One balmy south Florida night, Bart Springer and Daniel Newcomb were out riding their café racers, a style of bike you didn’t see much of in the West Palm Beach area. Daniel was riding a 1976 Honda CJ360 done up café style while Bart was on his ’78 CB400 café. After rumbling up to a local bike-friendly watering hole, Bob Gilbert was just walking out, saw their bikes and said, hey, check out my bike–which turned out to be a 1971 750cc Norton Commando done up café style. Such was the catalyst of intersecting café bikes that lead to the formation of the Vintage Iron Club.
Both Daniel and Bart are professional high-end architectural photographers while Bob, now retired, used to run two NASDAQ-listed publicly trading companies. Before that, he was a flight and dive instructor but grew up in his father’s south Texas motorcycle shop that sold British bikes, including Vincents.
After their fortuitous meeting, the three joined forces and became known as The Original Rust. “We started hanging out and, within a month, decided to form a club of like-minded riders,” said Daniel. “As far as membership, bikes have to be 25 years or older, plus everybody has to participate in at least one event or ride a month. Other than that, we don’t have too much formal structure and we like it that way.”
“Since there are very few shops near us that specialize in vintage bikes, another thing we do is on the technical support side,” said Bob. “We get together when we have problems with our bikes and provide advice, tools and a helping hand.”
“It’s all helped form a close-knit family where we hang out personally, having dinners, going to each other’s birthday parties, that kind of thing,” said Daniel. “The last Saturday of every month we do an ‘Iron Meets Iron’ event that gathers at a great place called The Pirate’s Well, then we do a first Tuesday meet at Cheeseburgers and More plus put together various rides. Our upcoming February event is just the next step to bring more attention to Florida as far as vintage bikes and café racers, and to expose the public to the sport.”
That February event is the First Annual Iron & Clematis Vintage Motorcycle Festival, which will be held February 8-9, 2014, in downtown West Palm Beach. The area sponsors a famous annual week-long event called Summerfest, as well as several other festivals including a major boat show and a marathon. When asked how they got the city authorities to invite a bunch of bikers into the middle of town, Daniel laughs and says, “Very carefully.” Bart takes over, saying, “Basically we had an in with someone I had worked with who had an in with some of the movers and shakers in the city. We presented our proposal and had a positive response, especially from one gentleman who was into vintage bicycles who had previously tried to develop some Harley oriented events that hadn’t worked out because of the proximity of Daytona. But he thought vintage bikes might be just the right thing considering the growth in their popularity. Plus he felt there was a connection to vintage bicycles and a lot of the historic buildings in the downtown area.”
The end result was the teaming up of the VIC with West Palm’s Downtown Development Authority and, as a result, the Iron & Clematis Vintage Motorcycle Festival became a reality.
Says Bob, “They’re locking down the block, bagging the parking meters, paying the insurance and handling security. We just needed to set up the rest including the attracting the bikes, setting up the stage, recruiting the bands, creating the T-shirts, securing the sponsors and everything else for what’s going to be an annual event.”
Just a bridge away from its famous posh neighbor Palm Beach, West Palm Beach was founded in 1894, two years before Miami was established. Nestled on the scenic Intracoastal Waterway, the city has grown into a center for the arts and culture, which now includes the motorcycle culture. The city’s main street of Clematis, already a popular hot spot filled with restaurants, shops and clubs, will be the staging grounds for the Iron & Clematis Vintage Bike Festival, which will take place Saturday and Sunday, February 8-9, 2014. All bikes 25 years or older are welcome to register with some 250 vintage machines expected to take part in the show. Competition categories will be focused around vintage themes. Trophies include Best in Show, Best Café Racer, Peoples Choice, Garage Built, Original Restoration and Bobber.
On Sunday, the action shifts to the nearby Palm Beach International Speedway. From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. you can ride the road course with your vintage iron/modern classic bike by buying a discounted ticket at racepbir.com. The Ace Café is setting up its Ace Café Pavillion and other event sponsors will host vendor booths.
Saturday’s family oriented festivities will include lectures on the History of the Motorcycle and the Café Racer Movement. A vintage women’s and men’s fashion show will be hosted by Atomic Living and VaVa Voom Photos. Live vintage rockabilly music will be performed by local entertainment acts including Slip and the Spinouts and the Buckleheads. An after-show party will be held Saturday night, and Sunday will kick off with a breakfast and ride benefiting the Canine Companions for Independence, a non-profit organization founded in 1975 and based in San Jose, California, that provides highly trained service dogs free of charge to disabled civilians and wounded veterans.