The scene found at Chicago’s Mods vs Rockers goes far beyond the cafe racer craze. Sure, the event is inspired by vintage British motorcycles and Italian metal-bodied scooters, but the curbs are endlessly lined with all types of old, custom and unique bikes. For the eighth year, the small trees and lampposts along busy Lincoln Avenue are flooded with motorcyclists and pedestrians-turned-admirers. Here’s just a sampling of what it looked like through the lens of Good Spark Garage…
Near the intersection of Lincoln, Diversey and Racine, the landmark whisky bar, Delilah’s, acts as the meet-up destination and bike show from 1-5pm.
Two route options were available for the Rumble Run to the Bottom Lounge. One was somewhat of a straight path via Ashland Avenue. The other was a jagged jaunt through downtown past Buckingham Fountain for a group pic.
A rockin’ addition to this year’s event was the Rockabilly Riot at the Bottom Lounge featuring the Bama Lamas, Johnny Murder and the 25 to Life, and the headlining Stray Cat, Lee Rocker. Lee and the band put on a heck of a show with a few Stray Cat hits, original music and some throwback songs like Blue Moon of Kentucky, That’s Alright, and Sleepwalk (featuring wicked licks by lead guitarist Buzz Campbell). Drummer Jimmy Sage and guitarist Brophy Dale added to the onslaught of Lee Rocker’s pomade-laced rockabilly tunes.
Back to Lincoln Ave, which was like a stage or runway for a constant stream of vintage bikes, impatient taxis, big ol’ buses and the silent but speedy cyclists (ON YER LEFT!). The sidewalk audience faced sensory overload, in a good way.
Kinda like birdwatching, bikes fly by in all directions then light along the curb. When they’re still, you can observe their characteristics, modifications and talk with their owners.
You’ll also come across some interesting non two-wheeled things; here’s a few…
Most of the event is spent ogling motorcycles and scooters in a concentrated area, but when 5:30 rolls around, the bikes can stretch their legs on the ride to the Bottom Lounge. The engines fire up and if you ain’t ready, you’re left behind. Riders knife through congested streets and may or may not yield rights-of-ways to remain in a group. Speeds increase and decrease quickly; the highest speeds would be logged on the rough Lakeshore Drive. It’s a fun exercise in throttle and brake management while riding in a pack of smiling, vintage motorcycle enthusiasts.
For us, bike-watching is a blast, but the people-watching is what provides the most entertainment. After years of attending this event, we’re getting to know a lot of the devoted regulars while spotting some new and colorful characters.
By the time you walk a few blocks down and back up, even more bikes have shown up. At times, it’s hard to keep up with all the activity, but you’ll try. And you’ll enjoy it. Word on the street is, there are big plans for evolving this event by Larry and Martin of Steel Toe Press, whose calling card reads, “vintage motorcycle event builders.” After eight years of success, it’s easy to assume MvR will become bigger and better, but knowing these guys as well as we do, they’ll be swinging for the fences.
After midnight, the constant roar of motorcycles dissipated and the sounds of the city became more noticeable. A little Summer sprinkle quickly turned into a downpour after most of the bikes left. “Let it rain,” we thought. By that time we’d seen an incredible variety of vintage bikes, blitzed the windy streets of Chicago on air-cooled bikes, tapped our feet to some of the best live rockabilly music in the country and enjoyed good company at yet another wonderful Mods vs Rockers. When we tell you, “don’t pass up a chance to attend this great Midwestern vintage motorcycle and scooter event,” we mean it.
To see other Chicago stories relating to MvR, click on the “Mods vs Rockers” tag and keep it tuned-in to Good Spark Garage for more! You can also follow us on Twitter for up-to-date tweets. Thanks for readin’. –The Wilkinson Bros