During a rare moment of calm, Todd Copan is sitting in a plastic lawn chair by one of the large doors of the Agriplex, chatting to a friend.
This massive facility is used to seeing horses, cattle and drinking visitors to the Cloverdale Rodeo—an event that happens every May long weekend. But it’s not everyday that it’s loaded up with motorcycles. Todd and his family have been organizing this event for decades, but this is the first time it has been held here, and through his welcoming smile, I can see some nerves.
“It’s been totally resurfaced,” he says in reference to the floor, which is now partially covered in bikes and tables filling up with parts and memorabilia.
I caught Todd chatting with his son, Mack, and fielding vendors’ questions as they wheel in their wares on dollies. I see everything from boxes of collector’s magazines to windscreens to sprockets. Older gents in leathers and younger guys with well-tended facial hair hurry to set up their tables this afternoon before the show.
Todd invites me to see the featured classic bike of the show.
In front of a red curtain, I see a 1939 Velocette Roarer holding a 500-cc parallel twin, single overhead camshaft engine with shaft drive, designed to meet the standards of the 500-cc class at the Isle of Man TT race.
Owner and designer Dan Smith spent over two years designing and creating this replica of the 500-cc 1939 Velocette Roarer. — Gabe Khouth photo
“Dan Smith will be there tomorrow,” Todd tells me, in reference to the owner of this faithfully designed replica. “He spent over two years working on it.”
It is a thing of beauty, standing on a centre stand, the rectangular tank nearly flush with the spring-loaded seat.
It’s a great welcome and hint of what’s to come for the next day.
Why I’m here
I’m a first-time vendor at the swap meet. Later, while setting up my table with copies of my book about my motorcycle travels into northern B.C., I realize I have less labour ahead than do the fellows across from me who are unloading knobby tires, handlebars and rear wheels.
The author, Trevor Marc Hughes, settles into his booth as the event doors open. — Gabe Khouth photo
The B.C. Classic Motorcycle Club has taken up the table to my left. Two tall guys are wheeling in a very eye-catching white and blue 1980 GS1000S. My Kawasaki KLR650 will look like a donkey when I park next to it tomorrow.
A new home for the show
This event has been running for 29 years. Some of the vendors at this swap meet were there when the event’s doors opened for the first time in 1986. It began as a vintage specialty event that now has broadened its view and taken in many other periods and types of motorcycles.
Everyone from the Hell’s Angels to Gospel Rider are welcomed.
The home of the event was in Delta for the earlier years, but a last minute contract cancellation by the Corporation of Delta forced Todd to close his doors on the family-run event for the first time in 2014, devastating him and vendors.
“Cloverdale Fairgrounds called and welcomed us to see their facility,” Todd tells me with visible relief on his face. “They’ve been extremely easy to work with.”
For a newbie vendor like me, Todd has sage advice:
“Go to the washroom before the show opens as you may not get a chance after 10 a.m. Enjoy yourself and talk to people. Some (vendors) will sit and don’t interact with the buyers. I tell them to stand up and smile and talk to people.”
He’s glad that I’ve come early to set up.
A busy day ahead
The next day I’m wheeling my Kawasaki into the cavernous Agriplex across the new concrete floor. It has filled up with about 125 vendor booths.
One section is reserved just for the show ‘n’ shine part of the event, where I see the boxer engine of a BMW R100 and the well-aged frame of an Erie motorcycle, as well as a well-tended BSA and a Norton Commando.
An early 20th century Erie motorcycle was on display. — Gabe Khouth photo
I’m tempted to linger, but I need to bring my bike to my booth before the doors open. Mack told me the day before that the first few hours after opening are the busiest with visitors searching for things on their wish lists.
“You’ll see the look in their eyes,” he said with an experienced grin.
My booth table has 8- x 10-inch printed photos spread out in-between small easels supporting my foam board book posters. Sitting down after having completed my set-up with my friend Gabe Khouth, who is scanning the Agriplex excitedly, I’m reminded of how I found out about this event.
Accomplished rider and writer Wally Klammer offered to share his table with me at the swap meet the year before (the event that unfortunately got cancelled). Klammer passed away in September 2014. I’ll not forget the generosity of his offer and wish he were sharing my table today.
Shaking hands and sharing stories
The doors open. I exchange a few excited words with David at the B.C. Classic Motorcycle Club table to my left. He tells me how he rode through Africa in the 1980s and how he knows author and motorcycle traveller Ted Simon, who is someone I’m proud to have met a few years ago.
The Suzuki GS1000S was a stunning welcome to the B.C. Classic Motorcycle Club's booth. — Gabe Khouth photo
Before we can talk much more, the crowds arrive.
The next few hours are an enjoyable exchange between visitors and me, chatting about motorcycle travels they have made, wish lists of trips they’d like to take in the future and curiosity about my preparation and experiences travelling into the north of B.C.
The exchanges were energizing. I sell some books. I talk with delegates from the annual general meeting of the Canadian Vintage Motorcycle Group that came from Ontario and Alberta. I shoot the breeze with folks from Washington State who were part of the Mount Vernon Vintage Motorcycle Swap Meet and Bike Show the day before.
It is clearly a huge community of motorcyclists that I am just starting to get to know.
Gabe comes back to report about his travels across the Agriplex, wearing a newly bought white and black cap from Vancouver’s The Shop.
“Just an awesome collection of motorbikes over there,” he exclaims as he gestures to the area a few tables deep behind me.
I’ll have to live vicariously through him and ask him to take a few pictures for me.
Row upon row of much-loved classic bikes in the show ‘n’ shine section. — Gabe Khouth photo
As a new venue, the Agriplex seems ideal for the show. Plenty of room for visitors to walk through meant I saw no pushing or shoving. Lots of seating space in the stands meant visitors could take a break, have a snack or some lunch, and get a good view of the whole space.
The only complaints I heard were to do with the limited food choices and the cost of entry ($12 per person).
Many side cars were on display too. — Gabe Khouth photo
But considering the wide range of motorcycles, paraphernalia and collectibles on offer, and taking into account the event got cancelled the year before—forcing the Copan family to brace for the economic backlash that came from the sudden end of a venue option—I think the cost of entry is worth it.
The impressive event T-shirts, with a print of the featured 1939 Velocette Roarer, were only $20. There were plenty of laughs and smiles from where I was standing.
A fair-sized crowd gathered outside the Agriplex building to admire the collection of bikes in the parking lot. — Gabe Khouth photo
See you next year
The clinks and clanks of vendors packing up the remaining wares indicated the event would be closing up soon.
Mack drops by with a combination of relief and exhaustion showing on his face. It makes sense. After all, his family works on the swap meet preparations full-time, starting in January each year. He tells me they’ll assess things after the dust settles from the event, but from his perspective, it went well.
There were some modern motorcycles at the show too. — Gabe Khouth photo
I think there are many visitors and vendors that thought so too. It was a great day out.
Trevor Marc Hughes is a motorcyclist and freelance writer based in Vancouver, B.C. His articles have appeared in RidersWest as well as Inside Motorcycles and Canadian Biker Magazine. Hughes is also the author of Nearly 40 on the 37, a tell-all tale of his solo motorcycle adventure through northern B.C. in 2012.
Maybe not technically a classic, but here is an early Kawasaki KLR650—the predecessor to Trevor Marc Hughes' bike. — Gabe Khouth photo