I recently visited the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, to see its “Born to be Wild” collection of 40 vintage and celebrity motorcycles. This display is definitely worth checking out, and runs through November 9, 2010. The exhibit chronicles the history and culture of motorcycling, and there’s a wide variety of motorcycles to view. Curator Andrew Wulf gave me a tour of the exhibit, which will be in an upcoming video onwww.ridermag.wpengine.com.
The exhibit is separated into three sections: Harley-Davidson, vintage, and celebrity/movies bikes, and spans two floors of the Air Force One Pavilion. So while you’re checking out all these cool motorcycles you can look up at “The Flying Whitehouse” in all its glory—and take a tour of it, too. This Boeing 747 has served seven U.S. presidents, and is on loan from the U.S. Air Force.
The oldest bike on display is a three-wheeled 1899 De Dion-Bouton from France. Some of the other bikes on display are a 1914 single-cylinder Pierce; a 1920 Henderson Model K (that offered an optional reverse gear for use with sidecars); a BMW R75/5 which was one of the fastest production motorcycles of its time, reaching a top speed of 110 mph; and a 1979 CBX1000, Honda’s first six-cylinder motorcycle.
On the lower level are celebrity and movie bikes with some one-of-a-kind bikes like the dragon-headed motorcycle from the movie A.I. Artificial Intelligence (which I haven’t seen) and two bikes from 1997’s Batman and Robin (big B&R fan; I’ve seen that!). There’s auto racing legend Dan Gurney’s Alligator, his sportbike crossed with a cruiser crossed with an I don’t know what. The seat dips down so far that I’d feel like my butt was dragging along the pavement, but I understand it handles very well. Talk about a step-through; you wouldn’t have to swing a leg over this one to get on! And there’s Captain Kirk’s motorcycle and police hovering bike from Star Trek.
The most colorful is the Jelly Belly bike and sidecar designed and built by bike designer Arlen Ness. The sidecar is shaped like a jelly bean and even the bike’s rims are jelly-bean shaped! The Harley exhibit includes a 1903 replica of the first H-D built and a 1919 J Model with sidecar.
Here are some photos from the exhibit. But go check it out yourself; visit www.reaganlibrary.com for hours and more information.