Top 10 rides of the decade
The list of my top 10 antique motorcycle rides from 2000-2009
#10, Legends of the Motorcycle, Half Moon Bay, CA 2006-2008
The ride was only a small part of the event. But where else could you ride 50 miles along Skyline to Alice’s and back, complete with jet-powered bikes, then pass Yoshi from the Garage Company on his c1973 MV Augusta 4 cylinder, kick tires with Shinya Kimura, watch a group of Crockers leak oil, see Norton George Cohen try not to crash and then enjoy a nice brunch overlooking the big blue Pacific?
In various years we rode Kim’s 1936 Ariel, her 30 Velocette, and my 13 Premier. The Velo tossed a chain one year, the Premier ran out of oil AND gas one year. Lots of fun, with a bit of time on the side of the road.
#9, New Year’s Day Ride, 2008, Hwy 1, Stinson Beach, CA
Photo of James Johnson by Paul d’Orleans.
What a great day! James set this one up, to ride on the day when most of the cagers were home watching football on the tube.
We met at Ocean Beach, rode across the Golden Gate Bridge in the warm sun to points north. Over Mt Tam, then to Stinson Beach for a picnic lunch on the sand. (Everybody carried a sandwich and drink in their toolboxes).
The return trip was one of those times when the bikes just effortlessly leaned into each sweeping corner on Hwy 1, pausing only for an adult beverage at the Pelican Inn.
R.I.P. James, and thanks for everything.
#8, Riding to 4 Barrel Coffee with Kim & kids, Sunday mornings 2009
Every other Sunday morning, we have been riding down to the Mission, to get coffee and donuts at 4 Barrel Coffee at 15th and Valencia. Our daughter is now big enough to reach the pillion pegs,while our son rides in the sidecar. Kim on her KSS. The sugar high is good, the coffee is great, and it is a fun way to spend the morning. See you there sometime?
#7, Pre 1916 ride. Atascadero, CA to Pozo Saloon. 2006-2008
Photo by Paul d’Orleans.
Steven Wright hosts a ride for pre WWI motorcycles, around the wine country of Paso Robles, CA. It is a very low impact ride, with stops several times a day for coffee, gas, to kick tires, swap lies, etc. But the highlights are the bikes and the great roads. Hedstrom Indians, Mike Vils on his 14 Excelsior, Wes Allen on his Yale, plus the occasional Crocker and Locomobile.
The roads meander through the vineyards, with a catered lunch delivered to us at the Mission San MIguel in Paso Robles. The highlight for me is the stop at the infamous Pozo Saloon, complete with a Pozo martini (beer with 2 olives in the glass). Great friends, good roads, neat bikes.
I’ve ridden on a variety of bikes over the years: 1913 Premier, 1916 Excelsior, 25 Rudge. Some minor breakdowns along the way, but a whole lotta fun.
#6, Velocette Rally, Yosemite, CA 2005
VOCNA rally. 1000 miles around Yosemite. Day 3 was a great loop, over Tioga Pass, to Mono Lake, Bridgeport, Sonora Pass, then the infamous Wards Ferry Road. A long day, but filled with great roads and scenery. Almost nobody hit the big rock on Wards Ferry Rd that had “5 mph” painted on it, entering that sharp corner. And I think everybody made it around the school bus without dropping off the cliff. another good WFR link..
Kim was on the KSS, I took the Ariel, which suffered major oil consumption. Dai Gibbison from England was appalled by the number of quarts that went in and out of the motor that day. It has since been sorted out (see above), but it was a humorous sidebar to a long day on winding roads.
#5, The first San Francisco 49 Mile Ride 2001
Before the 49 Mile Ride became a BIG DEAL, with 215+ bikes, cool T shirts, volunteers cooking a bbq lunch and months of planning, it was just a few friends making the circuit around town.
Kim and I started it so that we could enjoy some of the great bits of the city, and to share them with our friends.
In this pic, we are at Coit Tower, and somebody lifted my Velo MSS onto the short wall for the photo op.
#4, Alturas CA, Pre 1916 bike, pre 1910 car rally 2009
Old bikes and OLD cars, riding around rural North Eastern California for a few days. A variety of vehicles that is hard to comprehend. Cars were either 1 or two cylinder motors, or had steam engines. Some parents and children driving vehicles that were over 100 years old. Some were worth considerably more than the average American house, but were on the road being used as their makers intended.
Shown in this pic: c1904 International truck (chain drive 2 cylinder) 1914 Excelsior, 1913 Thor 1914 Thor c1914 Harley, 1916 Excelsior.
I took the 16X. Kim and the kids tagged along and rode in a 1912 Underslung auto.
#3, Wedding day scooter ride, Roma, Italy. 2001
Trivia about our wedding:
We rode our friend’s scooter around the Fountain of the Turtles (a copy of it is in Grace Cathedral Park in SF).
The little cafe is named after the italian word for turtle: Taruga.
It was a few days after 9/11 happened, and our friends and family were all glad to be together in Rome for the ceremony, food, wine and random tourist bs.
#2 VOCNA ride to the top of Pike’s Peak, Colorado 2001
Each year the Velocette Club of North America has a 5 day rally. It is in a different US state or Canadian province each year, and is typically 900-1300 miles in length. In 2001, we went to Colorado to ride around the Rocky Mountains. One day’s ride was around Colorado Springs and up Pike’s Peak. The elevation at the top is 14,110 ft.
Reaching the summit was a very great sense of accomplishment for us, after the 20 miles of switchbacks, passing by the bighorn sheep and gazing at the rocks in Devil’s Playground.
Kim was on the 1938 Velo MSS, and I rode my 25 Rudge 4 valve. The bikes ran fine at altitude, chugging their way up the mountain from our start which was around 7000 feet elevation. This photo is at the summit. We only stayed there for a few minutes, as the lack of oxygen was making us feel sick.
An interesting aspect of the ride is that the road up Pike’s Peak is dirt, not paved. It is a toll road, and heavy Caterpillar tractors keep in it good shape. In fact the dirt is much smoother than many of the (paved) streets in San Francisco and other parts of California!
Sadly, this was the last rally that the MSS did before we had to put the sidecar on it for the kids. I hope to remove it in about 3 more years though.
#1, Pioneer Run, London to Brighton 2006
For the last 72 years, the Sunbeam Club has hosted a ride from London to Brighton to celebrate veteran (pre 1915) motorcycles. I had long wished to participate in the run, and was finally able to do it in 2006, riding a c1904 Fafnir that was loaned to me by Ian at Verrall’s motorcycles. Thanks Ian!
It was a real treat to see over 300 bikes and three wheelers, each made before WWI and certified to be period correct by the club. Many folks rode while wearing old gear, and a good time was had by all. But period gear isn’t nearly warm enough when the temperature stays just above freezing. Coldest. Ride. Ever.
The fellow in the photo doesn’t seem to be alarmed that his bike has no handlebars… 😉
The ride finishes along the beachfront in Brighton, with great scenery of the English Channel and decent fish and chips.
Details for the gearheads: The Fafnir was a fun bike, but a challenge to ride. It has no cam or pushrod for the inlet valve, relying on the vacuum generated by the piston to open the valve. It works fine at a small range of rpms. The bike was also fitted with a NSU two speed gear change, hanging off the drive side crankshaft. Turning a coffee grinder type handle above the petrol tank allowed me to change gears when needed. This was done slowly, and with a very exciting squealing noise from the metal disks in the NSU unit. Ian and I swapped bikes so that I could try his c1911 Quadrant. It is a run-and-bump machine, with no clutch. That means that if the bike comes to a stop, the motor stops. To get going again, you must dismount and run alongside the bike, then hop on when it fires. That is great on the open road, but it gave me a lot of exercise as we ran into red lights and stop and go traffic in downtown Brighton.