Check Out Billy Joel’s Motorcycles
Words & Photos: David Owens
When you think of “biker music,” chances are Billy Joel is not at the top of your list. But music aside, Billy Joel is a long time motorcycle enthusiast who over the years has amassed a collection of over 75 bikes. If you’re ever near the little town of Oyster Bay, on the north shore of Long Island in New York, you can check out the collection at 20th Century Cycles.
Part museum, part motorcycle shop, 20th Century Cycles doesn’t sell bikes, or work on motorcycles outside the collection, it just provides a cool way for the public to get an up close look at some fantastic bikes. As the shop’s web sites says, it “is the culmination of Billy Joel's love of motorcycles and his passion for motorcycle design. Since, in his opinion, he believes that vintage motorcycles look better and, since he also is aware that modern motorcycles tend to work better, all of the bikes in the collection have been transformed in one way or another into rideable, practical machines with a nod toward the past.”
So these bikes are not pristine restorations. Some are newer bikes made to look retro, others are classics with a mix of original and updated parts. I asked the folks at the shop if anyone ever gets bent out of shape about not keeping the classic bikes original. They said no one has seemed to mind - including Jay Leno who had visited the shop the week before I was there.
It’s not every day you get to see a Vincent Black Shadow and there are many other beautiful bikes in the collection, so if you’re ever in the area, 20th Century Cycles is definitely worth checking out.