Amish Country Journal

Reports and musings from Indiantree Farm, in Holmes County, Ohio -- the largest Amish community in the world. See more about author Larry D. Miller and Amish Country at

Monday, July 27, 2009

Two-Wheel Weekend

Vintage Motorcycle Days is a three-day exercise in two-wheel euphoria.  Tens of thousands of motorcyclists from across this continent and beyond, converge on Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course near Mansfield, Ohio.  All of the motorcycles honored and most in attendance are antique . . . as are a majority of their owners.

I slipped the surly bonds of the farm for a three-day getaway and encountered one eye-opening experience after another. 

The absolute topper of all was the Trials Competition.

Trials is the slow-speed, ultra-precise maneuvering of a motorcycle over deep woods obstacles that appear insurmountable.  But the lightweight, high-torque bikes can be made to dance over rocks, logs and slippery, muddy terrain . . . all on an incredibly steep hillside.
It's accomplished with amazing balance and a high level of finesse.  Put your foot down and you pick up a point.  The rider who finishes with fewest points wins.

The riders - most in their 30s, 40s, or 50s - pretty much slipped, bounced and skidded their way through the course.  Some "dabbed" a foot, some paddled unashamedly, some dropped bike and dignity into the mud.  They were riding 60s and 70s Hondas, Ossas, Yamahas and Suzukis.

Then came the last rider.  The engine note was unusual . . . a slow, thumping beat.  The exhaust pipe was low-mounted, not up high as were all of the others.  The front fender tag proclaimed it a 1946 BSA.  53 years old but with the strong, thumping heartbeat of a teenager.

It moved slowly.  Slower than most of the others but with delicate precision, threading its way over, around or through the obstacles.

Then as the rider moved closer, the crowd of observers collectively sucked in their breath as they clearly recognized that he was at least 17 years older than his bike.  A tall, slender man with a deeply furrowed face, standing on the footpegs throughout, he had the calm, steely, focused look of a gunfighter.

His bike lost no traction, his feet never left the footpegs, his body english was spot on and he aced the section.  Zero points.

No other rider had commanded such applause.

Lesson learned: never underestimate an old guy on a motorcycle.


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