Museum When American Honda announced it was holding the '07 CBR600RR world press introduction at Barber Motorsports Park, we quickly packed our gearbags, excited at the chance to ride what has been hailed as one of the premier racing circuits in the U.S. When the company informed us that we would be able to tour the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum as well during our visit, we kind of yawned and said, "What? Oh, yeah, OK...cool."
It seems so arrogant now to have initially had such a jaded attitude toward the museum, but in truth, I've seen quite a few motorcycle museums and exhibits in my 13 years as a motorcycle journalist. And while many of them display some very famous and interesting two-wheeled memorabilia, none of them really ever made that big an impression on me. I guess it's because none of them could ever really be thought of as comprehensive in my mind; they were either limited by brand or omitted machines I consider important milestones for whatever reason.
And I must admit that even though I was impressed with the Barber Museum's structural design as I entered the building, I was still curious if this collection was going to be as special as I'd heard it was.
Well, after spending an evening wandering around the 80,000-square-foot, five-floorbuilding filled with nearly 900 motorcycles of practically every brand you can think of, I can now honestly say that if you're going to visit one motorcycle museum in your life, the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum should definitely be it. This is the only museum in which I've literally felt like I was walking through a time warp; all the bikes I've ever owned or ridden were there, even down to different years of the same model. If you're a true motorcyclist, like I am, there's nothing like coming upon a machine you owned years ago and feeling just a tinge of that same excitement you experienced in your first days of riding that bike. Especially since all the specimens in the Barber Museum are basically immaculate. (The museum has a full staff who restores, maintains and even details each motorcycle once a month-and the majority of the bikes are in full running condition.) There were quite a few times when I would be admiring a pristine example of a bike I previously owned and think, "Damn, I knew I shouldn't have sold that thing!"
And the collection is nowhere near limited to just production bikes. There are racing bikes from every era, custom machines, one-off rarities, limited production bikes...the Barber Museum is truly the first collection I can truthfully label as "comprehensive." There are even a number of famous racing cars in the collection.
The Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum is located adjacent to the Barber Motorsports Park outside of Birmingham, Alabama. Admission is $10 for adults, $6 for children ages 4-12, with children under 4 free. Although the museum is open seven days a week, operation hours vary by season. Call (205) 699-7275 or log on to www.barbermuseum.org for more info. Take it from me, the formerly jaded SR editor-this is one museum you should definitely not miss.
WhoopsIn the feature story "Long-Distance Leaders" (Dec. '06), we thought nothing had changed on the Vesrah Suzuki racebike from the time we rode it to its championship-winning form, but indeed there were some changes: The exhaust the team used to win the '06 title was a Sudco/Hamaguchi unit (not the Arrow pipe), and the team also switched to Vortex sprockets. Our apologies to Sudco and Vortex for the oversight.