How’d you like to ride across the country like this? Hats off to the riders and teams that competed in this year’s Coast to Coast Motorcycle Cannonball Endurance Run for Pre-1916 Motorcycles. We commend you for your spirit and resolve.
They’ve done it! After 16 days and 3294 miles in the saddle, riders participating in the Coast to Coast Motorcycle Cannonball Endurance Run for Pre-1916 Motorcycles pulled into the Santa Monica Pier this weekend after a grueling cross country race. Of the 45 vintage motorcycles that started the event in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, 37 were still running at its end. Ten of those posted perfect scores of 3294 miles ridden within the allotted time frame. As miles wore on, metal fatigue began to take its toll and motor mounts, kick stands and fender tabs started breaking off, but the engines began running better than ever. This is a testament to the hard work of the support crews and the camaraderie between teams who helped out one another to keep the motorcycles running and in the competition.
Despite the fact that 10 riders finished the contest with perfect scores, Brad Wilmarth was declared the winner. His 1913 Excelsior was the oldest motorcycle with a perfect score, a fact that handed him the overall title. He also won Class II for twin- and four-cylinder, single-speed motorcycles. Wilmarth was awarded a painting by David Uhl entitled “Baker Cannon Ball” for his efforts.
Germany’s Katrin Boehner won Class 1 (single-cylinder, single-speed bikes) on her 250cc 1907 J.A.P. Boehner logged more miles than any other competitors in the single-cylinder, single-speed class at 3002. She was awarded a beautiful commemorative bronze “Cannonball” statue created by artist and fellow Cannonballer, Jeff Decker.
Rick McMaken won Class 3, consisting of single, twins and four-cylinder bikes with two or three-speed transmissions, on his 1915 Harley-Davidson. There were seven 1915 Harleys and one 1915 Excelsior that finished with perfect scores in the class, which forced the verdict to the final tie breaker – rider’s ages. McMaken, the eldest competitor at 69 years old, was awarded the victory, and deservedly so. He also received an original David Uhl painting entitled “Winner’s Table.”
The Motorcycle Cannonball did not go down without incident. Participant Matt Olsen, a talented young custom bike builder, broke his left forearm and his nose when he hit a pothole and went over the handlebars in a tank slapper. Olsen has since flown home to Aberdeen, South Dakota where he is reportedly in good spirits.
The Coast to Coast Motorcycle Cannonball Endurance Run for Pre-1916 Motorcycles paid a fitting tribute to Erwin “Cannoball” Baker, who set 143 driving records from 1910 through the 1930s. His first record was set on an Indian Motorcycle back in 1914 when he rode coast-to-coast in 11 days. The current Cannonballers dealt with many of the same issues as Baker, riding high-maintenance motorcycles with little to no suspension and limited top speeds. The ride was bumpy and days were long. The old powerplants required plenty of massaging and daily maintenance to keep them in working order. And this doesn’t even touch on the spirit and determination of those who actually rode in the event who will forever remember the summer they rode across the U.S. just like Baker did almost 100 years ago.