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Vintage Glory – The Annual CVMG Paris Rally

Ontario's Vintage Bikes Get Their Due

If you're a fan of old bikes, the Canadian Vintage Motorcycle Group was made for you – and the Paris, Ontario bash is their top event of the year. Not to be missed!



Breakfast with the vintage motorcycle guys… it was something I had been looking forward to for weeks. I excitedly rolled out of bed a bit earlier than normal, threw on some gear and jumped on my bike with rain clouds looming above me. Why? The answer was simple. I wanted to meet some new people.

So I sat down with some members of the Niagara Chapter of the Canadian Vintage Motorcycle Group (CVMG) to talk about bikes, the good old days, and most importantly, the upcoming CVMG National Rally in Paris, Ontario

I met John, who at 85 years old was likely the oldest member of the club, and who still rides his brand new 250 Honda sport bike on a regular basis. He proudly told me that he raced the International Six Days Enduro (ISDE) in 1948, 49, 51 and 52, and also raced at the Isle of Man TT. This guy was tough as a rock! Better yet, he still had his race bike tucked safely away in his basement. What better place to store a 1968 450 Honda with a double overhead cam? 

John the 85 year old from breakfast smaller and lightened

Growing up around old motorcycles, I’ve always had an appreciation for them. The way I look at it, the bike I ride today wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for its early predecessors that paved the way for modern day technology and innovation. Besides that though, I find that each vintage motorcycle has its own unique story, from the material it's made out of, to the colours, features (or lack thereof), sound and small intricate details.

Many of these bikes made it through war, the Depression, and years of sitting in an old shed or barn, to grace us with their presence at events like the CVMG National Rally. At these events, they stand proudly on display for all to look at in complete awe and admiration. These bikes are classic pieces of art, and while many of them sit quietly enjoying their retirement, others start up with vengeance, not ready to let their old age slow them down. 

Cleveland smaller 1927 Levis smaller

To give you some background, the Canadian Vintage Motorcycle Group started in 1968 and became an official organization in 1979. To date, over 2,100 members across Canada have joined the organization to share their love of vintage motorcycles of all makes, models and years. The National Rally has been held annually in Paris, Ontario since 1989, and attracts over 4,000 rally registrants and day visitors over the weekend. 

Before heading out last week for the hour and a half ride to Paris, I was reminded that I actually went to the rally back in 1998 at the ripe old age of 13. I vaguely remember riding old dirtbikes around the fairgrounds while my parents socialized with their friends. Something told me that that was exactly what I would be doing again this time around, some 15 years later. 

Paris 1998 smallerThe CVMG Rally was a must-attend event for my family back in the 90s

Since we were eager to get up to Paris, my riding buddy (aka my mom) and I decided to ride there on the highway from Niagara. Stopping once to add on a layer to buffer the wind and coolness that day, we made it to the Paris Fairgrounds in good time. 

We were greeted by a row of Honda Goldwings at the entrance, which were the featured motorcycle this year. Smiling at my mom, I told her I was on a mission to find the oldest motorcycle at the fairgrounds. She chuckled and wished me luck finding a needle in a haystack. I was up for the challenge though. As we entered the grounds, a smile crossed my face as I was immediately greeted by the familiar braap sound of motorcycles running. 

Kline Family smallerIt was great to spend the day with family again this year

Fairgrounds

Arrival at ParisThankful that my Joe Rocket Canada Riviera jacket kept me warm on the ride to Paris

Before I could even find my dad, who was camped out for the weekend, I managed to get my hands on a 1975 Yamaha, start it, and take it for a quick ride around to check things out. I heard the owner of the Yamaha yell out “Hey!” as I rode by, but the grin on my dad’s face was all I needed to know that the thievery was welcomed. We made our way to the Niagara Chapter of the CVMG and I was given a nice tour of the members’ collection, including a newly rebuilt 1976 Yamaha. That bike was mint – there wasn’t even a spot of dirt on it!    

Niagara Chapter CVMG smaller

Yamaha, Honda, Kawasaki, James, BSA, Norton… and bikes I’ve never even heard of. They were all on display at the fairgrounds for CVMG members and the public to look at. I ran into a few familiar faces, including Cam from Smyth Innovations in Chatham. He proudly started up his Honda CB550 Silverback at my dad’s request so we could hear it purr. Cam shared that he would be riding in the Cannonball 500 later that weekend where motorcyclists must ride 800 km in a 12-hour period. One thing I’ve learned from the vintage motorcycle group is that these folks are tough, headstrong, and they sure know their stuff when it comes to bikes. 

Smyth Innovations smaller

1975 Moto Morini 1 smaller 1971 Suzuki Stinger smaller 

I perused the fairgrounds, chatting with vendors and enthusiasts. The event offered something for everyone, from used parts and motorcycles for sale, restoration bikes on display, and project bikes waiting for the perfect owner to give them a home. I enjoyed listening to stories from the old days about motorcycles that were priceless, but not because of their appraised value. Many of these motorcycles were invaluable to their owners based on their sentimental value; some of these bikes will never be sold, and will forever be passed down from generation to generation just to keep the history and stories of those good ole’ days alive.

I hope that one day, I’ll be able to share those same great stories with the next generation as well. Oh, and in case you are wondering if I ever found the oldest bike at the fairgrounds, I think I did when I found a 1916 Indian Model K. Mission accomplished! 

Indian smaller1916 Indian Model K "Featherweight" – the oldest bike I could find at the rally

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