Its generally considered 'demanding' if a Concours d'Elegance requires its vehicles to drive over the podium to collect awards, as if proper use of a restored vehicle is unusual...and in some circles - both bike and car - it is. Cycle World came up with a better idea, conducting its 'Rolling Concours' sporadically and in various locations over the last dozen years; gather a bunch of shiny old bikes together, go for a ride of ~70miles, then judge the machines according to loose categories of chronology and country of manufacture.
The rider of the machine is honored as well as the actual motorcycle, rather than simply the owner, as owners tend to enter multiple machines! My 1925 Norton flat-tank racer took Best in Show in 2000; after hammering the not-perfect old ferret around the hilly roads of Sonoma, she was slathered in lubricant and smoking like a gun, but use of the machine 'as the maker intended' impressed the judges (note for future entrants...).
As the Indianapolis Motor Speedway hosts a MotoGP this weekend, Indy seemed a good place to hold a Rolling Concours, and CW editor Mark Hoyer asked if I'd like to be a judge this year....never having been to Indy, the answer was obvious. After a very late night post-Double RL Brough Superior party in Los Angeles, my 4:45am wakeup was painful, although I did catch sleep on the long flight. Slightly bleary on arriving at our hotel that afternoon, I failed to recognized the first person I bumped into; current World Champion Jorge Lorenzo...
Judges for the 2011 Cycle World Rolling Concours included editor Hoyer, renowned and long-time CW columnist and author Peter Egan, and your humbled narrator. Hoyer and I had thought to ship our own bikes to Indy with the CW roadshow truck, but that proved difficult, and threats of a Ural as our mounts failed to materialize. It was left to Mark's wife Jenn, who takes care of press and publicity for Harley-Davidson, to source a few H-D V-Rods for our journalistic pleasure. With a natural aversion to cruisers (two of which have unceremoniously dumped me on tarmac after the skinny front wheel of a 700lb bike lost traction), I was curious about the only 'performance' bike left in Harley's stable, after the gifting MV Agusta to the Castiglionis and dumping Buell in the trash.
The entrants to the Concours began arriving at 8am, a good-natured bunch of Midwesterners mostly, although some travelled all the way from Baltimore, of course for the MotoGP, bringing their old show bike for extra fun. Most bikes were post-1950s, although a '47 Indian Chief and '37 BSA 250cc B21 made up the 'antique' category. This left a gaggle of 70s two-strokes and big-bore Japanese fours (now eligible for AMCA membership!) to accompany a typical range of 60s/70s Britbikes - Triumphs, BSAs, Nortons.
Finding standout machines was made easy by a double-engine '74 Triumph Bonneville (on which I snuck a ride - it felt like a long-wheelbase twin! With 1500cc of power...), an outrageous 'Willie's Latin Thing' over-dressed Harley FLH in purple metalflake double-Jesus, and several smartly restored beauties. Let the ride begin...
Indiana isn't Cali, so the roads were pretty straight, but the countryside was green, the day fine, and we settled into 'just enjoy it' mode, as I got used to my H-D's feet-first riding position. That dohc powerplant certainly has urge, and one-handed 15mph corners were free of drama. A decent bike, which looks pretty racy with a human on it; although I found the gearchange notchy and the front brake grabby, it didn't pitch me off, and I grew comfortable having my butt pressed hard into the seat back when twisting the throttle.
Our support team somehow wangled Ducati Diavels as their mounts, which seemed entirely unfair, and a protest at lunch brought a change of mount, so my Road Test of Duc's newest 'what-the-hell-is-it' was begun in earnest. While the Diavel is also considered a 'cruiser', its performance and riding position were anything but laid-back. In typical Ducati fashion, its a rocket with superior handling, feeling far more nimble and self-assured than its looks imply. The enormous 'tank' made the front end invisible while riding, but ignoring the visual experience had my body thinking this was a much smaller sports bike. Odd, but fun.
Our ride concluded, it didn't take long to pick our winners, and riders seemed pleased with the day and the results. No points were lost from oil mist, gas stains, or bits fallen off (just a couple), and the pleasure of the day meant nobody seemed too bent on winning (or at least, nobody tried to bribe me). Would that more Concours were conducted thus.
|Lunch stop under the spreading trees, serenaded by cicadas and katydids|
|Bates jacket goes well with a '67 Triumph Tiger 650|
|BMW R60/2 with Touring tank|
|Lovely restored '37 BSA B21|
|Motive unit of the 250cc ohv BSA; a mini Empire Star.|
|Super-clean 750cc Norton Commando, with matching yellow bungee holding the primary cases together, as he'd lost the bolt on the long journey to Indy...|
|The long shadow of the law...was confined to the track, as we saw none other during the day.|
|Riders of the 'Bonne-Bonne'...motorcycling keeps love alive.|
|The remarkably refined 'Bonne-Bonne' primary drive and extended tank with 'mouth organ' badge|
|Matching helmet included.|
|Cutting the grass to avoid a rock-strewn road...|
|The mighty '47 Indian Chief|
|The two-stroke mob; Yamaha RZ350, RD350, and Suzuki X6|
|Perfect day for a ride in the park...|
|Rare Harley Pacer in 'original dust' condition.|
|Peter Egan with the silver V-Rod...|
|Picnic lunch in the park...|
|It says, 'Ride Vintage'...|
|Indiana is a green and pleasant land...|
|Corner workers at the Indy 'Brickyard' track|
|'74 Kawasaki Z1 custom with extended swingarm and 'tail of the dragon' paint|
|Proof of location...|
|Best in Show '74 Kawasaki H1 MK3...|