Quail Motorcycle Tour & Gathering | Rolling Concours

“Motorcycle” as Verb at the Quail Tour & Gathering

By John L. Stein, Photography by John L. Stein

With one of three laps gone, it was decision time: Either break ranks or grow old in line as the traffic wormed its way around the racetrack. But just as on the Tour, a third possibility soon emerged: Turn 11 is completely blocked from the pits by the new garages, and so I simply pulled off there and waited for the pack to disappear. And then waited some more. It worked! In a couple of minutes the Manx and I pulled back onto the track and threw down a glorious two fast laps, staying wide of the queer assortment of hogs, sidecars, et al as they were inevitably caught and passed.

A windy luncheon set-up near the Corkscrew was fun, and so was the unescorted ride back to Carmel and the evening dinner featuring Roberts, Rainey, etc. The world champs each received large bottles of wine from Roederer Estate, while Lawwill revealed his interest in developing a second Sportster-based special, this time inspired by the XR750 roadracers of the late ’60s and early ’70s.

Rainey has lived in the Monterey area for years, but a much newer local is Sullivan, the Indianapolis 500 winner celebrating the first long ride on his Lawwill bike, a birthday present from his wife. “I saw a Street Tracker at the Quail last year and said to Brenda, ‘This is a cool bike,’” he recalls. Sullivan professes not to be a serious motorcyclist, but he’s trained on dirtbikes and was soon heading to BMW’s Rider Training Center in South Carolina.

In contrast to the excitement of Friday’s Tour, the Gathering on Saturday was full of quiet elegance. Most of the 135 showbikes rolled onto the Quail Golf Club’s driving range in silence, polished and perfect, many of them looking like they hadn’t been started since restoration. To each his own—but I always thought “motorcycle” was a verb! This just proves that people interface with classic machines on different levels. Some, like Tim Stafford, whose BMW R50/2 later won Best of Show, restores, rides and shows his bikes. Another dedicated entrant was Jon Martino, whose Sunkist-orange 1981 Laverda Jota is both a weekend rider and a first-time showbike. “I buy junk that doesn’t run because I like the mechanical challenge, but I also like the history and, of course, riding them,” he says.

Row after well-spaced row of Ducatis, Triumphs, Indians, BSAs and Nortons welcomed show-goers in a genuinely pleasant and thoughtful environment. With a cover band playing in one corner, and wine and gourmet fare flowing in a pair of large tents, there wasn’t a reason on earth not to be happy in this garden. Especially considering that a number of the Bonhams & Butterfields auction lots could be seen waiting on the balcony above, bringing the total bike count to 250. The show was barely over when the auction began, and onlookers and buyers filtered indoors to watch 106 motorcycles and memorabilia cross the block. In all, the auction grossed $865,368, with the top seller a Massachusetts-built 1910 Royal Pioneer at $92,000. While back on planet earth, a 2002 MV Agusta F4 went for $8050, and for the budget-conscious, an as-new Italian-built ’75 Harley SX175 traded for just $920.

Just as McCall envisioned, the Quail Motorcycle Tour & Gathering has quickly become a top-flight event, well worth the attention of anyone moved by classic bikes, beautiful roads, interesting company and great food. Some suggestions for next year, though: Separate classic and modern bikes on the Tour, cordially “un-invite” choppers and cruisers, start up particularly interesting bikes on the show field, and require that award winners participate in the Tour. If “motorcycle” really is a verb, that only seems right! MC

By John L. Stein
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