Antique Motorcycle’s Winter Road Run

by Robert Smith
Indian Summer — in March! Three Indians from 1947 and 1951 bask in the California sunshine.

With over 11,000 members in more than 70 chapters across the U.S., Canada and Mexico, it must also be the biggest club of its kind. The Club organizes numerous National Meets and Road Runs each year, but individual chapters also put on regional events — like the Southern California chapter’s annual Winter Road Run.


Image by Robert Smith


Image by Robert Smith

Crocker “Big Tank,” c.1940 (top); Todd Cameron’s Cross-Country Chase-winning 1930 BSA 493cc “Sloper”

Riding opportunities are a bit thin in early March in much of North America, but not so around the Anza-Borrego Desert in Southern California, where temperatures can climb into the 80s in early Spring. The Desert is close to the Salton Sea, one of the lowest points in the nation at -236 feet — and one of the hottest.

Getting going

On a sunny weekend in early March, I venture across the desert from my temporary digs in Palm Springs to check out the Winter Road Run. I find the parking lot of the Borrego Springs Resort full of vintage motorcycles, mostly American, but with a good selection of British machines as well as a few European and Japanese. True to the “antique” character of the club, many of the bikes are older than their owners, and a large number unrestored — both bikes and riders! And while most machines were no doubt trailered in, there are very few “trailer queens.”


Image by Robert Smith

1972 Yamaha 100 Twin Jet.


Image by Robert Smith

Two Harley-Davidson twins, c.1938 EL Knucklehead and 1960 Panhead.

The bikes get ridden, too. Planned for the day I was there — a 62-mile round trip ride from Borrego Springs to Julian, California. This includes the climb over Yaqui Pass, and the tortuous, winding ascent on Banner Grade, riding Highway 78 to the cliff-top town, an elevation gain of 4,000 feet. That wouldn’t faze a modern motorbike, of course, but with some of the machines taking part pushing a century in age, it could be more of a challenge. With overheating always a risk, a mid-ride stop at Banner Recreation Ranch allows ancient engines the chance to cool down and catch their breath.

And for the riders, there is also a reward at the destination: Julian is famous for its fruit pies. A la mode, anyone? MC


Image by Robert Smith

1920s H-D JD with sidecar.


Image by Robert Smith

Indian Scout c.1938.


Image by Robert Smith

1973 Triumph Bonneville 750


Image by Robert Smith

1926 Excelsior Henderson Four


Image by Robert Smith

Harley-Davidson JD c.1928


Published on Jun 9, 2020

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