33rd Annual Los Angeles All-British Hansen Dam Ride
One day Bill “Bib” Bibbiani promises to record his famous quips. After more than 30 years in the SoCal Norton Club (founded 1979) and as the “Voice of Hansen Dam” for a couple decades, he’s got plenty at the ready. Over those years, he’s probably put more vintage Nortons back on the road than anybody we can think of—the go-to guy if you want a Norton of your own. A small herd of them returned with their owners to take part in the 33rd annual Hansen Dam Ride staged out in the boonies of Sunland/Tujunga, California, about a 30 minute putt from downtown Los Angeles. “Yeah, I always get worried at Hansen Dam when my past customers show up. You never know who might have a rusty spoke in their hand, but so far, no complaints.”
There were no complaints about this year’s weather either, especially when compared to the deluge that greeted “Dammers” last year. This go around, the sea to shining sea of chrome showed not a drop of rain, albeit some sweat with temperatures escalating way past balmy later in the day. Over 500 riders returned from the 95-mile loop through the canyons of the western San Gabriel mountains with no mishaps or encounters with the Law.
The “ride” is part of what’s technically called the All British Hansen Dam Ride, although it is probably best known as “The Best Ride by a Dam site.” About 70 perent of the vintage bikes showing up for Hansen Dam this year were British, the rest mostly Italian, Japanese and German. Says Bib, about to celebrate his 72nd birthday, “It’s good to see the young guys modifying their bikes to look like vintage British bikes, and more power to them. If we don’t interest them in our bikes, who the hell is going to buy them when we die?”
At the end of the day show, bike results were tabulated and the awards were announced, the judges all being longtime club members. Along with some 65 bikes entered, one of the highlights of the bike show was the appearance of the famous blue Vincent ridden and raced by Marty Dickerson. In 1952, Marty and his 1946 Rapide clocked 141.72 mph on pump gas, setting a long-standing AMA Class C record at Bonneville.
Now Bib will be the first to remind everyone that the judging is not of the Pebble Beach variety. No one checked if the original air was in the tires. Like the club, the judging standards are on the casual side. Basically, they look for vintage bikes that are actually ridden rather than garage furniture or living room art.
In fact, the SoCal Norton Club has no rules, no officers, no politics or causes, no secret handshake…and they like it that way. As Bib says, “We have about 800 members on our email list. Make a donation even once and you’re on it forever, but we are deliberately not organized enough to bill anybody. We take in enough at Hansen Dam each year to pay for the next one.” (Bib and 35 fellow Brit riders recently completed a 2,300 mile Route 66 ride from St. Louis to Santa Monica. For 2013, the SoCal Norton Club will conduct 15 rides all over California, including Death Valley, Big Sur and a “Keep the Water on Your Right” Seattle to Los Angeles run in September.)
Summing it up Bib says, “My wife, Janet, and I have done Hansen Dam for 23 years and I couldn’t do it without her and also without the help of the other volunteers who made the Ride a success. We just want people to know that you can have a great time on an old bike. That said, I don’t care what you ride; you still won’t be more than a few minutes ahead of us at the end of the day.”
For more information, visit socalnorton.com.
Hansen Dam Ride Bike Show Winners
Best Norton: 1952 International – Bob Ives
Best Triumph: 1963 Bathtub enclosed 350cc – Gordon Russell
Best BSA: 1968 Rocket 3 – Daniel Schoenewald
Best Custom: Norvin (Vincent Norton hybrid) – Larry Horn
Best Other: Rickman Triumph – Dave Tonkiss
Best of Show: 1937 Velocette Single – Bob Ives