At the 11th Annual Quail Motorcycle Gathering

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The Quail Motorcycle Gathering always feels special. The amazing selection of bikes, the beautiful setting, and the great food always make this gathering feel different from other motorcycle events. But this year was special for me for a couple of different reasons.

First, this is the start of my fifth year with Asphalt & Rubber. Back in 2015, Jensen and I ran into each other at MotoGP in Austin, and in one of those serendipitous moments, my motorcycle journalism adventure began. The 2015 Quail was the first event I covered for A&R and number five was no less special. Thanks, Jensen!

Second, this year’s Quail celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Honda CB750. This bike has a very special place in my heart, so let me elaborate. When I was nine-years-old, my parents were going through a pretty bad divorce, so I was shipped off for awhile to live with my Grandmother in Miami, Florida.

One day, my Grandmother had a medical appointment in Miami at a doctor’s office that happened to be next to a Honda dealer. I asked my Grandma if I could walk next door to look at the bikes and the rest is history.

I walked into the dealership and was gob smacked by the sensations. The gleaming metal, the smell of rubber and gasoline, and the sense of speed were overwhelming for this nine-year-old. But of all the bikes in the showroom, the one that stood out to me was the CB750F. Four cylinders, sporty looks, and an overall feel of speed that made my heart race.

As I was standing there ogling the amazing machine, the owner of the dealership struck up a conversation with me about the bike, told me about how riding would change my life, and even let me sit on this chariot of dreams. I was hooked!

I was going through a pretty rough time, so the idea of a machine that could take me away from reality for a bit was fascinating.

As we ended our conversation, the owner gave me a brochure for the CB750 that I treasured for years, reading the advertiser’s words over and over, while memorizing the specifications. That bike truly started my addiction to motorcycles and has led to lifetime of adventures.

Since the CB750 was the bike that got me hooked on riding, the exhibit at the Quail that highlighted and honored my dream bike was especially enjoyable. There were numerous examples of this ground breaking machine, all of which adeptly showed off the attributes of the game changing Honda.

Besides the 50th anniversary of the venerable Honda, this year’s Quail also paid homage to the 100th anniversary of the Brough Superior. With many superb examples of the machine on display, six of which belonged to Bryan Bossier of Louisiana, it was a virtual smorgasbord for vintage bike aficionados.

The fact that some of the machines on display had successfully completed the Motorcycle Cannonball, made them that much more astounding.

For many, motorcycles are the main reason why we go to the Quail, but the people behind the motorcycles are also a fascinating part of the experience, and this year’s event was no different. Legendary rider, racer, and industry icon, Malcolm Smith was honored at this year’s event and was presented with the AMA Dud Perkins Lifetime Achievement Award.

Smith’s stellar career includes six victories at the Baja 1000, four victories in the Baja 500 and eight gold medals in the International Six Day Trial, among many others. In addition to his success as a racer, Smith has become an ambassador for motorcycling in film, most famously as a co-star alongside legendary actor Steve McQueen in 1972’s “On Any Sunday”.

Though advanced in years, Smith’s wit was still evident during his interview on-stage with fellow motorcycle legend, Mert Lawwill, and interviewer and Quail founder, Gordon McCall. Smith told the story of how he was recruited by Motorcycle Hall of Famer, Edison Dye to race Husqvarna motorcycles in the early 1960s.

Smith replied to the advance wryly, “I race Greeves; they’re so much better.” He then went on to say, “look at that little flimsy frame on the Husqvarna. My Greeves has an aluminum frame. It’s so much better!”

But, the proof was in the riding, and after taking the Husky for spin Smith said, “this bike is like cheating.” But always remaining humble about his accomplishments, Smith went on to say, “it wasn’t me, it was the bike” to which Gordon McCall replied, “no one’s buying that Malcolm.”

Smith’s stories were inspiring, as was his humility. Listening to Malcolm Smith’s stories was truly a treat.

In addition to honoring an Icon from the past, the Quail looked forward to the motorcycling demographic of the future; women. Women riders are the fastest growing demographic in the industry and the Quail highlighted that fact with a fireside chat hosted by Ginger Damon of women’s motorcycle apparel maker Gigi Montrose.

Damon chatted with 11-year old phenom Kayla Yaakov, one of the most successful youth motorcycle racers of all time, holding more than 300 race wins and 35 championships including two AMA Grand National Championships.

Also joining Damon on stage was three-time Hall of Fame member and co-founder of Harley Women Magazine, Cristine Sommer-Simmons. The three ladies talked about women in riding, the explosive growth of this sector of the motorcycle industry, and Yaakov’s amazing exploits in racing.

The Quail is not only about amazing vintage motorcycles, but is also a stage for new introductions as well. Harley-Davidson was on hand with their Live Wire, with a demo van that allowed riders a virtual opportunity to take their electric bike for a spin.

Harley also announced updated specs for the Live Wire, which will do 0-60 in 3 seconds, has a city range of 140 miles and a combined range of 80 miles.

An additional interesting introduction came from premium electric manufacturer Lito, who presented their new electric sport bike; the Sora. The Sora is resplendent in carbon fiber, does 0-60 in 3 seconds, has fully adjustable ergos, and costs a cool $85,000. Only 20 of the exclusive machines will be produced.

As you will see from the award winner’s list below, there were a lot of amazing bikes at the Quail. There were so many noteworthy bikes that caught my eye, but a few really stood out.

First, the carbon fiber XL500 by Niki Smart with its Hossack suspension was pretty amazing. The craftsmanship was beautiful and the bike deservedly garnered the Design and Style award.

Another standout was Revival’s very interesting Birdcage bike, which really served as a centerpiece for BMW’s upcoming huge boxer twin motor.

The enormous horizontally opposed twin was the visual linchpin of this bike, with a simple carbon fiber seat and minimal bodywork that intentionally limited distractions from the jewel of the bike; the motor.  Very creative and the winner of the Quail Industry award.

As always, the Quail was a great show. The combination of atmosphere, motorcycles, and people were fantastic. I’ve said it in my previous articles and I’ll say it again, this is a bucket list event that is well worth the trip.

Combine it with a visit to the Moto Talbott Museum in Carmel Valley, and trip down Highway 1 and you’ve got the makings of a motorcycle dream vacation!

Winners from this year’s event are below:

Award Bike Owner
Best of Show 1969 Honda CB750 Sandcast Sam Roberts – California
Spirit of The Quail Award   Chad Castle Family Private Collection – California
The Quail Ride Award 1986 Bimota DB1R Adam Cecchini – California
50 Years of the Honda CB750 Award 1969 Honda CB750 Sandcast Sam Roberts – California
Off Road Wonders Through the 90’s Award 1969 Cheney/Triumph 750cc Scrambler/MX Scott Dunlavey – California
100th Anniversary of the Brough Superior Award 1925 Brough Superior SS100 Larry Bowman – California
Spirit of the Scrambler Award Presented by Ducati 2016 Scrambler by Ducati Tom Zipprian – California
Industry Award 2019 BMW Prototype BMW Boxer Revival Cycles – Texas
Innovation Award 1989 Norton F1 Pre-Production Prototype Stephen Haddad – California
Significance in Racing Award 1967 Honda 450 Daytona Racer Ron Mousouris – California
Design and Style Award 1981 Honda XL500 Niki Smart – California
Why We Ride Award 1962 Mustang Stallion Jim Taylor – California
HVA Preservation Award 1929 Brough Superior 680 OHV Bryan L. Bossier, Sr. – Louisiana
AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Heritage Award 1970 JAWA 652 Chris Carter – California
Antique 1st Place 1928 Douglas 4 ¼ Bill Wheeler – California
Antique 2nd Place  1918 BSA Model H Budd Schwab – California
American 1st Place 1953 Indian Chief Matt Blake – Illinois
American 2nd Place 1970 Indian Little Indian Clive Belvoir – California
British 1st Place 1964 BSA Lightning Rocket Robert Ives – California
British 2nd Place 1952 Triumph T6 Thunderbird TSW Collection – California
Italian 1st Place 1972 Ducati 750 GT Stewart & Renee Garrison – Texas
Italian 2nd Place 1961 Ducati Bronco 125 Kenneth Davis – California
Japanese 1st Place 1974 Kawasaki H1E Owen Bishop – California
Japanese 2nd Place 1978 Kawasaki Z1R Trace St. Germain – California
Other European 1st Place 1976 BMW R90/S Mark Francois – California
Other European 2nd Place 1968 BMW R60/2 Kenneth Morris – California
Competition On Road 1st Place 1979 Kawasaki AMSA Superbike Kevin McKee – California
Custom/Modified 1st Place 1981 Honda XL500 Niki Smart – California
Custom/Modified 2nd Place 1966 Honda S-90 Dustin Kott – California
Extraordinary Bicycles/Scooter Award 1957 Lambretta LD150 MK3 Eric Lussier – Arizona