In a vast former lumber warehouse, just south of Newburgh’s downtown, sits Motorcyclepedia, a museum that brings a father and son’s massive motorcycle collection to the public.
The 85,000-square-foot, two-story museum displays more than 500 vintage and rare motorcycles, ranging from classics produced in the early 20th century to more eclectic and rare motorcycles, such as a chopper designed to look like a flaming chariot.
Motorcylepedia was born of a collection of motorcycles built up by Gerald Doering and his son, Ted, over decades. They launched the museum in 2011 with more than 400 motorcycles. The father and son team built up their collection after launching a successful wholesale motorcycle parts business, V-Twin Manufacturing, in Orange County in 1971.
The museum carries an especially large collection of motorcycles by the company Indian. First produced out of Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1901, Indian manufactured and sold motorcycles as a prominent American brand until going out of business in 1953. The name has been brought back by other manufacturers a few times since, most recently in 2011 by Polaris, which also makes the Victory brand of motorcycles.
The Indian display on the museum’s main floor offers a timeline of all the Indian motorcycles the company produced in its original lifespan. Starting with the first bike the company made in 1901, the display stretches across two walls to show a motorcycle from ever year the company was in business through 1953. The display shows the transformation of the motorcycle to the larger bike popular today.
“Visitors are especially interested to see that timeline and the transition,” museum archivist Dale Prusinowski says. “From what looks very much like a bicycle in 1901, basically a bicycle with an engine, you can see how it evolved through the years.”
The museum also smartly and meticulously chronicles the motorcycle’s place in American pop culture. It features a replica of the motorcycle Peter Fonda rode in the 1969 film “Easy Rider.” It has the real skull-studded chopper from the 2007 Nicholas Cage film “Ghost Rider.” And it has two motorcycles that once belonged to Steve McQueen and a Harley-Davidson from Billy Joel’s personal collection on the museum’s lower level.
Movie posters, books, comic books and other original memorabilia adorn the walls and displays to add historical background to each motorcycle. The museum has more than 2,500 pieces of motorcycle memorabilia.
“Any movie that has a motorcycle in it, we probably have the poster for it,” Prusinowski says.
A large display downstairs of police and military motorcycles includes a Harley-Davidson that was part of the motorcade behind President John F. Kennedy when he was assassinated in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. The bike was later used in the 1991 film “JFK,” which starred Kevin Costner.
Other standouts include the museum’s display of custom choppers from famous designers and customizers. There’s one designed to look like a dragon and an exact motorcycle replica carved completely from wood. The museum also offers a large Harley-Davidson collection and a variety of rare American and imported motorcycle brands. That includes an exact replica of an 1885 Daimler, believed to be the first true motorcycle ever produced.
Definitely not to be missed are the two large motordromes set up on the museum’s lower level. Known as the “Wall of Death,” the motordrome is a carnival-type attraction where a rider races around the walls of a cylindrical wood enclosure at up to 40 miles per hour until reaching a horizontal position. The museum also has a third motordrome outside.
While the museum will surely appeal most to motorcycle lovers, anyone with an interest in history will find plenty to look at and read about in the museum’s huge range of bikes and exhibits. Thomas Murphy Jr., a museum archivist, says the museum attracts a wide range of visitors in addition to motorcycle enthusiasts and clubs.
“You might get the impression that it’s just the biker types,” Murphy says. “Well, we have those, but we also have families that come in here with children. Business groups. There’s really not a typical visitor.”
The museum, at 250 Lake St. in Newburgh, is open Fridays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more, visit motorcyclepediamuseum.org.