Leno gives a glimpse of his vast motorcycle collection

Charles Fleming
Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles — Jay Leno is as famous for his vintage cars as he is for his comedy, thanks to his long-running “Jay Leno’s Garage” TV show.

But the former late-night host is just as passionate about motorcycles, and just as knowledgeable. Leno has one of the most interesting collections of two-wheeled machines in his museum-like gallery.

It includes the world’s most extensive collection of Brough Superiors, which to some collectors is the finest motorcycle ever made, and which Leno calls “the first superbike.”

Leno bought his first Brough in the 1980s, paying $5,000 for a 1939 model that drew scoffs from friends.

“People thought, that’s crazy — five-thousand dollars,’” Leno remembers. “But now they’re half-a-million-dollar motorcycles.”

The machines were known for their speed at a time when most motorcycles didn’t go very fast. The Broughs were regularly clocked at over 100 miles per hour — “a ton,” in the slang of the day — in the 1920s.

Such vintage machines require the operator’s total attention, and a good deal of maintenance, and even then are prone to falling apart.

Leno was almost poetic about the charm of riding vintage bikes, even as he acknowledged that faster, safer and much more dependable motorcycles can be had for less money — and considerably less work.

“You control your own destiny. If it stops running, you try to get a spark and some fuel and some air and you get it running again. You feel like you’ve really accomplished something,” he said.

As he ages, Leno, 67, said he has become increasingly aware of the dangers of falling, but wants to continue riding as long as he feels he can do it safely.