The advent of the novel coronavirus has altered public life on a global scale. Routine events like work meetings, shopping, and meeting up with friends have all but moved to digital spaces. In the motorcycling world, manufacturers have resorted to live feed showcases in lieu of in-person motorcycle shows and MotoGP just completed its first virtual race during this season’s ongoing suspension. While COVID-19's collateral damage forces us settle for diluted digital versions of our favorite experiences, it can open our eyes to tools we’ve had at our fingertips all along.
Almost everyone is privy to the Street View feature in Google Maps, but many don’t know that you explore the Ducati, BMW, and Harley-Davidson museums within the Street View mode. By simply dragging and dropping the flailing little orange character over the premises of the hall of hogs in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the Museo Ducati in Bologna, Italy, or the BMW Welt in Munich, Germany, you can gain access to some of the most legendary collections of motorcycles in the world—all without changing out of your pajamas.
For the Harlistas out there, a pilgrimage to the hog holy land is usually the trip of a lifetime. With the recent Mama Tried motorcycle show cancellation, many Harley faithful also missed out on a chance to also visit the Motor Company's museum and campus. However, that shouldn’t stop fans from checking out 117 years of motorcycling history in the most sterile environment possible—the internet. Exhibiting board track racers, military service Harleys, and the sprawling gas tank wall, Google Maps offers exclusive access to hog heaven for those restricted from leaving their residence.
If you happen to be a Ducatista instead, a digital tour of Museo Ducati is also available. Though COVID-19 forced Ducati’s museum to close in early March, the digital doors are still open via Street View. From the original Scrambler and Monster to World Record one-off builds and World Superbike Champion Ducati 851, the legendary models only lend to the lore of the Borgo firm. Yes, navigating through the labyrinthine halls of Museo Ducati isn’t as easy as shuffling through them with your own feet, but the history and beauties in red are worth an afternoon of surfing the internet.
Unlike Ducati and Harley, BMW restricts the Street Views of its museum to particular points of interest. Housing both cars and motorcycles, Beemer’s facilities tell a comprehensive story of the brand’s engineering and achievements. The points of interest provide views of the company’s heralded F1 race machines, electric vehicle concepts, and classic cars of yesteryear. While motorcycles are displayed throughout sections of the museum, bike-specific exhibits include a wall of historic BMW models and a room featuring fan-favorites like the R 90S and RS 500.
No, touring these virtual museums doesn’t replace the experience of actually being there, but in times like these, it’s a welcome distraction. Hopefully, a little taste of the museum in a digital space will coax people to visit them in-person because manufacturers may need the help once all this is over.