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2009 Rigid Ride. Portola, CA

June 14, 2010

For the last few years, Kim and I have hosted a ride for Rigid bikes starting and finishing at the historic Alpine Inn in Portola, CA.  This year’s ride is Aug 8th, contact me if you want to attend and need details.  There should be a few folks there getting pre1916 bikes ready for the Cannonball.  The flyer for the 2010 ride is at the bottom of this article.

IMG_1904 This ride is for old old bikes, riding on 160+ year old roads from the era immediately preceding the gold rush (that’s considered pretty old in California).  Unloading the bikes in the parking lot, a few horses and riders amble by us.  We try to keep the bikes quiet, those horses can kick hard!  This area is just across the freeway from Stanford University, PARC and lots of silicon valley headquarters.  But it is still just a small rural ‘town’ with a few shops and lots of horses.  (and homes that sell for $5million and up…)

The Alpine Inn is the dirty little secret of Portola.  A 150+ year old former gambling parlor, card room and saloon, it has been hated and loved by various parties over the years.  It is now one of the great old roadhouses, with dirt, grease, grime, cheap mediocre burgers and somewhat cold beer.  Get a seat outside in the back garden on a picnic bench, you might be rubbing elbows with Elon Musk, Steve Jobs or some other digital wunderkind.  Or maybe just some grey haired biker with 50wt oil all over his hands…

Here’s a great quote about the Alpine Inn, dated circa 1907:

Stanford President David Starr Jordan took advantage of the change of ownership to protest the saloon’s presence to the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors. He complained that the establishment had “the reputation of being vile even for a roadhouse” and that it was a “disgrace to San Mateo County.”

IMG_0424Then we ride out, going up Old La Honda Road, past Alice’s, then out to the San Gregorio General Store for coffee and pastries and to tighten up some of the loose nuts and bolts.  There is often a band playing in the store, bluegrass or some flavor of folk/protest music.  What a place it is!  Like their website says:  Saloon, lanterns, seeds, no television, U.S. Post Office, cast iron cookware, aspirin, advice, wines fine to rot gut, western and work clothing, groceries, hardware, bullshit, toys, cowtechnician hats, international beers, beeswax, cheesecloth, piano in-tune, books (literature, poetry, gender and environmental politics), homemade sandwiches, diapers, crockery, weather analysis, coal hods, raccoon traps, tequila (18 flavors), live music (Irish R&B, bluegrass, original everything else)

IMG_1897We move off to the south on the old stagecoach road, dodging potholes and sneaking a peek at the aggro metal sculpture in front of an old farm house.  Along the coast, see the lighthouse at Pidgeon Point, then back up the hill through the redwood forest.

Finishing back at the Alpine Inn around 2pm, the parking lot is now getting full.  Still a few horses and riders go by the parking lot, passing the oil-dripping bikes and the random assortment of pickup trucks, high end German sedans and the odd Ferrari or two.  After a few parking lot lies and some adult beverages, we head home, with plans to meet again at the 49 Mile Ride.

More photos:

Mike’s 1914 HD.  it just keeps going and going…


Kim’s 1930 Velocette KSS.  It’s such a small bike, it makes me look like a giant.  But it fits Kim well.  I like the shadow in this shot and the next one.

IMG_1885 IMG_1886

Red Fred’s upside down Indian 4.  These motors had an overhead valve exhaust, but a side valve intake.  Sort of like an upside down IOE, hence their nickname of upside down 4’s.  Many folks say that they aren’t as pretty as the other Indian 4 motors, but I like ‘em.


Victor Boocock’s 1914 HD.


Paul Zell’s hotrod Indian.


Gus’ BSA A7.  such a sweet bike.   We didn’t even kick his shins for having that rudimentary plunger suspension on the Rigid Ride.


Just before the off in the parking lot of the Alpine Inn.   Some HD’s, Indian Chief and 4, Matchless X, Triumphs and 1914 HD.


One year we stopped at a friend’s house and snapped a few pics in the garage:






Somebody in San Gregorio decorated this fence with some fish heads.  I don’t know why.


San Gregorio General Store. Charlie Taylor, Gus Veritakas and Paul Zell looking for that loose muffler bearing.


Charlie’s Matchless Model X.  He’s had this for a few years, and made it dead reliable.  He rides it all over N. California.


K&P and some coffee.


I hope to see you there next time.


2010 Ride flyer:

3rd Annual

Antique Motorcycle Club of America, BSA Club of Northern CA,

Velocette Club of N. America

Rigid Ride

Sunday August 8 2010

Start/Finish at Alpine Inn, aka Rosotti’s

3915 Alpine Rd, Menlo Park, CA (~1 mi west of the I280 exit) Ride leaves at 9:30 am sharp

Ride is FREE. Bring cash for BBQ lunch

All old bikes with rigid rear frames are welcome


We’ll ride 80-100 miles on twisty, scenic roads that are 160+ years old….clip_image002

3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 16, 2010 12:49 pm

    Hi Pete what a great Story
    it makes me feel that i’m borned in the wrong country ( well except the wine…)
    hope i can attend one day
    thanks for those great pics
    cheers, Frank

  2. Richard McKenney permalink
    June 17, 2010 2:13 am

    G’day Pete

    Top story, awesome bikes and cars, even the weather looked good, thanks for taking us all along for the scenery.
    You sure look like tall timber on K’s Velo!
    I’ve got the same problem, 6’4″ and 220 lbs, would you be around the same?
    Just to get an idea of perspective when your standing next to a dream bike.
    Riding my 1930 Ariel I have to squat on it and look a bit like a greyhound on a marble, the early brit bikes are so small, the wheel base is 59 inches same as a Brough, small.
    Great stuff Pete.

    Cheers Richard

    • Pete Young permalink*
      June 17, 2010 6:57 pm

      Hi Richard. I’m 6foot, about 190lbs. That early KSS is almost big enough for me, but my calves, not my knees, hit the rubbers on the petrol tank.

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