Friday, November 27, 2015

Old-time photos of vintage motorcycles tell stories

Royal Enfield Ensign circa 1953, pictured on Red Devil Motors blog.
Old-time photos of people posing with motorcycles is one of the endearing regular features on the vintage motorcycle blog Red Devil Motors.

Author Richard Miller presents these intriguing and sometimes mysterious photos as he finds them. Often he is able to identify the brand and era of the motorcycle but finds he can't explain the circumstances under which a photo was taken.

The people in the pictures stare out at the camera, perhaps enjoying the pride of new ownership, or the fun of sitting on daddy's motorcycle, or sharing a joke that they themselves would ever really ride a motorcycle.

"I like these images of regular folks and their bikes," he explained in one post. "Family snaps," he calls them.

"The everyman's camera wasn't a precision instrument back then and in the pre-digital age you had to take a picture and then hope it came out well. If it didn't you probably kept the photo anyway as it had cost you. Very few are the photos taken by the common man of the era that are fine in artistic quality but they all tell a story and are snapshots of a lost time."

I asked Richard where he finds the old photos he posts.

"I've been collecting old bike photos and brochures for a good few years now," he replied in an email.

"Some could rightly level the accusation that I'm not at all discerning in my gathering of old motorcycle paraphernalia but I prefer the term eclectic. It all has its place and the obscure and humdrum /gray porridge I find rather more interesting to document than endless pictures of the glamour bikes. For me often the social history is every bit as interesting as the engineering."

I recently got that feeling paging through stacks of nearly forgotten family photos of my own. There, amid teenage photos of my now adult daughters, were several of me on my Royal Enfield Bullet. Based on the date on one, these could only have been taken the day I brought the Enfield home.

My daughters greet my new Bullet in 2001.
My wife Bonnie must have shot them. I had forgotten they'd even been taken. I was delighted to see them and surprised by the information they provided. How do you like the work gloves I pressed into duty because I didn't yet have any proper motorcycling gloves?

But mostly what is apparent to me is that my family recognized what an important moment it was for me — a moment worth preserving on film.

I hope that will come through to whoever sees these photos in the distant future.

Daughter Anna poses, but never really rides.


  1. Such memories are very precious, David. We are glad we have them!

  2. Possibly my favorite of your posts yet, David!

  3. Anonymous11/27/2015

    Those old photos are swell and bring back nice memories. I have great old photos, too. Unfortunately, while I'm sure the bikes still look terrific, I've gotten old and fat (but at least I don't get bad grades).


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