Robert Talbott’s Antique Motorcycle Museum

Moto Talbott Museum holds 150 of the world’s coolest bikes

Moto Talbott Collection
Just walking into the first room of the Moto Talbott Collection, any motor head will be in heaven.©Motorcyclist

Nestled somewhere in the back of every motor-nut’s brain is an addled group of cells dedicated to holding the fantasy of owning every bike you want—always imagining each of the loud or smooth or iconic machines that has ever tickled your proverbial fancy, and then reimagining them under one roof. A dream garage. Robert Talbott is a wheelhead like any of us, burdened by the same addiction and unable to escape the familiar illusion of the dream garage. Like any dreams in life, some of us get closer than others, and he’s doing a better job than most.

Talbott vintage streamliners
There are some everyday bikes in Talbott’s collection, and these are not those bikes. Italian streamliners from Ducati, MV Agusta, and Mondial.©Motorcyclist

Welcome to the MotoTalbott Collection. After 50 years of motorcycling and 15 years of genuinely enthusiastic collecting, Robb Talbott is opening the doors to a new motorcycle museum in Carmel Valley, California. It holds 150 examples of art and machinery blended into metal and bolted to two wheels.

Talbott museum dirt bikes
Off-road bikes are a big piece of Talbott’s past, and dirt machines are well represented in his collection. Here, the famous Husky 400 Cross is flanked by a Yamaha and a BSA.©Motorcyclist

It has a specific taste, which might be the best part. It’s not a collection of the rarest, most sought-after machines. That would be all well and good, but this collection is of bikes that he likes. Motorcycles with stories that he thinks are interesting.

Triumph leaking oil
Perhaps the perfect example of British charm in the 60s, this is one of Talbott’s actual personal bikes, a late-60s Triumph Tiger 650. He says it caught fire at 100 mph once, and to keep things interesting it leaks oil when it’s parked.©Motorcyclist

This makes a collection all the more dynamic, we think. Money will buy nearly any lump of metal. But it takes personality and perseverance to discover drama within a person or an era that only really comes to light in the eyes of true motorcyclists via the chrome in a fender, or a rusted patch on a fuel tank.

Steve McQueen Harley-Davidson
How exquisite is Talbott’s collection? How about a Harley owned by Steve McQueen, parked in front of a speed-record MV Agusta, which is parked in front of an all-original Triumph Bonneville with less than 600 miles on the clock.©Motorcyclist

Talbott started riding in the mid-1960s, first on a Honda Dream, “black, with the square fenders. I didn’t own it but I got excited when I rode it” he says, in a matter-of-fact way. Then a Trail 50, followed by a smattering of off-road and dual sport bikes that will tickle the memory banks in riders of a certain vintage. Bridgestone, Suzuki, Sachs, a Jawa that he could, “never get to run right,” and eventually a Yamaha DT-1.

MV Agusta minibike
An authentic MV Agusta minibike, originally built for Phil Read’s son, after he won a championship for the Italian marque.©Motorcyclist

He graduated college, eventually settling into a life of raising children, growing grapes, and making wine. Motorcycles settled gently into the background of his life, simmering on the back burner but not forgotten. In the late 1990s he began riding more, buying a modern iteration of the Triumph Bonneville among others. He bought a Harley bagger in 2003 and rode it to Nova Scotia from California, which began his love affair with long distance riding. Eventually, in an effort to visit distributors of his wine, Talbott rode more than 12,000 miles in 46 days covering 35 states, on his BMW R1150GS.

Talbott’s R1150GS
Talbott’s R1150GS, which he rode around the lower 48, stacking on 12,000 miles in 46 days.©Motorcyclist

Talbott is a fanatic, in the purest sense. His enthusiasm overflows and with the extra energy he has put together this museum. It’s that silly little section of his head that holds dreams, and proof that they come alive now and again. Robb Talbott’s dream garage is coming to life in Carmel Valley, California right before our eyes. We’ll be shouting from the rooftops when it opens later this summer.

Talbott museum barn finds
How much does Talbott love searching for motorcycle stories? He’s got a whole room dedicated to barn finds.©Motorcyclist
Talbott's 9-cylinder DC-3 engine
It’s not just bikes at Talbott’s. Also vintage trucks, and the occasional 9-cylinder DC-3 engine sitting around.©Motorcyclist