- a brief overview
It was Alexander Leutner who founded Latvia's bicycle/motorcycle/automobile industry when he opened his Cycle Manufactory in Riga in 1886.
Motorcycling became an important hobby and sport in Latvia and flourished during its first independence between 1918 & 1940. At that time you could buy any British, American, German, or You-name-it machine through established dealers in Latvia.
This has largely contributed to the comparatively high incidence of historic motorcycles in Latvia - even in the post-war years. Soon after the Antique Automobile Club of Latvia (AAK) was founded in 1972, a Vintage Motorcycle Section (SMS) rose like a Phoenix from the ashes.
From the start it was a hard struggle to get recognition in the club; however, the biggest motorcycle event in Latvia during the "Iron Curtain" years was organized in Riga in 1985 to celebrate the centenary of the motorcycle. Juris Ramba, the chief organizer of the rally, managed to involve the USSR motorcycle industry and the Ministry of Road Transport of Latvia. Nine motorcycle plants from all over the USSR sent their teams with old and modern machines to Riga, making it a unique and very interesting event.
It was also of great value to the Riga Motor Museum, resulting in new contacts being made with the right people in the industry - this led directly to later acquisitions of unique racing machines which can now be inspected there.
As chief organizer of several important vintage rallies in the past "Iron Curtain" times, Juris Ramba well remembers the days when there were no such things as mobile phones, e-mails, websites or even faxes - the only communication options with prospective participants in the rest of the world were by written letters and telex/cable messages. Phone calls to the Western world had to be ordered a day in advance (!) and were not always delivered. Yet all these hardships were overcome by enthusiasm and goodwill. A strong advocate of International Vintage Rallies, Juris hosted the following events: RIGA-88 - the International Riga Motor Museum Inauguration Rally (170 vehicles!).
RIGA-92 - the first International Rally after Latvia became independent.