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Experience History at Wild Ones: Vintage Motorcycle Rally

Added June 14, 2023
Harley Davidson Wild Ones Vintage Motorcycle Ralley

From antique bikes to vintage motorcycle field games, step into the past and experience the community and fun of a 1940s-style motorcycle rally.

Beginning in the summer of 2009, the Harley-Davidson Museum has welcomed riders and non-riders to a family-friendly event that recaptures some of the sights, sounds, and camaraderie of a 1940s motorcycle rally.

Hosted by the Knucklehead Company and the Antique Motorcycle Club of America's Badger Heritage Chapter, Wild Ones: Vintage Motorcycle Rally includes an antique motorcycle ride-in show and authentic motorcycle field games money raised from registration for these events going to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Wisconsin. 

In this post, get to know the history behind Wild Ones, from the origin of the name to the heritage-loving clubs that host the events.

Origin of the name

In 1947, events at the Hollister motorcycle rally gained national attention and ultimately inspired the 1953 film The Wild One starring Marlon Brando.

That period forever impacted the perception of motorcycling in America. It overshadowed the early history of adventure, competition, and fraternity that bonded riders and beguiled spectators onto the sidelines at motorcycle events

But Wild Ones brings that time back to the Harley-Davidson Museum each summer. 

The Antique Motorcycle Ride-In Show

Part of the fun of motorcycle club meets was seeing everyone in their riding gear or club uniforms, checking out the latest motorcycle models, getting customization inspiration, and marveling over the oldies that were still revving up. 

Step back in time and feel like you're part of a 1940s motorcycle club event while wandering a stunning gathering of vintage bikes. Some are lovingly restored, others vibrantly customized, and a few as original as they get—but all proudly represent their age.

Harley-Davidson® Knucklehead, Sidevalve, Panhead, and Shovelhead engines abound–but all American-Made pre-1970 motorcycles can register on-site to ride-in and show off.  

The Knucklehead Company hosts the ride-in show, a group of enthusiastic fans of Harley-Davidson® overhead valve motorcycles (i.e. Knuckleheads) produced between 1936 and 1947. Founded in 1977 in Wisconsin Rapids, membership in the club requires the ownership of a running bike from that era. 

The group aims to perpetuate the spirit of motorcycle club camaraderie that flourished in the 1940's. The Company operates under the mantra: "Ride 'em! Don't hide 'em!"

Vintage motorcycle field games

Motorcycle events—often called a rally or gypsy tour—were a fun way to bring together multiple motorcycle clubs as well as individual riders and friends. Hosted by a club or a motorcycle dealer, they frequently featured events like a picnic, hill climb, or field games.

  • Field games were designed to test riding skills. During the barrel race, riders push barrels across the field within designated lanes—the first to cross the finish, without leaving their lane, wins. 
  • The plank race sees riders trying to stay atop narrow end-to-end planks. With the fastest time coming out on top, slow and steady doesn't always win the race. 
  • Other activities included the potato scramble, slow race, and teeter totter. 

Want to see these games in action? Watch and listen as the Museum's own vintage motorcycle rider and field games participant shares the history of field games and the connection with Wild Ones in this video featuring color film of field games of the 1940s and 1950s.

Field games at Wild Ones are sponsored by the Antique Motorcycle Club of America (AMCA) Badger Heritage Chapter. Founded in 1954, the AMCA is one of the largest organizations of antique motorcycle enthusiasts in the world. 

The club champions the "preservation, restoration, and operation of old-time motorcycles" at least 35 years old. The Badger Heritage Chapter in Wisconsin is one of 75 chapters worldwide; they share a love of vintage motorcycles regardless of make, model or condition.

Mark Your Calendars

Visit the Harley-Davidson Museum® campus during Wild Ones on Saturday, June 24, 2023 to cheer for riders on antique motorcycles as they navigate many of these classic vintage challenges. Or, bring your ride and compete yourself!

Come ready to celebrate at this legendary event!

2023 marks 120 years of the Harley-Davidson Motor Company, 15 years of the Harley-Davidson Museum, and 75 years of the Panhead engine. 

For more info on the Wild Ones Vintage Motorcycle Rally visit the events page on the H-D Museum website

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