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Finding a link between woodworking and motorcycles

During my vacation last week I had a chance to visit the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum in Birmingham, AL. So what does that have to do with woodworking? Glad you asked.

Advanced materials used in today’s motorcycles, such as carbon fiber, titanium, and sophisticated metal alloys, weren’t known in the early days of motorcycling. So many times parts were made of wood. Like this wheel rim:

Wood rim

Wood rim

What does it take to make a perfectly round rim like that?

There was this boat-tail sidecar:

Sidecar

Sidecar

Sidecar3

Looks like it could be paddled down the river if need be.

Something else made of wood is a replica of the garage in which Harley and Davidson made their first motorized bicycle:

Harley Shed

Harley Shed

One of the unbelievable eras of the early motorcycle days was board-track racing. The oval track was essentially 2x4s on edge, and steeply banked. These guys ran at over 75mph with no brakes, just their feet! Spectators leaned against railings to peer into the track from above. The bikes at the bottom of the banking are the type that raced.

Board Track racing

Board Track racing

As I was browsing the hundreds of real bikes, I wandered past the administrative offices and saw this:

WoodHarley
I had to ask about it. I was told that it was a gift from the general contractor who built the museum to George Barber, whose collection the museum houses. The GC found it in Italy. Note that even the cables from the handlebars are wood. Check out the detail in the chain:

Wood Harley Chain

Wood Harley Chain

If you like motorcycles (or Lotus race cars – Barber collected those too), put this place on your bucket list. It’s a beautiful and amazing facility.

Craig




 
 
 
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