Celebrate the Great American Motorcycle

Warm weather, spectacular views and a strong sense of community are just a few of the factors attracting motorcyclists from far and wide to Northeast Florida. Catering to the interests of such a diverse group of riders, the annual Riding into History event marks its 20th anniversary this week.

It’s a celebration of the great American motorcycle, featuring hundreds of antique, race and custom bikes from all over the country. In addition to an array of beautiful bikes, there will also be exhibitors, dealers, food, entertainment and exhibitions on display for the nearly 5,000 expected attendees.

“Just like how Amelia Island is a concours for cars, World Golf Village is a concours for motorcycles,” William Robinson told Folio Weekly. Robinson is the founding chairman of RIH Inc. and a lifelong motorcyclist. “I’ve been involved in this event since it’s inception. It’s a great family event at a beautiful location, where all the motorcycles will be displayed around a lake and down a tree-shaded walk.”

The annual event was conceived, according to Robinson, as a pit stop on a national charity ride. In the year 2000, The Atlantic Beach Vintage Motorcycle Club’s president, Billy Aldrich, agreed to host women riders as they made their way across the country to raise money for breast cancer. A breakfast was arranged for the guest riders at World Golf Village; the locals decided to take the opportunity to show off their vintage motorcycles. (A vintage motorcycle is typically a bike that is more than 30 years old.)

“Everyone really enjoyed the event,” Robinson recalled, “so after the one-time breakfast was over, we decided to hold something like it again every year. I had come up with a t-shirt for the Atlantic Beach Vintage Motorcycle Club that said ‘Riding into History.’ We decided to use that name … and from then on, the event became more or less what it is today.”

The 2019 festivities begin with the Grand Marshal’s Historic Grand Tour on Friday evening. Leading into the next day’s main event, all Riding Into History concours entrants are invited to participate in a scenic ride through the back roads of historic Florida. Riding alongside a Grand Marshal is always a privilege, and this year’s Grand Marshal is especially noteworthy. Gloria Struck, 94, is the first woman to hold the honor. Following her Grand Tour, the lifelong motorcycle rider is set to address some 200 guests at the Grand Marshal’s dinner. She plans to discuss her many, many motorcycle adventures.

“Motorcycle riding has traditionally been dominated by men, but more and more women are getting involved,” said Robinson, who has ridden across six continents alongside his wife, Valerie. “There was one woman who really stood out as the female leader of motorcycle riding, and that

was [Struck].”

The Grand Marshal began riding Harley Davidson motorcycles at the age of 16; she has since ridden more than half a million miles around the world. Robinson noted that as a result of her experience, she has really become a symbol for women involved in motorcycle riding in the United States.

The official Riding into History Concours d’Elegance is held on Saturday, with gifts and outstanding awards distributed throughout the day.

Riding into History uses its platform to showcase vintage bikes while raising money for charities, including K9s for Warriors, a Jacksonville-based non-profit that pairs rescued animals with military veterans. Thus far, the event has raised over $30,000 for this organization alone. With more entrants and spectators coming together to celebrate Riding into History’s 20th year, the event’s contributing members hope to raise more than ever before.

“The purpose of it is really to display the historic nature and the beauty of vintage motorcycles, plus to raise money for charities. No one has ever been paid to work on this event because we want to maximize what we’re able to give to charity,” Robinson explained. “The decision to make K9s for Warriors our charity for the last several years was personal since the organization is locally based, although national in scope.”

This year also marks the 5th anniversary of Riding into History’s Youth Judging Program. Incorporating young motorcycle enthusiasts—ages 8 to 16—into their volunteer base, the event gives young people the opportunity to learn about classic, vintage and antique motorcycles. In return, the children and teens are trained to evaluate the motorcycles, and each youth judge is allowed to hand out an award to their favorite bike.

The event is a crossroads of motorcycle fandom, with clubs and individual collectors converging to show off their wheels. Regional groups include BMW Northeast Florida (BMW NEF), the Historic Motorcycle Society, the Jacksonville Beach Chrome Divas, the Local Motorcycle Club of America, the Christian Motorcyclist Association and the Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club (VJMC).

“Trust me,” assured Robinson, “if you have any interest in the history of motorcycles, this is the premiere event in the United States.”