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Common Tread

ZLA and friends' favorite motorcycle events

Mar 18, 2019

Earlier, we helped you get a start on planning your summer riding by listing some of the biggest and best national motorcycle events in 2019. But beyond the major rallies and shows, there are thousands of other events worth considering. So we asked some of our regular Common Tread writers to tell us about the motorcycle events they are most looking forward to in 2019.

Here's what they had to recommend.

Mecum auction
More than a thousand motorcycles are typically up for sale each year at the Mecum motorcycle auction in Las Vegas. Mecum photo.

Abhi Eswarappa: Bike-urious guy hits an auction and a show

My motorcycling year always starts with a visit to Las Vegas for the Mecum motorcycle auction. It occurs in late January, and Mecum is typically able to offer more than 1,000 motorcycles over the course of a few days, from vintage bicycles with motors strapped on them (there was a propeller-drive motorcycle this year!) to modern supersports and original survivors to 100-point restorations. If you can't find something you like at Mecum Las Vegas, it's your fault, not the auction's. I don't even go to buy or sell anything because I'm too cheap to worry about the auction fees, but I know that I'll always find wonderful motorcycles and passionate motorcyclists who will discuss bikes during the day and enjoy what Sin City has to offer at night.

The Quail Motorcycle Gathering
You're guaranteed to see some beautiful and rare bikes at The Quail Motorcycle Gathering. Some owners bring specially trained guard dogs to watch over their displays. Photo by Cory Burns.

Once the weather warms up, I always look forward to The Quail Motorcycle Gathering in May. The show celebrated its 10th anniversary last year with more than 300 motorcycles and 3,000 attendees, all of whom got to enjoy exquisite machinery and a delicious BBQ lunch. In my mind, it’s the perfect combination of motorcycles, people, and ambiance, all set in beautiful Carmel, California, with some of the state’s best roads nearby. If you can plan far enough in advance, you should go early to take part in the Quail Ride, a 100-mile loop through the Monterey Peninsula the day before the show that starts with a few laps on WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. In addition to the usual classes, this year the Quail will have special categories for "Off-Road Wonders Through the 1990s" and the "50th Anniversary of the Honda CB750." Don't forget to visit the nearby Moto Talbott Collection while you're in town.

Revival Cycles Handbuilt Show
The Handbuilt Show coincides with the MotoGP weekend in Austin, Texas, giving motorcycle lovers something else to do while in town. Photo by Spurgeon Dunbar.

Julia LaPalme: Beautiful builds and dusty babes

One of my absolute favorite events to attend throughout the year is Revival Cycle’s Handbuilt Show, which takes place in Austin, Texas, the same weekend as the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas MotoGP race. As a visual artist, I love seeing how builders find creative ways to recreate and restructure a motorcycle. From widely varying shapes to amazing paint schemes, and unusual materials and finishes, the variety of ways a motorcycle can be built and customized turns events like the Handbuilt Show into a motorcycle art gallery. The cherry on top is being able to talk to the builders, who often hang out near their creations, and get some in-depth knowledge on the time, effort, engineering, and visualization that goes into each bike. If you’re headed to Austin already for MotoGP, this show makes it a really well rounded weekend.

Babes in the Dirt
Babes in the Dirt, brought to you by the creators of Babes Ride Out, is a women-only off-road event on the West Coast. Photo by Julia LaPalme.

Babes in the Dirt was created by the founders of Babes Ride Out (which happens in October) and offers an amazing opportunity for women to gather and ride dirt bikes together for a three-day weekend. Aside from some of the support staff from a few of the sponsors, like Husqvarna and Fox, nearly everyone on site at Babes in the Dirt is female. Like other women-only events, this provides ladies an environment to ride with their moto sisters, without the distraction or intimidation of guys. The main event space is at the Quail Canyon MX Park, a secluded area of Hungry Valley SVRA in California that includes an MX track and trails that lead to other parts of the large off-road recreation area. There are Husqvarna demo bikes to try out, community bonfires in the evenings, and karaoke. If you’re a woman who likes to ride dirt bikes and wants to bond with fellow female braappers, this is a fun event to attend, and you’ll likely come away from the weekend with lots of new girlfriends.

Lemmy: The shuffle and the show

The Buffalo Shuffle is an event that's only happened once, but that was enough for me to recommend it. Tim, the guy who runs Gigacycle Garage, decided to host an event. He's a swell guy who's real smart, and his event is as good as his parts. You ride to the campground (August 23 to 25 this year, in Springville, New York) with your buddies or alone. When you get there, you can ride by yourself or with your buds, or make some new friends. Some suggested routes for day trips exist (with maps), but riding is all self-directed — do what you want, ride what you want. There are bands and beer and food trucks and showers at camp, and if you'd like to secure a hotel because you don't wanna camp, you can. If you're all about riding a lot of miles, doing your own thing, and partying hard while still respecting other folks' right to not be bothered by your partying, this event is primo. I don't want to jinx it or speak for the event, but it seems like no one gives a shit about Instagram. You'll get plenty of attitude from attendees, all of it mellow.

Martin Moto calls their Modern Classics Show a museum for a day, and I agree. This show is in the dead of Northeast winter and you'll see about a hundred crazy, crazy machines. Bikes are nominated by owners, fans, and the general public, and a committee picks the year's batch. They try for few or no repeats from previous years, and there have been some showstoppers: I can recall a Britten, a Munch Mammoth, a Reading Standard, and a Crocker, among other really nice motorcycles. The display plaques on each bike have a ton of information, so you'll leave the show not just happy, but a little smarter. We've written about this event a few times with good reason: it's in our neighborhood but it's also world-class.

Spurgeon Dunbar: I want to ride my ADV bike

Every June a bunch of my closest friends and I head up to the mountains of Bald Eagle State Forest in Pennsylvania with our adventure bikes for AltRider’s Conserve the Ride event. AltRider manufactures crash protection for ADV motorcycles and the company's owner, Jeremy LeBreton, enjoys hosting an event that allows folks to test the limits of the products he creates. Riders of all abilities are welcome as there are skill seminars and trails of varying difficulty, from gravel and graded dirt to flowing shale trails and rocky single-track. If you’re lucky, you’ll even make it into one of Lemmy’s notorious “business trip” articles.

Stevan, Spurgie, Lemmy, and Brett
The RevZilla crew at our first Conserve the Ride outing. Photo by Chad Fuller.

For the past couple years the one event I’ve wanted to attend, but haven’t been able to make work, is the KTM Adventure Rally. This year it’s being held in Breckenridge, Colorado on September 13 to 15. Despite the name, all makes and models are welcome. For riders who like a challenge, I’ve heard the advanced routes at this event provide some of the gnarliest terrain available for big-bike adventure. And for folks who want something a little less challenging, the easier routes provide some amazing scenery of the Rocky Mountains at the start of fall.

Chris Force: Go and show

#TheMotoSocial is a monthly event that happens in 12 cities around the world. Yes, I co-host the Chicago event, so I guess I’m biased, but I’ve also attended in Toronto and Ottawa and been surprised at just how great and diverse these are. The vibe is very people-centric, so you meet a lot of riders from different backgrounds that you might not typically run into. Since there’s no real “programming,” everyone just hangs out and makes new friends. It’s a great way to meet new riders from your city.

Is it still cold where you are right now? Me too. Which only adds to the draw of dropping what you're doing and getting out to Los Angeles for the third year of the OG Moto Show. The brainchild between the fellas at Lossa Engineering and RMD Garage, this motorcycle show happens in downtown L.A. with a mix of bikes (choppers, scramblers, modern classics) art and photography.

Liz Kiniery: Dirt, dirt and more dirt

The DVTR Michaux Dual Sport ride embodies dual-sport riding on the East Coast. It’s about community, amazing dirt trails, and a 30-year history, but it’s also grit and rebirth. Two years ago, on the eve of the ride, the organizers pulled out a projector and showed slides of riders in the 1980s on these same trails, laughing about times back then. That spirit is what kept me coming back to the oldest dual-sport run in America — that, and the extravagant ice cream bar at the end of the day. Last year’s event promised to be the last, but ECEA’s Delaware Valley Trail Riders offered to help keep this amazing event alive while honoring its storied past and I’m excited to see it continue. I’ve run the event both on my Kawasaki KLX250 and my KTM 250 EXC-F, but others come on everything from enduro bikes to adventure bikes; you just need a plate. This is a run that can grow with you. My first year, I stuck to the scenic ADV loop and in following years I challenged myself to ride the A, B, and C options through rock gardens and forest single-track.

Over and Out off-road ride
Over and Out is a women-only off-road riding event in the Northeast. Photo by Megan Maloy.

While Julia is going to Babes in the Dirt out west, women riders here in the Northeast have Over & Out Moto, a women-only weekend of riding and camping that happens on June 21 through 23 this year. I love this event because I can hang with friends who are just starting to ride while also getting time to go out on the advanced woods trails. Last year, it poured rain for the majority of the day, and yet not one girl complained. I can’t wait to get back to this low-stress and supportive environment where first-timers rev engines alongside racers on some of the best trails in the Northeast.

Also this year, I am ready to get out and race the ECEA Enduro Series, which takes place on Sundays from March through November. The race series is put on by 19 clubs throughout New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware and Maryland. I’ve ridden some of their dual-sport rides, like the Hammer Run and the Dirty Santa Toy Run, and it’s all good people doing the work to keep lands accessible to off-road riding. I’m feeling committed to getting in a full season here, joining one of the clubs, and giving back to the East Coast riding community. These will also be my first timekeeping enduros, but I’m looking forward to adding some math and time calculations to woods riding. What could go wrong?

Andy Greaser: Cheap track days, throwbacks on the street

The New Jersey Motorsports Park Kart Track Days are not an event, exactly, but a series of practice days for anyone looking to improve their technique without the expense of a full-tilt track day. I’ll be spending a few days at NJMP with the $1,000 adventure bike, some street tires, and the kart track for some good, cheap fun. Competition practice track days are $65. Odds are you don’t live out here by RevZilla and NJMP, but take a look at your local kart track’s website. They might offer similar practice days for your supermoto, Grom, small dirt bike, or 300.

Martin Moto Modern Classics Ride-In
The Martin Moto Modern Classics Ride-In each fall is less formal than the spring show. Martin Moto photo.

Lemmy already mentioned the Modern Classics show at Martin Moto, which really is that good, but less well known is the Modern Classics Ride-In, which takes place Saturday, September 14. One of the best parts of this event is that it specifically isn’t a traditional show. Owners actually ride their bikes in, many of which have previously been in the curated winter exhibition, and you’ll see all kinds of other interesting machinery lining the street outside the showroom.

Although not yet officially announced, I’d be surprised if Radwood didn’t return to Philly this year (likely early fall). You can probably guess by the name that Radwood is a celebration of all things ‘80s and ‘90s, but mostly the cars and motorcycles. Machines from this era are right up my alley, so I’m already making plans to meet up with all the other riders still clinging to discontinued legends with too many carburetors. Look for the bright yellow FZR, and maybe a purple Teknic jacket from 1993 if Lance will let me borrow his. (Editor's note: Ha! As if I had anything that cool back in 1993!)

Mark Gardiner: Trials, flat-track and the secret poker run

If I have one guilty moto pleasure, it’s watching trials videos and fantasizing that I too can just ride over boulders the size of Volkswagens. I definitely can’t, but the closest I’ve ever come to getting the hang of it was one day, years ago, that I spent at the Trials Training Center in the picturesque hill country west of Chattanooga, Tennessee. This year, the Center’s annual Trials Training Days weekend is at the end of March. If you’re an enduro or even dual-sport rider wanting to sharpen off-road technique for the coming season, this would be a great place to start. The TTC has programs on other weekends where you can rent a trials bike for the first day, then apply the lessons on your own enduro bike the next day.

Springfield Mile
If you're going to see one flat-track race this year, it's hard to beat the traditional Springfield Mile. American Flat Track photo.

The horse racing track at the Illinois State Fairground, the site of the Springfield Mile, is the spiritual home of American flat-track racing. Chris Carr once told me it was a "perfect" mile because the two quarter-mile straightaways are connected by semi-circles which each have the exact same radius. The racing surface is typically excellent, and breathtaking drafting battles usually mean the winner’s decided on the final sprint to the finish line. If you’re bored watching a race here, check your pulse because you might be dead. At one time, one race at the Springfield Mile determined the national champion and it is still the only track the series visits twice per year. If you can’t make it for the Memorial Day weekend, you can see the second race over the Labor Day weekend.

Vashon TT
When's the Vashon TT? We can't tell you. It's a secret. Photo by Mark Gardiner.

The Vashon TT began decades ago as a late-season, day-long party for people who live in the Pacific Northwest and like to ride old motorcycles. Once a year around Labor Day, they’d all catch the ferry over to tiny Vashon Island and hold a poker run. Sounds fun, eh? There was just one catch: It quickly got to be so popular that the island was overrun with bikers. To appease local residents, the Seattle-based organizing club — Vintage Motorcycle Enthusiasts — agreed to stop promoting the event, or even mentioning the date. Since then, most people hear about the Vashon TT only after they’ve just missed it! If you want to attend, the only way to learn the date is to join the VME, which has chapters in Seattle, Tacoma, and Portland.

MotoAmerica at Road America
Road America provides a beautiful early-summer setting and a great ambiance for the MotoAmerica series. The last couple of years, it has also been the site of some of the best racing all season. Photo by Brian J. Nelson.

Lance Oliver: Speed and classics

There's no question that hitting a race or three each summer is among my personal motorcycling highlights. With motocross, flat-track and road racing all in full swing, you have plenty of opportunities. If you prefer road racing, like me, and you want the full experience, then the MotoGP/MotoAmerica round at Circuit of the Americas or the World Superbike/MotoAmerica round at Laguna Seca (two great tracks) are your best bets. It's also hard to argue against the final MotoAmerica round at Barber Motorsports Park, because you also get to see the great museum. But I'm going to recommend making at least one trip north to see MotoAmerica at Road America, always at the beginning of June. The rolling hills provide a variety of natural spectator viewing points, the vibe is friendly, the fans ride in on some cool bikes that make the parking lot itself a good show, and the track food is even pretty good.

Wall of Death
The Wall of Death show is just one of dozens of things to do at AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days. Photo by Lance Oliver.

The biggest motorcycle event in my back yard is AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, July 5 through 7 this year. VMD's success led to the creation of similar vintage weekends around the country, so it's no longer as unique as it once was, but it still offers more variety than just about any other event. There's vintage motocross, flat-track and road racing. Judged bike shows and a ride-in bike show. You're guaranteed to see a motorcycle you've never seen before, the the swap meet remains huge, even in the digital age, and sideshows range from the Wall of Death to educational seminars.

Whatever your idea of motorcycling fun, get out there and have a great summer.