diamond geezer

 Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Somewhere sporty: London Motorcycle Museum
London Motorcycle MuseumThe National Motorcycle Museum is in Solihull, home to an extensive collection of classic bikes, a self-service restaurant and award-winning conference facilities. Forget that. You want the London Motorcycle Museum - a converted farm building up a sideroad in Greenford, packed with a few hundred two-wheelers, assorted memorabilia and a drinks machine. No contest. And just three quid gets you inside.

Once you've paid your money, you'll be amazed just how many bikes can be crammed into this long but reasonably narrow shed. Motorcycles are squeezed in everywhere, side-on or up on a ledge, tentatively arranged in themed areas. Many of the bikes are Triumphs - the owner has a bit of a thing about Triumphs - but you'll also spot Royal Enfields, Rudges and Velocettes. Laminated information sheets dangle from the central rail, enabling less-knowledgeable visitors to distinguish a Bonneville from a Flying Squirrel. Don't expect to see much modern stuff, but the displays stretch right back to the first engine-assisted boneshakers. Dotted inbetween are various bike-related items such as police helmets and bottles of Castrol GTX, along with various barely-related items such as teddy bears wearing goggles and portraits of the Queen. The whole place smells of garage, and petrolheads will feel immediately at home.

London Motorcycle MuseumFurther up the ramp there's a collection of army bikes, and some racing memorabilia, and several other vehicles that aficionados will no doubt distinguish better than I managed. And finally the "library", which more closely resembles a cheap cafe littered with bike books and brochures. Expect to be offered a free cup of steaming liquid from the vending machine (free of charge, but donations to Cancer Research welcomed). Maybe you'd like to watch an old VHS whilst flicking through some bike mags or checking the date of the museum's next special event. You might even be really lucky and get the special invite I received... "Do you fancy a look at our other machines in the barn?" An offer not to be refused.

An enthusiastic young man led me out through a rear door and unlocked the door to the second oldest building in Greenford. The museum has big expansion plans, starting with this restored barn which should be ready for permanent opening within a year. The plan is to devote the main shed to Triumphs, spaced out a bit better, and then to stack the remainder of the collection in here. There'll be plenty to see. I was impressed by the varied collection of sidecars, one of which was recently used to transport a nervous bride from her wedding to the reception. I even got to see the BSA and sidecar once used by Dad's Army's ARP Warden and verger, and which appeared at the Imperial War Museum only last week for a photo opportunity with the surviving cast.

It's not the most well-ordered museum you'll ever visit, but the ephemeral collection is all the better as a result. The staff are knowledgeable without being imposing, and managed to enthrall both a non-expert like me and a proper biker who was visiting at the same time. And I'm sure they'd appreciate you dropping by, be it on foot or swerving to a two-wheeled halt in the car park.
by train/tube: Greenford  by bus: E10

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