I’ve had the pleasure of attending the Quail Motorcycle Gathering the last two years, and both times I was told by just about everyone that the next time I went, I needed to get up there a day earlier for the Quail Ride. Third time’s the charm, right? So this year Aaron and I headed up a couple of days early to see what the fuss was all about…and boy, was it worth it.
Photos and video by Aaron Schasse.
I said it last year, and it’s still the case: the Quail Motorcycle Gathering gets bigger and better every year. The 2017 show added a Test Ride the day after (Sunday) in partnership with Cycle World so you could try out the latest Honda offerings while also testing out some new Bell helmets and Transitions face shields. More than 3,000 attendees showed up for the 9th annual show – this year’s theme was the 50th Anniversary of the Norton Commando.
I’ve been on an Indian Chieftain Elite loaner for the last few weeks, and it seemed like a good choice to ride up to Carmel – especially considering that all my favorite twisty bits of PCH are currently inaccessible due to mudslides. I’ll have formal thoughts for you on this bike later, but one of the most impressive things about it is the Fireglow Candy Red paint with Marble accents. It’s stunning with a little bit of light.
To be frank, the entire day of a 100 mile loop through scenic countryside is great but for me it was overshadowed by the appetizer: 3 laps of Laguna Seca. There’s a fast group and a slow group – considering Aaron and I were going 2 up on a bagger and wanted to take photos, we decided to stick in the slower procession. Despite that, we got to see some fantastic machines being used as their makers intended. It was glorious.
Robb Talbott takes a classic Triumph around Turn 6 and into the Rahal Straight:
What’s great about events like this is that you won’t just see wonderful motorcycles. You’ll meet some amazing people as well. Mark Hoyer (editor in chief of Cycle World) attends to his Commando after some track time.
There’s always a bit of tinkering with classic bikes (within the first 2 miles a few bikes had to pull over and wait for the support truck), but how often do you get to see a collection like this actually out on the road?
One of the new things this year was an optional stop at Moto Talbott after lunch. I thought the place was packed when we visited last year before it opened, yet Robb has somehow managed to cram more bikes and stories in. In my opinion it’s a must see destination for any motorcyclist nearby.
A proper visit to Robb’s will take up hours, so I’ll just leave you with one of my favorite bikes from his collection – the “Buried Beemer”. The original owner was based in Big Sur, where a wildfire raged in 2008. He owned three bikes but didn’t have time to get them out of the area, so he “quickly grabbed his backhoe, dug a hole and buried the bikes.” Moral of the story: own a backhoe. The bikes sat underground for 30 days, but after he brought them out of their dirt naps, he lost interest in the bikes. The Talbott museum acquired all three and sold two of them. They kept this R69S and have put thousands of miles on it since, including 3 Moto Melees. During that time, the bike has never been washed. It’s a wonderful story, and that was the reason why it won the Spirit of the Quail award in 2015.
Aaron and I walked the grounds to meet some people that were setting up their bikes in advance. There were a few bikes that I recognized from the Handbuilt Show a few weeks ago – this BMW “Alpha” custom was my favorite bike from that show and I was ecstatic to get some alone time with it so I could look at it up close.
At the end of the day there’s a “Quail Ride Dinner”. I apparently missed the memo and showed up a little underdressed, but they didn’t kick me out so I got to sit near legends of the sport like Kenny Roberts and Wayne Rainey. I had the pleasure of briefly meeting King Kenny afterwards – he told me he liked Indian food.
The rest of the evening was spent catching up with some old friends and enjoying some margaritas as an uninspired tribute to Cinco de Mayo. Next morning we had to get an early start to check out the show! There were over 350 bikes at the Quail Motorcycle Gathering this year, so I’ll just share a few of my favorites. In the next few weeks, I’ll also be sharing some short video interviews with some owners of these gorgeous motorcycles.
UPDATE – Here are some of those videos:
First, here’s a quick walkthrough of the grounds:
Yamaha TZ750 Flat Tracker – the very bike that even Kenny Roberts famously referred to by saying “they don’t pay me enough to ride that thing.” The AMA banned it after 3 races. It doesn’t get much cooler than that.
This may have been one of the most pedestrian bikes at the show, but it’s still rare and it was in fantastic shape. The SRX 600 was well-received by the press but it did not sell well in the US in the one year it was imported here.
Honda offered a police package for their CB750. The owner of this bike found it on Craigslist and he thought it was a standard bike as it did not have any police equipment on it. At first, he was upset because he saw modifications to the frame, and he thought a previous owner had customized it. After some research, he discovered it came from the factory as a police bike and it took him 4 years to find the correct pieces to turn it into this. It placed 2nd in the Japanese category.
This incredible bike is a 1957 Mondial DOHC 250cc Grand Prix Racebike. Ridden by Tarquinio Provini, it won the ’57 Italian Championship and placed 2nd over the entire season. Provini actually placed 1st in every race he finished, but he finished just 5 of 9 races. This was the last year that Grand Prix racing allowed dustbin fairings. The 249cc single was good for 29 horsepower. Thanks to the aerodynamics (and a 220 pound dry weight) it was capable of hitting 137 miles per hour. This Mondial understandably ended up winning Best of Show.
Bike-urious reader James C brought a beautiful first-year Norton Commando that got special treatment because it so closely resembles the original show bike from the 1967 Earls Court Show. That original bike was adorned in Fireflake Silver paint with a brown leather seat. Thanks to some assistance from the show organizers, James’ bike looks damn near like the bike that took the world by storm 50 years ago. Great work, James!
I’m a big fan of the builds from Revival Cycles, and they showed up this year with something highly unexpected. Called “Odioso”, which translates to obnoxious from Italian, it’s a Ducati ST4 motor that’s been wrapped around a lot of metal and neon to form a bizarre sidecarcross bike. On their way back from the Quail to Austin, they stopped at White Sands National Monument and got some fun photos.
This is another Revival build – the Revival 140. It started as a crashed Confederate X132 Hellcat and it got new alloy bodywork, a CNC-machined subframe, and plenty more. The drivetrain remains stock.
The Wankel ended up winning 1st place in Other European. Ever heard one start up before? Here it is, riding up to claim its award:
I generally thought the judges did a great job. The one winner that really surprised me was a Yamaha XT500. Admittedly, it was in absolutely incredible condition, but I thought there were more interesting options (like the Police Special that came in 2nd).
Speaking of the winners, here’s a quick timelapse of all of them:
Or if you’d like to take your time, here’s a list of the winners with a photograph of them getting their due:
The day of the show ended just like the two previous days of build-up – catching up with old friends and meeting new ones, all thanks to a shared love of motorcycles. Aaron and I rode back home the next day, trying to balance our need of getting back home at a reasonable time with the desire to see new sights like the Pozo Saloon (unbeknownst to us, it had just closed, possibly for good):
The entire ride back we filled each other’s helmets with our highlights from the Quail. Each year I come away very impressed with the show as a complete experience. The motorcycles themselves are always top notch, but the location, atmosphere, and people make it a show that I try to block off in my calendar months in advance. But I knew all that last year, anyway. What I learned this year is that I now have to start showing up a day earlier just so I can keep enjoying the Quail Ride, too. Hopefully next year I’ll bring something a bit more suitable for Laguna Seca, but no matter what I’m riding, I hope I’ll see you there. That’s it for now. Adios!