I had a chance to visit the Solvang Motorcycle Museum located in (no prizes for guessing !) Solvang, California. This town is also the home of the world famous Nimbus gathering which attracts Nimbus owners from around the world – why here you ask ? Well, Solvang was settled by Danish immigrants just prior to WWI and means ‘Sunny Land’ in Danish – Nimbus of course is a Danish motorcycle and couple that with the availability of reasonable wine produced locally in the area and you have the makings of a very sunny time indeed !
The museum is owned by Virgil Elings who races on the vintage motorcycle circuit, but is probably more famous for his inventions in the field of scanning tunnelling microscopes where he is the holder of a number of patents. He has collected an amazing assortment of motorcycle hardware ranging from a Britten to a modified Suzuki GT750, to of course a Nimbus with requisite side car to a host of early racing bikes including many exquisite examples of Italian, English and European models – including my personal favourite, a 500cc Gilera as would have been raced by Geoff Duke back in the early 1950’s (just ‘click’ to see a larger image). Why Gilera never thought to produce a consumer version of their in-line four just baffles me, but no doubt they had their reasons. Its a pity as it was obviously a wildly successful engine – they won something like six world championships with it, and other manufacturers obviously picked up on the idea a decade later and made a fortune. Quite a lost opportunity.
An appointment is usually required during the week so call ahead, although it is open on weekends. Quite the collection – if you are in the area, it is well worth a look see !