2013 Quail Motorcycle Gathering: So Many Bikes, So Little Time

Now five years old, The Quail Motorcycle Gathering is arguably America’s best bike show. But you have to move fast to see it all.

Quail Motorcycle Gathering

Quail Motorcycle Show

It is just eight acres, that neatly mown lawn by the Quail Lodge clubhouse in Carmel, California. You could run across it in 60 seconds or whack a Titleist clear overhead, given a decent swing. But it's plenty big enough to contain almost the entire history of motorcycling, yours to savor for – just $65? Admittedly, that matches the entry fee for many races and it's way pricier than cuddling up with Wild Hogs on Netflix. But when you leave The Quail Motorcycle Gathering, you will not be thinking about that. Instead, this year, you'd be contemplating the $175,000 it will take to buy a Vincent Black Shadow like the one belonging to Bruce Canepa that earned the Spirit of The Quail award, or how you missed the Vincent Rapide that collectors Mark Mitchell and Mike Long recently dug out of a So-Cal shed. You will be thinking about that tattooed cutie you saw nestled into Randy Grubb's alloy-bodied Decopod, and wondering why you couldn't manage to say hi. You'll be wishing for more of the luscious barbecue that's included with show entry. Marveling at the 1904 Belgian FN, now 109 years old, that looks as ready for a country ride as it did four years before the Model T arrived. Or contemplating the crouching Tavax cruiser that took Japan's Ken Tabata 3 1/2 years to build. So while the Quail Motorcycle Gathering is small, it is actually very, very large.

Let’s continue with the list of things you could have explored at the Quail, held for the fifth consecutive year this May, if you had more time. And that is the real problem here, because the event is technically just 5 1/2 hours long, from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. With 236 bikes on the field, that gives you just 1 minute 23.9 seconds per bike if you want to see all of them and talk to their owners, who often stay closer than a mama grizzly to her cubs. And who wouldn’t want to connect? For starters, the owner could be someone like three-time Grand Prix world champion Wayne Rainey, who just happens to live nearby. Wayne allowed event organizer Gordon McCall to wheel his 1991 championship Yamaha YZR500 out of the living room and straight onto the lawn. The V-Four won Best of Show, and Wayne won a new Quail award, Legends of the Sport.

Quail Motorcycle Gathering

Quail Motorcycle Show

Fellow three-time GP champ Kenny Roberts was there too, as were Jim Rice and Don Castro, both of whom appeared in On Any Sunday. So was Danny Sullivan, the 1985 "spin and win" Indy 500 champion, with his Mert Lawwill-built Street Tracker. And so was the man who built it. Mert isn't into classic bikes per se – but he was there with the prosthetic hand he developed to help injured athletes return to competition. Likewise, Ducati organized a Monster ride up the famed Pacific Coast Highway from Southern California, and onto the field rumbled a dozen Monsters, accompanied by Monster designer Miguel Galluzzi.

Actually, there is little hope of absorbing every detail of the Quail show simply by moving through it faster, because this only means you'll miss those details. Our solution was to also register for Friday's 105-mile Quail Tour ($295 including a formal dinner and show entry for two), where this year 101 bikes – most additionally featured in Saturday's show – could be seen and heard in motion. One was a lovely 1967 Triton, winner of the Cycle World "Elegance in Action" award. Built over four years by ex-pat Brit Jonnie Green as funds allowed, it consists of a Norton Featherbed frame discovered at a swap meet, Manx-style bodywork and a 750cc-kitted pre-unit Triumph Twin engine – the exact cocktail that lit up the Ace Cafe scene back in the day. "It's a blast to ride, and it's also my exact vision of how a café racer should look," Green says. It's also our vision that great bikes are made to ride, and the fact that Green's Triton is really used – 12,000 miles since he finished it 17 years ago – cemented it as CW's award winner.

It’s impossible to know what will appear at next year’s Quail Motorcycle Gathering. But if it’s as promising as this year’s event, we’ll definitely be there – moving fast, as slowly as possible.

Quail Motorcycle Gathering

Quail Motorcycle Show

Cycle World?s Elegance in Action award went to Jonnie Green for his authentic and completely usable 1967 Triton.

Quail Motorcycle Show

Cycle World publisher Andy Leisner, Jonnie Green and emcee Paul d?Orleans discuss the building of Green?s Triton.

Quail Motorcycle Show

The Cycle World tent featured a helpful staff, free sample issues, Peter Egan books, cool T-shirts and this wicked Ducati Panigale on display.

Quail Motorcycle Show

Three-time Grand Prix world champion Wayne Rainey received the Quail event?s new Legends of the Sport award.

Quail Motorcycle Show

Three-time world GP champ Wayne Rainey received the Quail?s first ?Legend of the Sport? award ? in addition to Best of Show for his 1991 Yamaha roadracer.
Quail Motorcycle Gathering

Quail Motorcycle Show

?King? Kenny Roberts, emcee Paul d?Orleans, Mert Lawwill and Wayne Rainey put on a great Q&A; session. All were available to meet ?n? greet.

Quail Motorcycle Show

Wayne Rainey?s 1991 YZR 500 Yamaha V-Four ? presented to him after his championship year ? earned Best of Show award.

Quail Motorcycle Show

Trophy haul at the Quail is getting to be serious business. Booty included crystal, champagne and even a Tudor watch.

Quail Motorcycle Show

Oregon?s irrepressible Randy Grubb brought four aluminum creations, including the big Decoliner and three Decopods.

Quail Motorcycle Show

Randy Grubb even made a helmet to go with his Decopod runabouts.

Quail Motorcycle Show

What?s not to like about the Decopod speedsters? ?This one feels real good!? she said. Do tell.

Quail Motorcycle Show

Ken Tabata?s wild Tavax custom took 3 ½ years to build and was flown to the Quail event from Osaka, Japan, winning the Custom/Modified class.

Quail Motorcycle Show

Pick a style, any style. One amazing Quail Tour element is the sheer breadth of machinery. The elephant in the Corkscrew here participated in the Vetter Fuel Challenge.J. Bushnell Photography

Quail Motorcycle Show

A horde of Ducati Monsters rode up from So-Cal. This one was signed by the designer himself, Miguel Galluzzi.

Quail Motorcycle Show

The Molnari G2 is technically a motorcycle. It is also a helicopter. Its builder, Michael Solano, says next year he will ride it to the Quail ? and then fly home.

Quail Motorcycle Show

Got Gourmet? This year?s all-you-can-eat buffet was gourmet barbecue, and it was well worth the short wait in line to get to it.

Quail Motorcycle Show

Wow, just wow. Winning outright in the hard-fought Off Road show category, Gary Edwards? 1967 BSA A50 Wasp scrambler was pure Brit-bike porn.

Quail Motorcycle Show

Minibkes got a lot of riders started ? and then hooked for life. This 1962 Skat Kitty belonging to Randall Smalley took home honors in Minibikes class.

Quail Motorcycle Show

With Bud Ekins history and a Western movie to its credit, Mark Mitchell?s untouched 1919 Harley J Model sidecar rig took home a prestigious FIVA Preservation award.

Quail Motorcycle Show

Eurotrash? Not hardly. The breadth and quality of the Quail event is sweeping ? and you ?apply? to enter your bike. It?s not a slam-dunk that you?ll get in.