Experience History at Wild Ones: Vintage Motorcycle Rally

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

Slow Race Field Games (2017)Harley-Davidson Museum

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 comradery 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, with the money raised from registration for these events going to the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Wisconsin.​ ​

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

Best Equipped winners (1957)Harley-Davidson Museum

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.​

Rider at Wild Ones field games (2017) by Matthew MilanowskiHarley-Davidson Museum

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. ​

Windber Gypsy Tour (1954)Harley-Davidson Museum

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.

1950's motorcycle rally (1953)Harley-Davidson Museum

Antique Motorcycle Show (2017) by Brad ChaneyHarley-Davidson Museum

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.

Ride-In Antique Motorcycle Show (2017) by Brad ChaneyHarley-Davidson Museum

Harley-Davidson Knuckleheads, Sidevalves, Panheads, and Shovelheads abound–but all American-Made pre-1970 motorcycles can register on-site to ride-in and show off. 

The ride-in show is hosted by the Knucklehead Company, 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!"

Field Games and Gypsy Tours (1952)Harley-Davidson Museum

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.

Barrel race (1950)Harley-Davidson Museum

Barrel Race

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. Trust us, it's harder than it looks.​

Barrel race field game (2017) by Brad ChaneyHarley-Davidson Museum

Barrel Race

Modern barrel races at Wild Ones.

Plank Race (1938)Harley-Davidson Museum

Plank Race

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.​

Plank Race field game (2017) by Brad ChaneyHarley-Davidson Museum

Plank Race

Today's crowds still love the plank race.

Motorcycle Field Games | Harley-Davidson MuseumHarley-Davidson Museum

Motorcycle Field Games Past and Present

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 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" that are 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.​

Wall of Death (2017) by Brad ChaneyHarley-Davidson Museum

Other Events at Wild Ones

The museum also usually hosts other activities that harken back to the events and entertainment of the era, from the wall of death to motorcycle stunt groups.

AMCA Badger Heritage Chapter field games (2017) by Matthew MilanowskiHarley-Davidson Museum

Join Us on June 22, 2024

2024 is the 75th anniversary of that 1949 Hydra-Glide, a champion of the Panhead era. Come ready to celebrate at Wild Ones on June 22, 2024. Check out the events page on our website for all the info on the upcoming fun.

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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