‘Cheers’ from the 2012 Quail Motorcycle Gathering. Beautiful weather in Carmel Valley brought out motorcycle enthusiasts and collectors in droves for the fourth annual event.
Morning mist hung just above the tops of the green rolling hills on a crisp Carmel Valley morning. Slowly the solitude was broken by the burble of bikes trickling in, from the raspy exhaust of revvy MV Agusta Singles to the deep-seated growl of Ducatis. The multitude of riders arrived in weathered Vanson jackets and Dainese race suits, wearing their worn-down knee pucks and road-rashed leathers as badges of honor. Many of the motorcycles gathering for the fourth annual Quail Motorcycle Ride have competed in numerous Giros, while the other participants also have their own unique story of ownership to tell. Soon, this eclectic group of motorcyclists, some 80 strong, rumbled out of the lodge as they embarked on a 110-mile ride through the scenic central Californian countryside.
Heading into its fourth year, The Quail Motorcycle Gathering is quickly gaining reputation as a must-do event. The two-day affair kicks off with a grand ride through “Steinbeck” country and beautiful Carmel Valley, ultimately stopping at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for a couple of spirited parade laps. The Quail Ride provides an outlet for enthusiasts to fire up their immaculate motorcycles, breathing life into machines that have helped forge moto history.
For the second year in a row, AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famer Craig Vetter held the “Vetter Fuel Economy Challenge” at the Quail Motorcycle Ride. Operating under the premise of “racing for the right reasons,” the “Vetter Fuel Economy Challenge” dares riders to get the most out of the least. Stipulations of the contest include being able to ride at 70 mph
into a 30 mph headwind while carrying a useful load, established as four bags of groceries for this event. This means keeping up with our CHP escort, Sgt. Ray Faulk, who sets a spirited pace on his BMW patrol bike. Riders must be in a comfortable riding position and any type of fuel source can be used. The vehicles in the contest are easily identifiable by their streamlined bodywork, the aerodynamic design giving them an advantage in the battle against progress-impeding wind. For the second straight year, Fred Hayes won with his streamlined 2011 Deisel bike which got 109 mpg at a cost of 2.7 cents per mile using biofuel, in this case Biotane-refined waste vegetable oil. When he’s not demonstrating the bike’s potential at events like the Quail Motorcycle Ride, Hayes is busy building his Diesel motorcycles for the U.S. Marines.
It’s hard to quantify what a treat it was to ride amongst the odd collection of motorcycles, to cruising along with Shinya Kimura on his customized 1974 MV Agusta 750 S America with the incredible hand-forged bodywork to dicing with Thad Wolff and the gang onboard Dan Gurney’s Alligator Bikes. After following the unique Alligator Bikes for miles, I can attest to their road worthiness, witnessing their sharp handling, snappy power and the sweet exhaust notes emanating from their pipes. After riding through vineyard-laden hills we made a run through the fertile Salinas valley as we paralleled the Santa Lucia Range, making a pit stop at Talbott Vineyards before heading to our final destination of the day, the revered grounds of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca where I had the pleasure of spinning a couple of laps onboard the horsepower-laden 2012 Ducati Diavel Carbon.
(L) The Alligator Bike Bunch posing with Dan Gurney’s Alligator Bikes. After riding with these guys, I can attest that Gurney’s bikes really perform. (M) The Quail Motorcycle Ride made a pit stop at Talbott Vineyards in Salinas Valley. (R) Shinya Kimura stands ready to jump on his custom MV Agusta 750 S America for the 110-mile ride through Carmel Valley.
After a good day of riding, it was time to freshen up and rejuvenate with a sumptuous meal at the accompanying Quail Motorcycle Dinner held on-premise at the Lodge. The event was emceed by the knowledgeable Paul d’Orleans, also known as the “Man of 1000 Shoes.” A real class act, d’Orleans is a font of motorcycle history who pens the well-received blog called “The Vintagent” and also helped out as a judge for the event. He got a big chuckle from the crowd when he stated “Motorcycles are a bad investment,” but had the majority nodding their heads in agreement when he insisted owners of classic motorcycles should “Ride it or you’re missing out on the essence.”
The crowd was also treated by the appearance of special guests like flat track legend Mert Lawwill and three time MotoGP champion Wayne Rainey. Everybody sat in a trance as they aired cuts from “On Any Sunday” and other incredible flat track footage at the dinner reception of Lawwill letting it all hang out. Speaking of flat track, the Yamaha TZ750 Kenny Roberts rode to an incredible victory at the Indy Mile sat at the front of the dining room. Better yet, Ray Abrams was among the attendees who took the podium to talk about prepping the bike, saying “It’s easy to go to a race when you’ve got more horsepower than anybody else!” Another pearl was offered up by “Take it to the Limit” producer Peter Starr who talked about his opportunity to ride with the “Grand Riders” or the “Dream Riders,” the group of elderly Korean gents seen in the popular TC Bank commercial.
The Magni R3 is the first motorcycle made by the Italian marque to feature a British engine in a Magni frame. The 930cc BSA Rocket 3-powered Magni R3 made its world debut at the 2012 Quail Motorcycle Gathering. Giovanni Magni himself (left) made his first trip over from Italy just for the motorcycle’s debut.
Part of the beauty of the Quail Motorcycle Gathering is the day after the ride, many of those same motorcycles gather along with a myriad of other classics on the green lawns of the Quail Lodge for the annual Concourse. The collection of classic bikes ran the gamut, from European exotics to vintage UJM’s to old American Iron. It ranged from kid-sized MV Agusta scooters to Bonneville land speed record breakers like Denis Manning’s BUB 7 streamliner.
This year’s Quail Motorcycle Gathering saw the world debut of the Magni R3, a stunning little red racer with a stroked 930cc BSA Rocket 3 engine and an ultra-light Magni replica MV race frame. Giovanni Magni himself, the son of company founder Arturo Magni, made the trip over from Italy to debut the Magni R3 along with their American partners in the project, Triple Tecs. Arturo founded the company after working as the crew chief and technical design director for MV Agusta for almost 20 years before striking out to start his own company.
And while Magni motorcycles have utilized a variety of powerplants for their signature double cradle chome-moly frames over the years, a list that includes Honda, BMW and Moto Guzzi, this latest rendition sources a BSA Rocket 3 engine, the Anglo-Italian pairing a first for the company. The Magni R3 came about with a little help from their American friends at Triple Tecs, who commissioned the motorcycle to be built and helped pump up the 930cc engine by stroking it out and custom casting the cylinder block. The engine was then shipped to Italy where Magni built a replica MV 500 chome-moly race frame weighing only 24 pounds around it. Magni also added its signature styling, from the hand-hammered aluminum tank to the quarter fairing to the “swan neck” triple megaphone exhaust.
Another big debut was the new Crocker Big Tank built by the man who is the legal owner of the Crocker name, Michael Schacht, and his hard-working team. Resplendent in natural patinas, Schacht has overcome a lot of adversity to launch what he insists aren’t replicas of the original but more of a continuation in the vein of what Al Crocker started. After doing extensive research and utilizing the help of experts on the marque like Chuck Vernon, the new Crockers combine old school methods with modern machining and materials as the next generation uses an 80 cubic-inch V-Twin that puts out a claimed 85 hp.
And as cool as catching the debuts of the Magni R3 and the new Crocker Big Tank was, nothing beat getting to hear and smell the firing up Marty Dickerson’s “The Blue Bike.” By sheer coincidence, we happened to be drooling over the 1948 Vincent Rapide Racer known as “The Blue Bike” when they hooked it up to a charger and fired it to life. The 1948 Vincent Rapide earned its reputation drag racing in the dry lake beds around L.A. before Dickerson and the bike soon embarked on a tour across the southwest United States. It then headed to the fabled Salt Flats of Bonneville where it would set several American “Class C” records. Claimed to be in “as last raced” condition, “The Blue Bike” operated in its heyday with small tricks learned from friend and fellow Vincent racer Rollie Free like using 10w oil in the engine, Lubriplate grease for the wheel bearings, and valves settings learned from Free. The sound of that wonderful engine drumming to life was almost indescribable, but we captured the moment in our video so we encourage everybody to check it out so you, too, can share in the moment. From what we understand, current owner Herb Harris has only fired it up a couple of times over the course of the last ten years, so to be there for when it was once again kicked over was a treat we’ll treasure for a long time coming.
One of the other highlights for us at this year’s show was the opportunity to meet flat tracker Lawwill. Mert registered 17 national championship wins competing in flat track during the ‘60s and ‘70s, from TT races to the vaunted mile. He also played a starring role in the 1971 classic “On Any Sunday.” In addition to his racing accolade, Lawwill developed a rear suspension system for bicycles too, a revolutionary design at the time. Mert talked to us about his limited edition Lawwill Street Tracker, a 1200cc street-legal “dirt track style” motorcycle which features a variation of his patented rear suspension.
Dreamin’ of the Salt again on ‘The Blue Bike.’ It was a real treat to hear and smell them firing this bike up for only about the third time in the last ten years.
With live music and the sweet scent of spring in the air, we spent much of the afternoon strolling through the immaculate collections of motorcycles. Gary Kohs brought out an incredible assortment of MV Agustas, 32 in all, ranging from full-bred racers like a 2007 MV F4 1000 to small around-town scooters. We enjoyed our time talking to Thom McIlhattan who had transported his private collection of Harley-Davidsons to the show from his home in Vallejo, California. The crown jewel of his collection was a 1909 Harley Model 5A. The story goes that in 1909, Harley marketed a twin-cylinder engine that was pulled off the market because of belt slippage. As a result, the presiding single-cylinder motorcycle was upgraded and called the Model 5 featuring an ignition system with a magneto. It featured controls operated by cables instead of rods and bellcranks and its wiring was routed through the handlebars. Less than 100 of the 5A units equipped with a magneto were built in 1909, and most of them didn’t stand the tests of time, either being pieced out or destroyed. The 1909 5A in McIlhattan’s collection reportedly survived because it once belonged to a farmer who used it to power a cider press.
With over 250 motorcycles on display in the Concours, competition for the Breitling Circle of Champions was fierce. Custom bike builder extraordinaire Kimura won double honors for his 1974 MV Agusta 750 S America, his hand-forged metal work attracting the attention of Cycle World editors who granted it the “Elegance in Action” award in addition to capturing first place in the Custom/Modified category. Not bad for what Kimura calls his “daily rider.” Dan Gurney’s 2011 Alligator V-Gator also received recognition in the form of the “Innovation award,” and Schacht won the “Industry Award” for his Crocker in a new category for motorcycles built by industry professionals. But it was Simon Graham who won top honors and “Best of Show” for his 1974 MV Agusta 750 S. On a personal note, I happened to park next to the exact same motorcycle out on the street in front of the Gathering when I arrived. Little did I know that an even cleaner version of the four-stroke inline-four powered 750 S would later capture “Best of Show” honors, earning Graham a Breitling Super Ocean watch, a Tiffany & Co Sterling trophy and a bottle of Louis Roderer champagne that took both hands to hoist.
The Ducati Diavel Cromo shines as bright as the Ducati girl’s smile at the Quail Gathering. We had the pleasure of riding the Cromo’s cousin, the 2012 Ducati Diavel Carbon, during the Quail Motorcycle Ride.
After another successful showing, event organizer Gordon McCall had this to say about the 2012 Quail Motorcycle Gathering.
“Growing an event requires lots of diligence, and the results of this year’s show confirm its success. Not only were the all-important numbers up in all categories, but the event clearly has found its legs. We planned this show to work not from the inside out, but rather from the outside in. In other words, everyone participating in it (organizers, sponsors, entrants, spectators, media, and volunteers alike), brings their collective enthusiasm to the table which has defined its “genuine” look and feel. It feels that way because it is, not because we say it is.”
After submerging ourselves in the positive energy that surrounds The Quail Motorcycle Gathering for the second year running, we can attest to this “genuine” feel McCall alludes to. The Gathering brings together motorcycle lovers and enthusiasts of all ilk to enjoy a weekend of camaraderie in beautiful Carmel Valley. The quaint show continues to grow in magnitude and popularity as it establishes itself as a jewel among motorcycle shows.