Kickin’ It At The Quail

An appreciation for The Quail Motorcycle Gathering. With a complete list of class winners.

Quail Gathering overall scene

After forty-whatever-it-is years of motorcycling, sometimes I just figure I've seen it all. And then I go to The Quail Motorcycle Gathering. Just completing its sixth year at the Quail Lodge in Carmel, California, this wide-encompassing show continues to bend my mind. Sure, there is the expected array of beautifully restored production classics like a Honda CBX, Triumph TR6 and Moto Guzzi V7 Sport, along with impeccable blue chips like Vincent and HRD. And a barbeque lunch deserving of a long ride to Monterey County in its own right.

Then you stroll farther across the grass at the Quail Golf Course and discover the prototype Brough Superior SS 100, a holy grail among collectible bikes not seen publicly in 30 years. Or you find yourself beholding the actual Gyronaut X-1, a twin-Triumph-powered streamliner that was the world's fastest motorcycle in 1966, part of a 27-bike Bonneville collection that was the largest of its kind, off the salt flats. And then you come face-to-face with a 1947 Doodle Bug, one of the first minibikes, and nearby a triple-engine Yamaha TR2 drag bike. It may sound cliché, but you really never know what you'll find at this event.

Although he credits the enthusiasm of the entrants and spectators for the show’s success, impresario Gordon McCall is clearly the gravitational force that pulls everyone together. Like a musician who can play strings, reeds, and a drum kit equally well, McCall has eclectic interests that range from old dirt bikes to sportbikes to classics, and so The Quail fairly honors them all. Is it a stuffy show? Only in appearances, situated as it is on a perfectly manicured lawn in an expensive zip code. But judged by everyone I met on the show field, it’s extremely welcoming and accessible. As long as the $75 admission fee, which incidentally included lunch, is doable.

One of The Quail’s biggest assets, diversity, means you have to keep moving to see everything. I always like the line in James Taylor’s “Secret O’ Life,” which goes, “Einstein said he could never understand it all.” It feels just the same when hurrying to soak up the entire Quail experience in just 5½ hours. And hurry you’d better—this year’s show had 256 motorcycle entries, with awards given out in 27 different categories.

Best of Show went to the 1932 Vincent HRD Python Sport of Gene Brown, and the Cycle World Tour Award went to the Magni-framed BSA triple of Brent Lenehan, which participated in Friday's 110-mile Quail Motorcycle Tour, an excellent place to get up close and personal with 100 new and old motorcycles in motion. Led by swift-moving California Highway Patrol officers who held traffic at key intersections, it's just about the easiest organized group ride you can take. As before, it included several laps of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and its famed 5 1/2-story drop through the Corkscrew.

Speaking of group rides, 2014 marked the first Cycle World Tour on Saturday, starting at the Quail Lodge Clubhouse in the morning and returning to the show field in time for lunch. Limited to 50 riders, it proved to be an exact cross-section of Cycle World's readership, with bikes from a 1973 Kawasaki Mach III to a new Triumph Tiger 800 ridden by 10-time sports-car racing champion Randy Pobst. The Laguna Seca lap-record holder wasn't the only champ in attendance. On the car side, 1985 Indy 500 winner and former F1 driver Danny Sullivan arrived on his Mert Lawwill-built Street Tracker. And motorcycle racing was well represented by Doug Polen, Wayne Rainey, and Eddie Lawson, the trio holding nine world championships among them, and Rocky Robinson, the current motorcycle land-speed record holder at 376 mph.

If you are a Millennial and hold your age group's general view that anything old sucks, you might reconsider after visiting The Quail. Because the event is not just about old iron. In addition to the fastest motorcycle on the planet (Robinson's Ack Attack), The Quail featured the Lightning electric superbike that beat every internal-combustion rival at Pikes Peak last year. Plus a retro-scrambler-styled 2015 Yamaha SR400 prototype and the 2015 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R 30th Anniversary Edition, along with a tantalizing array of 49cc bicycle-themed mopeds from the fertile mind of Specialized Bicycle's Robert Egger. Also, for the first time, this year event organizers had kids age 12 and under choose their favorite bike for the Why We Ride award. They chose a 1973 Honda XR75, proving that minis and kids magnetically connect—then and now.

The above is just the barest set of high points I experienced at this year’s Quail Motorcycle Gathering. But no matter your viewpoint, when you stroll onto the show field in the morning, it feels tremendously exciting, like tunneling into an Alice’s Wonderland for motorcyclists. And when you walk out again after the awards ceremony, you’ll feel nothing but inspired.

That’s some kind of medicine.

Best-of-Show

Best of Show
1932 Vincent HRD Python Sport
Gene Brown – Colorado

Spirit-of-The-Quail-Award

Spirit of The Quail Award
1925 Brough Superior SS-100
Herb Harris – Texas

100-Years-of-Speed-Trials

100th Anniversary of the Bonneville Salt Flats Award
1964 Triumph Gyronaut X-1
Steve, Sandra, and Ally Tremulis – California

Industry-Award

Industry Award
2014 Triumph Scrambler
British Customs, LLC – California

Innovation-Award

Innovation Award
Ack Attack Special
Mike Akatiff – California

Competition-Sport-Award

Competition Sport Award
1981 Yamaha XS650
Jeff Palhegyi – California

Design-and-Style-Award

Design and Style Award
1974 Norton John Player Special
Gene Brown – Colorado

FIVA-Preservation

FIVA Preservation
1972 Ducati Imola
John L. Stein – California

The-Quail-Ride-Award

The Quail Ride Award
1927 Scott Flying Squirrel
Lynn Upham – California

Cycle-World-Tour-Award

Cycle World Tour Award
2012 Magni R3
Brent Lenehan – California

Significance-in-Racing-Award

Significance in Racing Award
1950 Vincent HRD Barn Job
John S. Stein – California

Why-We-Ride-Award

Why We Ride Award
1973 Honda XR75
Clayton Benedetti – California

Scooter-Award

Scooter Award
1950 Powell P-81
Alvaro Iaccopucci – California

American-1st

American 1st Place
1959 Harley-Davidson FLH Pan Head
Kevin Goe – Nevada

American-2nd

American 2nd Place
1967 Harley-Davidson-Aermacchi Sprint ERS
Jove Shapiro – California

Antique-1st

Antique 1st Place
1932 Vincent HRD Python Sport
Gene Brown – Colorado

Antique-2nd

Antique 2nd Place
1936 Harley-Davidson EL
Dr. J Craig Venter – California

British-1st

British 1st Place
1958 Ariel Square Four
Robert Ives – California

British-2nd

British 2nd Place
1951 Vincent Black Shadow
Mike Begley – California

Competition-On-Off-Road-1st

Competition On/Off Road 1st Place
1972 Ducati Imola
John L. Stein – California

Competition-On-Off-Road-2nd

Competition On/Off Road 2nd Place
1971 Ossa Stilleto
Blair and Kathy Beck – California

Custom-Modified-1st

Custom/Modified 1st Place
2014 Triumph Mule Street Tracker
Konstantin Drozdov – Russia

Custom-Modified-2nd

Custom/Modified 2nd Place
2013 CDS SC3 Adventure
Jim Carducci – California

European-1st

European 1st Place
1950 Moto Rumi Turismo
Museo Moto Italia, LLC – California

European-2nd

European 2nd Place
1966 Bultaco Metralla
Phil and Mary Blackburn – California

Japanese-1st

Japanese 1st Place
1979 Honda CBX
Peter Rose – California

Japanese-2nd

Japanese 2nd Place
1981 Suzuki GS1100E
Trace St. Germain – California

View photos in gallery:

Quail-Gathering

Best-of-Show

Spirit-of-The-Quail-Award

100-Years-of-Speed-Trials

Industry-Award

Innovation-Award

Competition-Sport-Award

Design-and-Style-Award

FIVA-Preservation

The-Quail-Ride-Award

Cycle-World-Tour-Award

Significance-in-Racing-Award

Why-We-Ride-Award

Scooter-Award

American-1st

American-2nd

Antique-1st

Antique-2nd

British-1st

British-2nd

Competition-On-Off-Road-1st

Competition-On-Off-Road-2nd

Custom-Modified-1st

Custom-Modified-2nd

European-1st

European-2nd

Japanese-1st

Japanese-2nd