The adrenaline and thrill of riding a motorbike probably seems worlds away from spending your time in a museum. Thankfully, in the UK there are plenty of places you can head for a day out with the whole family that scratch the itch for a two-wheeled adventure.
The National Motorcycle Museum – Solihull, West Midlands
Over 1000 machines from 170 manufacturers, spanning three centuries of motorcycle history. Not bad. Get to know your Centaur from your Century, your Garrard from your Grigg – and many more between.
The oldest bike on show here was built in 1898, while elsewhere on site you’ll see everything from modern competition dragsters to retro snub-nosed Velocettes.
Open from 8.30am to 5.30pm 7 days a week, there are five substantial display halls to investigate as well as the dazzling collection in the foyer itself, and new machines are being restored and added all the time. With wheelchair access throughout and guide dogs permitted, everyone can enjoy a day of motorbike marvels at NMC.
The Craven Collection – York, Yorkshire
Housed in an old farm building not far from the A64, the private Craven Collection is now home to more than 250 vintage and post-war classic motorcycles, as well as a selection of 1950s and 60s cars and commercial vehicles.
This museum also offers an exciting variety of military and police motorcycle collections, alongside vintage scooters and trials bikes. You might be most taken with the 998cc Norvin with its ‘featherbed’ frame, or one of the owner’s favourites – a 1960s BSA Rocket Gold Star 650cc sprint bike.
These bikes aren’t just decorative, either. Described as a ‘working museum’, these are machines that often end up being used in films and on TV shows – meaning most of them are in full working order, and fully insured for use on the road.
Keep an eye on the website for upcoming open days, or saunter down on the first Sunday of each month.
Sammy Miller Museum – New Milton, Hampshire
You’ve probably already heard of Sammy Miller, 11-time British Champion motorcycling legend – and winner of over 1400 events worldwide. Lauded as offering one of the finest collections of fully restored and working motorcycles in the entire world, Sammy’s seemingly endless collection is constantly evolving as new prototypes and racers are acquired.
There’s a road bike hall, a sports bike hall, a trial bike hall, a vast Norton collection and even a room wholly dedicated to engines. A few choice new arrivals include a 1938 Zundapp K800, a 1939 BSA Empire Star – forerunner to the Gold Star you can see at The Craven Collection – and a 1964 Grand Prix Bianchi.
If seeing the oldest known Norton in the world doesn’t excite the kids as much as it excites you, the children’s play area should keep them entertained until you’re ready to take a break. Look out for special events on the calendar too, like Auto Jumbles and Japanese Bikers Day.
The David Silver Honda Collection – Leiston, Suffolk
It goes without saying that this is the destination for you if what you crave are Hondas, Hondas and more Hondas. Produced between 1948 and 1992, David Silver’s collection includes gems like the cutely inimitable Super Cub C100 as well as powerful creations such as a classic 1980s CBR1000F.
For the true Honda enthusiast, you can also find the parts you need for your own vehicles through the brains behind this operation. David Silver spares carry parts for more than 1000 different Honda models, so if you’re holding on to project bikes or simply looking for an elusive part for your daily ride, it’s worth enquiring when you’re done admiring the vehicles on display.
London Motorcycle Museum – Greenford, Middlesex
While the other venues on this list include destinations with an array of producers or focus only on a famous Japanese name, London Motorcycle Museum celebrates Great Britain.
There are around 200 machines on display here, all of them produced right here in the UK and dating as far back as 1902. You’ll see racers and roadbikes, ABCs, Triumphs and Zeniths, to name a few. If there’s a specific bike you’re particularly keen to see, this museum even allows you to arrange for anything that may not be on display to be brought out of storage for admiration.
The 1925 Scott Flying Squirrel is a real winner, and there are other great picks like a BSA Winged Wheel cyclemotor that has been kept in fantastic shape since 1954.
Of course, there are some incredible motorcycle exhibitions at other motor and transport museums too. Beaulieu in the New Forest makes a brilliant family day out, with a World of Top Gear exhibition, grounds and gardens to explore on top of F1 cars, vintage four-wheeled machines and a history of motorcycling. Then there’s the Haynes International Motor Museum, again heavily focused on cars but also home to classic British and International motorcycles, with an impressive speedway collection, and additional activities for kids of all ages.
Wherever you head, it’s certain there’ll be ample opportunity to hand down your knowledge of all things motorcycle.