The Ten Best Bikes Of The 11th Quail Motorcycle Gathering

With everything from Dunelts to Ducatis, the country’s top vintage event had some prime examples of classic machinery on display

Brough Superior
This year’s Quail Motorcycle Gathering honored the 100th anniversary of the Brough Superior, with several immaculately restored examples on display.Paulo Rosas/Kahn Media

It's easy to get overshadowed at your own motorcycle event when the guests of honor just happen to be two of motorcycling's premier ambassadors, which is almost what happened when Malcom Smith and Mert Lawwill both showed up to the 11th annual Quail Motorcycle Gathering presented by Geico Motorcycle. To be fair, AMA Hall of Famer and all-around off-road icon Mr. Smith was there to accept the 2019 Legend of the Sport Award at the Quail, and when he was joined onstage by longtime friend, fellow Hall of Famer and past Quail honoree Mert Lawwill, the camera phones came out en masse. It was a pretty amazing sight even in that already rarified setting.

But the Quail was up to the challenge, and with more than 300 of some of the world's finest motorcycles arranged on the carefully manicured greens of the Quail Lodge & Golf Club, the bikes managed to somehow reclaim the spotlight, with this year's featured classes including Honda CB750s and Brough Superiors. Blindingly blue skies and balmy temps set the stage for emcee Paul d'Orléans and head judge Somer Hooker as they presided over an eclectic mix of vintages and classics alongside some wild customs. Italian twins? At their sexy best. Classic British iron? Yessir. Honda Fours, Yamaha two-strokes, BMW airheads, ancient Indians—a good slice of the vintage motorcycle world was repped out on those greens.

“Best” anything is always going to be subjective, but these are the bikes that hooked us. Some won awards, and some were just on display, but all of them left a strong impression. The full list of winners follows below.

1969 Honda CB750 Sandcast
1969 Honda CB750 Sandcast. First things first: Best of Show honors (as well as 50 Years of the Honda CB750 Award) was given to this 1974 Honda CB750 Sandcast model, rolled in by one Sam Roberts. The “sandcast” term refers to Honda’s choice of dies at the time. Because Honda was unsure how the bike would sell, it opted for less costly casts over expensive high-production die casts. The so-called “sandcast” models are hugely collectible.Paulo Rosas/Kahn Media
1925 Brough Superior SS100
1925 Brough Superior SS100. In a group of equally immaculate peers, this pristine SS100 model won the featured 100th Anniversary of Brough Superior class, with Larry Bowman taking home the trophy.Paulo Rosas/Kahn Media
2019 prototype BMW boxer
2019 prototype BMW boxer. We all know this as the Revival “Birdcage” bike by now, but Revival Cycles’ ethereal, titanium-framed, hand-shift creation featuring BMW’s new prototype engine is no less impressive every time you see it. It and its 23-inch Dunlop slicks won the Industry Award for Custom/Modified, presented to “ground-breaking and thought-provoking motorcycles.”Andrew Cherney
1966 Honda S90
1966 Honda S90. Dustin Kott’s cafe-ed out yet somehow futuristic-looking S90 could have made the cut in a number of the other classes, but it won second place in the Custom/Modified category. The unbelievably clean Honda speaks volumes about the builder’s painstaking attention to detail.Paulo Rosas/Kahn Media
1964 BSA Lightning Rocket.
1964 BSA Lightning Rocket. Winning first place in the British class was Robert Ives’ 1964 BSA Lightning Rocket, which looked like it just rolled off the showroom floor. The Rocket was BSA’s attempt to home in on the potentially lucrative US export market in the 1960s.Paulo Rosas/Kahn Media
1928 Douglas 4 1/4
1928 Douglas 4 1/4. Taking top honors in the Antique class was this ultra-tidy 1928 Douglas 4 1/4 model. Ninety years old, and it looks like you could eat off it. This flat-twin, rare Colonial version is supposedly the last of the flat fuel tank models and sports a belt drive and even a front brake (Douglas built the first disc brakes).Paulo Rosas/Kahn Media
1976 BMW R90S
1976 BMW R90S. The Hans Muth-penned R90S is an instantly recognizable classic in most circles, especially in the awesome “Daytona Orange” livery. This 1976 beauty snagged a first place award for the Other European class.Paulo Rosas/Kahn Media
1953 Triumph T100C
1953 Triumph T100C. This ultra-clean twin didn’t win or place in the British class, but we’re still smitten. Given the fact that it runs an air-cooled engine, rigid frame, and Lucas magneto you might think we’re off our meds, but back in the day the Tiger T100 was regarded as the high-performance motorcycle of its time. At least for a brief while.Andrew Cherney
1953 Indian Chief
1953 Indian Chief. There was a wide variety of American iron on the grounds at the Quail, but this Indian Chief kept us going back for second and third looks (maybe because of that brilliant factory Tangerine color scheme). Indian was already on the ropes when it rolled out this last-gasp 80ci V-twin in 1953, and only a few were produced. This perfect example garnered the trophy for first place in the American class.Paulo Rosas/Kahn Media
Honda XL500
Honda XL500. Niki Smart won the Design and Style Award for this 1981 Honda XL500 presented in the Custom/Modified class. Winners are judged on design and concept, which are two things the Brit designer is intimate with, given his years at GM’s design division. The bike also won first place in the Custom/Modified category.Andrew Cherney

2019 The Quail Awards

Best of Show

1969 Honda CB750 Sandcast
50 Years of the Honda CB750

Spirit of the Quail Award

Chad Castle Family Private Collection
Private Collection

The Quail Ride Award

1986 Bimota DB1R
Adam Cecchini

50 Years of the Honda CB750 Award

1969 Honda CB750 Sandcast
Sam Roberts

Off-Road Wonders Through the '90s Award

1969 Cheney/Triumph 750cc Scrambler/MX
Scott Dunlavey

100th Anniversary of the Brough Superior Award

1925 Brough Superior SS100
Larry Bowman

Spirit of the Scrambler Award Presented by Ducati

2016 Scrambler by Ducati
Tom Zipprian

Industry Award

2019 BMW prototype BMW boxer
Revival Cycles
(Custom/Modified)

Innovation Award

1989 Norton F1 Preproduction Prototype
Stephen Haddad
(British 1936–1979)

Significance in Racing Award

1967 Honda 450 Daytona Racer
Ron Mousoris (Competition on Road)

Design and Style Award

1981 Honda XL500
Niki Smart (Custom/Modified)

Why We Ride Award

1962 Mustang Stallion Jim Taylor (American 1936–1979)

HVA Preservation Award

1929 Brough Superior 680 OHV
Bryan L. Bossier Sr.
100th Anniversary of the Brough Superior

AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Heritage Award

1970 JAWA 652
Chris Carter
Off-Road Wonders Through the '90s

Antique 1st Place

1929 Douglas 4 1/4

Antique 2nd Place

1918 BSA Model H Budd Schwab

American 1st Place

1953 Indian Chief
Matt Blake

American 2nd Place

1970 Indian Little Indian
Clive Belvoir

British 1st Place

1964 BSA Lightning Rocket
Robert Ives

British 2nd Place

1962 Triumph T6 Thunderbird
TSW Collection

Italian 1st Place

1972 Ducati 750 GT
Stewart and Renee Garrison

Italian 2nd Place

1961 Ducati Bronco 125
Kenneth Davis

Japanese 1st Place

1974 Kawasaki HIE
Owen Bishop

Japanese 2nd Place

1978 Kawasaki Z1R
Trace St. Germain

Other European 1st Place

1976 BMW R90/S
Mark Francois

Other European 2nd Place

1968 BMW R60/2
Kenneth Morris

Competition on Road 1st Place

1979 Kawasaki AMA Superbike
Kevin McKee

Custom/Modified 1st Place

1981 Honda XL500
Niki Smart

Custom Modified 2nd Place

1966 Honda S90
Dustin Kott

Extraordinary Bicycles/Scooter Award

1957 Lambretta LD150 MK3
Eric Lussier