A great venue for this superb show.
by Reg Kittrelle
To say that “The Quail Motorcycle Gathering” features nice bikes is akin to noticing that the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel features nice paintings. While both statements are true, they only just begin to tell the story. I’ll leave Michelangelo’s Sistine efforts to the review of others, but I can tell you a bit about “The Gathering” held on May 4th.
This was the fifth year that this superb display of motorcycles has been assembled at Carmel’s Quail Lodge & Golf Club. Located amidst the beauty of California’s central coast, just south of Monterey, the venue is perfect for showing off the best that the motorcycle restoration and custom-build worlds have to offer.
That may read like a gushing press release, but there’s no hyperbole at work here. This is truly a great motorcycle event that brings together an eclectic mix seldom found elsewhere. Think not? Then, tell me where else you’ll find a 1953 Skat Kitty vying for a trophy along side the spectacular Tavax 2011V, a flawless 1979 Honda 750, and the only remaining 1991 Yamaha YZR 500 V4 Grand Prix motorcycle? And this was just a few of the dozens of fascinating motorcycles that populated the well-manicured lawn of the Quail.
Regardless of your two-wheeled interest, you could have found it at the Gathering. There were motorcycles with more pedigree than an AKA show, artful customs, superb restorations, weird designs, one-offs, and several entries that made you smile, either from their nostalgic impact or their cuteness.
In that last category artist Randall Grubb garnered a majority of attention with his whimsical, beautifully crafted aluminum creations that, while they might stretch the definition of “motorcycle” (doors?), were certainly popular.
The event oozes history, with every entrant backed up by a story. A 1919 Harley-Davidson Model J with sidecar was, according to owner Mark Mitchell, ridden by actor Keith Carradine in the 1971 movie, Hex. Were you to stop to hear the story behind each bike it would takes weeks to get through this one-day show.
In addition to the motorcycles, the Quail Motorcycle Gathering never fails to attract any number of racing heroes and legends. This was certainly true this year as the event honored three-time 500c Grand Prix Champion Wayne Rainey, who was on hand. Additionally, Kenny Roberts, Mert Lawwwill, Jim Rice, Don Castro, Craig Vetter, and Ray Abrams were all signing autographs, and talking with anyone and everyone.
There were 27 award categories, plus a “Best of Show.” These bikes had to be tough to judge as the entrant quality was universally excellent; you don’t bring your “B” game to an event like this. Several of the classes could be judged upon period correctness, e.g., did the bike have all the proper bits and pieces, but subjectivity is a significant factor in other classes, such as with the competition and custom motorcycles. The crowd seemed to approve of all the selections. The only one that was a bit puzzling to some, at first, was the “Best of Show” award that went to Wayne Rainey’s Grand Prix motorcycle mentioned above. In accepting the award Rainey told how, at the end of each year, Yamaha destroyed the GP motorcycles, but kept a single one for their archives. This is not an uncommon practice with competition machines (two- and four-wheeled) as the companies want to keep the highly sophisticated technology secrets from escaping to the competition.
In recognition of Rainey’s three World Championships (1990, 1991, 1992), and his dedication to Yamaha, on and off the racetrack, the company gave him his championship-winning motorcycle. With this provenance, and the fact that it is the only one of its kind, the “Best of Show” award was most appropriate.
One of the crowd favorites was the Tavax 2011V. Chosen as the winner of the 2011 World Championship of Custom Bike Building, this creation by Ken Tabata took four years to build around a 93c.i. motor from S&S. Despite the abundance of polished aluminum, there is something very organic about this motorcycle. Hearing that he took his design inspiration from the cheetah gives you a better understanding and appreciation for its look. Photographs do not do justice to this creation. You need to stand next to it. I don’t want to get too touchy-feely here, but you can almost convince yourself that it’s alive.
In addition to a feast of motorcycles, the Gathering always serves up a gourmet lunch as part of your ticket price. “Spice-rubbed wood grilled chicken with a bourbon molasses glaze” was one of two entrees, supported by bacon cornbread, salads, fruits, and dessert. At $65 a ticket, this is a pricey event, but it is worth every penny. As the event itself states, it is the “perfect opportunity to spend a day amongst the finer things in life.”
The Quail Motorcycle Gathering 2013 Award Winners
Antique 2nd Place
1904 FN Four
The Margie & Robert E. Petersen Collection – California
Antique 1st Place
1936 Brough Superior SS80 with Watsonian Side Car
Stewart and Renee Garrison – Texas
Japanese 2nd Place
1973 Honda CB350F
Leo Sowers – California
Japanese 1st Place
1975 Honda GL1000 Goldwing
Mike Kuykendall – Arizona
Competition 2nd Place
1981 Suzuki RG500 Mark VI
Philip Koenen – California
Competition 1st Place
1957 Matchless 500cc Flattrack
Michael Taggart – California
European 2nd Place
Capriolo (Caproni Trento) 75cc Corsa
Guy Webster – California
European 1st Place
1952 Norton International Model 30
Robert Ives – California
American 1st Place
1947 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead EL
Craig Horner – California
Off Road 2nd Place
1974 Ossa 125 Phantom
Blair & Kathy Beck – California
Off Road 1st Place
1967 BSA Wasp
Gary Edwards – Oregon
Custom/Modified 2nd Place
2012 Decopod by Randy Grubb, “Bipod”
Jim & Debbie Christian – California
Custom/Modified 1st Place
2010 Tavax 2011V
Ken Tabata – Japan
Superbikes 2nd Place
1981 Ducati 500 SL Pantah
Carmen Lynaugh & Jeff Hecox – California
Superbikes 1st Place
1970 Honda CB750 K0
Don Stockett – California
1919 Harley-Davidson J Model with Sidecar
Mark Mitchell – California
Cycle World Award
Jonnie Green – California
Champions Moto Significance in Racing
1967 Harley-Davidson KR750TT
Fred Mork – California
Ducati – La Piu Bella
1999 Ducati Monster
Jimmy Kilroy – California
Ducati – Passione Rossa
2012 Ducati M1100 Evo
Syl Salenius – California
1962 Skat Kitty
Randall Smalley – Arizona
1977 Honda CB550 Custom
Michael LaFountain/Raccia Motorcycles – California
2013 Decopod by Randy Grubb, “Tripod”
David Johnston – California
Competition Sport Award
1957 BSA Gold Star Flattrack
Larry Madrigal – California
Design and Style Award
1956 Ariel Square 4 with Watsonian Side Car
Stewart and Renee Garrison – Texas
Spirit of The Quail Award
1951 Vincent Black Shadow Series C
Bruce Canepa – California
Best of Show
1991 Yamaha YZR 500 v4 500cc
Wayne Rainey – California