Skip to content

2013 Velocette Rally. Volcano, CA Part I

July 29, 2013

Here we are again.  Our annual summer adventure, the Velocette Owners Club of North America’s rally:  This was the 31st annual tour, each is 5 days and about 1000 miles.  Iron Butt riders will scoff at the 1000 miles, while riders of shorter events will marvel at the distance.  But I should note that it is held on what we call “challenging” roads.  These are the roads that we as a group enjoy, and our old 1930-1970 bikes are suited to.  No freeways, no 4 lane roads, two lane highways are used as needed, but I really like the one lane roads from nowhere to nowhere.  The twistier the roads, the better.  Tight bends along rivers or at the side of a cliff, up and down the hills.  Blind corners with 5mph signs, primitive pavement, wide open country and forest roads with curves dictated by the location of the existing big trees.


Mrs. Occhiolungo was the club President this year, and it was her duty to organize the rally.  One part of that was choosing the route.  Her goal was to travel from small town to small town in California’s Gold County.  And not to just ride through the towns and stop for gas and oil.  But to stay the night in the small hotels, to find the little restaurants and ice cream shops, and to have a quiet, small-town holiday on antique motorbikes.  One of my volunteering duties was to help plot the routes, and I had a field day with that.  More to come on that topic later…  There were 75 souls on the tour, mostly on Velos but a few other marques joined in the fun, including some newcomers on 441 BSAs, a 1934 Matchless V twin and assorted ‘60’s Brit twin cylinder bikes.  And of course there were several Thruxtons and rigid KSS and MSS bikes, MACs and Venoms.  Some low resolution cameraphone pics of these are on the new Occhio Lungo instagram page

pete on bridge

A little footbridge at the bottom of Iowa Hill Road.  Ride it if you get the chance.  From the link:  What you’ll see: Of all the paved roads in California, a 5-mile section of Iowa Hill Road in the Sierra foothills is among the narrowest, curviest and steepest. In one stretch, the road is carved into a canyon wall that towers over the North Fork American River, with a precipitous drop below to your right. The payoffs are just as dramatic. You cross a gorgeous section of river, pass through the historic settlement of Iowa Hill and crown the trip at gorgeous Sugar Pine Reservoir.

bridge near Colfax

The Velo rally isn’t like most other bike events.  I wouldn’t say that it is scary, but there is a real challenge in riding an old bike for a long distance over several days.  The risk is that the bike might break on day one, and you’ll be unable to fix it.  And that happens.  A gearbox blew up this year (a very rare occurrence).  But plenty of bikes had other issues that were addressed by the side of the road, or by the campground fire that night, or in a gas station or hotel parking lot.  This group is a resourceful lot, and even if the rider cannot fix something, there is always somebody else who can lend a hand and get a bike back on the road.    The missus had two flat tires this year; split tube and a roofing nail, which were fixed with some help.  Riders had things like a seized piston, some clutch issues, clogged carbs, tangles with crossing deer or gravel in the road, disappearing sparks, etc.  But just about everything was solved, barring that exploded gearbox.  And the chase trucks were almost empty at the end of the week.  But a special mention of the chase trucks is due, as they had more issues than the bikes this year!  One broke a motor mount, another caught a Mexican blanket in its driveshaft and U joints and came to a rapid stop.  Fun and games….

at Rd Frog

Paul and Susan have a beverage at the fabulous Red Frog in Colfax, CA. 


old french creek

K and Fred on the wondrous Old French Creek Road, north of Ione, CA.  This was Friday at 4pm, 105degrees F at the end of a long week.  But the riding was so good, we didn’t want to finish.  Another one lane road with no cars, no painted lines, no signs, and almost no destination.  To ride these roads is pure bliss.  No conscious thoughts, just throttle, brake, shift and lean left and right.

 covered bridge

P&S at the old covered bridge on Pleasant Valley Road.  It was good from Penn Valley to here, but just after the bridge it got really good with a long twisty climb up the side of the ravine.  One lane, switchbacks and a good drop off to the right.  This is starting to sound like a theme…

 downtown volcano

My favorite bike of the week.  Larry Luce’s c1938 KSS.  He’s had the bike for decades, and has put it on the road with a full mechanical rebuild.  But the big lumps are in bare metal, not paint.  By the end of the week, there was a good assortment of soils, oils and crud stuck to the bike.  And it looked even better than when it started.

 1853 wells fargo

An 1853 Wells Fargo bank, now abandoned in a partial ghost town.  It is only about 10 miles off the main Hwy #49, but it is on one of those roads that people don’t use unless they seek it out.  K and I disovered it a few years ago, and added it to the route for the Velo fellows to enjoy. 


This old machine used to crush rocks, looking to get the gold out.  The big flywheel on the top left was spun by a river paddle wheel, or later by a steam motor or electric motor.  Each of the pistons at the bottom would rise and fall as rocks were fed into the box.  There were something like 8 of these running at one time in Downieville, and it must have been quite a loud racket.

 moon over hotel

Moon over a hotel in Downieville.  These little towns don’t have hotels to accommodate 75 people, so we booked all three of the hotels in town.  Each had 8-15 rooms, and it gave us a good reason to walk the 3 blocks of the town to see each other.

 dirt roaddirt road 2

Riding in the dirt.  There was a 4.4 mile stretch of no pavement on the Beckworth – Gennessee road.  Not a big deal, and very much worth it for the wild 75 mile journey.  There was only 2 houses on that route, and a few cows.  A forest, a lake, more cows, prairies, etc.  But no people, no gas stations, no Walmart, no hitchhiking homeless, no Prius’es, no nothing.  In some spots the road widened to two lanes with fresh pavement and painted lines, in other places it was the typical California State Dept. of Transportation deferred maintenance for year or decades.  A few lucky riders missed the turn off the 4 mile dirt portion, and continued on for 28 miles of more dirt, up and over a 8,000 foot mountain pass.  Hardy folks for sure but I’m glad I stuck with the route.


Right turn Clyde!

   jeff scott

He’s a mystery.

 trees a blur

fuzzy trees at 40mph.  Photo by the 10 year old daughter pillion.


Pull up a chair.  Mineral Lodge, near Mt. Lassen.

   john and theresa

John and Theresa.  He rode his Thruxton, and she was on their new KSS for the week. 

  kim at speed

Madame President is always on the oldest bike of the rally, her 1930 KSS.  It’s been on this site more than a few times; 350cc OHC with 21” front and rear wheels, 4 speed gearbox with footshifter.  Handles like a bicycle, nimble and light.  But not as much hp or torque as the later, bigger bikes, so she tucks in and does what she can on the uphill climbs.


Blaise rounds the bend.   Click here to see some his excellent photos of the week:

 dead trees

Dead trees.



This photo was propped up on the OL facebook page for a caption contest.  Here are some of the 34 that have been typed thus far: 

  • Craig Howell: Tickle to start.

  • Greg J. Bennett: Lady and the Tramp?

  • Shaun Pond:   Ruth hopped on my Velocette
    to go for a ride with me.
    I hit a bump at sixty five
    and rode on Ruthlessly.

  • Ginger Hilgenberg: "Why officer, it wasn’t me, I could NEVER ride that fast on such an OLD motorcycle!" *wink wink*

  • Shaun Pond: "A new addition in our upcoming fall catalog: Occhio Lungo(r) logo overalls. Available in regular,tall and XL sizes in Denim Blue (pictured) or Chain Lube Grey."

  • Debbie Macdonald: farmer John says he likes this tractor!


on the road

Climbing Mt. Lassen


mt lassen summitBlaise and Mat.  They’re not lost yet.

mt lassen

At the top of Mt. Lassen we had a snowball fight in July, with ambient temps of 80F.

matt gil


paul  shuffleboard

Paul plays a mean game of shuffleboard.  Even better when he pitches his iphone down the court whilst it records…  Smile

Here is a video that Judith recorded, riding out of Downieville along the river: 

3 Comments leave one →
  1. motoalchemy permalink
    July 29, 2013 10:09 am

    Great pics, looks like it was a amazing event. Im jealous.  

    Looking forward to the 49 mile/halloween ride. Just bought brand new amal premium carbs for the norton, its gunna be the cherry on top for this bikes reliability.


    Sent from Samsung tabletOcchio Lungo wrote:

  2. carl permalink
    July 29, 2013 11:40 am

    pete ! what a great set of pics, please tell madam pres what a fantastic job of route planning she has done and she has set the little cogs a spinning in my head as to how I can wangle another ralley in a year or so, kindest regards


  1. How To; 3D printing & bronze casting | Occhio Lungo

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: