of the ride, the young boy told his father how proud of him he was.  

In my opinion, the Progressive International Motorcycle Show is probably the most relevant event to the future growth and sustainability of the motorcycle industry. This year’s seven-city tour is over but I suggest you stay tuned for next year’s tour dates so you can experience the show. Who knows, you might even pull that old Honda out of the barn and recreate it for a chance to compete in the Custom Retro class. Check out www.motorcycleshows.com for show updates.

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