Carole Nash
Content Writer
Published: 1st November 2017

At Motorcycle Live 2017, you’ll be able to admire a variety of gorgeous machines. The exhibitions range from an Isle of Man TT feature, to a KTM ‘Ready to Race’ feature. Perhaps the most extensive exhibition is the Classic Feature supported by the National Motorcycle Museum. The museum houses the largest collection of British motorbikes in the world. The Classic Feature will have an emphasis on adventure and off-road machines. To celebrate the event, we’re looking into the history of the National Motorcycle Museum.

Founded by a self-made man

The National Motorcycle Museum was the brainchild of businessman Roy Richards. He was best known for his British Crane Hire Corporation and Richards & Wallington. One of his passions was buying motorbikes and he built up an impressive collection throughout the 1960s and ‘70s.

The museum was opened in 1984 and Richards didn’t take a step back. It was said that he arrived at the office at 4.30am in a dressing gown, worked until 7.30am, showered and dressed and then got back to the office when the staff arrived at 8.30am. Richards continued to be a presence at the museum until he passed away in 2008. His wife and sons carried on his legacy.

Fire and rejuvenation

In 2003, the museum was badly damaged by a fire. A discarded cigarette had ignited a box of air-conditioning filters, causing flames to spread rapidly. The lack of a sprinkler system was an issue, but the fire was contained relatively quickly. Staff managed to recover more than 300 historic motorbikes. 120 firefighters were needed to put out the blaze and 380 motorbikes were lost. The museum was reopened in December 2004 after a £20 million rebuild.

Modern day

The National Motorcycle Museum has since bounced back and earned its place as one of the greatest museums in the world. It’s home to 170 different marques and has over 1000 British motorbikes. The exhibits are broken down into the following display halls:

Hall 1

The first hall contain British machines dating from 1898 to 1960. Some of the bikes include powerful 650 ccs and Sunbeams.

Hall 2

Hall 2 contains military bikes, Brough Superiors, prototypes and police vehicles.

Hall 3

This hall contains a large collection of BSA and Matchless motorbikes.

Hall 4

Hall 4 is where you can find Triumph, Norton and Royal Enfield bikes.

Hall 5

Hall 5 contains various competition motorbikes, including on road and off road.

Many of these bikes will be on display at Motorcycle Live. For more information on the event check out