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Times Were Different Then : A Motorcycle History

No goggles. No gloves. No problem? Such were the early days of the Victoria Motorcycle Club 

I like to read. Which is a good thing, considering I publish a print magazine. I have discovered something interesting about my reading habits over the last 10 years. It seems my preference is increasingly for non-fiction although there are many writers of fiction whose work I always enjoy. When Gary Nordstrom called the office to say he and two other longtime members of the Victoria Motorcycle Club had written a book about its history (The Victoria Motorcycle Club: The First One Hundred Years) I thought, that sounds interesting and certainly worth a paragraph or two in the magazine. Well, it grew from there, as you’ll see in my review of the book this issue. 

The book immediately drew me in with its history of the club and its achievements through the years. It is a non-fiction, feel-good story—although some dark clouds do loom on the horizon. A positive aspect of this story is the support motorcycling once had in the community in general as evidenced by huge turnouts for motorcycle events such as stunt rodeos and races. I also had to appreciate the laissez-faire attitude the City of Victoria showed back in the day regarding where and when motorcycle events like hillclimbs or motocross races took place. If the club wanted to make some noise, raise some dust and have a good old motorcycle time, go to it. At one time Saanich, one of Greater Victoria’s municipalities, even sponsored a trophy. And if the club needed to cross a piece of privately-held land most owners were happy to accommodate. It was, as I mention in my review, a different time.

Another irresistible aspect of the Victoria Motorcycle Club book is how it illustrates the hell-for-leather attitude of those early days riders who performed stunt shows in dress shoes, dress pants, shirts and ties while jumping their big Indians or Harleys over (in one instance) a trained horse. Not a helmet in sight of course—although there appeared to have been a clown for both amusement and safety reasons. But later and not all that long ago, the riders raced motocross, hare scrambles, hillclimbs and other events often dressed only in long sleeve T-shirts, jackets, jeans, with no gloves and open-faced helmets minus goggles.

I asked Gary about that. I wondered if the meetings were dominated by men in eye patches. It wasn’t so bad he said, but confessed he did suffer an eye injury and so had another fellow, and then perhaps another. I admitted that I feel a little naked without gloves, leather jacket and a good pair of boots when I am out on the roads around Victoria. Would the riders then have worn better protective gear had it existed? Probably, but it didn’t. 

Gary admits his riding days are fewer now but I know he fondly remembers those wild riding days in the woods with the Victoria Motorcycle Club even if there was the danger of poking an eye out. Many of the members stayed with the club for decades: Gary joined in 1968. That is a remarkably long time consisting of countless hours of volunteer work, motorcycles and the camaraderie of other riders who just loved being on motorcycles in the woods and on the roads. With that kind of spirit, I hope the club sees another 100 years when once again the past will be regarded as a “different time.”

See One Hundred Years on the Throttle review.

book about the history of the Victoria motorcycle club

by John Molony Canadian Biker Issue #352


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