If the appreciation of vintage motorcars can be called a passion, then the appreciation of vintage motorcycles might fairly be called an obsession. For those who ride, there is no greater thrill, no more worthy pursuit, than an old bike and an open road.
Held every April in 23 of the last 25 years, the Classic and Vintage Motorcycle Swap Meet and Show and Shine brings together some 2,500 to 3,000 motorcycle enthusiasts from around North America to the South Delta Recreation Centre for a chance to buy and sell, as well as share stories of favourite roads and memorable rides. With about 175 vendors focusing primarily on “hard parts” (i.e. those you can bolt, screw, weld or fasten onto a frame), along with a variety of accessories and memorabilia, the meet is as much a social as it is a commercial event, and an essential part of the West Coast cycling culture.
“We’ve probably put thousands of bikes together, by having people come together and buy the parts,” says Todd Copan, one of the event’s founding organizers. A self-professed “die-hard” fanatic for British bikes (he owns several; his current favourite is a 1972 Triumph Daytona), Copan originally conceived of the meet as a modest, Canadian-made answer to bigger events south of the border. While many of those have come and gone, Vancouver’s has grown. “We have everything from a $5 bracket up to $70,000 bikes for sale,” he says.
The meet welcomes enthusiasts of all brands and periods, from all over the world. “We’ve had buyers from Japan, Norway, all over the United States,” Copan proclaims proudly. “[We] had a vendor who came from England for eight or nine years.”
Since its inception, the event has cultivated a friendly West Coast vibe that’s about as far away from clichés of beer-swilling, leather-clad gangsters as Vancouver is from Timbuktu. “We don’t have tattooing and piercing going on,” Copan says. “People bring their kids, their grandkids to show them the bikes they used to have. [We have] a lot of guys … in their 50s and 60s buying bikes they couldn’t afford—or couldn’t afford to keep—when they were growing up. This is their chance to have their dream bike.”
A central feature of the meet is the annual Show and Shine, a showcase of exceptionally rare antique bikes. “We have in B.C. a tremendous wealth of historic and rare motorcycles,” Copan says. “We’ve [displayed] bikes where there are less than six known to exist.”
It’s all part of a deep, enduring appreciation of machines that represent more than simply a method of transport, but the embodiment of the artistry and craftsmanship of another age. “When we sell them, we don’t sell them for the idea of them going to a scrap dealer,” Copan says with a smile. “We sell them for someone to use them, appreciate them, wear them out and rebuild them again. We’re just caretakers until the next rider comes along.” From the sound of it, that process will be going on for some time to come.
Photos: Lisa Gills.