Quail Motorcycle Gathering Sports Twice the Enthusiasm of That Other Show

the quail motorcycle gathering 2023
Quail Motorcycle Gathering Sports Twice the FunMark Vaughn
  • There are a lot of car shows in the world, but not a lot of motorcycle shows.

  • One of the best motorcycle shows, certainly the most sophisticated, is The Quail Motorcycle Gathering, held each spring in the same spot as the other Quail.

  • While the bikes are cool, the conversations are cooler, from regular riders all the way up to racing royalty. Both were onhand last Saturday for the 13th Quail Motorcycle Gathering.

There are many great motorcycle gatherings in the U.S., from the One Moto Show custom bike event in Portland, all the way to rowdy, T-shirt-contest chug-a-lugs of Daytona Bike Week and Sturgis. But none are so, dare we say, genteel and sophisticated as The Quail Motorcycle Gathering. Yes, genteel. While most attendees wear Aerostich, Dainese or Alpinestars, there are some guys, most of them judges, in suits.


And yes, the location is the same Quail in Carmel Valley, Calif. that hosts The Quail A Motorsports Gathering later in the summer as part of the big Pebble Beach juggernaut that bulldozes through the Monterey Peninsula every August. That other Quail event’s official website doesn’t even list ticket prices. The Quail Motorcycle Gathering is a mere $60, whereas the fancy Quail Motorsports Gathering maybe 10 times that much, if you can even get a ticket.

The motorcycle event is far more relaxed, far closer to the real enthusiasm bike enthusiasts share for their two-wheels.

“Almost everyone here rides,” said founder and organizer Gordon McCall, himself a motorcycle rider and restorer.

So, no poseurs.

the quail motorcycle gathering 2023
There was a class for customs, and oh man was this ever in it.Mark Vaughn

Indeed, the main thing that’s missing here is any hint of pretension. You could talk to anyone about motorcycles at the show and they’d almost certainly be happy to talk back. Impromptu conversations carried the day. Entrants didn’t have their entries dropped off by handlers and then spent the day on a private yacht waiting to hear if they’d won Best in Show. Motorcycle owners spent the day with their bikes, happily starting them up and revving the engines for anyone who asked them to. The guy who won Best of Show, John Goldman, could be seen smiling away, firing up his 1939 Miller-Balsamo Coroneta and explaining the machine’s intricacies to anyone and everyone.

“It’s pretty much the only motorcycle-only concours in the world at this point,” said emcee Paul d’Orleans. “Just about all the other shows are connected with cars.”

The Quail has another ace in the hole in the support of hotel owner, Sir Michael Kadoorie, who owns, among lots of other things, all the Peninsula Hotels in the world, including The Quail, on whose golf course this show is held. Kadoorie likes cars as well as motorcycles.

Who doesn’t like motorcycles?

the quail motorcycle gathering 2023
The longer you look, the more you see on this 2020 Hazan Motorworks Blown Velocette custom.Mark Vaughn

This year was the 13th running of the Quail Motorcycle Gathering, and each year founder Gordon McCall learns more about making it work. Namely, about what bikes to have. For instance, baggers seem to be a bigger and bigger thing, so much so that the AMA Bagger Championship has really taken off. So there was a class for baggers at The Quail. Then there’s custom bikes, not choppers per se, though there was a class for those, but for really unique takes on motorcycle construction.

“The whole custom thing is just still off the charts,” said McCall. “So we got a lot of custom-built bikes. What’s fun about that is there are a lot of bikes built in garages, they’re not all built by the big custom shops. There’s a lot of creativity here on the field.”

Consider the 2020 Hazan Motorworks Blown Velocette: two upright air-cooled separate parallel cylinders lined up longitudinally, each with their own crank, each spinning a series of what look like blower belts all connected and eventually spinning the rear wheel. Or the silver custom bike with an external supercharger stuck onto the outside of the engine just under the tank. Like McCall said, there’s a lot of creativity here.

And a lot of royalty.

“(Four-time world Champ) Eddie Lawson is bringing three bikes, a little bit of his career. (Three-time world champ) Wayne Rainey is bringing three bikes, including his first race bike from when he was 10 years old, a little Yamaha 60. So those guys will be here. (Three-time AMA flat track champ and 1988 AMA Superbike champ) Bubba Shobert’s RS 750 that Chris Carter owns is here. We’re honoring him.”

And even those guys display a complete lack of pretense.

“You know, we’ve got motorcycle royalty here, but here they’re just guys amongst fellow motorcyclists, you know, and I just love that.”