Sunday, October 28, 2007


The weather gods smiled on the 7th annual 49 Mile Ride, and we had a perfect day out, snarling up traffic and generally having a good time on the roads of San Francisco. The '49' has inadvertently morphed into the largest urban Vintage motorcycle ride in the US, which has necessitated that the Yerba Buena AMCA help organize catering and chase truck duties, and have someone at all junctions to mark the route.

The horde has grown to 150-plus machines, all pre-1974, and most considerably older than that. Oldest bike present was Kevin Burrell's '29 Norton Model 18, followed by Kim Young's '30 Velo KSS, and my '33 Velo KTT.
Plenty of oil was shed on Treasure Island, our starting point, where coffee and pastries awaited anyone who wasn't busy taking photographs of the amazing variety of machines (and people!) who showed up at 9am on a Sunday for a ride.

Top pic is a classic California shot - a Norton Commando Roadster under the palm trees on a clear blue sky day.

Next is Craig Howell's lovely BMW R60/2, in Dover white, with the SF downtown skyline in the background. Lurking menacingly beside it is Phillipe Murat's Kawasaki H1, the BMW's polar opposite! I've added a pic of Uwe Goedereis (taken by Craig) - Uwe was visiting from Germany, and timed his stay for the '49' and All-British Ride.

Even scooters are OK!

Your scribe on his KTT, with downtown in the back (Treasure Island is 4 miles inside the bay, and has a great view of the city). I'm trying out my new/old green German racing jodhpurs - lined with felt, very comfortable, but a bit warm today. Second pic of the Mule in action courtesy David Blankenhorn... thanks!

The rider's meeting - somewhere in there Pete Young is standing on a truck bed trying to be heard. Bikes as far as the eye can see.

I didn't catch everyone's name (so if you're pictured, send me a note!), but I enjoyed taking pix of some of the characters on the day.

This ranger at Fort Point was happy to see us; his Harley FLH was parked nearby. Unfortunately, we had to move our machines out of the fort's parking lot, as someone had chosen this lovely day to jump off the GG bridge, and the emergency crews soon filled up the lot in our stead.

Fort Point was built in 1798, and can be wonderfully gloomy in the fog, as the walls are 10' thick, and most of the Fort is empty, with no glass, just open gun ports to the foggy sea. The Golden Gate bridge was built directly over the Fort, but soars several hundred feet above the squat brick structure. Most bridge jumpers choose to walk mid-span and jump over water, but some jumpers don't walk far enough, and land on the coastal rocks, or the fort itself. Thus the heavy presence of emergency vehicles (and one fake cable car!) in the photo. The bridge authority tries to downplay all this, but the facts are pretty odd; no one jumps from the Marin side, always the SF side of the bridge, and always facing San Francisco rather than the Pacific ocean. It's the world's #1 suicide spot, apparently - 85% are locals though, and about 30 of the 1300 jumpers have survived. There a great article here.

That's Sonny and his hotrod Norton/Matchless/custom hybrid, still running on ex-dirt track tires, fast as hell, and sounding like tearing calico when wound up.

Behind double trouble here you'll see the fire trucks and cops (note scowl on butch ranger in background). Paul Zell on his SS-ed Ducati GT and Max Schaaf on his completely cool Harley Knucklehead bobber '4Q' - a bike which really warranted a second and third look. The detail shot at the bottom is the 'mating snakes' exhaust system, and tiny custom taillights; a lot of thought and effort went into making this Knuck.

Kim Young trying to find husband Pete, whose sidecar outfit ran out of sparks on the Bay Bridge - frightening enough in a car, potentially lethal on a bike. I've broken down twice on that span, and thus always ride in the side lanes!

After we left Fort Point, we rode along the Great Hwy, and watched the surfers contend with the 50degree water and nasty cross-currents. It looked tempting today though, with 6' waves and no wind.

We're up on Twin Peaks here, overlooking the city from SF's highest point, and hoping the tour buses don't crush our bikes.

Kevin Burrell and his '29 Norton Model 18, running very well, with it's funny silencer (one year only?). The bike was purchased as a very incorrect and ill-running machine, and Kevin's done a nice job with it. He had the tanks repro'd in England.

That's Lynn Miller and his Velo Venom Clubman model. Lynn makes and repairs bagpipes for a living; talk about a niche market! He also likes vintage watches... I see a complication connection.

Chris and Felicity Bonk, and Kim Young, with Philippe Murat in the background.

The road off Twin Peaks can be taken with the engine off for almost a mile, which makes the hairpin corners more exciting. We're on our way to Lindley Meadows in Golden Gate Park here, for our lunch stop.

Lunch was catered, and although they ran out of
food (why is catering so hard to arrange on these rides?), the locale was perfect. The afternoon sunlight slanted through the Monterey Cypress trees, the grass was green, and the lineup of bikes looked great. More motorcyclists (who couldn't get out of bed on time?) joined us, from hotrodded mopeds to real 1% types wearing club colors. An interesting mix.

For more great pix of the ride, click here:

49 Mile Pix

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