Clovis News

Clovis motorcycle museum celebrates 20 years

A Clovis neighborhood is home to a real blast from the past -- about 100 vintage flat-track racing motorcycles and hundreds of other memorabilia from the sport.

Everything is displayed in the Dan Rouit Flat Track Motorcycle Museum, which is next to the home where founder Dan Rouit was raised.

The museum opened at 309 W. Rialto Ave. in 1991 and twice expanded to reach its current 4,800 square feet.

Racing enthusiasts from all over the state are expected to gather at the museum's 20th anniversary open house from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday, May 15.

The street will be blocked off. Neighbors will allow people to park in their yards and will help barbecue tri-tip, which will be sold for lunch.

As a special treat to racing fans, the Indian Motorcycle used in the "The World's Fastest Indian" movie, starring Anthony Hopkins, will be displayed -- and fired up at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

The museum, which sits back off the street and has a sign so small it's hardly visible, doesn't have set business hours. It remains pretty quiet throughout the year. Visitors must call Rouit to make an appointment.

"We've been trying to get the word out about us for 20 years." says Rouit, 53.

It hasn't been easy. Flat-track motorcycle racing today is dead, he says. About 12 Valley tracks that used to present pro events from Merced to Bakersfield are either closed or emphasize amateur events.

But the museum comes alive for the annual open house, when those connected with the sport come to swap stories and relive the past.

Rouit loves to talk racing.

His interest began with go-karts at age 5, racing them at the old Kerman track. He also rode mini-trail bikes just for fun over vacant lots. Then, flat-track motorcycles caught his eye. At 12, he first raced a Bultaco 250 Pursang, making the semifinal in a novice class at Porterville.

As Rouit grew, he graduated to larger bikes and expert class. At 16, he raced a Yamaha 250, a brakeless bike. He continued racing for four more years until a nonracing-related accident.

While walking with his best friend in the foothills near North Fork, Rouit slipped on a moss-covered boulder and fell 120 feet, breaking his neck. At 20, he was a quadriplegic.

Loving family support brought him out of his depression, Rouit says, and he became a rabid fan. "I never lost the love of the sport," he says.

From his wheelchair, he read stacks of motorcycle magazines, falling in love with the Indian bikes. At an antique show in Reedley, he met actor Steve McQueen, who passed on the name of an Indian bike owner. That resulted in Rouit buying a 1912 Indian, a tribute to the Board Track Racers at the turn of the century.

The 1912 Indian had no suspension in the front or rear. No transmission. No throttle. It needed to be towed up to speed. Rouit crammed it in his bedroom along with his Honda mini-trail bike Z50 and full-size Triumph 650.

"I'm impressed how they came up with these things," he says.

As he collected more magazines, posters, photos and other memorabilia, Rouit was running out of room.

After marrying, he and wife Kathy decided to start the flat-track motorcycle museum in a 1,200-square-foot room. The goal was to preserve and display America's racing motorcycle history. Others involved in the sport kept contributing motorcycles and memorabilia "on loan" to the museum, which led to a first and second expansion. Rouit says he owns about half of the museum's collection.

Bob Miller, a member of the Central California Classic Cycle Club, credits so many people willing to help Rouit realize a dream with the museum.

"There are a lot of old racers out there, and this gives them a place to channel their energies," he says. "I don't know if any of this would have happened if people didn't just want to help Dan."

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