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HomeCar CultureThe first BMW Motorrad Days in the U.S. is THE event for...

The first BMW Motorrad Days in the U.S. is THE event for BMW motorcycle fans

BMW Holds Their First Motorrad Days in the U.S. at the Barber Vintage Festival

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The first vehicle I ever truly wanted and thought that one day I would be able to own was, of all things, a BMW motorcycle. This happened during the summer when I was 14 years old.

One day early that summer I walked into a little BMW motorcycle dealer in Tucson, AZ, and what I found inside made my young head explode. There before me was a group of motorcycles of a quality that I had never seen before. It was love at first sight. The boxer engines, the paint quality, and the styling of the R100RS and RT models just spoke to me.

The owner of the dealership, which was called Iron Horse BMW, was a wonderful man named Marty Cohen, and he took the time to show and explain the different bikes to me. He even let me sit on each and every one of them. I knew that one day I would own a BMW motorcycle.

Fast forward more than 40 years and I have owned too many BMW bikes to count and currently own two, including my all-time dream bike, a 1984 BMW R80ST. I still love these bikes and consider them the best motorcycles in the world.

Being primarily a collector auto journalist, I do not have that many opportunities to go to motorcycle events. This year though, I received an email from my friend Oleg Satanovsky, BMW’s Motorcycle Communications Manager, asking me if I would like to attend the BMW Motorrad Days at the Barber Vintage Festival to celebrate 100 years of BMW motorcycles. Of course I said yes.

I have been writing about cars and motorcycles for more than 20 years, and one of the negatives about doing this for so long is that it is difficult to have what is a truly new experience in the world of bikes and cars. I mean when you go to Monterey for 20 plus years it can all start to seem a bit old. 

Despite my decades writing, I will tell you that the Barber Vintage Motorcycle Festival was definitely a new experience for me. The best way I can think to describe it is as Monterey Car Week for motorcycles. 

This event which includes shows, racing, an amazing swap meet, dedicated manufacturer areas, and both modern and vintage bikes literally parked everywhere, is for a motorcycle fan almost too much to take in. My mind was blown even more than when I walked into Marty’s dealership the first time and just as much as my first Monterey experience.

Being a guest of BMW, I spent a lot of my time at the BMW Motorrad Days area, checking out the vintage and new BMW bikes, accessories, gear, all of which were on display. Note that while BMW Motorrad Days has been happening in Berlin for years, this is the first time this event has been in the U.S. Talking to people who also attended the Berlin event this year the general consensus was that this inaugural U.S. event was even better.

Highlights included seeing the live unveiling of the new 2024 1300GS, watching the Butler and Smith R90S on track, seeing so many rare BMW bikes that it was more like a mobile museum, and best of all meeting hundreds of like-minded BMW fanatics. I had the opportunity to spent hours with these new friends sharing stories, looking at bikes, and just having an amazing time being immersed in the world of BMW Motorrad. They even had a Wall of Death show each hour.

If you have never seen a Wall of Death show before it is where crazy professional riders drive around inside the walls of what looks like a big wooden barrel. These displays used to be quite common at county fairs around the country but have almost disappeared. If you get the chance to see one, do whatever it takes to do so.

Keep in mind that BMW Motorrad days is happening on site with the Vintage Festival where they have the aforementioned motorcycle swap meet. Many of you know that the entire swap meet thing seems to have dried up, but I have been going to swap meets for years and this is by far the best motorcycle swap meet in the U.S. If you love British, Japanese, German, Italian, or even Eastern Bloc bikes, there was something that you needed to have. I just missed out on the 1975 Honda Goldwing that was for sale with a sign that read “Adoption Fee: $2,000.”

 The Barber Vintage Festival features other manufacturer areas (Triumph, KTM, Royal Enfield, for example), the amazing vintage racing on-track, and the magnificent Barber Museum. There are also test rides from many manufacturers, an off road test riding area, flat track racing and more. 

When you go to the Barber Vintage Festival you even get full race paddock access where you can see the bikes that are racing on track up close and meet their riders.

Watching the racing on track is also a lot of fun as you get to see some amazing track action up close. There are also parade laps on Saturday for people who sign up. This year the Butler & Smith BMW R90S took to the track during the weekend to help celebrate BMW’s 100 year anniversary, and it was a sight to see!

Finally one of the biggest stars of BMW Motorrad Days was the first live in-person presentation of the highly anticipated 2024 BMW R1300GS. This new GS, the most important single category of bike for BMW and the category that BMW literally invented with the original R80G/S, is lighter and updated in many ways. Some people in attendance were mixed on how different the new bikes looks compared to the old. These people must have forgotten that every new generation of GS has been much different than the one that came before, and I personally like it as the current GS design has been with us basically since 2004. The headlight is very cool looking and it looks like a real sporting machine.

The Barber Vintage Festival is an absolute must attend event for fans of all motorcycles. It is also affordable with camping allowed on site and reasonable ticket prices that include just about everything there is to do while at the event. Due to the sheer size and magnitude of the event, you are not likely to get to do everything but will definitely come away with some great memories and plans to attend the next year. The first U.S. BMW Motorrad Days picked the perfect location for this evet and it is my hope that BMW Motorrad will bring back Motorrad Days to the Barber Vintage Festival next year. 

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Andy Reid
Andy Reid
Andy Reid's first car, purchased at age 15, was a 1968 Fiat 124 coupe. His second, obtained by spending his college savings fund, was a 1966 Ferrari 330 GT 2+2. Since then, he has owned more than 150 cars—none of them normal or reasonable—as well as numerous classic motorcycles and scooters. A veteran of film, television, advertising and helping to launch a few Internet-based companies, Reid was a columnist for Classic Motorsports magazine for 12 years and has written for several other publications. He is considered an expert in European sports and luxury cars and is a respected concours judge. He lives in Canton, Connecticut.

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