Veteran motorcycle restorer and collector John Goldman won Best in Show honors at the 9th annual Quail Motorcycle Gathering on Saturday, singled out among owners of more than 300 extremely rare machines for the historical importance and faithful restoration of his 1957 Mondial 250 Grand Prix race bike.
But the theme of the Carmel show seemed to be heading in the other direction, toward younger, less experienced enthusiasts who the show's organizers hope will continue the vintage and custom motorcycle legacy as the current field of collectors ages out of the hobby.
"We have to find a way to inspire the next generation," said Gordon McCall, motorsports director for Quail Lodge, the Peninsula Hotels resort that hosts the weekend event. "We can't wait for them to find us. We have to reach out to them."
To that end, the annual gathering this year saw an increased participation by younger bike builders, some of whom were selected for podium honors.
Independent motorcycle makers Brian Thompson and Richard Mitchell won the top two prizes in the Custom/Modified category, Thompson for his 1958 Triumph Tiger and Mitchell for his 1968 BSA Thunderbolt.
Untitled Motorcycle's Hugo Eccles won the Design and Style award for his highly customized "Supernaturale," built from a 1975 Motoguzzi 850T.
San Francisco Motorcycle Club's Kalle Hoffman's 1937 Indian Chief won the top prize in the American category.
The old guard was not ignored. Perennial participant Virgil Elings, whose Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum is a bucket-list stop for bikers worldwide, took the Significance in Racing award for his Britten V1000 competition machine.
And Best in Show winner Goldman also took top honors in the Competition on Road category with his 1957 Mondial.
McCall, while admitting that the 50- to 70-year-old crowd was "the best represented group" exhibiting motorcycles on the Quail Lodge & Golf Club grounds, said repeatedly that the future of the world-renowned event depends upon an infusion of younger participants.
Noting the increased presence at this year's Quail by Austin-based Revival Cycles, with its highly customized motorcycles and popular hipster-directed apparel line, McCall said, "This proves the interest is there. We know young people are excited about motorcycles. But we have to meet them where they are."
To that end, McCall promised increased participation by Revival, perhaps including some West Coast variation of that company's annual Handbuilt Motorcycle Show.
"Handbuilt gets viewed as hipster, while Carmel Valley is seen as a little more buttoned-down," McCall said. "But in the end it's all about motorcycles. We're looking forward to an increased relationship with them."
Revival's increased presence included some of the event's most innovative motorcycles, among them a three-wheeled, Ducati-powered motocross sidecar machine.
Revival founder Alan Stulberg shouted, "It's so fun to ride," as he fired it up and parted the crowd on the Quail fairway.
The Quail grounds held so many unusual custom-made bikes and trikes that one participant, who asked not to be identified for fear of offending fellow entrants, said, "It's like the Olympics of eccentrics."
The annual Carmel Valley event, sponsored this year for the first time by the Geico insurance company, drew more than 300 exhibited bikes and about 3,000 visitors.
Special honors included the 2017 Legend of the Sport award, given to retired racer Kenny Roberts. The three-time world GP champion and AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame racer was joined at a Friday night dinner by previous honorees Mert Lawwill, Wayne Rainey and Craig Vetter.
Participants who paid full price for their tickets were invited to that Friday-night dinner ceremony as well as to a 100-mile CHP-chaperoned ride through Monterey County wine country — a ride that includes "parade laps" around the historic Laguna Seca professional racetrack — and a private visit to former vintner Robert Talbott's MotoTalbott Collection in Carmel Valley Village.
Kim Cardin, of Lafayette, Calif., was a return participant. Every year he and four friends, all in their 70s, ride or trailer their bikes from the Bay Area. This year, Cardin did the Friday ride on a Suzuki 400cc two-stroke trail bike — an anomoly among the four-stroke British, German, Italian and American motorcycles that dominate the event.
"We all come every year because we love it," Cardin said. "Sometimes we compete. Sometimes we don't. But we always come back."
Cycle World editor in chief Mark Hoyer, whose publication has partnered with The Quail for several years, said bikes like Cardin's are always welcome, but suggested that younger people will be showing up in increasing numbers.
"The Quail has always embraced all of motorcycling," Hoyer said. "Now it's imporant to bridge the gap to this mass, secret audience that hasn't come into our sport — yet."