Thursday, May 08, 2008


The day after the Legend of the Motorcycle Concours, all show bikes are encouraged to ride a 45-mile loop through legendary Skyline Boulevard, to Alice's Restaurant, and back to the Ritz via Highway 1. Since the first Legend ride three years ago was marred by the nasty crash of Alain de Cadanet on his Vincent, the Highway Patrol has escorted the group. Last year, officer Gary Loo rode a bit over-cautiously on his CHP BMW, and frankly the ride was a bit slow, but this year the escort was more organized and helpful. We were properly brought through the town of Half Moon Bay, ignoring all stop signs and lights...the police waving us through for once, instead of over! (See videos)

As my van and trailer had been full of Nortons on the Concourse day, and three of them weren't mine, I rose at 5am on Sunday, drove home, and picked up my '28 TT90 Sunbeam and 'the Mule', my '33 KTT Velo, so that 'Norton' George Cohen and myself would have suitable mounts for the day. George had never sat on a Sunbeam before, but a short coaching on its happy quirks (four speeds! lever throttle! sit in saddle, paddle off in 2nd, drop clutch, and go!), and he was ready for the off. He tried in vain to stop the world knowing about his transgression from his beloved Nortons, but seems happy in the photographs...even though he had been roused from slumber only 15 minutes before! It seems he, Malcolm Barber of Bonhams, Pete and Kim Young, and a few other miscreants had closed the Ritz bar only a few hours earlier that morning...

The mix of bikes was weighted towards Italian exotica this year, with two MV fours (proper ones from the 70's, that is - a Sport and an America), a couple of MV singles, and other Ducati singles and twins, along with a few older BMW's and Britbikes, plus Kim Young's and my ancients (Kim having entered her '37 Ariel Red Hunter in the show, plus her '30 KSS Velo). Oldest bike honors were tied in 1928 between my 'Beam and Darryl Richman's lovely BMW R52.

5th photo shows some of the contrasts on the ride; Shinya Kimura's Knucklehead custom (ridden by its current owner?) and Mars Webster's '75 MV 750 America. A police BMW, Sunbeam S7, Velo KSS, and Honda 4cyl with sidecar sit in the background. Next photos shows our escort giving a pre-ride lecture on safety; apparently two riders had collided head-on the day prior on Skyline, and a passenger had died of her injuries. Always sobering, but it felt a bit like a scare tactic - as if we were likely to fly past a CHP escort! Two little girls in the cab of a semi-trailer had a good time making fun of the proceedings.

The overview shot tells the tale; I think about 70 bikes made the ride, although a few of the 'bikes' had four wheels. Note the BMW-powered road quads - although I have no interest in them, I can foresee a day when balancing a bike might be a challenge, so when I'm 85 or so, I'll surely buy one (it will be a classic in 2048!).

John Goldman brought along his lovely little Ducati 175 Sport, in blue and gold. Although he didn't enter the bike in the Concours, like all of his Italian gems, it would have done well.

Next pic shows Shinya's Knucklehead, long and low and lean and two-up! It must have been a hard ride for the lovely pillionist, but the bike certainly looked compelling roaring along. Adequate ground clearance meant it could actually be taken around corners without grounding the frame, footrests, or clutch basket.

Jared Zaugg, organizer (with Brooke) of the Legend, was inspired at the last minute to hop in the chair of this Ural/Neval/Dnepr/ChaingJaing/Yangtze outfit (forgot to note which permutation) - he spends all his time running the show; a big party is for the guests, not the host, so it was great to see him get a ride out of the deal. He hasn't had much chance to ride his motorcycles in the past year, but has committed himself to ride more in the coming season. (Note the Mule leaning on a planter in the background...leaving another oily vertical surface.)

At Alice's Restaurant in Skylonda, a cup of hot coffee helped cut the chill - the weather having been dreadfully wet and gloomy all morning, with the Redwood trees dropping all the morning fog condensate onto the roadway and us riders. We were wet and shivering by this point, especially those who had mistaken the Bay Area for SoCal, and forgotten thick sweaters for under their leathers.

That's Mark Wilsmore (owner of the Ace Cafe) and Mick Duckworth (moto journalist) chatting with one of our local heros in the parking lot.

As there seemed to be a shortage of available loaner bikes, Mark was obliged to double up with Mick on a borrowed BSA A65, which seemed to get along just fine with both of them aboard.

George decided the lack of brakes on my Sunbeam were too much to worry about with so little sleep in hand, and traded me for the Velocette, which has a proper mkVIII KTT magnesium front brake (although the linings need a change).
George was concerned for his new French custom-made boots, as the KTT isn't shy about sharing its oil ("It's worse than a cammy Norton!", he said), but at the end of the ride, he only had a few spots on his boots (see photo below). I think the Mule heard him and was embarrassed at its incontinence. He quite enjoyed the Velo, saying it would be a lovely little bike if it weren't so 'disgracefully dirty'! The two nuts holding the gearbox in place had loosened up by the time he returned to the Ritz, and the 'box was free to slop around; only the chain tension kept it in place...oops. It will be fully reconditioned next time you stop by, George. Maybe.

A note on George's outfit; as mentioned, his boots are custom, but his JACKET is Dunhill, from their Paris store, and is made to one of their archival patterns. Dunhill has been making motoring clothing (their 'Motorities' line) since the turn of the last century, and the jacket is the classic 1920's racing style; double-breasted with no collar. It's made from the finest leather, and the retail price was around 3,000 euros! But, George has supplied their London and Tokyo flagship stores with some of his vintage Nortons (his BRS Norton sits in the mezzanine, next to the barber shop in their London/ Jermyn Street location), and was given the coat as payment for services


david said...

Hi, Paul. Still haven't got thru all my LOTM pics etc.
but you wrote:
" I can foresee a day when balancing a bike might be a challenge, so when I'm 85 or so, I'll surely buy one"

This Is what i'd want when i reach that stage:

Tasty Morgan three clone.
In fact,I'd give up my current bikes now if I could get my hands on one.

Throwback said...

Great videos, I love to hear those old machines. That was just one of my favorite things about going to that show, that fact that were starting those bikes up.

diegom said...

Actually the blue & gold Ducati is a 125 Sport, not a 175