| 2/4/2010 7:56:33 AM

Tags: ,

Cannonball Baker, 1914
Erwin "Cannonball" Baker aboard an Indian during on of his first cross-country endurance runs in the teens. 

Remember those bad late 1970s/early 1980s movies featuring David Carradine and a host of B-grade actors bombing across the U.S. in a madcap coast-to-coast dash? Inspiration for those flicks came from auto editor Brock Yates' Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, a protest against Richard Nixon’s 55mph speed limit. Yates was inspired by the legendary endurance runs of Erwin “Cannonball” Baker, who made his first cross country dash in 1914 aboard an Indian twin. Today, Lonnie Isam, Jr., promoter and owner of Jurassic Racing in Sturgis, S.D., is adding to the Cannonball thread, making final preparations for a coast-to-coast endurance run for pre-1916 motorcycles, the Motorcycle Cannonball.

Unlike Cannonball Baker’s solitary runs, Isam’s September event will see some 70 classic bike fans working their way across the country. Taking off from historic Kitty Hawk, N.C., the 17-day event starts on Friday, September 10 and ends 3,325 miles later on Sunday, September 26 in Santa Monica, Calif. Eligible bikes are limited to machines built before 1916, and so far 38 of the 70 registered participants have said they’ll be riding 1914 or 1915 machines. Oldest registered machines a 1908 Thor and a 1908 Triumph.

Entrants will compete in one of three different classes including single-cylinder single-speed, multi-cylinder single-speed, and single or multi-cylinder with multi-speed machines. Riders will average 208 miles a day over the 16 days of riding, although there will be one 300-mile day and the start and finish days will be short days. Single-cylinder single-speed machines are expected to take the longest to finish, with the later multis expected to make the best time.

Course master John Classen has mapped out a route that avoids Interstate highways where possible, with only 100 miles mapped for the entire trip, all of it west of Albuquerque. In March, Classen will personally drive the shore-to-shore course for the Motorcycle Cannonball in the first of two pre-run trips to produce precise driving instructions for entrants and to smooth out any wrinkles along the way.

This is decidedly not a race, but an endurance run, which is an appropriate stance given the age of the competing machines. Fast as they may have seemed in their day, and in fact some of them were very fast at least for short bursts, there were few machines built in the early teens capable of sustaining speeds much over 40mph for any kind of duration with any kind of reliability. That said, we’re sure more than a few riders will be feeling their competitive oats.

Tom Kelly
2/6/2010 6:49:13 PM

Hi Bill How can I sign up for the ride? I have pictures of Mr Wyman's bike and the record of his ride across the United States. The bike was found in a barn in Yreka Calif and ended up in Stan Dishong's shop in Vallejo, Calif. Stan restored the bike. I supplied an original seat. Stan has now passed away and i havent any idea where his collection i now. The bike was a Marks made in San Francisco . It would be great to find this bike as it should be in the Smithsonian.

Richard Backus
2/5/2010 9:00:02 AM

That's what I get for trying to type too fast! Thanks for noticing. Richard Backus

2/4/2010 3:15:29 PM

It always rubs me the wrong way to read errors in print. The word is "fare," not "fair." It is fare as in "farewell." In Hot Springs we'll see how they are faring.

The sound and the fury: celebrate the machines that changed the world!

Motorcycle Classics JulAug 16Motorcycle Classics is America's premier magazine for collectors and enthusiasts, dreamers and restorers, newcomers and life long motorheads who love the sound and the beauty of classic bikes. Every issue  delivers exciting and evocative articles and photographs of the most brilliant, unusual and popular motorcycles ever made!

Save Even More Money with our RALLY-RATE plan!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our RALLY-RATE automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $5.00 and get 6 issues of Motorcycle Classics for only $29.95 (USA only).

Or, Bill Me Later and I'll pay just $34.95 for a one year subscription!

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter