For one weekend every year, the generally calm confines of the Quail Lodge & Golf Club looks more like Hollister in 1947 than an upscale resort when the Quail Motorcycle Gathering rolls into town. They arrive by the hundreds, clad in worn leathers with ordinance-defying notes emanating from old exhausts for the Quail Ride, then park their bikes on the impeccable greens of the golf course the following day. Though the group of bikers arriving at the Quail might not be as nefarious as the media painted their Hollister counterparts to be, it is still a high spirited occasion and many of the machines brought to the show are irreplaceable examples of motorcycle engineering or bikes with heralded racing pedigrees.
The fifth annual Quail Motorcycle Gathering took place on a sun-splashed Saturday as approximately 250 motorcycles and machines were on display. The event continues to grow exponentially, both in the quality of the bikes entered in the show and in quantity, as every year word of mouth and an ever-increasing presence of journalists helps spread the word about the special event. The crowd is littered with enthusiasts and aficionados who can appreciate both the artistry of engineering and the thrill of horsepower harnessed to two wheels. The collection of vintage motorcycles ranges from the lovingly restored to the rusted patina’s of bikes in their original condition, from full-fledged racing bikes to lightweight off-roaders.
Ducati had a huge presence once again as its North American headquarters is located nearby in the Bay Area. The Italian marque was also there to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Monster. What better way to celebrate the model’s success than to have the man who created the motorcycle himself, designer Miguel Galluzi, on hand to talk about one of Ducati’s best-selling motorcycles and sign autographs for fans. Ducati’s fervent advocate Vicki Smith presented two special awards on behalf of the Italian manufacturer, the first called the “La Piu Bella” award going to Jimmy Kilroy for his 1999 Ducati Monster dressed in an avante garde fairing. The “Passione Rossa” award went to another brand ambassador, Syl “Grandma” Salenius and her 2012 Ducati 1100 Evo Monster, her Evo sporting a license plate that reads “GMA’SBYK.”
One artisan who created quite a buzz at the show was Randy Grubb, a master aluminum craftsman who brought some of the most unique creations to the show. A continuous flow of wide-eyed fans streamed through his amazing Decoliner, a 26-foot-long Airstream motor home complete with a “flying bridge” atop the vehicle that allows it to be driven from on top. The sheet metal work on its exterior is masterful while the inner support beams are ribbed like the belly of a whale. Grubb brought along an all-aluminum hot rod that had horsepower junkies drooling on themselves while others clamored
around and on his curious collection of “Decopods,” amazing art deco machines wrapped around scooter and motorcycle engines. With smooth, rounded bodywork, plenty of rivets, and recycled conventions like a headlight off a 1937 Ford, the uniqueness of the pods drew quite the crowd. Grubb’s latest “Decoson” sources a Harley 883 engine, an upgrade from the scooter motors he’s used in the past. And while much of the exotica on display at the Gathering is strictly hands-off, Grubb had no problems with people climbing in and on his creations and his accessibility made him a crowd favorite. His work also won the judges over as he was awarded second place in the Custom/Modified class for his 2012 “Bipod” in addition to having Craig Vetter present him with the Innovation Award for his 2013 “Tripod.”
“This show is very wonderful, more than I imagined, and I’m very honored to be here today,” Grubb said from the award stage.
Another master craftsman also received the lion’s share of attention. Custom builder Ken Tabata from Osaka, Japan, wowed the crowd with his amazing 2010 Tavax 2011V, a creation that looks like it came straight from the set of a science fiction movie. Tabata’s craftsmanship runs front to back, from the unique front end to the wicked bends of the frame to the arc of the swingarm he created. Its unmistakable lines were designed to represent a cheetah chasing its prey. With an S&S SH93 engine, five-speed gearbox, Primo belt drive and trailing link suspension, the masterpiece is a four-year work of love done all by hand, down to the sanding of the flawless finish. The motorcycle with some of the most elaborate metal work you’re ever going to find won the 2011 AMD World Championships of Custom Bike Building in Sturgis, proof that Tabata’s work ranks up there with the best around.
Ducati designer Miguel Galuzzi was in attendance at the 2013 Quail Gathering to help celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Ducati Monster, the bike he created.
The curious display of Randy Grubb oddities had plenty of fans at the 2013 Quail Motorcycle Gathering.
This Capriolo 75cc Corsa took second place in the European Class at the 2013 Quail and was just one of the extremely rare machines in the show.
The Quail Gathering annually serves as an avenue for companies to debut new bikes. Last year we saw the introduction of the Magni R3 while this year it was AVA Velocity Works turn. The company debuted its Swift 250 at the show, a stylish café racer “inspired by the small displacement GP race bikes of the 1960s.” Lightweight, lean and racy, the 2013 AVA 17 is powered by a 249cc OHC Single-cylinder engine paired to a five-speed gearbox. This bike would have been a blast to ride through the curvy canyons of Carmel Valley. Founder and designer Adrian Van Anz said “The show went great for us, ton’s of interest and positive feedback. We’ll probably be heading up to Monterey again in August for Pebble Beach week.”
Industry pioneer Craig Vetter once again was one of the guests of honor at the show. The theme of Vetter’s display this year was “Motorcycles of the Future” that included aerodynamic streamliners, alternative fuel vehicles and the Molnari GT2 flying motorcycle prototype created by Dezso Molnar. The GT2 has two configurations, a road mode and Gyrocopter with rotor blades for lift, both utilizing a motorcycle engine for propulsion. While Molnar tried his hand in the “Vetter Fuel Economy Challenge,” nobody could best defending champion Fred Hayes and his “Hayes Diesel” streamliner. Hayes’ combination of sleek bodywork and efficient diesel engine was good for an extraordinary average of 149.68 mpg, using .775 gallons of gas during our 115-mile ride. With gas at a cost of $3.99-a-gallon, it only cost the “Hayes Diesel” $3.10 for 115-miles of fun. Finishing a close second was Alan Smith’s streamlined, gas-powered 2005 Ninja 250 that used a miniscule .804 gallons to complete the ride at a total cost of $3.17. The second “Hayes Diesel” machine, powered by biodiesel, finished in third place and consumed 1.12 gallons over 115 miles for an average of 103.76 miles-per-gallon.
This year, the Quail Gathering initiated a new “Legends of the Sport” series that commemorates the career of “one seminal motorcycling figure each year.” They got more star power than bargained for because three racing legends graced the show, including “King” Kenny Roberts, flat tracker extraordinaire Mert Lawwill and three-time World Champion Wayne Rainey. The trio entertained the crowd with racing tales and greeted fans throughout the day. Rainey, who was this year’s official “Legends of the Sport” guest, also had his championship winning Yamaha YZR500 on-hand, a tempestuous beast of a motorcycle few could ride with the abandon Rainey did.
The factory GP bike not only won the adulation of the crowd, it earned due respect among the judges who honored Rainey and the motorcycle with “Best of Show” laurels. The championship-winning Yamaha is the 500cc 1991 YZR OWD3 he won his second consecutive World Grand Prix title on. Presenting former racers with the machines they competed on is not standard practice, but Yamaha bestowed the beauty to him for his contributions to the racing world on and off the track. Rainey jokingly added that winning three world championships didn’t hurt either.
The Quail Motorcycle Gathering has an intimacy few events can match. Participants are more than eager to share in a story or two and the quality of the bikes at the concourse is world-class. It’s a place where one can closely inspect museum quality pieces like a 1904 FN Four, where timeless motorcycles like an immaculate 1936 BSA Q7 and a 1951 Vincent Black Shadow Series C share the limelight with Montesa Cota 25A trials bikes and raked-out Triumph choppers. The event is a great place to share in camaraderie as it brings together young and old, racers and riders alike who share a common ground – the love of motorcycles.
(L) While Polaris is busy putting its spin on Indian Motorcycles, classics like this are what established the brand. (M) The Quail Gathering’s ‘Circle of Champions’ featured a wide variety of great motorcycles. (R) It’s not everyday you can get an up-close and personal look at a 1904 FN Four.