Wednesday, May 09, 2012


Tim Stafford on his immaculate BMW R69S
The weather gods laughed a little, and what started as a typical Cali-coast morning overcast shortly became mist, then a very cold drizzle.  Nothing by English standards, but for riders expecting (never listen to the weatherman...) a warm sunny day, thin leather and a t-shirt proved inadequate, and the gathering of 90+ riders were shivering by the time we stopped atop our viewpoint hill at the 50-mile mark.
John Stein is cold!  Aboard his original-paint Ducati 750SS
48degreesF and wet; lousy for humans, perfect for the 1965 Triumph T120 SR (sports roadster, a rare variant) I'd picked up en route to Carmel Valley, from San Francisco.  For whatever reason, I've been Triumph-lucky this year, and the Bonneville was the latest; with 32 miles since a complete Jim Hiddleston restoration (it had been purchased at Las Vegas in '06, and not ridden since), the Triumph was a complete unknown, yet a 120-mile blast through the gorgeous hills around Carmel and Salinas seemed as good a break-in ride as any.
Craig Vetter's school of silver fish; his High-Mileage Challenge team, which compete for the best fuel economy
Before the ride began, it was clear that, again, the variety of machines bordered on circus-like, with single-cylinder diesel streamliners mixing with priceless exotics like 70s MV-4s and Ducati SuperSports, with a lot of immaculate soon-to-be-on-showbikes mixed in.  The ride pre-sold out, and more; while the parade permit said '75 Motorcycles', a math error (!) meant an actual 90ish bikes were herded by CHP motorcyclists, in two groups.   Technically the 'parade' supervised by the CHP; the uniformed gents kept to the posted speed limits...which on a twisty mountain road, is really 'hauling ass'; these guys ride all day long, most days, and have extensive track and evasive maneuvering training, and are far better/faster riders than most motorcyclist realize.  'Supervision' meant 'rear-view vision' of the two or three riders who could keep up!  Which of course, left the remaining pack free to choose their own pace, as appropriate to their riding and engine capacity.
Not always someone you want to see while riding, but an excellent tour guide...
Wet roads and years-old, new tires meant I pussy-footed the first 10 miles, but no side-slip (that 'whoops' feeling we love so much) indicated the tires were fine, so I upped the pace, looking to catch up to our escort.  Even when damp, the green valleys and overhanging oak trees in Carmel Valley make a spectacular ride, and my passenger was suitably enthralled, having been in the area many times, but never on two wheels.  The landscape smells better on a bike.
Team 'Gator; auto-racing legend Dan Gurney builds these feet-forward machines...
At our 50-mile rest/view stop, riders were happy for a warm up, although the hill crest also signaled the end of coastal fog, and brilliant sun awaited us ahead. Our moody morning changed to a typically sunny California mid-coastal day, as we wound our way down to the Salinas valley vineyards and rural hinterlands.  A stop at the Talbott vineyard (for coffee, but I noted a few leather-clad wine-tasters in the pouring room!), made for a nice photo op amongst the barrels.
Happy with her new/old '65 Bonneville; Susan McLaughlin notes not a drop of oil on the concrete
Highlight of the day is of course a few laps of Laguna Seca raceway, which are also nominally 'parade' laps, led by the CHP.  As they're riding 150hp BMWs, there was no way my 45hp Triumph could keep up, hard as I tried, and I didn't see our lead bike after turn 3!  Only Cycle World's Mark Hoyer seemed able, on his Norton Commando, to keep pace, and in fact had the distinct pleasure of "legally passing a CHP at full speed.  Where else am I going to get the chance?"  I wonder if his track antics had anything to do with his grenaded alternator, two days later?
Chasing a tasty Triton on Laguna Seca
After Laguna Seca, the 10 mile ride over Laureles Grade summit was a quick hop to our lunch stop back the Quail, which was, as usual, excellent.
MVs everywhere...
Is there a better complement to a motorcycle Concours d'Elegance than a 120-mile ride of the show bikes through beautiful countryside?  The Quail ride is not only a good idea, a lot of fun, and a chance to see rare and beautiful motorcycles in action, its a pattern every motorcycle show should emulate.  The Quail isn't unique in having a ride attached to the next-day show, but they are sadly rare...too rare for what is best about motorcycles; riding them, and seeing/hearing them ridden.
The Best of Britain; BSA DBD34 Gold Star Clubman, Triumph Trophy, Triumph Bonneville
Bella Italia; round-case Ducati 750 Sport, ca.'72
When shot at, shoot back!
The inimitable Craig Vetter
Following fish, for a moment anyway...
The BSA Gold Star is a symphony of shapes, masses, and curves
Yes, Honda 4s are included, even trendy 'CB' customs!
True Brit; Johnny Green and Bonhams' Nick Smith
Showing off the Lewis Leathers boots he bought new in 1986
Through the oaks and grasses on unlined roads, bound for sunshine
Mrs. Ron Peck aboard a hot dirt-track style Yamaha XS650
The Sleeper; this machine has a 120hp 'new' MV F4 engine in a replica Magni sounded fearsome through those Magni pipes
And the 'real deal'; MV 750 America, ca.'74
Ron Peck avoids his usual fuel-less stops via camping gas containers in his backpack
Shinya, MV, road.
'73 Triumph TR5a 'Trophy Trail' with BSA B50MX panels and seat; same chassis, different look.  This machine was fun to watch in a straight line -  modern Trials tires meant front and rear wheels rarely aligned, but he kept the plot going just fine on the race track
True 50s style Triumph Trophy 650
Laguna Seca's Turn One
Lots of shiny aluminum present; the lovely Crocetti Triumph, and TR5a
Triumph Tridents are rare on the road; this one with added parcel rack
Keeping good humor about the cold and damp...
The last of the 500cc Triumph twins...
Shinya Kimura amongst the wine barrels
I had several people on the ride ask about my helmet; Ruby helmets are still relatively unknown in the US, but an increasing presence here.  They're a sponsor of The Vintagent, and I dig their helmets!  My jacket is a vintage San Francisco/Castro district castoff; the former owner was a neighbor of mine, a closeted Southern Baptist church organist, who'd moved to SF to 'live the gay lifestyle', so to speak.  When he returned to Georgia to care for his elderly mother, he gave me the jacket, saying 'Nobuddy in Geowgea would unduhstand me wearin' leathah at church...'


WhitelinePsycho said...

Fantastic post, what a gathering, some truly 'unique' mosheens !!!

Anonymous said...

SO agree about Riding the Old Beasts.. the Jan Dania Beach Vintage M/S Show has a day after poker run, Sunshine Ch AMCA Daytona Bike Week Swap Meet has a long country ride & weekend next Riding Into History show has a day before lunch ride.. The ONLY way to go! Nice report sir!

Chris D.

Anonymous said...

Great pics, comments, and of course a great ride!! Looking forward to it again next year!

- Deb S.

Anonymous said...

Great review of the Quail ride ! Thanks for the wonderful photos and comments.

Mark Crocetti

Gordon McCall said...

Thanks once again for all of your help with the "Quail"! The event is a blast, largely because of you! Looking forward to next year........

All the best,

Gordon McCall

The Vintagent said...

Me, and 1500 people like me, who dig beautiful old motorcycles. But you're the proper host, Gordon, so thanks for putting on the show!

Speir said...

Another great write-up and cool pictures.Makes me want to go out and ride