Trail Bike Museum Owner Jim Hoellerich Passes Away

CHESHIRE, MA – The longtime owner of the private Museum of Vintage Trail Bikes, Jim Hoellerich, has died at 88. He passed away on Sunday, one day after hundreds of riders attended one last open house at the hilltop museum he founded that houses 100 or so models made by such companies as OSSA, Bultaco, Penton and Yankee.

“Jim passed away only hours after the event ended,” wrote friend Paul Stannard in an email to RIDE-CT & RIDE-New England. “Jim is gone but his legacy will live on forever here in the Northeast and around the country.”

A celebration of Hoellerich’s life is planned for 11 a.m. June 25th at the farm where he started the museum more than 30 years ago. Besides old bikes, the museum has signage, vintage leathers, boots, and trophies from races past. It began with some relic OSSA models.

Paul Stannard and Jim Hoellerich – Photo courtesy of Paul Stannard

Museum Came About By Accident

“A guy had four or five of them in town,” Hoellerich said back in 2010, recalling how he bought the OSSAs and was able to salvage enough parts to make two complete bikes. The collection grew over time, with pieces from “here, there and everywhere. A lot of people find me. I’ve got some (bikes) that people donated.”

Hoellerich was a restorer, curator and the person to call to book an appointment to tour the museum. “I’m a collector. I don’t sell,” he said.

Museum of Vintage Trail Bikes – Courtesy of Karen Salemi

The museum was started so Hoellerich would have something to do to occupy his time after retirement and for the company it brought him. He didn’t charge admission but he did accept donations.

“Everybody said, ‘You’re going to get lonesome when you retire,’” said the former dairyman, who figured “maybe a few people would stop to see.” He ended up getting at least 400 to 500 visitors a year — by appointment only. “I’m open whenever you call. I tell everyone to call ahead. I’m always getting calls. It’s worked out real good.”

Open House Sendoff Was Well Attended

Sunday’s sendoff for Hoellerich was well attended. “The open house had well over 300 fans and friends of Jim’s showing up to show the love to him for all that he has meant to us all these years,” Stannard wrote.

Back in 2010, Hoellerich said that artifacts in the museum would be sold upon his death. “All the stuff’s going to auction. It’s in my will,” he said. Maybe the collection will remain intact, but even if it doesn’t, “It’ll go to collectors anyway.”

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About Bud Wilkinson

Bud Wilkinson writes the "RIDE-CT" motorcycle column and the "My Ride" classic car feature in the "Republican-American" newspaper in Waterbury, CT. A graduate of Vermont Academy, he received a B.A. degree journalism from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1975. He is the recipient of a Scripps Howard Foundation National Journalism Award in 1992 and a 1991-92 regional Emmy Award for commentary. He currently rides a 1987 BMW R 80 RT and a 2014 Triumph Bonneville and drives a 2010 Mazda MX-5 Miata and 2008 Ford Ranger pickup.

6 comments

  1. Watching a video now of his museum, what a wonderful man he must’ve been and such great taste in bikes! Sooo many of his restorations I would love to own even though my riding days are over. I hope someone out there continues his legacy with these forgotten treasures of our past. R.I.P.

  2. great guy!!! he bought 2 of my bikes. he thought my price was LOW so he gave me more!!!!! what a guy. A LEGEND!!!

  3. Jim was a great guy. Had the pleasure of meeting him several times and taking him to lunch. Super guy with lots of stories. He will be missed. Happy trails Jim and I’ll see you on the other side.

  4. Man , sorry to hear props to him for having this museum. Always wanted to check it out and never got there. Guys like him are a dying breed. Our history is slowly dying. Or should I say our physical history.

  5. July 30th, 2022 will be the date for the auction of Jim Hollerichs Trail Bike Museum amazing collection!!! Over 145 vintage dirtbikes, restored engines, parts, gear and memorabilia to be sold. This will be a fun event, right at the museums location in Cheshire MA.
    Auction to be done by J Wood and Company. Info and pictures will be posted asap online.

  6. Jim will be missed. He was a long time customer of mine buying parts for the Penton Motorcycles that he had acquired. He never watched TV. He spent his spare time working on restoring all the bikes that are in his museum. He enjoyed bringing the bikes back to life and for those of you who have had the opportunity to visit his museum, he was very talented in his restorations. They are all top notch.
    Jim sponsored 2 ISDT Re-Union rides at his property. The first one was in 2003 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the 1973 ISDT event that was held in Dalton Massachusetts and was well attended.
    If my memory is correct, the 2nd event was held on his property in 2013 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the 1973 ISDT.
    I would see Jim every year at the AMA Vintage Days event at Mid-Ohio where he would stop at my booth space to say hello before going across the road to the Penton Owners Group display to pay his respects to John Penton and reup his membership with the POG. He was always upbeat, friendly, and a joy to be with.

    Jim, you will always live on in my memory and those that you have met over the years.

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