Collector Robb Talbott takes top honors at Quail Motorcycle Gathering

Event founder Gordon McCall congratulates local collector Robb Talbott on his Best in Show award at the 8th annual Quail Motorcycle Gathering in Carmel Valley.
Event founder Gordon McCall congratulates local collector Robb Talbott on his Best in Show award at the 8th annual Quail Motorcycle Gathering in Carmel Valley.
(Charles Fleming / Los Angeles Times)

Having wowed the West Coast motorcycle world with a Saturday sneak peak at his soon to open Carmel Valley motorcycle museum, retired vintner Robb Talbott walked away with top honors at Sunday’s 8th Annual Quail Motorcycle Gathering.

Talbott’s restored 1925 BMW R37 race bike won the Quail’s Best of Show award and also collected top prize in the BMW Classics category.

The Spirit of Quail Award went to Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum founder Virgil Elings and his 1964 MV Agusta triple.

An estimated 3,000 visitors crowded the green lawns of the Quail Lodge and Golf Club, the Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels-owned facility in Carmel Valley, to ogle nearly 400 classic and vintage two-wheeled machines.


Sipping Louis Roederer Champagne and dining upon gourmet barbecue provided by Bay Area-based Componere Fine Catering, the gear heads got an usually varied sampling of motorcycle art. Sharing the lawns, rubbing gas tanks, were American antiques made by long-gone companies Pope and Henderson; rare German, Italian and British bikes made after World War II; and a broad array of flat track, desert and motocross racers.

In a display meant to underline the desire of event founder Gordon McCall to celebrate all two-wheeled things, there were even competitive categories for choppers and “Extraordinary Bicycles.” That prize was taken by a 1941 Columbia Clipper.

“There’s really no other event like this in the world,” said present Mark Hoyer, editor in chief of sponsoring publication Cycle World. 

It’s a great way to make new enemies — and one friend.
Show judge Somer Hooker, on picking award winners


The winners were indeed eclectic. Following each other into the winner’s circle were owners of a 1931 Moto Guzzi, a 1949 Indian Arrow, a 1972 Honda CL350, a 1951 NSU Konsol 500, a 1969 Bultaco El Montadero and a 1967 Vespa Sears — imported from Italy and rebadged by the department store.

Racing royalty was also on the lawn. Track legends Mert Lawwill and Reg Pridmore were signing autographs. Cliff Vaughs, who designed the motorcycles in the watershed biker movie “Easy Rider,” was also in attendance.

The Quail, said repeat visitors, has grown up. From a start that founder McCall described as “sleepy,” with 10 judges, 70 motorcycles (many from his own garage) and few sponsors, the 8th annual gathering involved 50 judges studying several hundred qualifying motorcycles, on a lawn flanked by tents sponsored by manufacturers Honda, Kawasaki, Indian and Yamaha, alongside booths sponsored by Bonhams auction house, custom bike builder Revival, touring company MotoQuest, helmet maker Shoei, apparel company Alpinestars, and electric motorcycle companies Energica and Lightning.

Regular visitors paid $75 for access to the lawns. More dedicated gear heads paid $345 for a package that included a Friday event known as The Quail Ride — a 109-mile loop through the Monterey Peninsula wine country that began with laps around Laguna Seca race track and included a stop at Talbott’s not-quite-ready motorcycle museum — and a catered lunch.

“It’s worth every penny,” said David Coffey of Bakersfield, who made his fifth consecutive pilgrimage to the Quail on a vintage BMW. “This is my favorite weekend of the year.”

The event’s participants are a clubby lot. Most of Sunday’s winners had shown their bikes in previous Quail competitions. Some, like local collector Talbott and Revival Cycles of Austin, Texas, were winners last year. Others had shown several years running without winning in their classes.

Head judge Somer Hooker said picking the Best in Show winner was a thankless task.

“It’s a great way to make new enemies — and one friend,” Hooker said.


Emcee Paul D’Orleans, a vintage motorcycle historian, said, “It’s really an unusual event. All of the other high-end motorcycle events are all connected to car shows now.”

D’Orleans called upon the organizers to expand, and made the event a little more like the auto extravaganza held each summer in neareby Pebble Beach.

“There’s no reason this couldn’t be a five-day event, too,” he said. “With historic vehicle races, auctions — the whole thing.”

Follow me on Twitter @misterfleming

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