The Quail Motorcycle Gathering

A rarified affair

Carmel, Calif., May 5—I know, I know; $75 to get into a motorcycle show on a golf course green for six hours? Can it possibly be worth it? And it’s $95 if you walk up the day of the event, but it includes lunch and all the ice cream you can eat… ice cream, not beer; you have to pay extra for that at the cash bar.

The Quail Motorcycle Gathering

I love the idea of a new twist on the age-old motorcycle rally that typically includes vendors, overcooked street meat and a lot of motorcycles you can see at any weekend poker run. The Quail Motorcycle Gathering, now in its 10th year, has always prided itself on the quality of the motorcycles displayed. There are other shows where one could see a variety of custom-built bikes but the Quail is the only one to my knowledge that mixes vintage and custom in such a way that there is really something for everyone.

I had the opportunity to ride up from just outside of LA to Carmel with the “Why we Ride to the Quail” charity ride, so that started the weekend off very well. We had numerous stops along the way and Bryan Carroll, co-producer of the film Why we Ride, prides himself on taking riders on some of the best roads California has to offer. The first day offered up beautiful California weather and found us riding through lemon groves, winding agricultural land, vineyards and ending at historic Pismo Beach. That night we all convened on the deck of the hotel and watched the sun dip into the Pacific while sharing road stories around the fire pit.

Naciemento-Fergusson Road is worth checking out—just keep your eyes on the road
Naciemento-Fergusson Road is worth checking out—just keep your eyes on the road

The second-day ride found us on the Pacific Coast Highway for some of the day with a lunch stop at the Mission San Antonio de Padua, built in 1773. We moved on from there to what would be the pinnacle of the riding. The often talked-about Nacimiento-Fergusson Road snaked through the mountains east of Big Sur and offered some of the most breathtaking views of the ocean. We needed to keep our eyes on the road as there were no guardrails and any slight error could lead to very abrupt end to the day’s ride. Yet even some of the more novice riders tackled it just fine and were better riders because of it.

We rode the last part of the day through Big Sur and into Monterey, where we had our evening banquet and raffle, and women riders’ panel. Once again they supported the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation and spread the passion for motorcycling to new riders. Next year will be the 5th anniversary of the ride and you can be sure that it will be bigger and better than ever. (motovational.com)

Judges were fastidious about details on every bike in the show
Judges were fastidious about details on every bike in the show

As we rode into the Quail I noticed a larger area then in previous years, which meant more bikes and more room to move around them. Every year the featured types of bikes changes and they honor a motorcycle icon. This year there were special classes for café racers, electric motorcycles and Arlen Ness had a portion of his private collection to honor his brand’s legacy. Live on stage Gordon McCall, the founder of the event, interviewed Zach, Cory and Arlen Ness, giving the audience a chance to hear from three generations of the iconic brand. It was refreshing and insightful to listen to Arlen talk about what it was like back in the ’70s and for Zach and Cory to share their vision of the future of the Ness brand—all this, while being able to ponder some of their most memorable bikes from the last five decades.

Custom bike have become more of a staple for the Quail over the years giving way to a melding of vintage and custom bikes that show other facets of bike building that are sometimes forgotten. Yes, there were some American V-twin-based machines but there were more European and Japanese bikes that were used as a basis and then made into full-blown customs like Analog Motorcycles and their 1968 Ducati 250 custom that won the Arch Motorcycle design and style award.

Tony Prust of Analog Motorcycles receiving the Design and Style Award from Gard Hollinger of Arch Motorcycles
Tony Prust of Analog Motorcycles receiving the Design and Style Award from Gard Hollinger of Arch Motorcycles

Typically there are always a few motorcycles that are unveiled to the public at the Quail Motorcycle Gathering because it falls at the beginning of the riding season. This year we got to see the all-electric newly-branded Curtiss Motorcycle for the first time as well as the fire-breathing 143-inch Arch Motorcycle Method 143. These were very different bikes but still worth the price of admission to say that you were one of the first to see them in person and really take them both in.

Overall the ticket price is a little steep but not if you consider you are essentially walking into a museum exhibit with bikes that you would never see on a weekend ride. 

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