Anyone visiting the United Kingdom who has an interest in motorbikes should make a pilgrimage to Birmingham’s National Motorcycle Museum.
It’s located just off the M42, near Birmingham Airport and pretty much opposite the NEC (the National Exhibition Centre).
If you time it right you could also combine your visit and take in “Motorcycle Live”, billed as the UK’s biggest and best motorcycle show, and taking place every November at the NEC.
It’s been running since 1981, although it only adopted its current name back in 2010. Anyway… back to the National Motorcycle Museum.
The National Motorcycle Museum is nearly as old as “Motorcycle Live” and first opened its doors in October 1984.
Founded by the late William Roy Richards, who originally started collecting classic British motorcycles as a hobby in the 1970s, the self-made millionaire eventually amassed one of the largest private collections in Britain.
The museum has come a long way over the last 30 plus years – and despite a massive fire in September 2003, emerged from the ashes just over 12 months later, re-opening following a £20 million restoration project.
It is comprised of five main halls today and boasts “the largest collection of British motorcycle’s in the world” with “over 1000 machines from 170 different manufacturers spanning no less than three centuries”.
When it first opened there were only around 350 machines to drool over.
Today it’s literally wall-to-wall with bikes and while perhaps not quite so glitzy as the revamped Ducati Museum in Bologna, Italy, it’s a joy to walk round and has at least one example of the 170 marques in its inventory.
Not so much an ‘A-Z’ as ‘ABC to Zenith’, with all the famous names you’d expect – Triumph, BSA and Norton – and probably some you have never heard about, depending on just how up you are on your history and specifically the history of British motorcycles.
It’s not just vintage bikes, however, as it also has some of the very latest models, including a big collection of competition bikes, such as the Steve Hislop 1992 Senior TT winning “White Charger”.
It’s great to see some of these bikes up close especially given the TT remains one of the most famous motorsport events in the world and despite being so unforgiving, continues to attract the top stars, including Michael Dunlop, Ian Hutchinson, Daniel Hegarty, Andrew Winkle, Guy Martin and Conor Cummins. It is also great that many of these are now taken back to the Isle of Man and showcased again following the formation in 2005 of Team National Motorcycle Museum Racing.
There is also a very nice restaurant on site so you can make a good day of it – we’d definitely recommend you do, time-permitting.