Sunday, May 15, 2011


Ridden not hidden genuine '74 Ducati 750SS
 While the Quail Motorcycle Gathering is one of the few prestige motorcycle-only Concours d'Elegance, organizer Gordon McCall is primarily a gearhead and not a trophy-hound, and considers it critical that the motorcycles we treasure are kept alive with regular use.  While static displays have a certain charm, the sight and sound of 95 old and unusual motorcycles threading through the hills of northern California is simply unbeatable, and very sexy.
Laverda 750SF; an easy two-up ride
As I was fresh off the plane, Gordon was kind enough to loan his '72 Ducati 250 in orange livery, which had been prepared for the track, and lightly adapted for the street with the addition of lights and speedo.  The matte-black megaphone was also lightly adapted, being the noisiest machine on the ride, but sounding terrific when wound out on the road.  The handling was razor-sharp, and while of small capacity, it had no problem keeping up on the sinous roads of Carmel Valley, slicing up easy lines through the corners.  I've owned many early Duc singles, and they're all great fun; light and agile, if a bit stiff for a long ride - but perhaps I'm not 23 anymore!
Freshly restored '48 Triumph Tiger 100
 The lineup was as usual a crazy mix of old, collectible, innovative, freshly restored, seriously worn, and just plain odd machines.  Craig Vetter arrived in his daily-ride orange trash-tadpole, a modified scooter which gets over 100miles per gallon due to its wind-cheating bodywork.  He's created a challenge for similar fuel-efficient machines, several of which joined us, including an incredible home-made two-cylinder diesel bike created basically from scrap.
You meet the nicest people...
Highlight of the day, after the glorious road along creeks, under an arching canopy of oak trees, and out into the open rolling grasslands, was our traditional lap of Laguna Seca raceway, which my little Duc ate up and asked for more...wanting to be stripped of lights and allowed to run free again like a wild deer in its natural habitat.
...on a Honda Dream, at Laguna Seca's notorious Corkscrew
 After 120 hard-charging miles, both the Duc and I were quite ready for the to quietly dribble a spot of oil at rest, me to prepare my speech for the banquet!
Ducati Super Sport handles dangerous curves with aplomb
Best in Show 2010 winner, ridden again
The Harz two-cylinder diesel which was the basis of a Dnepr-framed special
Blue Steel, orange Laverda
Gordon McCall, master of ceremonies, generous host, amiable gentleman
No, this is an aluminum tank.  Love the faux-painted fiberglass strip, complete with flies and a goldfish!
My loaner Duc 250; a sharp knife for carving canyons
Late 60s Triumph TR6 perfect for the hills
Take note, collectors: 'Loved and Ridden'.  This 750SS is worth a small fortune, but the owner understands the reason the bike was valued in the first place - its exceptional qualities of speed, handling, beauty - are best experienced on the road, not the mantlepiece.  Serious props.
Personal extremely biased favorite; completely original, low-mileage '66 Velocette Thruxton...
...and the GP carb with which it gulps air, looking more like the cover of a Cheech and Chong album!
A gem; Ducati 250cc Mark 3
A pair of vertical twins from restorer Ron Peck; flat-track Triumph (which ran out of gas 3 times!) and beautiful Yamaha XS650
Yes, we wondered too, but the Motomorphic handles well and is fast
You don't have to be rich to join the ride; cheeky little Honda SL175 fit right in
Tim Stafford on his latest restoration, a BMW R68, an object of lust
Very strong Italian contingent this year; Laverda 750 SF2


Anonymous said...

Great pictures, lovely bikes and a fun looking ride. Thank you for posting. One correction however - the Quail is not a concours d'elegance, that's why it's called a "gathering". Also, I am unaware of any other prestigious motorcycle only concours, even in my native Europe. All seem to be an add-ons to the cars. A shame but at least its happening I suppose.

Gunther M. Klug

Grandpa Jimbo said...

I would like to see the torpedo scooter. Please. Jim A.

The Vintagent said...

Actually Gunther, the Quail IS now a Concours, as a panel of judges rated the motorcycles by category and to an agreed-upon standard for the first time.

You're correct in that the "d'Elegance" strictly speaking refers to an additional judging standard for appropriate attire worn to complement the vehicle. There is no true 'Concours d'Elegance' in the motorcycle world, but there are a few in the car world.

Interestingly, the Quail MotorSPORTS Gathering in August is NOT a Concours, as the cars and bikes are rated by the entrants themselves, and not to any set standard.

GuitarSlinger said...

Three Cheers for the owner of the' Touring ' Ducati 750ss . Nice to see a proper M/C being properly ridden !

Will said...

Thanks for posting a pic of me on my '68 Triumph (T100C Sport Tiger). An honor! I had a fantastic time, can't wait until next year. -Will Bagnall

occhiolungo said...

Have they set the date yet for the 2012 event? It is a shame that it is scheduled on the same weekend as so many other events in NorCal (Velocette Run, Harley vs. Indian, etc). Maybe next year the calendar can be cleaned up a bit and allow more people to attend.

btw, we missed you on the ride in Napa!

Don O'Reilly said...

Great photos of what looks to be an enviable sprint...
That Honda SL was my first bike, way back in '75! those WERE the days. Thanks Paul.

Andrew Macpherson said...

Wow, great shots as always, thanks for taking us on the ride. I plan on doing the whole weekend next year as my R90S should finally be through its total restoration.

Also there are loads of shots from the Saturday over on my site here -
Takes a moment to load, so be patient.

Mingh said...

glad to see the laverda's stepping up. Great riding hardware, hopefully they're not the next buzz in collector land.

davefriesen said...

As someone said, pics of the scooter? You can't just mention the monstrosity and then not have a picture!

Anonymous said...

Love the blog Paul. Keep up the good (and envious) work.
A minor point: The Laverdas you show in this post are an SF (drum brake) and SF2 (disk brake) not SFCs which are the rare production racers with long tank, bikini fairing, rear sets, bump-stop seat, etc. Thanks for the Laverda orange!

The Vintagent said...

Quite right! I have 'C' on the brain...and know better, having seen many an SFC, and using an SFC fairing on my café racer Ducati; less bulbous than the Duc item.