View highlights from The Quail Motorcycle Gathering 2022. See why in the calendar of motorcycle events, The Quail Motorcycle Gathering stands alone.
It’s not a Concours d’Elegance, but it’s much more than a rally or a festival — it’s a gathering of the tribes. And for one day in May, a few thousand moto-enthusiasts congregate on the lush green lawns of the Quail Lodge & Golf Club in Carmel, California, to celebrate their shared passion for motorcycle culture.
The 2022 edition should have been the 14th in a series of events that began in 2009, when Gordon McCall organized and hosted the first Quail Motorcycle Gathering to carry on a new tradition of motorcycle celebration that began with the Legend of the Motorcycle events that took place in Half Moon Bay, California, from 2006 to 2008. Thanks to COVID, this year’s gathering was the first since the Quail Motorcycle Gathering 2019.
Revival of a tradition
The two-year absence of The Quail Motorcycle Gathering made this year’s event feel that much more significant. From participants to attendees, to judges and even the people working the grounds for the event, everyone seemed thankful for the opportunity to once again come together and see old friends in the splendid location that is the Quail and appreciate the exquisite machinery on display. Although we might have taken such things for granted in the past, we don’t anymore.
As in previous years, one of the most attractive aspects of The Quail Motorcycle Gathering is that, even though the machines on display are world-class, the lack of pretense and haughtiness makes it a very welcoming and egalitarian event. Everyone feels relaxed and comfortable — even those who’ve entered machines for judging.
With some 250 bikes entered for judging in various classes — and many more additional machines brought for display — you’re guaranteed to find more than a few to make your heart beat faster. The variety of styles, nationalities, ages and types of motorcycle is, as we’ve come to expect from The Quail, extremely broad. Whether you love vintage American Crockers and Hendersons, Italian Gileras and Bimotas, or Japanese Hondas and Suzukis, you’ll have no trouble finding spectacular examples of whatever floats your boat.
A few highlights from The Quail Motorcycle Gathering 2022
In addition to two of his beautiful non-standard Vincents, a red Rapide and a Black Shadow, Dennis Magri from San Francisco brought his immaculate blue Vindian to display at this year’s Quail. The original Vindian — a 998cc Vincent twin engine in an Indian Chief chassis — was designed by the Australian motorcycle designer/genius Phil Irving about 70 years ago when struggling Indian and Vincent were contemplating a marketing relationship. At least one running prototype was made, and while the partnership never went anywhere, the concept was sound and several enthusiasts have built their own Vindians in the years since. Dennis first conceived his Vindian in the late ’90s, and spent the next 15 years or so putting it all together. It’s so well executed one could easily mistake it for a factory production machine.
In constructing his bike, Dennis took care to locate the crankshaft below the imaginary line connecting the front and rear axles to ensure a low center of gravity and good handling. Working from photographs and contemporary descriptions, Dennis made changes as he thought necessary to create a special that is most likely superior to the original. Dennis’ Vindian — which he rides regularly — is without question one of the best examples of this rare hybrid.
Keith Martin of the legendary Big D Cycles in Dallas brought four stunning Vincents to The Quail this year, including a beautifully restored Black Shadow. The other three were: a replica of the ultra-rare single-cylinder Gray Flash racer, a replica of the equally rare Black Lightning twin racer and a “Lightning-ized” twin that was built for a customer. It was an impressive line-up, made even better when Keith fired them up to entertain the crowd. Most people will never see, much less hear, a genuine Gray Flash or Black Lightning up close, making Keith’s bikes a real treat.
Phil Lane brought his 1972 Dunstall 810 Norton, which won first place in the British class. There’s no such thing as an “ordinary” Dunstall, and this one is even more extraordinary as Phil bought it new, and along with the stunning machine he had copies of correspondence between himself and Paul Dunstall from back in the day. Rich stories like Phil’s are behind many of the motorcycles at The Quail and it’s great to be able to chat with the owners — their stories really add depth and vitality to these cherished machines.
There were many other examples of machines that were brought to the gathering by their original owners, including a 1970 BSA 441 Victor Special originally sold by a dealership in Pasadena. That particular model is special to one of us (CL) because it’s the same make and model of machine that he took his road test on for his first motorcycle license, back when snakes still had legs.
A couple of original, unrestored, alcohol-burning 750cc Excelsior-Henderson Super X racers were displayed on the lawn in large glass cases. The 1926 hill climber was previously owned by Steve McQueen, and the 1929 flat tracker, preserved in “as raced” condition, won the Historic Vehicle Association (HVA) Preservation Award. Talk about patina …
Although not an award winner, a machine that really stood out was an original condition 1973 Münch 1200 TTS in an in-your-face shade of lime green that was particularly lurid. Powered by an in-line 4-cylinder 1,200cc NSU engine and sporting dual air horns, everything about this machine was extreme. In its day, this rare Münch was one of the biggest, fastest and most expensive machines available. Fifty years on, it still makes a strong statement.
Mitch Talcove entered his 1938 K800 Zündapp and sidecar in the Other European class and won first place. From a distance, the bike resembles a BMW. Unlike its Teutonic cousin, however, the K800 gets its power from a horizontally-opposed 800cc 4-cylinder engine versus the BMW’s twin-cylinder boxer. It’s a super smooth-running engine, and the combination of black and white motorcycle and matching sidecar was especially beautiful.
Back in the 1980s, Chris Carter, Kahuna at Motion-Pro and a former Six Day Trials rider, thrilled at watching legendary American motorcycle racer and AMA Hall of Famer Bubba Shobert compete in flat track. In celebration, Chris brought and displayed a very purposeful-looking factory-spec 1984 Honda RS750 Flat Tracker that Bubba raced in his heyday. The bike, which has been kept in “as raced” condition, took home the Spirit of The Quail special award.
One of the featured classes this year was Series /5 BMWs. Scott Wilmot rode his 1971 R75/5 to the Quail from his home in the San Francisco Bay Area. He entered his bike in the show, never imagining that he would win anything. He rode back to San Francisco on Sunday with the First Place Award in his tank bag. That’s not the kind of thing that happens at a traditional high-brow concours d’elegance.
Simon Graham’s 1937 Norton International won first place in the Competition On-Road class. His machine was one of six prepared by the Norton factory to compete in the 1937 Manx Grand Prix on the Isle of Man, where it was ridden to a third-place finish. It also finished third in the 1938 Senior Manx GP. The bike is a matching numbers example and is in remarkably original condition. It was a wonderful time capsule to see, hear and smell (owners got extra points for starting their bikes for the judges).
The handful of bikes mentioned here just scratch the surface of the hundreds of fascinating motorcycles on display. To fully appreciate The Quail Motorcycle Gathering, you need to be there in person. Mark your calendar for next year’s edition, which is planned for Saturday, May 6, 2023. Keep an eye on The Quail Motorcycle Event website for updates.
The challenge of judging at The Quail Motorcycle Gathering
There were 11 traditional classes judged at the event: American, Antique, British, Choppers, Competition Off-Road, Competition On-Road, Custom/Modified, Extraordinary Bicycles & Scooters, Italian, Japanese and Other European. In addition, this year there were four special classes: Harley-Davidson XR750, BMW /5 Series, Two-Stroke “Braaaps” and Mini bikes | BIG FUN.
There are also eight special category winners, including Best of Show, Spirit of the Quail, AMA Hall of Fame Heritage Award, etc. A total of 30 awards are presented to the various class and special category winners.
The Quail Motorcycle Gathering also hosts a one-day ride on the Friday before the event. The 100-mile ride goes through the local Monterey Bay hills and includes some riding on the famed Laguna Seca racetrack, and show bikes that participate in the ride get an extra two points for doing so.
A team of over four dozen aficionados (including your humble correspondents), under the direction of Chief Judge Somer Hooker, ranked the motorcycles, with each class receiving a first and second place winner. Judging is less formal than is found at higher profile concours events such as Pebble Beach. It’s referred to as “French Style”, which is to say, largely subjective. And it has to be, really.
With each broad class containing so many outstanding and near-perfect examples of widely different machines, it’s impossible to rank them based solely on adherence to marque standards. This is especially true for the Chopper and Custom/Modified classes. Ultimately, many factors play a role in determining the winners, including the stories behind the machines.
The highly coveted Best of Show award is chosen by the Judging Committee and goes to the bike that is deemed the “most significant motorcycle on the field in terms of presentation, historical and cultural significance.” The 2022 Best of Show was a custom special built by Max Hazan from Los Angeles. Built around a 1951 Vincent Rapide 998cc engine, Max’s innovative and spectacular machine also won the Custom/Modified Class as well as the Design & Style Award. One bike, three awards. It really was that special.
Looking to the future of The Quail Motorcycle Gathering
The Quail Motorcycle Gathering faces the same challenge faced by motorcycle manufacturers — how to engage a new generation in riding, restoring and playing with bikes. The generation that fell in love with bikes during the boom years in America and whose enthusiasm fueled explosive growth in motorcycling is aging, and we need to continue to entice a younger and more diverse crowd to the world of vintage, classic and custom motorcycles.
Even though The Quail Motorcycle Gathering has never been exactly inflexible or conservative in its approach to celebrating motorcycles, it’s notable that this year, for the first time, a custom/modified machine took home the Best of Show award. In addition, the Legend of The Sport award for the 2022 event went to Roland Sands, probably the youngest person to be so honored at the Gathering. As a former motorcycle racer and now focused designer/fabricator, Roland Sands is a pioneer in the high-performance custom motorcycle world and an ambassador for the next generation of motorcycle visionaries.
Honoring Roland Sands at the event was planned in advance, but Max’s win for Best of Show was a spontaneous game-day decision by the Judging Committee. These two occurrences seemingly ushered in a new era, reflecting a sea change for the event that acknowledges the need for new directions and will, hopefully, encourage the continued interest and participation of the next generation of motorheads.
While all the traditional classes and categories of motorcycles were fully represented at this year’s event, the 2022 Quail Motorcycle Gathering left the indelible impression that the event has become even more inclusive and welcoming towards evolving movements in motorcycle culture. The openness and willingness to recognize and reward the next generation of restorers, designers, fabricators and riders is exciting, and bodes well for the future of motorcycling. MC
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