Tale of the Quail

Northern California’s “must see” classic motorcycle event celebrates five years



When it comes to variety, no other classic motorcycle event offers as broad a menu as the Quail Motorcycle Gathering in Carmel, Calif. Just concluding its fifth running on May 3-4, 2013, the annual happening at the Quail Lodge Resort features everything from Grand Prix racers to choppers, century-old relics to freshly minted customs, and plenty of British, European and Japanese classics. Wrap it all together with a 105-mile road tour, gourmet eats and glorious springtime Cali weather, and “The Quail” has become a must-do bike weekend.

Five years ago Gordon McCall set out to build an all-encompassing motorcycle experience that, like the short-lived Legend of the Motorcycle event that preceded it, delivered to motorcyclists the same treatment that classic-car owners receive at Pebble Beach and Amelia Island. Starting modestly, McCall listened to attendees and participants, layering in elements including a judged concours, gourmet food, unique customs, clubs, corporate sponsors, and celebrity guests. This year he added a new Legends of the Sport award, won by three-time Grand Prix world champion Wayne Rainey.

By the numbers, the Quail event is growing at a deliberate pace. This year a record 101 machines took the Friday Tour and 236 bikes made the field for Saturday’s Gathering on the Quail golf course, where 2,000 spectators flowed through the gates. Costs ranged from $65 for spectators (including lunch), to $120 for entering a bike in the show, and to $295 for the Tour, star-studded dinner and show entry. A separate marketplace area provided a relaxed way for sellers and buyers to meet onsite.

This year my friend Scott Young – like me a Hagerty policyholder – and I both entered, driving up Highway 101 from So-Cal with Scott’s Norton Commando and my ’62 Yamaha Catalina GP scrambler trailering behind us. Benefiting from sunny skies, the rural Tour was tons of fun, especially the nearly deserted Monterey County back roads and laps of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca at the end. And it’s safe. The ride benefits from swift CHP officers who vault ahead and stop traffic at key intersections, and so in five years, nearly 380 Tour riders have gone almost 40,000 miles with no major spills.

Special bikes abounded at the Saturday show, but it was impossible to miss such spectacular examples as a four-cylinder Belgian 1904 FN Four, stunning in its simplicity and sophistication; an outrageous cheetah-themed cruiser, 3½ years in construction by artist Ken Tabata, flown in from Osaka, Japan; several fanciful aluminum-bodied entries from Randy Grubb; and Rainey’s 500cc 1991 world-championship Yamaha. Luminaries included Rainey, fellow triple world GP champ Kenny Roberts, motorcycle designer Craig Vetter; 1985 Indy 500 winner Danny Sullivan, Ducati Monster designer Miguel Galluzzi, and “On Any Sunday” hero Mert Lawwill.

Although the Quail motorcycle weekend is composed of several distinct elements, taken as a whole the emphasis is clearly on quality, from the food to the setting, from the roads to the attentive service, and from the bikes to the people aboard them. Throw in the newly remodeled Quail Lodge accommodations, and it proves the highly inclusive McCall has brewed a special formula that should only get better with time. Find out more at signatureevents.peninsula.com.

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