Even though I’ve been to all five of the Quail Motorcycle Gatherings thus far, I still find it a delightful hodgepodge of wonderful elderly motorcycles and motorcycle-related bits and pieces.
The setting is gorgeous, centered on the well-manicured grass of a golf course and back-dropped by Saddle Mountain, with the Quail Clubhouse on one side and white tents lining the other three. On a spring Saturday, more than 200 motorcycles were scattered about the green acres, an eye-gladdening array of machines from all over the world, from an unrestored ’29 Harley with sidecar to a spit-polished Ducati 888. This is not just a “Concours d’Elegance” per se, limited to elegant motorcycles, but an opportunity for the creatively minded to demonstrate their latest forays into the fringes of motorized two- and, occasionally, three-wheelers.
“Motorcycles of the Future” was this year’s theme, and as the 2013 catalog says, the exhibitors are “…designers, builders and riders. Dreamers, too.” And it is always the dreamers who bring the most interesting pieces.
At the very far end of this conceptualizing was Dezso Molnar’s “flying” motorcycle. Many of us have “gotten air” when our wheels left the ground briefly as we went over a hump in the road, but Dezso has been building a gyrocopter of sorts, using a GSX-R1000 engine. The Gixxer powers a big rear wheel, but when the proper levers are turned, the engine power will rotate two propellers, one to lift the motorcycle, the other to move it forward when it is off the ground. This is Dezso’s second “experimental aircraft,” and he had a photo of himself in the first iteration a few feet off the ground.
I will say that with the long wheelbase, over 15 feet, and two wheels close together up front, this might not be the ideal motorcycle for ripping along the Big Sur Highway, but it would be extremely cool to fly the length of the coast about a hundred feet above the pavement. Although the FAA might object, as well as the police, with the occasional tourist-driven car hurtling over the edge into the Pacific Ocean because the driver was distracted by this flying machine.
Equally bizarre, in a Buck Rogerish way, were Randy Grubb’s three creations, with shiny aluminum bodies completely covering the motorcycles. Grubb considers handlebars rather unaesthetic, so on his Decoson, based on a Harley Sportster engine and chassis, there are holes in the body through which the rider reaches to grab the bars. When asked if this wasn’t a bit dangerous, his response was that motorcycles are inherently dangerous, and this merely makes them a little more so.
On a more practical level was Terry Hershner’s Zero electric motorcycle, which he had ridden from Orlando, Florida, to Los Angeles in six days. Nothing exceptional about that, except Hershner’s bike only had a roughly 70-mile range at 70 mph, including the extra batteries he had strapped on. He would ride for an hour, then nap as he charged the batteries for an hour, and continue on. He did make it 98 miles on the 116-mile Vetter Challenge economy run the previous day.
Along typical Concourse d’Elegance lines were many familiar machines, including Honda Gold Wings, any number of Meriden Triumphs (those are the old ones), a slew of Ducati Monsters (this was the 20th anniversary of the design), Indians, and one I had never heard of let alone seen before, a Jordan. Apparently this was the only one that Mr. Jordan built in 1947, with much sheet metal, powered by a 61ci square-four motor. He then tried to find someone to manufacture it, but no takers. Looking at this bike was among the things that make the QMG so appealing—there’s always something new, even if, in this case, it was 66 years old.
In the two dozen or more tents surrounding the venue were various enthusiasts and enterprises, like the Velocette aficionados—the marque defunct since 1971. And the Central Coast Classic Cycle Club promoting its annual show. Streetmaster was selling stuff to make the new Hinckley Triumph twins go faster and look sexier. And the Sportsman Flyer outfit, with interesting takes on the old boardtrack racer designs, had two of their Bonneville models on display. They have an official 175cc record at the Bonneville Salt Flats to back up the name.
The Quail always has a person of note on hand, and this year it was Wayne Rainey, world champion in ’91, ’92 and ’93. Along with his race-winning 1991 Yamaha YZR500, which won Best of Show. A lot of other trophies were handed out, awards for everything from the Spirit of the Quail to Innovation, as well as nine first and seconds in the actual Concours.
The $65 entry fee included a fine meal, with excellent barbecued chicken and smoked pork, along with several salads and great strawberry/rhubarb pie. If all that wasn’t enough, an endless stream of espresso was provided by the coffee tent, ensuring an alert crowd right up to the end of the day.
(This article Quail 2013 was published in the November 2013 issue of Rider magazine.)