I love the Quail Motorcycle Gathering. It’s the perfect combination of motorcycles, people, and ambience – and it’s even better for residents of Southern California because it gives us a great excuse to ride up and down some of California’s best roads. This was my 4th straight year of attendance at the Quail, and I want to share my highlights with you.
Photos by Nathan May.
The Ride Up
Part of the fun is figuring out what bike I want to ride to the event. This year I chose to take a Yamaha MT-07 because I didn’t get enough time with it at the rain-infused launch in Spain back in March. I’ll have a more comprehensive review for you in the future, but I absolutely adore this bike, especially considering the price.
This year I rode up with Julia LaPalme and Will Steenrod. Will rode a Kawasaki Versys 1000, while Julia was on the new Ducati Monster 797. The Monster was a great choice as this is the 25th year of the model and there was a mini-celebration of this fact scheduled at the Quail. If you missed it, Julia recently shared her account of the trip on Bike-urious.
Throughout the day we were joined by a few friends – Mike Ngo from IXS, Shane Pacillo from Piaggio, and by the end of the day, even Nathan had caught up even though he left Los Angeles about 6 hours after I did!
Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend the Quail Ride this year. It’s an informal kick-off to the weekend which takes participants on a 100 mile tour of the Monterey Peninsula with highlights such as a stop at Moto Talbott Motorcycle Museum and 3 laps of Laguna Seca. However, it’s limited to just 100 riders so you have to sign up well in advance, and I wasn’t able to do that. In lieu of that, our group of merry adventurers made our own ride for the day. I found out that Nathan had never ridden PCH before, so I made a point of taking the group to Nepenthe, one of my favorite restaurants in the area for lunch. Then we got to enjoy one of my favorite roads over and over again. Inevitably, we had to take some photos:
Because of the road closures on PCH (which may be sorted out by September), there was a large portion of the iconic road with almost no traffic. This might have encouraged us to goof around a little bit. Turns out the MT-07 is one of the easiest bikes to wheelie I’ve ever ridden, but I don’t think that counts as practical consumer advice. We spent most of the day enjoying what PCH had to offer, and then I wanted to try something at Bixby Bridge.
Portions of PCH are enjoyable just from a pavement standpoint – there’s a bounty of high speed sweepers and undulating elevation changes to enjoy. You can find those characteristics in many roads across the country, but what makes this so special is the view afforded by coastline. There are so many great spots to hop off the bike and take it all in. It’ll slow you down, but it’s well worth it.
Enough about that. PCH is great, you get it. Let’s see some bikes!
If you’re looking to debut an expensive new model to well-heeled enthusiasts, I’m not sure there’s a better place to do so than the Quail. Curtiss Motorcycle Co. (an evolution of Confederate Motors) chose the venue to show off their electric prototype called Zeus.
Curtiss’ Director of Design is a gentleman named Jordan Cornille, and he was the subject of an interesting interview on The Vintagent. Here’s one quote that stood out to me:
“ICE motorcycles all have, more or less, the same components, so they have all grown to accommodate similar looks and proportions. Electric motorcycles have completely different components, so there’s no need for them to look, or be packaged like, traditional ICE motorcycles. This is where we believe our industry is missing the mark.”
Mr. Cornille is absolutely right, and it’s going to be fun seeing how companies determine what the new standard of motorcycle design will be. But here’s a unpopular opinion: I don’t like the Curtiss. I think it’s cool because it’s so different (and it won the Innovation Award at the Quail), but the style just doesn’t work for me. Check out more images on the Curtiss site and decide for yourself!
Curtiss seems to enjoy breaking news at fancy events like this. Last year they announced their partnership with Zero and name change from Confederate at Pebble Beach. At the time, they stated that future models would be electric, but they did sneak in one last gas-powered bike. Curtiss calls it the Warhawk, though fans of the former brand will notice that it’s basically a Confederate P51 Fighter that’s been dressed-up.
There’s always great private collections – one of my favorites this year was a series of rotary-powered motorcycles owned by Stephen Haddad.
While we’re checking out scooters – there were a few interesting ones brought by Siobhan Ellis.
The Vega ended up winning the Extraordinary Bicycles/Scooter Class Award this year. Congrats to Siobhan for two straight victories!
Another private collection was from Seth LaForge, who used to work at the former electric motorcycle company Mission and apparently now owns all of their assets.
The Electric class was full of interesting motorcycles, including a trifecta of Corbin specials.
Arlen Ness was named a “Legend of the Sport” at the Quail. To be frank, his builds don’t normally appeal to me so I didn’t spend too much time in this section, but one of them was absolutely breathtaking. It’s called “SmoothNess”, and in a 1997 New York Times article Arlen said it was inspired by a Bugatti. It makes me think of the legendary 1930 Henderson KJ Streamliner that Orley Raymond Courtney customized as what would become a prototype of sorts for his Enterprise.
This 1961 BSA DBD34 Gold Star was an absolute jewel. The owner ended up chatting with Nathan and when I heard the story I made a point of asking if we could come back to film a video of him…but we ran out of time! I’m still annoyed about that, because the story is as cool as the bike!
Another eventual winner was this 1983 Honda RS750 factory flat tracker, which won the “AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Heritage Award”.
Once the judges are done, votes are tallied and it’s time to announce the winners. For a full list and corresponding images of the winning bikes, check out this previous story on Bike-urious.
The bikes are obviously wonderful, but I also enjoy the Quail because of the people. An event of this caliber brings out some of the best people in motorcycling, and it’s wonderful to see them all in one place. I got to see lots of old friends:
I also got to meet some new friends and readers that I’ve chatted with online but never seen in person before!
That’s what I’ve got for you. Again, it was great seeing so many of you there, and I sincerely hope to see more of you next year! I’ve already taken way too long to get this story out, so I omitted some images. If you need even more inspiration to come out next year, head on over to this album.
The Quail brings together amazing motorcycles and the fantastic people who are passionate about them, and that’s why it’s a permanent fixture on my yearly calendar. Fly into LA, rent a bike, and make a weekend of it. You won’t regret it.