The Motorcycle Cannonball Rolls Into Town

EUBANK & I-40 NE--The Motorcycle Cannonball, a coast-to-coast endurance run for antique pre-1916 motorcycles reaches Albuquerque today. The Cannonball event is headquartered at the Quality Inn on Hotel Circle (map).The event started in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina on September 10th. It finishes at Santa Monica Pier in California next Sunday.

This is a contest, but is not a race. Speed limits are obeyed and overnight stops are pre-set along the route. Rather, the event is more of an endurance contest with points awarded for finishing within daily time limitations. Still, since the youngest of these machines is approaching 100 years old, even finishing at all is dicey in my opinion.

The Facts Say Otherwise
But looking at the results so far, it appears that 12 motorcycles are currently tied for the lead, having accumulated all the possible points in the 10 previous stages of the run. That seems to say that the old bikes are pretty reliable. Forty-five bikes started in North Carolina. As of today, 37 are left in the contest.

The endurance run is divided into three classes: one class is for one cylinder single speed cycles, the next is two cylinder single speeds, and the highest class is for multi-cylinder motorcycles with multi-speed transmissions.

Bikes on Display
The motorcycles are to be put on display in the Quality Inn parking lot. The bikes should be arriving at the motel in the early afternoon. Some of the makes listed as entrants are Indian, Harley-Davidson, Henderson, Excelsior, BSA, Militaire, Flying Merkel, JAP, Sears, Premier, and Pope. The oldest motorcycle is a 1907 JAP. The youngest include quite a few 1915 Harley-Davidsons as well as Indians. This may be the only time in your life you will ever see anything like this.

Riders include legendary motorcycle builder Shinya Kimura, whose bikes are collected by many of Hollywood's biggest names. Kimura's motorcycles, done in what is now referred to as "Zero-style," feature minimalistic, bare-metal work and vintage parts. "Since setting up in America, I've moved from being just a custom-bike builder to slightly changing my direction a little more toward the world of art. I don't know whether success or failure is awaiting me in the future. Can custom bikes become art? Maybe we'll know in 10 years' time."

History of Coast-to-Coast Runs
The Motorcycle Cannonball Endurance Run derives its name from E.G. "Cannonball" Baker. He set a transcontinental speed record in 1913, riding the 3379 miles from New York City to San Diego in 11 days, 12 hours, & 10 minutes. This was on a 7 horsepower Indian, a two-speed electric model twin. Remember that most roads were not paved at that time.

Sometimes towns would clear the main street as The Cannonball rocketed through.

But Cannonball Baker was not the first to make the transcontinental trip by motorcycle. That honor goes to Thomas Stevens, who in 1882 rode from San Francisco to Boston in 103 1/2 days. In 1910 a man named George Wyman covered the 3800 miles between San Francisco and NYC in 50 days...using a motorcycle whose engine was only 1 1/4 horsepower! He created an extensive journal detailing what he saw and experienced.

In 1916, Two Women
Then in 1916 the Van Buren sisters, Augusta and Adeline, rode from Brooklyn to San Francisco by way of Pikes Peak. Incidentally, these two society women were related to President Van Buren. Even with the 12,000 foot climb up Pikes Peak, the two sisters finished the route in 48 days. Then, just for fun, they rode to Mexico. You can read about it here.

Duke City Stopover
The riders are supposed to arrive sometime this afternoon. According to what the event has done in other cities, the bikes will be on display sometime after 4:30. They will leave tomorrow morning for Gallup. I imagine they will ride right down Central Ave. At least I would.

The Motorcycle Cannonball website is extensive and has a lot of information, including more about the history, entrants, and up-to-date standings.

Views: 102

Comment by Rich Boucher on September 21, 2010 at 8:10am
Very good post, sir!
Comment by bonnie on September 21, 2010 at 8:23am
how cool, I was just reading up on this event and will be on the lookout for them. keep us posted with any sightings!
Comment by SweetCaroline on September 21, 2010 at 9:50am
My late father (1909-1990) was born in SLC, Utah. When it came time for him to go on his Mission, he decided he didn't want to do that. He told me that he bought a 1919 Indian Motorcycle in 1928 from 'a cowboy from Montana w/no papers for $20".

He rode it to San Francisco! It took him 6 days. He said he slept in an auto-repair garage at Lake Tahoe as the road was being built over the mountains at that time. A cow wandered in the road and he collided with it between Sacramento and Oakland! He rode on to Oakland and took the ferry boat to San Francisco because there were no bridges across the Bay at that time. Dad told me this before he died in an Assisted Living residence. He was quite a guy.
Comment by SweetCaroline on September 22, 2010 at 12:37am
I loved that movie. I watched it and thought of Pop. Do they still manufacture Indian Motorcycles?

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