Somebody at the The Quail has a secure line to the weather gods. May 17th was a beautiful day in California’s Carmel Valley, as it has been for the previous five Gatherings. I especially like the motorcycle parking for the visitors, which is right along Green Valley Drive, on both sides of the road. Easy parking close to the festivities, and it is entertaining just to walk along the two rows of bikes and see what people have ridden in—everything from Craig Vetter’s Econo-bike to the latest Italian flash.
At the entrance to the show, people were cheerfully paying $75 to go in and ogle machinery, eat an excellent lunch and meet the famous and the not-so-famous among the several thousand people on the grounds of the Quail Lodge & Golf Club, which had upwards of 300 motorcycles on display. The gathering is 98-percent focused on older motorcycles, the oldest being a 95-year-old Winchester single, to slews of Brit bikes from the ’50s and ’60s, all the way to a 2015 Yamaha SR400 decked out in road-legal TT guise by Palhegyi Design. Other “custom” manufacturers were on hand, like Champion Motors, with exquisite renditions of the new Triumph Bonneville.
One new oldie was the Sterling from the Black Douglas Motorcycle Co., a build-it-yourself kit bike that has the appearance of a racer out of the 1920s. The basic kit goes for $6,000, and the builder comes up with an engine, preferably a single under 350cc. Lights and horn included, so it can be registered and licensed as a home-build.
The focus of this show was to celebrate a hundred years of running speed trials at the Bonneville Salt Flats, and featured were half a dozen of the streamliners that had run there, like the 1964 Triumph Gyronaut X-1, powered by a pair of 650cc engines. And half a century later the new Castrol Rocket, with a pair of Triumph Rocket III engines, turbocharged, and claiming over a thousand horsepower with the hopes of exceeding 400 mph. Mike Akatiff’s Ack Attack Special was on hand, holding the current land-speed record at a modest 376.4 mph using two Suzuki Hayabusa engines and a Garrett turbocharger. And there was one I did not know, the Quicksilver, which set an electric-motorcycle land-speed record of 165 mph back in 1974—with the owner, seat-maker Mike Corbin, at the handlebars.
Speaking of electric, on display was the Lightning LS-218, which has gone 218 mph with its 200-plus horsepower liquid-cooled electric motor. And a street-ready version is available—although the cost may be upwards of $40 grand. At the other end of the electric spectrum was the Icon E-Flyer, good for 35 mph at a more modest $4,500.
A set of point-counterpoints on hand were in the Brough Superior category, with the very first SS100, built in 1925, as well as the latest in the recently renewed Brough Superior line, the Moto2 GP model. The latter had racer Doug Polen in the saddle, with a Brough fellow trying to convince him to take it to the track. Eddie Lawson, twice AMA Superbike champion in 1981 and 1982 and then four-time world champion in the 500cc GP in the 1980s, was on hand representing the Legend of the Sport series, and entertained the crowds with tales of derring-do and signing lots of autographs.
Twenty-seven awards were given out, with John L. Stein’s Ducati Imola racer winning two. The Spirit of the Quail award went to the old Brough SS100. I personally liked the 1933 Sunbeam 9 (a 500cc single) with a wicker sidecar.
If you missed this year’s event, there is always the 7th coming up—a beautiful Saturday, the 16th of May, 2015.
(This article Motorcycle Mecca was published in the November 2014 issue of Rider magazine.)