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Common Tread

Sweet bikes on the green at "The Quail"

May 24, 2016

“A motorcycle is a bicycle with a pandemonium attachment, and is designed for the special use of mechanical geniuses, daredevils and lunatics.” — George Fitch

It could be said that over 100 years of motorcycle manufacturing has generated more than a few legitimate bicycles with pandemonium attachments. However, the daredevils and lunatics have kept the motorcycle industry afloat for over a century and will continue to do so as long as there are mechanical geniuses to build them.

The Quail Motorcycle Gathering
A 1956 Harley-Davidson FLH leads a row of classics at The Quail Motorcycle Gathering. Photo by Cristi Farrell

Each year, for the past eight years, a sampling of our current day’s mechanical geniuses, daredevils, and lunatics have gathered at what has become known as “The Quail.” The only event of its kind as a stand-alone motorcycle judging competition, the Quail Motorcycle Gathering is a celebration of intact barn finds, aesthetically perfect restorations, custom builds, and modern boutique motorcycles. In a single day, 3,000 attendees perused more than 350 motorcycles spanning 114 years of advancements in mechanical engineering in categories such as Antique, American, British, European, Japanese, Competition On/Off Road, Custom/Modified, BMW Classics, 40th Anniversary of Superbike, Chopper, Pre-1916 Motorcycles, and Scooters. This year, a special category of Extraordinary Bicycles was added to honor two wheels sans said pandemonium attachment.

The Quail Motorcycle Gathering
1952 Triumph Thunderbird. Photo by Cristi Farrell

The Quail Motorcycle Gathering draws a variety of California natives, industry celebrities, private collectors, national builders, and restoration specialists to the expansive grounds of the Quail Lodge & Golf Club in Carmel Valley, Calif. The event, organized by Gordon McCall and Quail Signature Events, has evolved in its own right each year with increasing levels of manufacturer and aftermarket support. Attendees walking the greens are provided with live entertainment, a catered lunch, gear check, and parking for their $75 entrance fee.

Flying Merkel
A 1911 Flying Merkel. Photo by Shawn Thomas.

You will be hard pressed to find a more diverse crowd with a greater level of enthusiasm and commitment than a bunch of motorcycle aficionados, eager to bend any ear who will listen to what makes their individual wheels turn. Technology has certainly evolved in the span of 100 years, but the basic facts remain the same: It takes a special person to be passionate about voluntarily cradling between their legs a full gas tank atop a combustion source. Motorcycling’s seduction is a delicate balance between functioning in a state of heightened existence while willingly surrendering to its physical vulnerability. Second only to the experience of riding a motorcycle itself is its use as a canvas where engineering is elevated to an art form. War is often waged between form and function, and either have emerged victorious at one time or another. Only an event like the Quail Motorcycle Gathering would provide an opportunity to visually dissect these elements across a timeline.

1974 Ducati GT750
1980 Ducati 950 SS. Photo by Cristi Farrell

If one day of spectacular motorcycle diversity isn’t enough to make it a weekend getaway, consider the growing list of pre- and post-event activities arranged by Quail Signature Events, Cycle World/Honda, and filmmakers of the movie "Why We Ride." Quail Signature Events (on the day prior to the event) offers a 100-mile ride through the Monterey Peninsula, which typically includes a lap on the legendary Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, a gourmet lunch en-route, a few surprises along the way, and an exclusive dinner back at the Quail Lodge & Golf Club with guest speakers. The price tag may be considered steep for some at $345, but if you have ever dreamt of taking a spin on the corkscrew, riding the gorgeous Monterey Peninsula coastline alongside motorcycles that could have just rolled off the Bonham’s auction block, and rubbing elbows with industry veterans, custom builders, and private collectors, the passion and enthusiasm for motorcycling in the aforementioned company will be unparalleled.

1925 BMW R37
This 1925 BMW R37 won Best in Class and Best in Show. Photo by Cristi Farrell

At the end of the day, it was the rarest of BMW’s production race bikes, the 1925 BMW R37, owned by former vintner Robert Talbott, that won overall Best of Show and within the BMW Classics category.

1963 Itom Astor
1963 Itom Astor. Photo by Cristi Farrell

On behalf of the AMA, Hall of Fame inductee and former racer Mert Lawwill presented the Dud Perkins Lifetime Achievement Award to fellow Hall of Fame inductee Craig Vetter, who made his first public appearance since his August, 2015 motorcycle collision with a deer. Though suffering a few setbacks earlier on in the week, Craig was determined to make an appearance at the event to accept the honor, as well as participate as a judge. AMA President Rob Dingman graciously volunteered to chauffeur him around the event grounds in a golf cart.

Champion-framed Yamaha
Champion-framed 1973 Yamaha 750 TT bike. Photo by Cristi Farrell

Though the characterization of motorcyclists by George Fitch may ring true, the vast majority of these mechanical geniuses, daredevils and lunatics all subscribe to the same belief that you don’t have to ride the same ride to feel the same passion.

The Quail Motorcycle Gathering 2016 Award Winners
Best in Show 1925 BMW R37 Robert Talbott, California
Spirit of The Quail Award 1964 MV Agusta Triple Virgil Elings, California
Antique First Place 1931 Moto Guzzi Sport 15 Mark Leonard, California
Antique Second Place 1929 Moto Guzzi Sport 14 Mark Leonard, California
Pre-1916 Motorcycles 1910 Pierce Four Tom Holthaus, California
Extraordinary Bicycles 1941 Columbia Clipper Danny Stewart, California
American First Place 1949 Indian Arrow Jason Hartje, California
American Second Place 1942 Harley-Davidson XA Prototype Jim Farley, London
BMW Classics 1925 BMW R37 Robert Talbott, California
British First Place 1952 Vincent Touring Rapide Gene Brown, Colorado
British Second Place 1965 Royal Enfield Interceptor Albert Catelani, California
Italian First Place 1963 Malaguti Olympique Vincent Schardt, California
Italian Second Place 1955 Devil 160 Super Sport Stewart Ingram, California
Other European First Place 1969 Bultaco El Montadero The Delamore Family, California
Other European Second Place 1951 NSU Konsul 500 Ziggy & Lisa Dee, California
Japanese First Place 1972 Honda CL350 K4 Flying Dragon Don L. Stockett, California
Japanese Second Place 1966 Honda 305 Scrambler John Zuffi, California
Chopper Class Award 1951 Harley-Davidson Custom Joe Brown, California
Scooter Class Award 1967 Vespa Sears Gianluca Baldo, California
Custom Modified First Place 1952 Triumph Thunderbird Bryan Thompson, California
custom BMW R100
1980 BMW R100 in the Custom Modified Class. Photo by Shawn Thomas.
Custom Modified Second Place 1980 BMW R100 Chris Canterbury, California
Competition On Road First Place 1964 MV Agusta Triple Virgil Elings, California
Competition Off Road First Place 1989 Honda XRC650 Africa Twin Marathon Sam Roberts, California
Industry Award 2009 Ducati Monster/“Leggero” Walt Siegl, New Hampshire
A 1200 cc 1973 Vincati in the Custom Modified Class. Photo by Cristi Farrell
Innovation Award 1973 Vincati 1200 cc Mitch Talcove, California
Design and Style Award 1960 Velocette Revival Cycles, Texas
40th Anniversary of Superbike Wayne Rainey #60 Kawasaki American Motorcyclist Association
HVA Preservation Award 1910 Pierce Four Tom Holthaus, California
The Cycle World Tour Award 1948 Indian 648 Big Base Scout Matt Black/Iron Horse Corral, California
"Why We Ride" Award 1947 Salsbury Scooter Donald Orosco, California
Significance in Racing Award 1957 Harley-Davidson KR Michael Taggart, California
AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Heritage Award Wayne Rainey #60 Kawasaki American Motorcyclist Association