Carmel, Calif., May 6—Under grey skies and a siege of cold wind, over 3,000 diehard attendees filled the lawn at the Quail Lodge and Golf Club for the ninth year of celebrating all things motorcycle related. Sprawled out across the comfort of the cushy resort’s putting greens, the Quail Motorcycle Gathering was a complete case of sensory overload as spectators tried to take in the dazzling display of over 350 machines that varied between raw and ragged vintage iron to new and shiny bling bikes that captured the imagination. There was a motorcycle that turns into a personal helicopter and even a few bicycles thrown in just to even out the playing field. What has become a prestigious event that spans the length and breadth of motorcycling’s evolution played out over the course of two days as riders took in a 100-mile ride through the beautifully scenic Monterey Peninsula that ended with a quick zip on the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca where racing greats have made their marks in the world of speed. The fun in the sun was followed by a celebratory reception and dinner on Friday night, both of which were completely sold out. The main event on the blustery Saturday afternoon continued to see spectators drift in over the course of the day despite the less-than ideal weather conditions.
Vendors did their best to not blow away as they greeted riders and enthusiasts from around the world while simultaneously bracing against a predicted rainstorm that never quite materialized. The sun managed to make an appearance just about the time the awards ceremony got under way but the weather obviously meant nothing because the joint was absolutely jumping with eager guests who appreciated the well laid-out offerings. Judges worked their way through the crowded displays with clipboards and pens, struggling with the task of picking out the best of the best, and chatted between themselves while comparing notes. It was obvious their chore was a difficult one.
The Norton Commando’s row-after-row display of over three dozen incredible machines paid homage to the “Snortin’ Norton’s” 50th anniversary. Every color of the rainbow was represented in the exhibit of this year’s featured class while across the lawn the dark and elegant Velocette display stood silent and somber in its elegant “little black dress” signature paint scheme. Exemplifying the Quail’s diversity in presentations, the display of Morgan three-wheeled machines that look vintage but were, in fact, all totally modern, held the crowd’s interest all afternoon. Morgan owners had been seen cruising along the back roads of the area in the eye-catching three-wheeled vehicles the day before and they looked like they had a fun ride.
Racing great Kenny Roberts was honored this year as the Legend of the Sport recipient. He joined the Quail’s Director of Motorsports Gordon McCall onstage to chat about his past antics before Mert Lawwill and Wayne Rainey, fellow notable racers from the same generation, came up to share their memories of life in the fast lanes with Roberts.The trio joked about the days of heavy rivalry and hardcore competitions while sharing the back stories of some of the news headlines from sports pages back in their heydays. The celebrated racers also discussed their opinions and involvement in supporting the future of racing and the up-and-coming riders who are tackling the course in today’s competitions, a theme that seems to thread its way through the heart of motorcycling. Trying toencourage the younger generations is a focus that is vital to our future and the Quail promoters are aware that more needs to be done to encourage our youth’s interest. With that in mind, it was nice to see the Texas-based Handbuilt Motorcycle Show’s participation in a West Coast event. With the Quail Gathering having made its debut at the Austin show in April, promoters returned the favor by bringing their support to California. Though vastly different types of events—Handbuilt attracts a younger crowd of builders and their fans—it is the melding of the diversified interests and ages across the board that’s a great way to span the gap between the motorcycling generations. Custom shops like Revival Cycles and Heroes Motorcycles showed off their custom designs right alongside the more reserved and understated private collections. Personally, we’d like to see more of this kind of fusion in biking events.
Also nice to see was the arrival of the vets who participated in the Veterans Charity Ride that came up from SoCal. A charity that was started by veterans, for veterans, the VCR is a nonprofit American veterans’ support group that operates under the premise that motorcycling is its own therapy. With a motto of “Changing and saving lives with motorcycle therapy,” a group of riders rolled into the Quail to spread the word about the upcoming ride to Sturgis. From the beginning, Indian Motorcycle signed on as sponsors of founder Dave Frey’s vision to get the support and therapy wounded vets need to live a healthy life after serving their country. Sidecars are used to offer wounded and amputee vets a chance to get in the wind, experience the beauty of America along the back roads and embrace a little time away from it all. In its third year of operation, the 2017 excursion from SoCal to Sturgis promises to be an adventure of a lifetime for both the riders and their passengers as they are also provided therapy sessions along the way. Set to depart from Los Angeles on July 28, the six Indian side-hack pack and their supporters will visit several National Parks and monuments as they make their way through six states in 18 days, arriving to a hero’s welcome in Sturgis on August 6. Always grateful for donations, you can can find more information on the Veterans Charity Ride Facebook page as well as on their website veteranscharityride.org
By this time Chief Judge Somer Hooker took to the stage to present award winners. Promoter McCall had told gathered media earlier in the day that a decision had been made to eliminate third place awards since, “Nobody brags about coming in third,” so the ceremony was short but informative and entertaining. The wind had settled down a bit and presentations went well with poignant moments like Craig Vetter, inventor and well-respected rider who hit a deer on his bike two years ago, made his way up via help from his walker to award a hand-built race bike that was powered by a BMW engine. Another award winner came front and center and tried to show the crowd how well his bike ran. Despite repeated efforts, the shy machine refused to perform. The owner kicked until he was winded and his bike was quietly pushed off stage to rest in the winners’ circle.
Some entrants came a great distance to soak up the coastal vibe, one winner listed as hailing from Hong Kong, but the majority of awards were presented to Californians for machines that came from all around the world. Regardless of where you come from, the Quail Motorcycle Gathering is definitely an event worth the distance. The 2018 show is scheduled for May 5.