“The Hansen Dam Rally is put on by enthusiasts for enthusiasts, no frills, all thrills…the rest of the year we’re just a riding club,” said Kevin Nerden, president of the Southern California Norton Owners Club for the past three years.
SCNOC was established in 1979, and its 36th annual event smashed previous attendance records. “We had 200 pins for riders on British bikes taking the 75-mile loop through the mountains and they’re all gone, along with every rally T-shirt we printed, so that’s a measure of how well things went.”
An estimated 350 motorcycles took part in the rally ride into California’s San Gabriel Mountains and Angeles National Forest, while as many as 800 participants gathered back at the rally grounds checking out an A-Z spectrum of vintage British, European and American machines. The SCNOC prides itself on a minimum of rules and regulations—paying your dues gets you on the mailing list with its steady flow of invitations to many riding adventures throughout the year (2,000 miles’ worth), including group jaunts throughout Southern and Central California, as well as forays into Nevada and Arizona. There’s also the annual Prince of Darkness Ride (to semi-honor the oft fickle, vintage Lucas electrics), and it’s all capped off by the Hansen Dam Rally every November.
This year’s dry, hot day for the rally in no way affected the cool vibe accompanying the massive rumble, thunder and burble of bikes of all makes and flavors pouring off Interstate 210, the Foothill Freeway, and into the Hansen Dam recreational area. By 8 a.m. it was literally standing room only as riders wrangled their bikes into fairly neat rows, often in clusters of a certain brand or groups of buddies riding in together. Although the SCNOC calls it an “All-British” rally on its website (socalnorton.com), all makes and models from antique to brand new are most welcome these days. That includes the latest models from Triumph, which seemed by sheer numbers to be the most represented marque. The growth of the aftermarket industry, particularly café-racer related, was evidenced by a wide range of “retro” enhancements sported by many of the new Trumpets.
While many of the Triumph riders might be tagged as millennials, aka the younger generation, plenty of veteran bikes and their veteran riders added to the event’s patina, many having attended the Hansen Dam Rally for 20 years or more, this rider/writer included. So it was old friends meeting up and new restorations being debuted as well as “surprise” appearances, including the “Vincati” ridden in by its builder Mitch Talcove. The hybrid creation is a mind meld of the famous Vincent V-twin, bumped up to 1,150cc and hunkered down beautifully into a 1973 Ducati 900SS chassis. Other hybrids made appearances as well, including Tritons (Triumph engines/Norton frames) and a Norvin (Norton Featherbed frame/Vincent motor) or two.
The purists were also pleased by the small herd of “stock” HRD/Vincents displayed in the judged show category and, in fact, Vincents in one form or another topped the trophy-winning charts, including the aforementioned Vincati, which garnered Best British Custom. Best British Other went to Larry Horn’s 1948 Norvin, and Byron Walker’s 1952 Vincent Black Shadow was awarded Best of Show.
SCNOC President Nerden would like to give an appreciative shout-out to club members Klaus Wiene, Chris Hovland, Mitchel Reichein and especially to Brendan and Denise Durret for all of the work they contributed to the event’s success…and plans are already underway for next year’s 37th running of The Best Ride by a Dam Site.
Hansen Dam 2015 Show Winners
Best Norton: Ron Nicholson, Norton 1975 Commando Roadster
Best Triumph: Bill Gray, 1967 Triumph
Best BSA: Dave Destler, 1954 Gold Star
Best British Custom: Mitch Talcove, 1973 Vincati
Best British Other: Larry Horn, 1948 Norvin
Best of Show: Byron Walker, 1952 Vincent Black Shadow