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Connected | Chance Encounters on the Slimey Crud Run

Connected Chance Encounters on the Slimey Crud Run
A large crowd gathers for the biannual Slimey Crud Run in Wisconsin. Photos by the author.

This essay first appeared in Motorcycles Are Magic: An Anthology, edited by Melissa Holbrook Pierson with assistance from George Sarrinikolaou and published in 2021 by 10mm Socket Press. Pierson, the author, participates in the legendary Slimey Crud Run and explores how motorcyclists stay connected, intended or not.


The invitation to dinner might have been a spring petal on the wind, gone by unseen in the turn of a head. How did I manage to hear the ding of the incoming text, even as it mimicked a tone identical to the imperative summons of the hotel desk bell, over the layered noise of so much coming and going? It configured itself from the molecules of the air of the bar at the airport Chili’s, where I sat killing two hours between flights. The name of the person who had issued it was “Jeff,” to whom I’d been “introduced,” also by text, that morning. He was the vague someone I was told would help procure a bike for me to ride in the vaguely understood run I’d attend the day after I gave a talk at the Black Earth Library. This was the reason I was downing Sam Adams in the first place in the Chicago airport en route to Wisconsin.

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The earth was, indeed, black in southern Wisconsin. This startling notion would pierce my thoughts only after 10 continuous miles of passing it. Sometimes I don’t pay attention to the obvious. It pays attention to me.

Thank you, I had typed back: It looks unlikely, since my connecting flight was just delayed by 45 min., and unless you are eating on European time, it doesn’t look like I’ll make it.

“These guys are old. They eat at 7:30. You could check the menu online, give me your order, and the food won’t arrive till 8 anyway.”

Although I could probably make it by 8, truth be told just the thought of walking into a restaurant, asking where I might locate a table of strangers, explaining myself and then making small talk, made me tired. More precisely, exhausted, to the point of panting. I have an internal timer ticking down the minutes I can be in the company of others before an insensible need to get away whispers urgently Go, run! This is when the Fairfield Suites sings its Siren’s song, urging me toward the soothing deja-vu of anonymity. I could already feel the upswelling of relief loosed by the appearance of the green light after sliding the key card through the door lock: the lighthouse’s lone beacon. Through the stormy spray it promised safe harbor beyond the treacherous rocks of engaging, smiling, the effort of looking interested. I hang on to the rope that after so long is about to burn itself into my palm and I can feel I am about to let go. All I can think about is the comforting embrace of the bed it seems I have known all my life, with its marshalled pillows stacked in predictable order, and the Corian-countered bathroom that represents coming home again, only to a well-cleaned one. Its washcloth-folded-corner identicality will finally activate the exhale of distress withheld while communing with others of my species.

Connected Chance Encounters on the Slimey Crud Run
A borrowed ride is a forever friend.

Then the late plane lands at the exact hour assigned to the on-time plane. As if the reason I too might be late had run backwards, time itself accordioning to something that had already been arranged. My phone’s map, asked to show the destination provided by Jeff, returns the arrival time. 7:30. Precisely. The restaurant is placed directly on the route to the hotel. I am being ordered to Smokey’s Steakhouse.

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The minute the door opens I see the oracle knows me well. It is the kind of place I live for. Not for the food – I had to order salads in steakhouses, or potatoes – but for the chance to walk into the past, where it has been kept safe so we may breathe its lost air in the present. We are to laugh and order drinks from within circles of warm yellow light yielding to a velvety dark just beyond, mysterious shadows that are not so much the result of low light in dark panelled rooms but of accumulated layers of happiness. We are to dine in our own history.

At the front desk I ask where I might find the motorcyclists, most of whom are without motorcycles on a cold, wet night. I had thought this would pose some difficulty. Instead I hear my name. And “Right this way.”

We pass the bar where under festive string lights people order exotic Midwestern beers that have likewise been preserved unchanged since another time, the one that existed before the need to make new versions of what had been discarded without a second thought. The nearest we get now is a label with a carefully researched font, designed last week.

Connected Chance Encounters on the Slimey Crud Run
Before the run, a favorite activity commences. During and after it, too.

We head toward a private room in the back. As we go he tells me how his parents opened this supper club 63 years ago. Also that the Slimey Cruds eat here regularly. It is odd to feel such a pang on hearing the word “regularly.” There is nothing I have longed for more than a group of people to whom I could belong, where I might at last lay down a weary load. I most want what I fear most: to be with others, regularly.

The Slimey Cruds are people who appreciate legacy in all its forms. This old place, their old group, their old bikes especially, the European café racers that defined cool to a generation of yore. Like the brews here, their bikes are originals from before the era of nostalgia fetish, not a simulacrum of old – only with fuel injection and ABS (real spoke wheels though) – but genuine old. Lovingly polished, that’s all. In need of no reimagining because the original imagination was wholly sufficient.

I know none of the people arrayed around the U-shaped table. I spy one empty chair, at a corner. In moments like these I engage an old foe, a formidable prizefighter who is good at throwing a hook I never see coming. The sharp sting from the broken septimal cartilage floods my body with shock.

Or rather, I smile. It is a preemptive feint against humiliation, the punch I fear is coming. I sit in the empty chair and arrange my expression. I watch the butter, study the far wall. I turn to the man to my left just as he turns to me.

“Jeff,” he says. Then, “Glad to finally meet you.” But I’m looking into the eyes of someone whose story I have helped live, someone I’ve known all my life. The only seat at the table had to be next to Jeff.

Connected Chance Encounters on the Slimey Crud Run
Man’s best friend – that goes for both the bike and the dog.

The woman to my right extends her hand, gives her name. I know her too. But in a more conventional way: she is an officer of the BMW Motorcycle Owners of America, a club of which I am a member. She organized a panel on which I participated at a national rally. I had no idea she lived in Madison, much less that she would end up next to me at a dinner I came close to passing by. Her husband, next to her, leans over and tells me he had reviewed my first book years ago. In a few minutes he will stand and raise his glass to me with a quote from that review. After some more toasts everyone will turn their attention to plates of hash browns, served family style.

Jeff starts talking, ignoring the clam chowder in front of him (the menu’s alternative is tomato juice, a choice I last saw when I was 10). What he says is of course familiar, since I have spent days and weeks in his company. He’s at every gathering; we meet on the road and hanging around in shops. We speak often on the phone, as he’s one of those I turn to in times of need – of opinions, of answers. He knows so much about so much. It’s a small detail, almost beneath mentioning, that we’ve never met. I know already he is the type who has no time to waste prevaricating because he’s been in enough tough scrapes, in foreign countries, alone, had ties severed to loved ones through all the usual ways people go away, lots of loss under the bridge. He never spends a second talking bullshit because that would be a second lost to living. That’s why I always go to him. He reveals he owns 20 bikes; of course. I knew that. He shows me his phone. There’s a picture of his Mike Hailwood replica in the desert of Moab taken the week before, a surreal flash of red and green posing in the scrub like the looker she is.

At age 45, he went to law school so he could finance a life in which riding takes preeminence. By practicing law for six months, he earns enough to ride the other half of the year. Ride anywhere he wants.

Living is mainly about losing and I’ve lived very little, I think as I listen to Jeff’s stories. Sometimes it’s blood. (He is limping currently.) There’s losing things, getting lost, losing people, losing houses and money and your way, and then leaning back on a couch in your skivvies, rain-soaked gear having been peeled off, transforming these stories into Homeric poetry in front of a group of people who have just gotten off bikes too.

Connected Chance Encounters on the Slimey Crud Run
This very old-looking Olds is actually contemporary custom built around a 1970s Honda XL350.

There must be a story about the missing tooth, but I haven’t heard that one yet. His smile is warm and takes you in.

And in. I excuse myself from dinner – the others will stay, apparently until this day becomes the next – almost desperate for the Fairfield but glad I lashed myself to the mast earlier. I have become smaller and smaller as my reserves were sucked out through a tiny aperture and now I need solitude and the ice machine and a chocolate chip cookie from a tray near the effervescent desk clerk, always happy to see me and say the same thing each time the door slides open. “Welcome to the Fairfield!”

As I leave Jeff too pushes back his chair. He tries to limp as fast as I walk, as if it doesn’t matter. It matters. I slow down, much as I don’t want to since my car is at the back of the lot and I don’t know why he’s coming out here in the first place and it puts me at 90 seconds’ disadvantage for the elevator to relief, I mean my room.

On the way he diverts our path briefly toward a great white extended Mercedes Sprinter van. What else. It can hold bikes and everything else you need while waiting for the destination, the signal to go past. He reaches in. “I’m going to give you my GPS. That way you can just press the home button and it will take you to my house so you can pick up a bike on Sunday.” He hands me the ruby slippers. And then a backup pair in case the GPS doesn’t work: by the time I’ve turned the ignition on the rental car a text pings. His address.

Riding so much, alone, in foreign parts, and in places far from people (the farther the better), requires installation of new software in the brain, a program that makes you think of everything. In fact the GPS would not work, wouldn’t let me in. But two mornings later the address from his text would be the north star guiding me out of the city into the countryside, winding through gentle hills and into what appears to be nowhere, which is naturally where Jeff would live.

Connected Chance Encounters on the Slimey Crud Run
What communal ride doesn’t mean having an Adventure?

Before this, however, there is an intervening 24 hours. If this wonderment has happened tonight, what will occur tomorrow? First, the talk at the library to which five people or 50 may come, and maybe what I plan to say will please them or it will bore them. Then, as I understand it, a motorcycle movie at night. In fact I don’t know what tomorrow will hold, what black earth will belatedly appear.

I always thought Kismet was a place. Actually, it is, a few of them. The one on Fire Island represents it well, being a bit of Atlantic beach I visited as a teen. Ergo, kismet.

It is also another term for “the will of Allah,” and predestination is Allah’s thing. The will of Allah might well have another name: this wondrous place. Here I am no longer in charge. It is sweet to relinquish the semblance of control, that which dogs me and bites me and wearies me all at once. Here I meet people and on looking into their eyes for the first time hear a voice in my head that contradicts unimpeachable evidence. “I’ve known you all my life.” But that’s strange. You live in Richmond, Madison, Milwaukee, Seattle. This is the first time I’ve been here. Yet here I am looking at you now and I’ve always known you.

A weird sensation that touches me only in this world. It is replete with its own colors and language and atmospheric disturbances. It is a separate cosmos, hidden within the one everybody thinks is the only one. Its portal looks nondescript, just another rusty door, but this is just to hide the gilded paradise that waits on the other side.

Motorcycling. It’s like a living Watteau, sunshine and pinks, flying swings and satin whispering to the air. Every day a fête galante of baroque sensuality, though there’s black grease under the fingernails and a pocket torn half off the FirstGear jacket. (Happened one memorable day long ago in Baja. Or maybe Alaska? On the Haul Road.)

It is raining. The librarian has stationed long tables outside the room, above them signs reading “Motorcycle Helmet Parking.” Clever. Of course there are helmets there. There always will be in a place like this no matter the weather, for the people who cannot do anything but ride.

Connected Chance Encounters on the Slimey Crud Run
A miniature bike ridden by a giant.

I stand before the room of people and talk. I read a poem called “Coda: Road.” Road is always the coda to the story called road. I am taken out for lunch by some riders who have come from Chicago.

I have half an hour in my generic hotel room of solace, after hours of parley with those of my kind who never quite seem exactly like me – they are all connected to others, and to the world, in ways I ache to be, like the child wishing hard on the other side of the pane from the brand-new Flexible Flyers or the cupcakes with frosting towers and sugar flowers – before I must reattach prosthetic wings. In the neverending rain I drive into the heart of Madison. There’s the Barrymore Theater, but ah – here’s the parking space. It’s so far away I get lost and soaking trying to find my way back on foot.

I arrive on time for the beginning of the movie even though I should have missed it. This is a trend in the magical land that is Wisconsin. I have time to buy a beer in the lobby and retreat to a pilaster which will be my spine. I stand tall and invisible, watching clots of motorcyclists gesticulate, laugh, confer. (My tribe, to which I both belong and do not, composed as it is of humans.) The group is especially tight in Madison, a family of a few hundred.

In the ’70s, a couple of university grads noticed each other, or, more to the point, each other’s bikes. When you see someone riding your type – a Triumph, a Ducati, a CB750 – you recognize a kinship that goes deeper than mere DNA. And when you’re doing it in the same environment that sorely tests the person who loves to ride that motorcycle, denied during the long months of ice and wind blowing off the lakes (both small and Great), the recognition is like solder, hot and fast.

They got together to ride and wrench. Information was exchanged, in garages and over dinners. Next, necessarily, came the name: any loosely affiliated group of motorcyclists is a gang, in the eyes of the outside world. Up to no good.

Connected Chance Encounters on the Slimey Crud Run
Variety is the spice of motorcycling life.

This group of intellectual hell-raisers, who in truth did like to ride fast – why else fall in love with metal beings in whose veins flows the blood of born racers? why else ponder the depths of carburetor jetting and aftermarket exhausts, ratios of bore and stroke? – decided to give the public what they wanted. What moniker would best suit these exemplars of the anti-social’s lowest rank? The Slimey Cruds it would be. A little in-joke. Next they would put on a run, where they might show the townspeople who really owned the roads, their slow-rolling thunder implicit warning.

Or not. Because the run is no run at all: you find your own way between Pine Bluff and Leland. Together, but apart. It’s 30 miles. So your run might take the better part of the day; there is no such thing as a straight line in a motorcyclist’s desires. There is wandering, exploration, and chance. There is time stretching to whatever length the way demands.

When you meet again, a thousand machines will be parked side by side in a roadside museum of individualism. The old, the painstakingly restored, the elegant and the rare – and sometimes all of these in one: the one you love to ride, and the one others love to pause to eye and imagine these lonely, embraceable curves on. (For that is the real secret of Madison and its diehard riders – their personal possession of endless roads through some of the most heartbreaking scenery in all America.)

Showing a movie the night before the run is the ritual warm-up to this riding-season warm-up; the next run, for it is a biannual event, will mark the end of the season four months later in October. It is not unusual for it to snow, or be cold enough anyway. Tomorrow it will also feel cold enough.

Connected Chance Encounters on the Slimey Crud Run
The obligatory scenic stop for a photo of new friends.

I overhear one man say to another, “That bike saved my life,” followed by knowing laughter. All that needs to be said, multivalent meaning. I know all the levels instantly, intimately. Bikes saved my life too. And gave me this one. Now comes a temporary pause in the beer-drinking portion of the evening. It will resume at intermission. I enter and find a seat alone. The lights go down and the movie begins to roll. It tells the story of a New Zealander who was crazy enough to hand-build a race bike from the ground up. Its design is revolutionary. He works on it night and day. He brings it to America to compete in the Battle of the Twins; there is crisis and devastation and triumph and death (Isle of Man, of course) and more triumph, amid continuous mind-bending work and invention. Then the New Zealander is dead at age 45, of cancer. Now 10 of his bikes remain in the world, frozen forever at some indeterminate point in the progress toward perfection. There will never be any more, so individual an object they are. The man who was their beating heart is gone, and they are like Lenin’s embalmed corpse: at once his monument and his requiem mass. The one that got away.

I feel Jeff behind me. I know he’s there even if I don’t see him in the dark. At intermission I do, and I move to sit one row in front of him. I hear his voice, first to one side and then the other. Making plans with his cohort: What time will you be over? Yeah, not sure what I’ll ride. So-and-so is bringing the truck at 9. She’s coming a little later.

“You’re coming at 10, right?” Right, I say. The lights go down again.

The next morning I pass through a cattle gate left ajar at the end of the driveway to Jeff’s farm. The place is well hidden. It is also Penn Station for motorcyclists. There are five or six bikes on a concrete pad outside what looks like an old dairy barn; a Quonset hut on the other side of the farmyard holds what must be the rest of the stable. I had overheard one of Jeff’s friends answer a question from someone the night before: “Well, if you’re counting frames too, then I have around 40 bikes. I think.”

I have my choice of two specimens from the early ’70s, a Moto Guzzi Eldorado or a BMW slash-5, the second of which a friend of Jeff’s is just unloading from a van. Its shiny chrome with insets gave rise to a perfect nickname, Toaster Tank. Ask and ye shall receive. As I get out of the car another friend arrives, a gentlemanly writer who is a celebrity in the motorsports world who will later tell me about the happenstance that led to his career, one sheaf of typescript fluttering to earth and caught by these hands, not those. Decades later, he is known to millions. What might have happened to him otherwise? He does not know. Pure chance has a central role in deciding everything of moment.

We are getting ready to go. I’m standing in the kitchen – I have seen places like this before, where unmarried men live, and the bottle of bourbon is always in the same spot next to the sink, the same old grease giving the patina of history to the stove, dishes from yesterday or last month in the same leaning tower on the counter – and I ask Jeff if I might use his bathroom. He points to the front door. “There’s no bathroom.” Oh, I say. My brain automatically scrambles to make a sensible narrative out of facts suddenly tumbling as if during an accident: What happened here?

Connected Chance Encounters on the Slimey Crud Run
The difficult choice between two hardy classics, in front of a true motorcyclist’s cabinet of mysteries.

For now it’s a simple matter of disappearing into the brush behind the garbage cans.

But how does one go without a bathroom at night, in the winter, when there are houseguests? How does one live without a bathroom?

One lives to ride.

When Jeff is on his big dual-sport with the enormous plastic gas tank that drapes the frame like saddlebags on a camel, carrying enough fuel to take him ever deeper into unpeopled regions, even the concept of a bathroom is unnecessary, a word in a defunct language. You learn to live without what you no longer need. He tells me the house he bought when he was younger, an old farmhouse, burned down a couple years ago and with it everything he owned. His history, that of his family. His books and his music and his memories. It taught him something, about the impermanence of things and their ultimate irrelevance. That the lesson was grotesquely painful was a testament to its necessity. Now he lives in what was the old farm’s chicken coop.

As we head toward Pine Bluff, motorcycles thicken. They pass us, shoom. We pass them, on the side of the road, in the other lane, in gas stations. The highest concentration occurs in the parking lot of a big barn of a bar – inside are coffee urns and “Welcome Motorcyclists” banners and people chatting and meeting, again or for the first time, and still the place feels like an empty cavern – then it is time to go. Jeff leads with a friend following on a YSR pocket bike who looks like a cartoon, a man on a machine half his size, hovering a few inches above the pavement. Nonetheless I have to work to keep up although I crack the throttle wide on the old BMW. The journalist is behind me (I critique my riding through his eyes, hoping he doesn’t hear when I mis-shift, precisely as I always hope no one notices the red-faced panic or quiver of fear in my voice when nothing has caused it but being with you), and behind him the owner of my borrowed ride, his 12-year-old son riding pillion.

We fly under open sky. We are lost, one by one, around curves that rise and fall mid-turn, then are met again on the straightaways. We ride in precise concert, singers who have practiced the harmonies on this particular chorus so many times we are one voice in many parts. I’ve just met them but we’ve known each other forever.

Connected Chance Encounters on the Slimey Crud Run
The end of the Slimey Crud Run is a lot like the beginning: talk and tire-kicking.

In Leland, its population of 50 temporarily boosted by a factor of 15 this day, the concentration of motorcycles has reached critical mass. The Slimey Crud Run functions just south of pure anarchy, which means it functions as it was intended: valve clearances spot on, carburetion dialed in, torque a propulsion of sensual ideal, everything else the possession of gorgeous chance. Bikes line both sides of the road around Sprecher’s Bar, an aboriginal watering spot set down in the middle of a nowhere that was also pretty much nowhere in 1900, when the elderly owner’s father bought it as a general store. To keep it going through two world wars and a great depression in between, Sprecher’s tried a little of everything. The recipe that ended up the keeper was beer and guns. It might be the only place in the country now for one-stop shopping, your argument and its conclusion obtained in the same room. A sign tacked on the back wall reads “If you voted for Obama, please turn around and leave! You have proven that you are not responsible enough to own a firearm!” Over it hangs a Confederate flag, no doubt a recent addition to the décor, as Wisconsin recruited and lost 91,000 men for the Union cause, many of them in the famously noble Iron Brigade.

Connected Chance Encounters on the Slimey Crud Run
Inside Sprecher’s, guns for sale and beer for drinking.

We get cheese and salami sandwiches (mine minus the salami), and even though the town is flooded with people, as in the parable of the loaves and the fishes there are still stools available at Junior Sprecher’s bar. There one can sit and gaze at the wall, its rifles and shotguns racked and handguns displayed in a glass case near the establishment’s framed license to sell them. I don’t leave even though I was asked so politely by the sign. Jeff has been absorbed somewhere outside into the mass of his countrymen. When it’s time to leave he materializes next to me.

We mount up again. Back a different way; here there is always a different way, and that is the only way. An hour and a half later we snake up the driveway, lean bikes on sidestands. At home he peels off his gear and now wanders around in his long underwear. He’s a big man. He loads the potbelly stove with lumber scraps and gets a flame going. Beers are found. We sit variously on office chairs and other scavenged seating. We are in the only place we belong at an unrepeatable moment. I sense something in the room I have either been longing to become or something I already am: elementally human, molecularly social. Kin. But I will leave.

Two days and a thousand miles separate us now, jet fuel long burned or offloaded to the long-suffering earth. It presaged our return, a trail between us and all those we were soon to rejoin, or hoped to anyway.

I am outside, home, when I hear a sound from the phone in my back pocket. I pull it out and see what I or someone else or maybe some thing have made happen. The phone is calling Jeff. I quickly end the call, praying I punched the button quickly enough. Filled with rising curiosity about how this might have happened. Chastened. Afraid. I did not mean to connect.

“Connected” first appeared in Motorcycles Are Magic: An Anthology, edited by Melissa Holbrook Pierson with assistance from George Sarrinikolaou and published in 2021 by 10mm Socket Press. Pierson is the author of The Perfect Vehicle: What It Is About Motorcycles; The Man Who Would Stop At Nothing: Long-Distance Motorcycling’s Endless Road; The Place You Love Is Gone: Progress Hits Home; Dark Horses And Black Beauties: Animals, Women, and Passion; and The Secret History Of Kindness: Learning From How Dogs Learn. Her essay “Alone: Onward Through The Fog” was published in the September 1992 issue of Rider. For more information, visit MelissaHolbrookPierson.com.

The post Connected | Chance Encounters on the Slimey Crud Run first appeared on Rider Magazine.
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Chasing Quail | The 2022 Quail Motorcycle Gathering

The 2022 Quail Motorcycle Gathering
The 12th edition of The Quail Motorcycle Gathering drew a crowd of nearly 3,200 to enjoy 270 vintage, classic, and custom bikes as well as a wide variety of vendors and food purveyors on a beautiful day in May. Photos by the author and courtesy Kahn Media.

From my home in Southern California, it’s just a day’s ride to the scenic Monterey Peninsula on some of the state’s most sublime motorcycling roads, including Highway 1 on the majestic Big Sur coast. Good food and nightlife on a Friday night in Monterey are steps away from dozens of hotels ranging from reasonable to posh, so an overnight run is both easy and fun. Add the prospect of attending a large vintage and custom motorcycle concours on the green grass of the nearby upscale golf course, and you can see why The Quail Motorcycle Gathering has been a great success since the first one in 2008.

The 2022 Quail Motorcycle Gathering
Catching up after a two-year break, the 2022 Quail Motorcycle Gathering celebrated the 50th anniversary of Harley-Davidson’s iconic XR-750, which was actually in 2020, with a featured class.

Plenty of enthusiasts flock to The Quail just for the day, so the parking area along Valley Greens Drive becomes quite a motorcycle show in its own right. This year, 3,200 spectators enjoyed 270 notable and highly polished motorcycles arranged just so on the grass of the Quail Lodge & Golf Club in Carmel Valley, ringed by vendors of every sort. The one-day event cost $55 and ran from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., so attendees had to keep moving to see and do it all.

Led by Gordon McCall, Director of Motorsports for Peninsula Signature Events, The Quail Ride kicks off the event on Friday (not to be confused with Why We Ride to the Quail, a two-day charity ride for the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation that starts on Thursday in SoCal – for more information, visit Motovational.org). The Quail Ride is a 100-mile loop around this gorgeous area limited to 100 riders that includes two laps of Laguna Seca Raceway with its famous Corkscrew, an experience that’s worth the price of admission alone.

Listen to our interview with Gordon McCall on the Rider Magazine Insider Podcast

The Quail has hosted as many as 400 machines in past years, but as McCall said this year, “It’s too many bikes.”

“You can’t see them all in a day, and we’re a one-day event,” he said. “So we pared that back. This to me is the heart and soul of the motorcycle community. We’ve got a lot of smaller companies, smaller vendors, and they help make this possible. Just look at this – people are in a good mood. We’re ready – enough with hiding under a rock for two years.”

The 2022 Quail Motorcycle Gathering
The Best of Show award went to this 1951 Vincent Rapide owned and customized by Max Hazan.

Indeed, after a two-year break due to the pandemic, the 2022 Gathering may have been a bit smaller, but I still had trouble taking everything in. In addition to traditional classes like British, Italian, Japanese, Competition, and Antique, the event showcased five featured classes. Two-Stroke “Braaaps” comprised on- and off-road ring-ding superstars, like the 1986 Suzuki RG500 Gamma from Matt Torrens of California. Other classes highlighted minibikes, BMW /5 Series motorcycles, and the Harley-Davidson XR-750, a crowd favorite and one of the most successful racebikes of all time.

While this is a very social event, it’s the bikes that are the primary draw, and there was no shortage of interesting, amazing, and historical hardware to ogle. Vintage machines wearing a time-earned patina or lovingly restored to original or better condition by the best in their field are most prevalent, but the show also includes bikes from some of the icons of the custom motorcycle world, like Max Hazan from Hazan Motorworks in Los Angeles. Hazan’s wildly custom and beautiful 1951 Vincent Rapide won Best of Show, a controversial choice to some given the irreverent nature of customs based on famous vintage bikes.

The 2022 Quail Motorcycle Gathering
Chris Carter of Motion Pro accepts the Spirit of the Quail award for his multiple championship-winning 1984 Honda RS750.

But the 40-plus judges on the committee, led by veteran Chief Judge Somer Hooker, also gave top awards in many other classes to near-perfect history-making motorcycles. An incredible 1984 Honda RS750, for example, ridden to three Grand National Championships by Bubba Shobert (and owned by Chris Carter of Motion Pro) was given the Spirit of the Quail award.

The 2022 Quail Motorcycle Gathering
The “mini bikes | BIG FUN” class was highlighted by this 1968 Honda Z50, which Steve McQueen had customized by Von Dutch.

Yamaha brought a fleet of famous flat-trackers from its racing past, like the 1977-78 Kenny Roberts Racing Specialties-designed, monoshock-framed MX250, one of two bikes champion racer Jeff Haney rode to multiple lap records during his undefeated 1978 season at Ascot Park. Arch Motorcycles, the company started by actor Keanu Reeves, was there with its pricey, out-of-this-world production bikes.

The Gathering was also a rare opportunity to try out apparel like airbag vests from Helite or cool jackets from Walter Leather Company, and a silent auction supporting the Monterey County Youth Museum offered everything from golf at the Quail Lodge & Golf Club to stays at The Peninsula Chicago and New York hotels.

“The success of this year’s The Quail Motorcycle Gathering was truly overwhelming,” said McCall. “From the immense support of our incredible sponsors to the amazing spectators and the diverse demonstration of remarkable motorcycles and classic cars, we are so proud to have come back stronger than ever and are excited to see what 2023 will bring.”

The 2022 Quail Motorcycle Gathering
Former AMA pro racer and industry legend Thad Wolff (left) with his arm around Rider’s longtime Editor, Mark Tuttle. Wolff competes in ARHMA trials on his restored 1964 Triumph Tiger Cub, which he entered in the Competition Off Road class.

Me too! Next year, The Quail Motorcycle Gathering is scheduled for Saturday, May 6, 2023. Tickets will go on sale this fall, and it’s likely the all-inclusive passes will be limited in number and sell out again, so be sure to put it on the calendar.

For more info, visit Peninsula.com/en/signature-events/events/motorcycle.

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Source: RiderMagazine.com

Gold Wing Road Riders Association to Shut Down after 45 Years

Gold Wing Road Riders Association

The Gold Wing, Honda‘s flagship touring motorcycle, was launched in 1974 as a 1975 model. The original GL1000, powered by an in-line Four with shaft final drive, was the second most powerful production motorcycle at the time, runner-up to the venerable Kawasaki Z-1. It had no fairing and no luggage, but it was so smooth, torquey, and reliable that it became popular with touring riders and has evolved over six generations. (Read our 2021 Honda Gold Wing Tour DCT road test review).

Just a few years after the Gold Wing was introduced, the Gold Wing Road Riders Association (GWRRA) was founded. The GWRRA’s annual gathering is called the Wing Ding, and the 43rd and final event took place June 28 – July 2, 2022, in Shreveport, Louisiana. At Wing Ding 43, it was announced that GWRRA would shut down as of July 31. The following is a press release issued by American Honda.


Gold Wing Road Riders Association founders Paul Hildebrand and Shirley Stevens-Garcia announced last week during Wing Ding opening ceremonies that the organization will be closing. American Honda is saddened by the news and thanks the GWRRA for its dedication to one of Honda’s most iconic models.

RELATED: Honda Gold Wing Milestone Models 1975-2015

Founded in 1977, the GWRRA grew through the heyday of motorcycle touring to the point that it eventually had approximately 80,000 members in 53 countries, and with over 800 active chapters managed by 4,000 volunteer leaders. Headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona, the GWRRA has called itself “the world’s largest single-marque social organization for owners of Honda Gold Wing/Valkyrie motorcycles,” and it adopted the motto “Friends for Fun, Safety and Knowledge.”

A dedicated, family-like group that published its own magazine (Wing World, whose September issue will be the last), the GWRRA worked hard to improve the image of motorcycling and prided itself in being a not-for-profit, nonreligious, non-political organization whose members covered a broad spectrum of backgrounds, but who were unified by a love for owning and riding Honda’s legendary touring model, the Gold Wing.

RELATED: Honda Gold Wing Timeline: 1972-2018

“We would like to thank our members, vendors and advertisers for 45 years of unwavering support,” said Abel Gallardo, COO of GWRRA. “We truly could not have made it this far without all of you. To our rider-education program, we cannot begin to place a number on the lives touched by your efforts. To our leadership-training and motorist-awareness programs, thank you for educating our members, officers and public to keep our riders safe and enjoying the ride.”

The GWRRA will officially close on July 31. In the interim, it will offer prorated refunds on prepaid memberships.

“For nearly five decades, the GWRRA has set the powersports standard for a grassroots organization based on a single model, and Honda will be forever grateful for the enthusiasm the club’s members demonstrated and generated for the Gold Wing,” said Bill Savino, American Honda Senior Manager of Customer Engagement. “While the GWRRA’s closure is undeniably the end of an era, we want to make sure their members and all Gold Wing enthusiasts know that Honda remains committed to the Gold Wing model and these customers for years to come.”

The post Gold Wing Road Riders Association to Shut Down after 45 Years first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

KTM Adventure Rider Rally Heads to Idaho, Sept 16-18

KTM Adventure Rider Rally

With a lineup of ADV bikes that ranges from the entry-level 390 Adventure to the high-performance, 160-hp 1290 Super Adventure R, KTM knows adventure. The last KTM Adventure Rider Rally was held in Breckenridge, Colorado, in 2019. After a two-year hiatus due to Covid, the popular on/off-road rally returns this September in Donnelly, Idaho. The following is the official press release from KTM.


KTM North America, Inc. has announced that the KTM Adventure Rider Rally is back on the calendar for 2022 with an entirely new format for participants to enjoy. One of the oldest and most popular events on the global KTM Adventure Rally calendar, the 17th running of this special event will welcome KTM riders from every part of the globe to experience the ultimate adventure September 16-18 at the picturesque Tamarack Resort in Donnelly, Idaho.

KTM Adventure Rider Rally
2022 KTM 1290 Super Adventure R (Photo by Kevin Wing)

Featuring an all-new format, this year’s event will offer a designated loop for each day of riding, which includes options for all skill levels and a common lunch/gas spot supported by KTM. Participants will have a unique opportunity to experience first-hand the future of KTM Adventure in the presence of Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Dakar Rally Champion Kevin Benavides and KTM ambassador Chris Birch, as well as the chance to ride alongside both offroad experts – and other notable names – throughout the event.

To ensure that everyone has a fun and safe rally, participants will ride in groups of 2-4 people each day. Adventurers can sign up ahead of time as a pre-determined group and individual self-navigators will be teamed up on-site with a rider/group of the same skill level. All groups must have a SPOT device and GPS devices.

Back by popular demand, a limited number of participants will have the opportunity to do an adventure-style camp out. The ride will be led by KTM’s Chris Fillmore for the second year and the camping has been extended by a day to allow campers to experience this true adventure.

As always, the KTM Adventure Rider Rally is designed for KTM Adventure and Enduro owners but is open to all brands of street legal motorcycles. KTM Ride Orange Street Demos will take place on Thursday to allow all participants the opportunity to participate in all rides on Friday and Saturday.

There will also be Riding Technique and Technical Riding Seminars available for those who wish to participate, as well as plenty of Adventure vendors on-site. Participants will receive an event t-shirt and hat, along with a pre-event dinner on Thursday, Breakfast on Friday – Sunday, as well as an Awards Dinner on Saturday evening.

For more information or to register for the KTM Adventure Rider Rally in Donnelly, Idaho, visit the official page.

The post KTM Adventure Rider Rally Heads to Idaho, Sept 16-18 first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club Holds National Rally

Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club
Brady Smith Sr. and Jr., from Joplin, Missouri, winners of the Full Restoration 1959 Super Cub-Milestone Honda Award.

The Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club of America (VJMC) recently held its annual national motorcycle rally in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, in the heart of the Ozark Mountains. This year’s VJMC national rally, which took place June 23-25, celebrated the club’s 45th anniversary. More than 160 club members enjoyed three days of riding, bike shows, and camaraderie with their vintage Japanese motorcycles.

RELATED: Riding the Motorcycle Century, by John L. Stein

“This club has been successful for 45 years because it brings people and vintage Japanese bikes together for fun, friendship, and new riding experiences,” said Tom Kolenko, President of VJMC. “We have a great vintage community that celebrates the past while riding into the future.”

Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club
Yamaha XS650

Founded in 1977, VJMC is the premier worldwide club dedicated to the preservation, restoration, and enjoyment of vintage Japanese motorcycles (20 years or older) and the promotion of the sport of motorcycling. The VJMC hallmark is “participation at all levels and to have fun” – for all motorcycle enthusiasts young and old.

Membership in the Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club of America is $35 per year and includes a full-color 64+ page magazine printed six times per year, rides, rallies, and shows at local, regional, and national events. The VJMC has over 3,300 members and is a 100% volunteer-based, nonprofit club.

For more information visit VJMC.org or call (763) 420-7829.

Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club
Small-displacement Honda SLs, Kink n Go, and Honda generator 2.

The post Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Club Holds National Rally first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

Americade Welcomes Tucker Powersports as Platinum Sponsor

Americade is coming up June 7-11 in Lake George, New York, and Tucker Powersports is a Platinum Sponsor for the 2022 rally. Its Kuryakyn and TwinPower brands will have a major presence at Americade. Read more in the press release below.


Tucker Powersports Sponsorship at Americade

Touring motorcycle riders of all brands will connect with Tucker Powersports’ Kuryakyn and TwinPower brand representatives at the annual Americade Rally in Lake George, New York, this week. Tucker, the nation’s leading distributor of powersports products, is a Platinum Sponsor of the rally and will have a commanding presence at the event.

Read Rider‘s 2021 Americade Rally Report

Kuryakyn and TwinPower will share a large display tent in the festival commons in Lake George, where riders will be greeted by the Kuryakyn entrance arch as they arrive. Tucker will also sponsor the shuttle for rally attendees, helping them more easily between activities on the rally site.

The partnership between Americade and these Tucker brands comes quite naturally. The Kuryakyn brand has been a top source of accessories for all brands of touring motorcycles, especially Harley-Davidson, BMW, and Honda Gold Wing models. This year, the brand launched new touring bags, a line of waterproof bags, and even a Pet Palace for riders traveling with their “best friend.” Since its inception in 1982, TwinPower has been supporting riders with great oil, batteries, drivetrain components, maintenance items, and tools, which are a perfect fit for long distance riders.

Tucker Powersports Sponsorship at Americade

“This event is important for both Kuryakyn and TwinPower,” said Tyler Anderson, Kuryakyn Brand Manager. “Americade is the most significant gathering of touring riders in the country. We want to learn from the attendees while sharing our great products that are designed expressly for long distance riders.”

Americade, started in 1984, was one of the first motorcycle rallies designed for the long-distance touring rider. It combines rides through the beautiful roadways of upstate New York and New England, a huge trade show and expo, presentations by expert riders and touring veterans, and social events that bring out the camaraderie of riders who love putting lots of miles behind them on their motorcycles.

Americade 2022 runs from June 7-11 in Lake George, New York. For more information, visit americade.com.

The post Americade Welcomes Tucker Powersports as Platinum Sponsor first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

Open Road BikeFest Coming June 22-25

Open Road BikeFest

A new exhibition, “The Open Road: The Art of the Motorcycle,” opens on June 16, 2022, at the William King Museum of Art in Abingdon, Virginia. The exhibition will be part of the Open Road BikeFest, a weeklong celebration of the motorcycle held June 22-25 at locations across Abingdon and Bristol, Virginia.

Check out Rider‘s Virginia motorcycle rides

In addition to the museum exhibition, there will be bike rallies, block parties, bike rides, live music, and more.

Stay in Abingdon, Virginia, for the Open Road BikeFest and never miss a moment of the fun. Plan your route ahead of time with Appalachian Backroads, your complete guide to routes in Southwest Virginia, or The Southern Dozen, your complete guide to routes in Northeast Tennessee.

Open Road BikeFest

Indulge in Abingdon’s award-winning Small Town Food Scene at more than 30 independently owned restaurants. Finally, relax for the night at Hampton Inn by Hilton. Receive special BikeFest rates by calling Hampton by Hilton’s front desk at (276) 619-4600 and mentioning William King Museum of Art or the Open Road BikeFest.

More information about the Open Road BikeFest can be found online at williamkingmuseum.org/events.

Open Road BikeFest Schedule:

JUNE 22 (Wednesday)
Bike Night
Texas Roadhouse, Bristol, VA
3:00 – 8:00 p.m.

JUNE 23 (Thursday)
Cruise In
Hampton Inn, Abingdon, VA
6:00 p.m.
Music from The EDGE and food trucks on-site

JUNE 24 (Friday)
Block Party
Spring House Tumbling Creek Cider Company, Abingdon, VA
6:00 p.m.
Music by Florencia and the Feeling and Annabelle’s Curse

JUNE 25 (Saturday)
Ride to BikeFest
Black Wolf Harley- Davidson, Bristol, VA
9:00 a.m. registration
Begin your ride at Black Wolf Harley-Davidson on Saturday at 9 a.m. and finish around 1 p.m. at the Open Road BikeFest at Latture Field in Abingdon, VA
FREE TO RIDE! Please consider donating to benefit William King Museum of Art, donations collected on site at registration.

JUNE 25 (Saturday)
Open Road BikeFest
Hosted by William King Museum of Art, Latture Field, Abingdon, VA
** MOTORCYCLE PARKING ON GRASS, BRING YOUR KICKSTAND PLATE **
Gates open at 1:00 p.m.
Featuring music, vendors, food trucks, beer garden, best in show contest & more!
** BRING YOUR OWN LAWN CHAIR **
TICKETS: $20.00 at the gates
Music starting at 2:00 p.m. by Ron Short and the Possum Playboys and Phantom

Open Road BikeFest

More information about the Open Road BikeFest and “The Open Road: The Art of the Motorcycle,” can be found online at williamkingmuseum.org. The Open Road BikeFest is sponsored by The Town of Abingdon, Virginia, and the Virginia Tourism Corporation.

The post Open Road BikeFest Coming June 22-25 first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

Americade 2021 Rally Report

Americade 2021 Rally Review
One of the guided rides at Americade was the Lake Placid Adventure, which included a stop at Whiteface Mountain in the Adirondacks. (Photos by the author and Andy DeLivron)

One of the many downsides of the pandemic was the cancellation of motorcycle rallies and other events. Americade, billed as the world’s largest touring rally, has been held in Lake George, New York, in late spring (typically the first week of June) every year since 1983.

The 2020 edition of Americade, which would have been touring guru Fred Rau’s 30th consecutive appearance at the event, had to be canceled. In January of this year, Americade announced that the event would be moved from early June to September 20-25.

Americade 2021 Rally Review
Riders head out on one of the many guided tours that took place daily during Americade. Rallygoers could choose from Twisties & Treats, NY & VT Covered Bridges, Vermont Spoiler, Scenic Riding & Fine Dining, and the Lake Placid Adventure, and each tour included lunch and door prizes.

“We want to make 100% sure that a 2021 Americade will happen,” said Christian Dutcher, Director of Americade. “Moving it to September gives us a very high likelihood of it happening. September is also a perfect time of year for riding, with mild temperatures, no rain, and fall foliage season beginning. It should be beautiful.”

Happen it did, and the event was a great success. Though, since it was Americade, of course there was some rain!

Americade 2021 Rally Review
Demo rides on the latest models are always popular at Americade.
Americade 2021 Rally Review
This is one of two wooden signs hand-carved years ago by Rider’s former National Sales Director Joe Salluzzo.

Rider has supported Americade since the early days, and as we do every year, we sponsored the Opening Celebration on Monday night, which is open to participants who preregister for the rally. Guests enjoyed dinner under the big tent on the lawn of the Fort William Henry Hotel & Conference Center, overlooking Lake George and the surrounding mountains. The Rick Bolton Trio and mentalist Dustin Dean provided entertainment, and we gave away door prizes.

The rally kicked off in earnest on Tuesday with guided and unguided rides, seminars, vendors and food at the Tour Expo, demo rides (BMW, Honda, Indian, KTM, Triumph, and Yamaha), boat rides, live entertainment, and many other activities. Since Lake George is on the eastern edge of Adirondack Park and not far from Vermont, there’s no shortage of fantastic roads within a 100-mile radius.

Americade 2021 Rally Review
The Americade Knights of the Round Table, with Fred Rau, Bill Dutcher, Momma D, and Greg Drevenstedt telling tall tales.
Americade 2021 Rally Review
These guys really love Americade.

On Tuesday evening, as guests enjoyed the Medieval Feast under the big tent, I did an onstage interview for the Rider Magazine Insider Podcast with Bill, Gini, and Christian Dutcher, the family that founded and runs Americade. We talked about how the rally began and what has helped it become such a popular and unique event. (To listen to the episode, go to ridermagazine.com/insider.)

Onstage after the podcast interview was the Americade Knights of the Round Table. Fred Rau, Bill Dutcher, Momma D (Dee Jones), and I wore crowns and drank mead as we told humorous and embarrassing stories about our collective travels and experiences on two wheels. The crowd had plenty of laughs at our expense, and they especially enjoyed it when we took questions from the audience.

Americade 2021 Rally Review
Riders came from far and wide to enjoy the scenic riding and activities at Americade.

Wednesday morning began drizzly and gray. At 7 a.m. Fred Rau hosted his popular coffee club. At 7:30 a.m., with raingear on, I queued up on Beach Road for the Lake Placid Adventure, one of several guided rides that day. We were joined by a group from the Wounded Warrior Project, which Americade has supported for several years. The rain stopped after about an hour, and we enjoyed a scenic ride up to Whiteface Mountain, a delicious lunch at the Mirror Lake Inn in Lake Placid, and stops at the Olympic training facilities for the long jump and bobsled.

Americade 2021 Rally Review
A group from the Wounded Warrior Project on the Lake Placid Adventure tour.

Under the big tent on Wednesday and Saturday nights, comedian Alonzo Bodden entertained large crowds. During his stand-up sets and “Heavy Lightweight” special on Amazon Prime Video, Bodden’s comedy is topical. But as a longtime motorcycle enthusiast with several bikes in his garage, when Bodden performs at Americade, he interacts with the audience and spins comedy gold from his on-the-spot moto-related dialogue. Bodden returns year after year, and every show is unique. (To listen to our interview with Alonzo Bodden on the Rider Magazine Insider Podcast, visit ridermagazine.com/insider.)

Americade 2021 Rally Review
Taking a moment to swap bikes on our Triumph ride with Alonzo Bodden, Peter Jones, Adam VanderVeen, and Dean Court.

On Thursday, I had a chance to go on a ride with Bodden, The Moto Life columnist Peter Jones, Adam VanderVeen from Triumph America, and Isle of Man TT racer Dean Court. After the demo rides ended, we gassed up a Rocket 3 GT, Trident 660, Street Triple, and Speed Triple 1200 RS, and wound our way up Highway 9N along the western shore of Lake George. We made it back to town just before the rain began.

Americade 2021 Rally Review
At the Tour Expo, rallygoers can have audio systems, LED lights, and other accessories installed on their motorcycles while they wait.
Americade 2021 Rally Review
On Saturday the sun was out and the Tour Expo was a popular place for attendees to buy accessories, apparel, seat cush-ions, T-shirts, and more.

After a major storm blew through in the wee hours of Friday morning, the skies cleared and the next two days were sunny. Being only a few hours from the New York and Boston metro areas, Friday and Saturday are always the busiest days at Americade. The Expo was packed with folks shopping for new gear and having audio systems and accessories installed on their bikes.

Under the big tent was the Friday Night Spectacular, with a dinner, People’s Choice judging, Brown Liquor Social Club, Vintage Bike Roar, awards, and major door prizes. There was a boat cruise on the Minne-Ha-Ha and fireworks over the lake.

Americade 2021 Rally Review
The Ride for Kids charity event at Americade raised more than $17,000

Saturday featured a Ride for Kids charity ride that raised more than $17,000 for the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation. From 1-10 p.m. was the Block Party & Music Festival. As with every night of the rally, there were bikes parked along Canada Street and others cruising up and down, many adorned with brightly colored lights.

Next year’s Americade will take place June 6-11, 2022, so start making plans now. For more information, visit americade.com.

Check out some of the bikes we saw at Americade:

The post Americade 2021 Rally Report first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

Harley-Davidson Hometown Rally Set for Labor Day Weekend

Harley-Davidson Hometown Rally Labor Day weekend 2021

The biker bash of the season is back and bigger than ever. Harley-Davidson has announced plans for the all-new Hometown Rally, a Labor Day weekend celebration of moto-culture centered in Milwaukee, the city where it all began for the Motor Company. The Harley-Davidson Museum will serve as a central rally point September 2-6, 2021, for events taking place at that downtown site and at six surrounding Harley-Davidson dealerships.

“The Hometown Rally is an event no Harley-Davidson fan will want to miss,” said Jochen Zeitz, chairman, president and CEO, Harley-Davidson. “It will be a celebration of all things Harley, a chance to re-connect with other riders who share the desire for adventure, freedom and community that is the real heart of the Harley-Davidson experience.”

Throughout the Hometown Rally weekend, the 20-acre campus of the Harley-Davidson Museum will host the party of the summer, with free live concerts on three consecutive nights, food-and-beverage sites, stunt exhibitions and skills demonstrations, 2021 Harley-Davidson motorcycle demos, and motorcycle showcases hosted by Born Free and V-Twin Visionary. The Museum will be open for general admission during the event.

The Museum will also host a H.O.G. member Check-In, and there will be a H.O.G. member Check-In at each of the six participating Harley-Davidson dealerships in the area. Event H.O.G. merchandise will also be available.

Harley-Davidson Hometown Rally Labor Day weekend 2021 Museum

Milwaukee-area Harley-Davidson dealerships will also be hosting Hometown Rally events and entertainment. Those dealerships include House of Harley-Davidson (Greenfield), Milwaukee Harley-Davidson (Milwaukee), Suburban Motors Harley-Davidson (Thiensville), Uke’s Harley-Davidson (Kenosha), West Bend Harley-Davidson (West Bend) and Wisconsin Harley-Davidson (Oconomowoc).

Hometown Rally details and schedules will be finalized and revealed throughout the summer. Check for updates at H-D.com/hometownrally, where links to dealer sites for specific info on those schedules and events will also be posted.

The post Harley-Davidson Hometown Rally Set for Labor Day Weekend first appeared on Rider Magazine.
Source: RiderMagazine.com

Babes Ride Out 7

Babes Ride Out 7
Babes Ride Out 7 attracted women on all flavors of motorcycles — cruisers, sportbikes, ADVs and more — to the golden hills of central California. Photos by the author.

A women-only rally celebrating the camaraderie of two wheels.

It all started, like these things often do, with two friends who just wanted to share a newfound love of riding motorcycles. They planned a “girls’ weekend” of riding and camping in California’s Mojave Desert, and thought it might be fun to invite some of the fellow women riders they’d been connecting with on social media (but had yet to meet in person). Playfully, they dubbed it Babes in Borrego. The year was 2013, and to their surprise 50 women showed up, some having come from as far away as New York and Oregon. They were all there for one simple reason: they loved to ride motorcycles. 

The next year Anya and Ashmore, the two founding friends, stepped up their game for what they were now calling Babes Ride Out, renting a private campground near Joshua Tree, California. They expected 150 women; instead they got 500. The next year, 1,500. That same year, 2015, they hosted their first off-road-oriented event, called (of course) Babes in the Dirt. In 2016, Babes Ride Out — or BRO for short — expanded to the East Coast and then to the UK. Anya and Ashmore had tapped into a powerful force: women who were passionate about riding and who craved the camaraderie that only a gathering of motorcyclists seems to provide, without egos or expectations — and, incidentally, without men.

Babes Ride Out jacket
Sorry, gents. There’s only one rule at BRO: no boys allowed. Well…two rules. The other is have fun!

BRO is a female-only event, and 2019 was my second one. My first time, in 2017, I wasn’t sure what to expect. As someone who was never one of the “cool girls” as a teenager, I was actually pretty worried it would feel like a bigger, scarier version of the junior high school lunchroom. It turned out to be the complete opposite. The whole event was infused with an energy of inclusiveness and fellowship, unlike any rally I’d ever attended. I knew I’d be back.

For 2019, BRO made a location change for the first time, from the desert to the rolling golden hills south of Paso Robles in California’s Central Coast wine country. Most everything else stayed the same; BRO has always been a riding-centric event, and on Saturday the camp empties out as everyone hits the road one on of the pre-planned routes (sponsor Biltwell provided printed maps) or one of their own devising.

Big Sur motorcycle ride
BRO has always been a riding event first and foremost, so on Saturday the camp empties out as everyone hits the scenic California roads. My group chose to cruise up Highway 1 to Big Sur for lunch, not a bad way to spend a Saturday!

Most of the pre-planned routes are short, a few hours or so, to give riders a chance to return to camp and take part in welding or leatherwork workshops hosted by Real Deal Revolution (co-founded by the late Jessi Combs), Harley-Davidson demo rides, M1GP minibike knee-dragging seminars, bike games and more. In the evenings, there is karaoke, live music (this year was Twisted Gypsy, a Fleetwood Mac tribute band), vendors and craftswomen, a tattoo station, free beer and whiskey (“till it runs out!”), telescopes for stargazing and food trucks for late-night grub.

Entrance to the private venue is secured 24 hours a day, and they take the “no guys allowed” rule seriously. Most of us camped in the big open field, but plenty of women brought RVs and there are even some available for rent. For those who wanted to camp but don’t own all the gear or couldn’t transport it on their bike, items like tents, sleeping pads and sleeping bags are also available to rent.

Babes Ride Out camping
The private venue, which has 24-hour security, included a huge open field for camping. Meeting new friends is a large part of the BRO experience, so even if you roll in alone you’re likely to have a neighbor stroll up and introduce herself.

There was a lot of smiling, a lot of laughter, dancing like no guys are watching, fantastic riding in California’s Central Coast and, of course, the warm camaraderie of a couple thousand women coming together to celebrate the passion we all share. Consider me a Babes believer; this is a special experience and I encourage female riders of all persuasions to attend at least one if you can. You won’t be disappointed. 

BRO East typically takes place in early June; BRO West takes place in mid-October; Babes in the Dirt takes place in late April. See websites for locations and updates.

Babesrideout.com / Babesinthedirt.com

Keep scrolling for more photos!

Babes Ride Out barn
The barn was the center of the action each evening, with a karaoke contest the first night and live music by Twisted Gypsy, a Fleetwood Mac tribute band, the second night.
Babes Ride Out Twisted Gypsy
Babes Ride Out
The barn also hosted several female artisans offering their crafts, like custom embroidery and helmet pinstriping. A raffle included items like hand-painted helmets, jackets, camping gear and more.
Real Deal Revolution
Between daytime rides and in the evenings, attendees could sign up for Real Deal Revolution workshops including leatherwork, welding, painting and more. This year was bittersweet, as the event paid tribute to Real Deal co-founder, land speed racer, television personality and all-around awesome lady Jessi Combs, who tragically died in a land speed record attempt in August.
Real Deal Revolution Babes Ride Out
Christina with Real Deal Revolution hosts a leatherworking workshop, making keychains participants got to keep.
Real Deal Revolution Babes Ride Out
The hands-on experience continued with welding classes. Real Deal Revolution’s self-stated mission is to “revolutionize the perception of skilled trades…and women’s role in them.”
M1GP Babes Ride Out
Most of the ladies in this picture had never dragged a knee before today, but after our M1GP minibike seminar we were all feeling like professional racers.

Source: RiderMagazine.com