Barber Vintage Festival

Every year for the last 4 years we have attended the Barber Vintage Festival just outside of Birmingham, Alabama. The first year we went we rode the Yamaha’s down, the last two years we drove down in hopes of bringing something back with us, and this year we rode the Tigers down.

It is 6 hours, 415 miles if you take the interstate the whole way, but we always try to avoid the interstate whenever possible, so I found us a route that was 450 miles and 8.5 hours with zero interstate riding.

We loaded down the Tigers and hit the road around 7:30 Wednesday morning. The festival doesn’t start until Friday, but I wanted to go down a day early so we could do some riding in the nearby Talladega National Forest on Thursday.

With fuel and lunch stops, it took us about 9 hours to get to our hotel in Pell City. We like to stay there when we take the bikes down because we can avoid all of the Birmingham traffic, and it is a 20-mile straight shot across the interstate to the festival each day. It was a really nice ride with no issues, and nice weather other than the fact that it was almost 90 degrees the last few hours of the day.

Thursday morning we had a quick hotel breakfast and hit the road around 8am. It was about 20 miles of interstate in the opposite direction of Barber to get to the Talladega National Forest, and it was nice and cool to start the day. The forest has a really nice, twisty road that runs along the ridge top called the Skyway Motorway, so we started the day on that. From where we got on it, which was near the middle, we rode South a little ways to a lookout to snap a few pictures, and then went back to the North.

I honestly could have ridden up and down that road, soaking up the back and forth curves all day. The pavement was nice and smooth, and there were almost no other vehicles up there that morning. Of course, I’m always going to pick dirt/gravel over pavement though, so we headed for the far Northern section where the road turns to gravel.

There are side roads off of the motorway that are a mixture of dirt and gravel, so we decided to explore some of those. Dwayne went ahead a couple of times to snap some pictures of me as I passed.

I also snapped a couple of pictures of him as well, but the lighting wasn’t great.

We played around on these side roads for a couple of hours, but I never did find the dirt trails I had seen mentioned on the ADVrider forums. I should have researched it better before we left, but I didn’t. We still very much enjoyed the ride and the beautiful scenery though, so that was okay. Next year I’ll find out exactly where the good stuff is before we leave, this time it was more of a last minute decision.

About midday it was starting to get really hot, so we decided to head back to the hotel and have lunch and get cleaned up. I was happy to see that I’d collected some dirt on Tora, even though we never found any mud.

Friday morning we rolled into Barber right at 7:30 when the gates opened and headed straight for the KTM demo truck to sign up for demo rides at 8am. I signed up to ride the 1090 and Dwayne signed up to ride the 690. It was the same guys who had been out in Utah at the KTM rally a few weeks ago so of course my “Dirtbike In A Tree” incident was brought up and there were some more laughs about that.

Our demo ride was at 9am, so we had about 45 minutes to kill, so we rode over to the swap meet area and did a quick walkthrough before heading back to the demo rides. There wasn’t really anything that caught my eye, but I wasn’t really looking for anything either.

The 1090 is definitely on the tall side for me, but not uncomfortably so, I just had to slide just a tiny bit to either side to get a foot down, which might be slightly problematic when trying to maneuver the bike around when backing in/out of a parking spot, or trying to turn around on a trail or something, but when just riding, it isn’t an issue for me. They did have a 1090 there that had been lowered 2″ by Solid Performance in Pennsylvania, which felt about the same height as my Tiger, but I wouldn’t want to go that route unless I absolutely had to, because you’re obviously going to give up a bit of suspension and ground clearance. I don’t think it would be that much of an issue for me, I would get used to it quickly. Not that it matters, because although I liked it, I wouldn’t trade my Tiger for one.

The 1090 felt a lot different than my Tiger, which is obviously to be expected. Being that my Tiger is actually a “roadie” model (not that I treat it as such), it has better street manners, and is quite a bit smoother. The 1090 definitely has a bit more of a vibration to it, and I felt like I felt the knobby tires more on the pavement than I do on the Tiger, and it had the exact same tires on it that I’ve been running on the Tiger.

I absolutely loved the sound of that deeper, throatier exhaust. I’m a big fan of the triple on my Tiger, as it has a very distinct and different sound than any of the other bikes, but I definitely wouldn’t mind listening to that 1090 either! It was a bit more work in the curves, where as my Tiger just naturally falls into them, but again, that’s due to the smaller front wheel on my “Roadie”. The Tiger XCa I demoed in Montana felt the same way with that 21″ front wheel. It also felt a bit bigger than my Tiger, but it IS bigger, so again, to be expected.

The seating and standing position were both really comfortable, but like with the Tiger, I would want to add bar risers to bring them up and back just a touch. I only got about 15-20 miles on it, but the stock seat felt plenty comfortable from what I could tell.

The only concern I had with it was that even though it was a demo bike, and I realize they go through some punishment, the fuel gauge wasn’t working on the bike I rode. The maintenance issues are the only thing that really keeps me from considering owning a KTM. They are certainly fun bikes to ride, but I am getting ready to roll 30k miles on my Tiger, and other than my TPMS sensor occasionally acting up on my first cross-country trip on it back in 2016 (it hasn’t done it since), I’ve had no issues with my Tiger. The Tiger still feels like the perfect bike for me, but I’ll be interested in taking the new 790 Adventure for a spin when it comes out, just out of curiosity, as well as the Yamaha T7, if it ever actually makes it to the states.

After our demo rides we rode the Tigers over to the Fan Zone to park them in the official Triumph parking behind their truck and tent. We checked out the bikes they had brought with them and talked to their PR manager, Phil, for a bit, before heading across the street to the REV’IT! tent to say hi to Joonil and the guys from Savannah Triumph who are also REV’IT! dealers and always help out with the tent and bring merch to sell at the event. We met them at Barber last year, and we went to Savannah when we left Barber, so we visited their dealership and I bought my Airwave jacket from them. Then I saw them again in New York at the dealer meetings back in June. Great guys, and I always enjoy chatting with them.

Shortly after that our friends Steve and Kim from Indianapolis arrived and met up with us. It was Steve’s first time ever at Barber, and he was like a kid in a candy store! We walked around with them for a while until we all decided it was too hot out, so we headed in to the museum to enjoy the air conditioning and drool over the hundreds of incredible bikes in there. It is 5 levels high of some of the most beautiful bikes you will ever see. They have everything in there, including some incredibly rare bikes you aren’t likely to see elsewhere.

I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed exploring the museum with them. I’ve been in there every year and have been all over that place, but seeing it with someone who was a first timer and someone who is an absolute wealth of knowledge was incredible. Kim can tell you something about just about every bike in that place, and I swear I could have spent days in there with him letting him educate me. This weekend wouldn’t have been half as much fun without them there to share it with. Kim suggested we all pick a favorite bike for the day and we would discuss them later over dinner.

Bonhams was also having an auction in the museum this weekend, and one of the bikes that they were auctioning was Steve McQueen’s Husqvarna that he rode in the On Any Sunday movie. That was a really cool bike to see, because come on, it was Steve McQueens!

After the museum, it was 5pm, and we decided to head back to the hotel and get cleaned up to go to dinner. Luckily our bikes were in the shade at this point and it wasn’t too terrible trying to get our gear on and get moving.

We went with Steve and Kim to a nearby Golden Rule BBQ restaurant. I just always enjoy hanging out and talking with those two, and we ended up closing the place down because we got so wrapped up in conversation. We discussed which bikes were our favorites for the day, mine was a 1925 Sunbeam 500cc Light Solo that was in the Bonhams auction. It sold for $25,875. I stole this picture from the Bonhams site because I forgot to take one of it…

Saturday morning we got to the festival about the same time, and we went straight to park the bikes and get our gear off this time. We wanted to hit the swap meet before it got too hot, so we could take our time and enjoy it. I still didn’t see anything I was too interested in, but I did want to steal these two…

We spent some time at the REV’IT! tent and then watched some racing from the shade on the hill. Steve and Kim eventually joined us, and we headed back to the museum to have lunch and see the stuff we had missed on Friday, which was mostly the really old bike section. We all chose another favorite bike for the day, there were a lot of front runners, but mine was this 1915 Iver Johnson, it was just beautiful.

I didn’t take any other pictures from the museum because I do every year and then I never end up looking at them anyways. They all look so much better in person.

While at the museum I noticed someone had taken a picture of my bike and tagged me in it on Instagram, and it turned out it was Phil from Triumph. So while the guys headed over to the VJMC area (which had no shade) I hopped off the tram and went to talk to Phil some more, before heading back to the REV’IT! tent for a while.

Around 2 o’clock the guys caught up to me and Steve and Kim said their goodbyes and decided to head back home since they weren’t staying the night again. We decided we would leave at that time too because it was too hot to want to stick around any longer and we had seen and done everything we wanted to at that point. Unfortunately this time the bikes were still in the sun and it was rough trying to get the hot gear on when we were already sweaty. I was really ready to get moving by the time we fired up the bikes!

We spent the rest of the evening relaxing and getting things ready to head home. The next morning we walked next door to Cracker Barrel for breakfast and coffee, then loaded up the bikes and hit the road just before 8am. It was really foggy out for the first 40 miles or so, but it eventually cleared up, and then it started to get warm.

We stopped for lunch about 2/3 of the way home and it was 90 degrees. By the time we were back on the road it was 92, and we were starting to reconsider our decision to avoid any interstate riding. We decided to knock 45 minutes off the rest of our trip and hop on I-65 at Elizabethtown, Kentucky and take it the rest of the way home. Traffic was heavy and it was definitely less than enjoyable, but we were happy to get home and out of our gear a little quicker than we otherwise would have.

This will likely be our last “big” moto trip of the year, so from here on out it will probably be mostly day trips. The weather is supposed to cool way off after tomorrow, so it will be time to pull out the cold weather gear and put the mesh away most likely. The Tigers are also way overdue for their next major service, so we will definitely be taking care of that sometime soon as well.

2 thoughts on “Barber Vintage Festival

  1. Jessica and I hate we missed it this yr. we will def be there next yr. Great write up. I’ve been to museum 3 times and I always find a new bike to drool over when I go.

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