The National Motorcycle Museum houses the world's largest collection of British motorbikes with over 1000 models from 170 manufacturers, spanning three centuries. But there's more to do than just look at the machinery on display.
Ever fancied riding a £100,000 1949 Vincent Black Shadow series C, or perhaps a £200,000-plus 1930 Brough Superior SS100? Well, now you can with the National Motorcycle Museum.
Available through the 'Friends of the Museum' scheme, the annual £29.95 subscription (for adults) offers a wide range of benefits, including unlimited entry to the venue, as well as access to a number of impressive riding experiences.
This includes the 'Museum Classic Bike Tours' initiative, which sees a range of six classic bikes from the museum available to ride for a day in the company of two out riders on modern machinery, with two mechanics in tow.
Running between March and late September, slots on all six of the yearly rideouts are made available by paying an additional fee to cover the insurance of the bike. This varies between models, with prices starting at £350 for machines like the 1958 Ariel Cyclone 650cc and climbing to £750 for the ultra-exclusive metal, including the Brough Superior SS100.
The first of these dates will take place on Saturday, March 23, with all six places now booked in. If the bike of your dreams doesn’t appear on the list available, the museum alternate the machines on the list with every ride. What’s more, should the unfortunate occur and you take a tumble, you incur none of the cost of repairs.
"Twice the Brough has lost a footpeg where someone’s clipped it against a curb and we’ve had it dropped, but they’re only motorbikes," museum director James Hewing said. "We’ve got three of the best restorers in the country."
"You think £750 is a lot of money, but we could sell out that experience for every weekend of the year. It’s nothing to people. People get too precious about this stuff and when you get too precious about stuff, then you can’t engage people."
Located on Coventry Road in Solihull, the museum opened its doors in October 1984 and was the brainchild of Roy Richards, who started the exhibition after selling off his plant hire business in the 1970s.
Holding around 850 British motorcycles from 171 manufacturers and with a further 150 on loan to customers including the Triumph Visitor Experience, the midlands venue’s collection is valued at a staggering £34,000,000.
"We tend to only do the riding days from the end of March to the end of September because of the weather, but if it rains, then they get wet." Hewing added.
"I’ve got two guys in the museum five days a week who just clean the bikes and they do van driving as well and they will wheel them out for people if they ask. We get a lot of families that come up with the old boys who owned some of these bikes and we’ll wheel them out and plonk them on it for a photo. We’re not precious at all – quite the opposite."
If you fancy riding these special machines, visit the National Motorcycle Museum website for more information.
Ride more for less
Alongside the pricier tours, the museum also offer 'Try a classic bike' training days, which allow participants to ride a range of machines in a specially designed course around the museum’s grounds.
These take place on six days, with two groups per day at a nominal price of just £12.50. Much like the longer experiences, your fee covers you for any accidental damage and grants you access to an array of amazing machines, including the likes of the Brough and the Vincent. This is only available to Friends of the Museum, too.
National Motorcycle Museum LIVE
Once a year the Museum holds the hugely popular NMM Live Open Day when it allows free entry to all visitors; this year’s event will be taking place on Saturday, October 26.
Previous years have included a full programme running throughout the day including a chat show hosted by racing legend Steve Parrish featuring Freddie Spencer and Carl Fogarty plus Peter Hickman, Michael Rutter, Maria Costello, John Cooper and Peter Williams to name but a few. The museum’s expert restoration team are usually in attendance too.
There is also the opportunity to hear many of the museum’s famous race machines running in the Start Up Arena, as well as several ex-MotoGP bikes, and if that’s not enough to keep you occupied on top of the museum’s incredible collection, an indoor autojumble and trade area runs throughout the day.
Where is it?
Coventry Road, Bickenhill,Solihull, West Midlands B92 0EJ
When is it?
Open 7 days, 8.30am-5.30pm
£9.95. See online for full details on concessions
01675 443311 or visit www.nationalmotorcyclemuseum.co.uk
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