It was a bit rough even on the 1930 Brough Superior, one of the more than 400 bikes that rumbled in for the 25th Annual Hansen Dam British Bike Rally and Show, as a November rainstorm spilled from the gray clouds onto a sea of chrome, gleaming lacquer and polished aluminum.
While the sun did temporarily set on the British Empire on a November Sunday in Los Angeles, it didn’t prevent many of the stalwart vintage riders from taking part in the event’s 90-mile loop ride through the nearby San Gabriel Mountains.
Originating in 1980 with sponsorship by the West Coast Triumph distributor Johnson Motors, for the past 15 years the Hansen Dam rally has been under the care of the Southern California Norton Owners Club (SCNOC). Along with the classic Norton, Triumph, BSA, Velocette, Royal Enfield, AJS, Matchless, Ariel, Brough Superior and Vincent thumpers and vertical twins, there was also a posse of brand-new swoopy sportbikes and several mega-buck custom Harleys, not to mention a herd of sidecar rigs that showed up to take part in the non-partisan, ride-what-you-brung event. We should note that the SCNOC has no officers, rulebooks or dues, which probably makes it one of the best bike clubs out there.
Often leading the proceedings, bullhorn in hand and a Norton by his side, is Bib Bibbiani, 20-year SCNOC member, a.k.a. the Voice of the Hansen Dam Ride. He succinctly sums up the annual event when he says, “It’s just a celebration of motorcycles. We don’t care what people ride. It’s a great day to get out on the road. I support it because it shows younger guys that hey, you can have a heckuva lot of fun on an older motorcycle, but it also encourages some of the older guys to get back into it.” The Hansen Dam event also received support from Works Performance, TT Cycle, Symonds Cycles, British Marketing, Garage Company and Cycle Glory.
Documenting the action was Rikki Rockett, with a film crew shooting footage for his upcoming film, Hooligan. It seemed a misnomer since there was certainly none of that at this most civilized event. We trust it’s just a poetic term. Or perhaps it was the members of the Brit Iron Rebels kitted up in classic British ’60s gear that drew the attention of the camera. Or the two dozen unique sidecar rigs summoned by Doug Bingham, a.k.a. Mr. Sidecar, of Side Strider Inc. Or it might have been Tim “Merciless” Mings, a member of the number 1-ranked vintage race team, Guilty by Association, who rode in the company of no less than the grandson of Bela Lugosi. Yet another celebrity, one often seen at SoCal bike events, the one and only late-night show host and extreme gearhead Jay Leno motored in aboard a very tidy Series A Vincent 500cc Comet, the single-cylinder cousin to the vaunted Black Shadow.
The ride itself was braved by many stalwart Britbikers despite the threatening storm clouds. The snarling, burbling pack rumbled out of Hansen Dam at 10 a.m. and wound its way up Little Tujunga, then through Sand Canyon and Soledad Canyon to Acton before hitting the Angeles Forest Highway, with a stop at the Hidden Springs Café for its famous venison soup. Then it was back through lower Big Tujunga to Foothill Boulevard and a return to Hansen Dam, which by the way is located off the 210 freeway at the Osborne Exit in a place officially called Lakeview Terrace, California.
The event’s bike show, which itself is low key and nonsectarian, produced some stellar examples of precious metal. The competition does have one rule—all show bikes have to be ridden on the ride. And they were, including the Best Norton, Ron Zarilla’s ’71 750 Commando. Best Triumph went to Johnny Green and his ’61 Tiger 110 “bathtub.” Best BSA was George Murphy’s ’51 A7, while Best Custom went to Homer Knapp and his Norton/Ariel hybrid. Best Other was awarded to Leland Powells’ 1930 680cc Alpine Brough Superior. And Best of Show went to Larry Horn’s righteous red Norvin (Norton frame/Vincent engine).
You could say Bib speaks for all concerned when he says, “Classic motorcycling is not found in elapsed times or top speeds, but in enjoying the adventure of the ride and the camaraderie after the ride. It’s about reliving our youth, and even American history.”
For more information about the SCNOC and assorted British bike links, log on to www.scnoc.5u.com, call Bib at (626) 791-0259 or e-mail him at email@example.com.
Event Sponsors and British Bike Resources
British Marketing, Laguna Niguel, California; (949) 582-2902; www.britishmarketing.com
Garage Company (everything vintage bike), Los Angeles, California; (800) 393-3766; www.garagecompany.com
Glory Cycles (classic bikes and British gear), Los Angeles, California; (323) 644-5679; www.glorysales.com
Side Strider Inc. (Watsonian-Squire sidecars), Van Nuys, California; (818) 780-5542; www.sidestrider.com
Symonds Cycles (bikes and parts), Sylmar, California; (818) 897-4738; www.symondscycles.com
TT Cycle (specializes in British twins), Sun Valley, California; (818) 767-3187
Works Performance (shocks), Canoga Park, California; (818) 701-1010; www.worksperformance.com
(This Rallies & Clubs article was published in the August 2005 issue of Rider magazine.)