From my home in Southern California, it’s just a day’s ride to the scenic Monterey Peninsula on some of the state’s most sublime motorcycling roads, including Highway 1 on the majestic Big Sur coast. Good food and nightlife on a Friday night in Monterey are steps away from dozens of hotels ranging from reasonable to posh, so an overnight run is both easy and fun. Add the prospect of attending a large vintage and custom motorcycle concours on the green grass of the nearby upscale golf course, and you can see why The Quail Motorcycle Gathering has been a great success since the first one in 2008.
Plenty of enthusiasts flock to The Quail just for the day, so the parking area along Valley Greens Drive becomes quite a motorcycle show in its own right. This year, 3,200 spectators enjoyed 270 notable and highly polished motorcycles arranged just so on the grass of the Quail Lodge & Golf Club in Carmel Valley, ringed by vendors of every sort. The one-day event cost $55 and ran from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., so attendees had to keep moving to see and do it all.
Led by Gordon McCall, Director of Motorsports for Peninsula Signature Events, The Quail Ride kicks off the event on Friday (not to be confused with Why We Ride to the Quail, a two-day charity ride for the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation that starts on Thursday in SoCal – for more information, visit Motovational.org). The Quail Ride is a 100-mile loop around this gorgeous area limited to 100 riders that includes two laps of Laguna Seca Raceway with its famous Corkscrew, an experience that’s worth the price of admission alone.
The Quail has hosted as many as 400 machines in past years, but as McCall said this year, “It’s too many bikes.”
“You can’t see them all in a day, and we’re a one-day event,” he said. “So we pared that back. This to me is the heart and soul of the motorcycle community. We’ve got a lot of smaller companies, smaller vendors, and they help make this possible. Just look at this – people are in a good mood. We’re ready – enough with hiding under a rock for two years.”
Indeed, after a two-year break due to the pandemic, the 2022 Gathering may have been a bit smaller, but I still had trouble taking everything in. In addition to traditional classes like British, Italian, Japanese, Competition, and Antique, the event showcased five featured classes. Two-Stroke “Braaaps” comprised on- and off-road ring-ding superstars, like the 1986 Suzuki RG500 Gamma from Matt Torrens of California. Other classes highlighted minibikes, BMW /5 Series motorcycles, and the Harley-Davidson XR-750, a crowd favorite and one of the most successful racebikes of all time.
While this is a very social event, it’s the bikes that are the primary draw, and there was no shortage of interesting, amazing, and historical hardware to ogle. Vintage machines wearing a time-earned patina or lovingly restored to original or better condition by the best in their field are most prevalent, but the show also includes bikes from some of the icons of the custom motorcycle world, like Max Hazan from Hazan Motorworks in Los Angeles. Hazan’s wildly custom and beautiful 1951 Vincent Rapide won Best of Show, a controversial choice to some given the irreverent nature of customs based on famous vintage bikes.
But the 40-plus judges on the committee, led by veteran Chief Judge Somer Hooker, also gave top awards in many other classes to near-perfect history-making motorcycles. An incredible 1984 Honda RS750, for example, ridden to three Grand National Championships by Bubba Shobert (and owned by Chris Carter of Motion Pro) was given the Spirit of the Quail award.
Yamaha brought a fleet of famous flat-trackers from its racing past, like the 1977-78 Kenny Roberts Racing Specialties-designed, monoshock-framed MX250, one of two bikes champion racer Jeff Haney rode to multiple lap records during his undefeated 1978 season at Ascot Park. Arch Motorcycles, the company started by actor Keanu Reeves, was there with its pricey, out-of-this-world production bikes.
The Gathering was also a rare opportunity to try out apparel like airbag vests from Helite or cool jackets from Walter Leather Company, and a silent auction supporting the Monterey County Youth Museum offered everything from golf at the Quail Lodge & Golf Club to stays at The Peninsula Chicago and New York hotels.
“The success of this year’s The Quail Motorcycle Gathering was truly overwhelming,” said McCall. “From the immense support of our incredible sponsors to the amazing spectators and the diverse demonstration of remarkable motorcycles and classic cars, we are so proud to have come back stronger than ever and are excited to see what 2023 will bring.”
Me too! Next year, The Quail Motorcycle Gathering is scheduled for Saturday, May 6, 2023. Tickets will go on sale this fall, and it’s likely the all-inclusive passes will be limited in number and sell out again, so be sure to put it on the calendar.
For more info, visit Peninsula.com/en/signature-events/events/motorcycle.