Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Old Vintage Cranks: a hidden side to bike culture

Ural project: ready for combat!
I finally made some time to stop by OVC in Hillsburgh this week; it's everything I'd hoped it would be.  Only a few years ago this was a one man operation running out of his garage, but as the need grew he moved into a garage space and now has employees and is so busy that he is thinking about expanding again.

The shop was busy with sidecar projects as well as working on what they sell as a dealership (Urals and Royal Enfields mainly).  It was organized, but busy, and every inch of space was in use.  Out front they had sidecar rigs on a Royal Enfield 500cc and the fantastically Soviet styled Ural.
Royal Enfield & sidecar

I'd gone to see the Royal Enfield, I think the Bullet Classic is a fantastic looking classic bike.  With the modern engine and fuel system it's super dependable.  At 500cc I thought it would be much too small, but I (at 6'3") felt more comfortable on it than I do scrunched up on my Ninja, which has a lower seat and higher pegs.  The problem came when I saw the Ural.

The Soviet cool Ural
I was indifferent to it, though impressed by how tough it is from online writing like Hubert's Timeless Ride.  When I finally saw one in person it has a unique aesthetic that you don't find in any other bike.  The lights are blocky and purely functional where an Italian would have made them streamlined and an American would have drenched them in chrome.  There is nothing dainty about the Ural, it's a tough machine built by tough people for a tough environment.  If you dig Soyuz space capsules and the no-nonsense style of Russian technology, you'll totally dig the Ural.  It comes with a movable spotlight (standard), but machine gun mounts are an option... this is the bike that Russians manufacture for their own military, and it looks it.

Max digs that Bullet Classic
After looking at the Royal Enfield and the Ural, I wouldn't want to saddle the RE to a sidecar, it's such a pretty bike on its own, and without the extra weight, even with 500cc, it would move around in a spritely fashion.

The Ural is a beast, and with the sidecar it looks like it could come thundering out of Moscow to chase the Nazis back to Germany (the bike itself is copied from German designs).

OVC's busy show room
If you have the time to drop by Old Vintage Cranks in Hillsburgh, it'll show you another side of motorcycling culture about as far away from the big manufacturer's aesthetics as you can get.  With no American=too much, German detailism or Japanese techno-crush, the bikes at OVC offer you another
avenue into biking that's so not mainstream that it's shocking.  That it's a tiny, independent, busy, working shop packed to the gills just adds to the flavor.

It's only a matter of time before my son and I are on a Ural pounding through the woods, or I'm on a Royal Enfield weaving along back roads, enjoying a bike that's as much a part of the scenery as the scenery is.

If you're heading out of the GTA, I have a suggestion, head north on the 410 out of Brampton (it turns into Highway 10) and hang a left onto Forks of the Credit Road (about 10 minutes up the road after the 410), enjoy that, grab an ice cream or coffee in Belfountain.  Hang a right onto Bush Street/Wellington Rd 52 until it Ts in Erin, go right to the light, left to the next light and you're at Trafalgar Road North.  Hang a right there and OVC is on your left about five minutes up the road as you ride into Hillsburgh.

There are lots of nice riding roads around there if you've never been up that way before.,-80.021324&spn=0.137025,0.338173
Forks of The Credit to Old Vintage Cranks, a nice ride out of the GTA for an afternoon
link to GOOGLE MAP