A Visit To The National Motorcycle Museum Of Anamosa

Motorcycle museum fans in America have some wonderful choices. About half a dozen public motorcycle museums have great experiences to offer. But one, the National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa, Iowa, is somewhat unique and now in a brand new, larger setting. It holds an amazing collection of over 300 motorcycles  from over 100 years of our great sport.

The National Motorcycle Museum is set up to help you get a solid grasp of casual motorcycling and racing. You can immerse yourself in the stories of celebrities and characters like Arlen Ness and Von Dutch and take in rare art, sculpture and personal effects from these American legends. A showcase full of images and objects takes you into the wild life of showman Evil Knievel. Round a corner and see the authenticated Captain America chopper from the 1969 cult classic Easy Riders, but also take in dozens of other motorcycle movie posters from around the world.

The museum is set up in theme areas and just about every space is crammed with goodies. And you have great access; there are no ropes or barriers because they figure you know not to touch.  High ceilings permitted the designers to create a mezzanine to display a fantastic collection of pedal cars designed as trucks and even airplanes. And there are a few dozen motorcycles and bicycles up there, too. Over 400 rare toys in several large antique showcases may take you back to your childhood and to your grandfather’s.

As you wander a meandering path you’ll be struck by some great simulated racing settings. Board track, hillclimb, drag racing and land speed record each have dedicated display areas. And they also hold trophies, photos, prints and other items that bring up the stories of American heroes and champions; men and women that may have risked their lives to get to the podium, and give us a thrill.

Talking with Museum staff you will also learn that this museum will likely never be finished or stay the same. There is a changing gallery that will host a new large exhibit each year. Also, a 1930’s antique gas station is being restored at the moment and soon will be installed with a full complement of petroliana; gas station memorabilia from signage, old road maps, calendars and old oil cans to restored antique gas pumps. Loaned and donated bikes arrive and are added to specific exhibition areas almost weekly.

What kind of bikes will one see at the National Motorcycle Museum, you might ask? Many that most of us have experienced; Harleys, Hondas, Triumphs, BSAs, Kawasakis, etc.  But also rarities, and early bikes, you’ll get close enough to examine their finest details. Machines by Curtiss, Flying Merkel, Indian, Vincent, Brough, Maserati, NSU, Ducati, and brands like Moto Guzzi, Pannonia, Excelsior, Ariel and Zundapp, many in original paint like the amazing 1912 Henderson Four.

The National Motorcycle Museum of Anamosa is open daily except for major holidays.  It’s a not-for-profit 501 (c) (3) corporation. For more information, call 319-462-3925 or visit the Online National Museum where you can sign up for their e-newsletter or plan a trip.

16 Responses to “A Visit To The National Motorcycle Museum Of Anamosa”

  1. 1 James Parent Nov 14th, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    Went there. One of the best to visit. Friendly staff.

  2. 2 John E Adams Nov 14th, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    Thanks for the tip Cyril, was not aware of this one and look forward to a visit!

  3. 3 LENNY SINNET ASTC PERFORMANCE Nov 14th, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    Went there opening week in the new building HUGE well worth spending time there a great experience like going back in time in motorcycle history. Be going again on the JP open house weekend in June.

  4. 4 Richard Nov 14th, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    I’ve been there twice and am planning to go back. The first visit was right after it opened. The first floor was done and the lower level was being worked on. Although it was closing time the staff allowed us to stay after closing and invited us to the lower level , reminding us that it was a “work in progress”. We stated that we didn’t want to impose and they said they “were going to be there working so it wasn’t an imposition”. Nice people! When we returned a couple of years later it was of course finished. This is a first class museum with first class bikes. Everything is done well. Well worth the trip. I noticed that a lot of the bikes were on display courtesy of JP cycles. JP cycles store is just on the edge of town so you might want to stop there also…

  5. 5 Slantartist Nov 14th, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    As we headed east for the Cannonball, we arrived in Anamosa, Iowa after hours. John opened the museum & gave us a great tour, just days after returning from the clinic in Cleveland.
    I had been to the former location in the down town area several times, but this new space is a whole new level.
    There are only a handful of great American motorcycle museums in this country & this is most certainly one of them. John has been smart from day one, he realized early on not just to focus on his personal favorites, but display a broad representation for all tastes.
    Any & every motorcycle enthusiast should see this place at least once. Next time you go to Chief Blackhawk AMCA meet in Davenport it is a short drive away.

  6. 6 Joe D Nov 15th, 2010 at 7:25 am

    It is a wonderful museum and a gracious staff. They loaned us (Sturgis Motorcycle Museum) a cool bike for the Stugis Rally ……the 50th Aniversary Softail that was donated by Nace Panzica back when the National Museum was on Juction Ave.
    We will be going there soon to check out what has happened since the grand opening weekend that Lenny is talking about above and to visit with Jeff Carstensen and of course John Parham and company. We highly recommend going to check out this great place.

  7. 7 Michael Lichter Nov 15th, 2010 at 9:34 am

    They say this is a work in progress but I was there for the opening and can say with certainty that this is a must-see for motorcycle enthusiasts exactly as it appeared on that day in July. I’m already looking forward to returning in the next year to see what more they have been doing / adding / changing. Be sure to start planning your cross-country trips right through Anamosa.

  8. 8 Tamara Smith Nov 15th, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    It was an honor to be there for the grand opening last summer with Michael Lichter and Arlen Ness, but the most memorable for me was the very personal speech that John Parham made that night. It was unforgettable and touching, and clear that he and Jill worked very hard to pull it all together and have the museum “show-ready” that week – so impressive and inspiring considering John’s health last summer. It is really an awesome place where you can easily get lost in not just the bikes, but the art and memorabilia. I’m looking forward to seeing it all again next summer during the J & P Open House.

  9. 9 Sam Nov 15th, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    John Parham is a class act.

  10. 10 Mike Kiwi Tomas, Kiwi Indian Motorcycle Co Nov 15th, 2010 at 11:06 pm

    John is a class act as is his family. Always a gentleman at our antique shows, swap meets and auctions. Museums traditionally do not make money and are a huge investment however guys like John enjoy sharing this stuff with all of us.

  11. 11 Cris Sommer Simmons Nov 16th, 2010 at 1:15 am

    One of my favorite places to spend time. John and Jill and the whole staff are great people too! Don’t miss the chance to visit!

  12. 12 Wiz Nov 16th, 2010 at 5:25 am

    I wonder if the bikes have oil in ’em. Didn’t see any little pans under ’em to catch the drips. YUK-YUK!! Excellent collection. Wiz

  13. 13 mike corbin Nov 16th, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    Your are the greatest John..

  14. 14 Richard Nov 16th, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    When I wrote about my previous visits above, I was refering to the downtown location. Apparently the museum has moved. I checked the link to the museum and it appears it’s now just out of town just off 151 (near JP’s store ??). Now I must visit again and sooner rather than later. I’m sure it will be better than ever.

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