The Ballad of Billy Joel’s Motorcycle Shop

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The same guy who sang “Uptown Girl” and “Piano Man” is also a motorcycle man who has a great history with motorbikes and a shop called 20th Century Cycles.

Billy Joel has always loved motorcycles, specifically vintage ones and specifically motorcycle design. Take a visit to his shop in Oyster Bay, N.Y., on Long Island, and you will see a merging of the old and the new. Because newer bikes are built much better, Joel understands that their reliability is important. But you can’t deny the aesthetics of classic bikes, so 20th Century has found a way to combine the two.

20th Century Cycles is a museum of sorts. Visitors clamor on travel sites about how real and pristine the classic bikes look, much different than the standard ones we are used to seeing as they rumble through city streets. While there are myriad bikes for display, visitors can also look at some of the restoration work going on in the shop, a stellar opportunity to see just how much detail goes into the process.

The shop is not a museum, as mentioned earlier, it just feels like one. Still, each bike is registered in Joel’s name and they all have current license plates. One reviewer on a travel site said that Joel comes into his shop and decides which bike he wants to ride that day and simply heads out.

Visitors will find the cycles but there is also a smattering of other restored old-school things like a Chevrolet pickup truck and old gashouse signs as well.

Motorcycles will never make Joel as famous as his did. His first hit was “Piano Man” way back in 1973 and since then he has been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Long Island Music Hall of Fame. He’s one of the best-selling artists of all time and over the course of three decades (70s through the 90s) he achieved an amazing 33 top hits in the United States.

He takes his passion seriously, though, and visitors will find that the shop is not open to make a huge profit, but rather was opened simply because Joel needed more space to work with the bikes he loves.

Visitors can definitely catch a glimpse of the man himself at the shop, as some on the Internet have attested to, and even if Joel is not there, there is staff at the shop who can answer questions from curious visitors. Hours are strange at the place, so previous visitors recommend calling ahead to see if 20th Century Cycles is open on the day you want to go.

For a tourist looking to check out the collection, Oyster Bay can be reached by the train system that connects Long Island to New York City, though it takes about 90 minutes and will require roughly two train connections. Want to drive? It’s about a 30-mile drive but with traffic usually heavy in the area, expect the drive to be about an hour.

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