The Quail Gathering 2013
“We’re happy to share it with the world but honestly… we’re just happy to get to ride it.” A phrase I ran across on the Erik Buell Racing website describing their feelings towards their stunning new street machine, the 1190RS, may also capture the sentiment that carried the day at the 5th Annual Quail Lodge Motorcycle Gathering in Carmel this past weekend.
The Quail Lodge Gathering is held on the grounds of the Quail Lodge Resort and Golf Club. Although only in its fifth year, the Quail has built up a devoted group of attendees and exhibitors who head to the Carmel Valley for the day or the weekend. The variety of bikes on display could stand alone: beautiful, fascinating, and inspirational. But we were also treated to an idyllic setting, a delicious lunch, fantastic company of strangers and friends, and the presence of our motorcycling heroes. Three time consecutive 500cc Grand Prix World Champion Wayne Rainey was in attendance, along with Kenny Roberts, Mert Lawwill, and Cook Nielson, among others.
There were about three hundred bikes on display, and a little over two hundred were judged in categories which included European, Japanese, American, Superbike, Custom/Modified, Off-Road, and Antique. The occasion also celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Monster, and Ducati’s design team brought the Monster prototype bike along with them. There was a great display of flat trackers, and Lawwill and other flat track legends signed autographs amidst their own race bikes.
The Erik Buell 1190RS was there, too, sandwiched between Craig Vetter’s Streamlined designs on one side, and a crew of vintage BMWs and Indians, including a fantastic Cannonball-weary 1928 BMW R52 on the other. The EBR bike fit right in, though. They all did. All the way from Wayne Rainey’s Best in Show-winning 1991 Yamaha YZR GP bike, to a circa-1950s Sidekick mini bike that can fold into a suitcase-sized box.
Around the time Half Moon Bay’s premier motorcycle concours the Legends of the Motorcycle was cancelled due to budgetary difficulties, the banner was taken up by current Director of Motorsports at the Quail, Gordon McCall, and the Quail Motorcycle Gathering began. McCall and the other organizers of the Gathering consider their show to be unique in a world that has no shortage of motorcycle and car shows. Those who attend would likely agree. Found among the rare, historic, custom, experimental, and vintage, there is an aura of experience. The vast majority of the bikes in the show are still ridden today, and although many are in pristine condition, many have the dings and personal touches that show a life well-lived.
The Quail Ride is held on the Friday before the main event, and many of the exhibitors participate. Past, present, and future bikes are all represented, as riders take a 100-mile ride through the backroads of Monterey County on their machines, ending with parade laps around Laguna Seca. On Saturday, Quail Riders come together with the rest of the show’s bikes and the admiring public to celebrate and award excellence, innovation, and endurance.
Some Cannonball veterans could be found on the green, human and motorized alike. Thanks to the dedication and passion of their custodians, there are few machines in the world that have lived as tribute to their inventors quite like these bikes have, including the previously mentioned R52 and a rough-and-ready looking Excelsior Autocycle. The Cannonball Run is a coast-to-coast ride done by pre-1930 motorcycles, across terrain that is a challenge for riders even on today’s bikes.
On the custom end of the spectrum was a collection of bikes outfitted with Craig Vetter’s super fuel-efficient fairing designs. Catching a glimpse of a Vetter ‘Streamlined’ bike on a Bay Area highway is a rare treat for those in the know and likely a weird and confusing one for everyone else. Seeing them up close and personal is to experience both perspectives.
The Hayes diesel bikes, perennial winners of the Vetter Fuel Economy Challenge, earned admiration from Quail riders for their power and chutzpah. No less impressive: the Hayes engine gets over 100 miles per gallon. Randy Grubb’s Decoliner, Decopod, and Decoson were marvelled over by everyone, and they seem to pose the question, “Why aren’t we making EVERYTHING look like this?”
The Quail passes as the rarest kind of day: one among friends, legends, and some of the most beautiful and fascinating bikes in the world. But the grand scope and first-rate setting of the Quail make it truly one of a kind. It brings bikes whose running engines have spanned a century together with bikes that may drive us beyond the next. And although the Quail is one of the top motorcycle concours shows in the world, it remains a “gathering” at heart. The community of admiration and energy serves as the most touching kind of tribute to the machines, and to the inspired humans who brought them to life.
Every contraption on the green had a story to tell, one that their riders and owners were pleased to relay, and everyone was eager to hear the stories of others. And while some among the bikes were young, and some were (very) old, none of them are done with the motorized life quite yet. As the day began to wind down and the Sidekick mini bike was unfolded from hibernation, fired up, and tooled around the green by its owner, one of the Indians was kick-started to a roar as onlookers stood by. A true bike-lover’s wonderland, the Quail is about keeping bikes and their history vigorously alive, and it’s about pushing today’s limits too. Living history alongside history in the making.
Attendees who return to the Quail year after year say it’s always new, with different collections and bikes every time. Because the soul of the Quail is rooted in the ‘ridden’ bike, or, the bike living as it was intended, the world-class show has remained dynamic but down-to-earth.
Other Interesting Things
For photos and a report from this year’s Quail Ride, check out Paul d’Orleans’ The Vintagent blog:
For photos from past Quail Gatherings, visit the Quail Lodge’s own photo gallery
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