The feeling of entering these shops is not unlike that of entering a temple. You step into the dim light, surrounded by mysterious, arcane objects, only some of which you can properly identify. As the incense-like sweet smell of grease and oil hits your nose, you begin to question the depth of your convictions. Are you worthy of entering, or will you be shuffled quickly and politely out again after your query is dismissed?
You’ll be greeted by an acolyte, who will set aside whatever task with which he was busying himself, clean his hands on the rag from his back pocket while discerns the nature of your visit before disturbing the monk-like masters of the shop, who likely won’t yet look up to acknowledge your presence, too busy breathing life into a shaft-driven bike from the 1930′s or machining a long-out-of-production part for an ancient Triumph or Indian. For them, there is too much to be done and too few people with the skills to do it. These are not people you disturb for petty interruptions.
Stepping back into the light of day, you carry the feeling of having set foot on hallowed ground, a sacred enclave of these remarkable machines of steel and rubber and grease and gasoline.
The shops are generally small and work areas cramped, but you feel a sense of the workers’ camaraderie as they work in close quarters.
There’s a jovial air about the shop at times. These men are doing what they love and loving what they do. Yet, there’s seriousness of purpose and a reverence for the bikes themselves, a limited and dwindling supply of vintage machines that are made to be subjected to the fierce demands of the road. These are the caretakers of this particular corner of history, the guardians of a tradition that is always at risk of disappearing.
Summer evenings are often spent not only repairing bikes, but admiring them. They live and breathe bikes and sitting down with one, you get the sense they are sitting down with a friend.
This old Sunbeam carries a club badge for The Vintage Motor Cycle Club, a club formed in 1946 in Hog’s Back, Guildford, Surrey. The badge itself is old enough to be considered a vintage collectible, but at the time it was new, the bike was already a bit of a relic.
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