I decided to ride from Toronto to the Barber Vintage Festival in Birmingham, Alabama. The plan was to spend two solid days riding along freeways to get to Birmingham, hangout for a few days, and then take the scenic route home.
With the weather still feeling a bit like summer, I left for the 4500km round trip with a few good friends and the mindset of “Barber or Bust.” I was lucky enough to leave my Ducati 900 Supersport in the garage and ride a brand new Triumph T120 Bonneville. When I picked the bike up from Triumph Canada, I was given a quick run through on the new controls, with particular focus on the heated grips. Given the weather that day, I didn’t expect to need them, especially because we were heading south. Regardless of the heated grips, right off the bat I knew I had made the right choice with this bike as I was able to bring real luggage and with the black-on-black-on-black paint scheme, the bike looked pretty damn good.
The Barber Vintage Festival is held at the insane Barber Motorsports Park just outside of Birmingham. The festival marks the final round of the American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association’s annual racing schedule. The centerpiece of the park is a 17-turn, 2.38-mile road racing track. As much as the track takes up a huge portion of the park and is the main focal point, the grounds also host vintage MX and enduro races, a huge swap meet, and the world’s largest motorcycle museum. With only two days at the circuit, we didn’t even come close to seeing everything.
After getting destroyed during this past season at the Vintage Road Racing Association events, we decided it would be a good idea to go down to Barber to see what race prep really looks like. We had blown up so many times this year, we didn’t actually have a chance to see what anyone else was doing in the pits — so we also wanted to see how the ‘other’ guys do it. By the end of the weekend we learned that we have a lot to learn.
On the way down to Alabama, the T120 seemed to be happy cruising at any speed while just sipping gas. I don’t have actual figures, but for a 1200, it definitely moved when you wanted it to, while barely using any gas. I don't know how Triumph managed it, but I was certainly thankful, for once I wasn’t the one just riding from gas station to gas station.
After spending time at Barber watching some great racing, seeing some unbelievable bikes and meeting some great people, it was time to spend a few days riding through the Smokey Mountains. To start each morning, we went to the Waffle House. We figured that eating food with a very low nutritional value was probably best, and that ordering four different menu items for breakfast was a great idea.
From Birmingham, we made our way to Asheville, North Carolina by way of the Nantahala National Forest. The park was a blast, we deviated from the main highway and spent hours zig-zagging across the valleys and peaks of the national park. In Asheville, we had a little trouble getting a hotel room because of people evacuating from Hurricane Matthew. We ended up at a beautiful budget motel. Given the cleanliness of the rooms and quality of the wallpaper covering the holes in the walls, it appeared to host cock fights and amateur wrestling during the off season. However, there was a glimmer of hope, it was right across the street from a Cracker Barrel. I had never been, but hey, all I wanted was a glass of bourbon and a meal. Luckily for me, they came up with the great idea of not selling any adult beverages, so it was an Arnold Palmer for dinner and a hot chocolate for dessert.
From Asheville our goal was Harrisonburg, Virginia via the infamous Blue Ridge Parkway. Before getting on the road in the morning we decided to crush another nutritious breakfast at the Waffle House. The reason for this wasn't entirely out of laziness, we were actually warned by locals the night before to avoid the Blue Ridge until the sun has a chance to warm it up a bit. During this time of year, the parkway has a tendency to freeze in the tunnels and usually catches visiting heroes by surprise.
After spending the previous day crisscrossing the Nantahala Forest, my confidence in the T120 was growing. As the bike was completely new to me, I really wasn’t sure where I could trust it. However, after spending the entire day riding the Blue Ridge, the T120 turned out to be more than a match. On more than one occasion it forgave my overly confident late breaking and kept me in-between the lines. There’s a lot of hype for the Blue Ridge Parkway, and it completely lives up to it. Find yourself there on a quiet day and it will not disappoint. The road and the scenery combine to make a truly great experience.
As we got to the hotel in Harrisonburg on our final night, we all felt like we had accomplished a bit of a motorcycle goal. We were a bit stiff from the amount of riding and in some cases the difficulty of the riding, but it was well worth it.
When we woke up on the final day of our trip, we were looking at a brisk one degree Celsius and a little over 800km’s to go. We donned our warmest gear and went for it. It was at this time that I was very happy with the Triumph T120’s heated grips. They had 3 settings, but the 3rd setting felt like it was for barbecuing and since I had no burgers with me, I decided to stick with settings one and two. After six days of riding nearly 5000 km’s, we arrived back in Toronto. All of us glad to be home, but also stoked on the experience. Barber was awesome, I mean if racing and cool bikes is your thing, then you will love it.
[o] photos by Viktor Radics