Cannonball Characters: #9 Chris Tribbey

By Felicia Morgan

1911 Excelsior

New to the Cannonball family for 2018 was a very personable guy who knew he’d wanted to be a part of the clan from the beginning. Chris had been intrigued with the run since the 2010 iteration and later attended an informal talk on the inaugural ride experience that was presented by fellow employee of Harley-Davidson, Bill Rodencal. Chris was also in attendance as riders rolled onto the Harley-Davidson Museum campus in 2012. He was mesmerized by the ancient machines and quite bitten by the MC bug.

In 2015 he’d become the proud owner of a 1911 Excelsior Model K Single and immediately set to making the magnificent, one-owner machine Cannonball ready. Chris was meticulous in his restoration project, sharing the progress with friends on his blog site and social media and by the time tires toed up in Portland, Maine, the competitive side of Cannonball rider number 9 was in full bloom. Focused and dedicated to his machine, Tribbey was single-minded in keeping his ride in tip-top shape with hopes of making it across the country with no breakdowns. As the pilot of the oldest machine entered in the 2018 run, it was not at all impossible to think he could be the first competitor in Class I to arrive at the finish line with a perfect score and take home the prestigious Jeff Decker original bronze. Every pit stop, spare moment and break was spent tending to the precious motorcycle and spectators, staff and fellow riders quietly cheered his progress. As riders took their day of rest in Sturgis, Chris was showered with support and the geriatric Excelsior that chugged along with a mere 4 hp became affectionately known as the “little X that could.” Then, after a mere 149 miles of the scheduled 299 miles during Stage 10, disaster struck. First-time competitor Tribbey slipped from first place to 66th position after his loveable little X threw an exhaust valve. The world offered an audible groan over the breakdown and Chris was certainly bummed, but rather than being dejected by the mechanical catastrophe, the gracious and genuine rider simply smiled and told us, “Those were the best 2,158 miles of my life!”

Chris got the bike back on its treads and carried on, then suffered another down day and by the finish line, Chris and the X came in with 584 miles less than a perfect score. Nonetheless, Tribbey held a big smile and the satisfaction of a hard-fought achievement for both himself and his 107-year-old machine. Since the September 2018 life-changing experience of crossing the country with the Cannonball clan, Chris has retired after 18 years of employment with Harley-Davidson and we offer him a hearty congrats in his future endeavors. Now that he’s got all that free time, we’re willing to wager that his plans will include another Motorcycle Cannonball run. Keep an eye on future developments as plans for the 2020 run unfold at www.motorcyclecannonball.com.

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