Motorcycles

The Quail Motorcycle Gathering is the best motorcycle show you've never been to

A trip up the California coast in a Honda CR-V to experience the bike show that celebrates all facets of two-wheeled motoring.

Paulo Rosas/Kahn Media

By now, most automotive enthusiasts have heard of the Quail Motorsports Gathering. It's become an integral part of Monterey, California's legendary Car Week alongside events like the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance and Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion. Those same folks have no doubt heard that the Quail is notoriously expensive (tickets start around $600) and equally tricky to attend (tickets are allocated by lottery).

But not many people know that there's another Quail event, held earlier in the year, that celebrates the most exceptional motorized two-wheeled vehicles on Earth. Tickets cost under $100, jeans are encouraged attire and dogs are welcome -- a huge contrast from the hoity-toity Car Week gathering.

Having a dog this close to a priceless vintage vehicle at the Quail for cars would never happen.

Cory Burns/Kahn Media

Needless to say, as Roadshow's resident west coast motorcycle nerd, I had to check it out. The catch is that my motorcycle, a typically quite stalwart Triumph Tiger XCx, was in need of some repairs that I, talentless as I am with a wrench, couldn't fix in time for the show. Thankfully, Honda, maker of cars and motorcycles alike, stepped in and offered me a fully-loaded CR-V to use for the weekend. It's not exactly the $30,000 Goldwing of my dreams, but proved to be a trusty steed -- more on that a little later.

Something for everyone

This year celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Ducati Monster as well as the work of Arlen Ness and the engineering behind electric motorcycles. In addition, there were a number of classes for British, Japanese, Italian, Racing motorcycles, scooters and a special category for Wankel-powered bikes.

Along with the bikes on display, a number of third-party vendors and organizations were in attendance, including Arch Motorcycles (famously owned by Keanu Reeves) and the American Motorcycle Association, which was there encouraging people to join. The California Highway Patrol even had a stand promoting the Motorcycle Safety Foundation course, a program I wholeheartedly recommend.

Outside the show proper, Piaggio had several of its brands' bikes on hand for test rides including the latest from Aprilia and Moto Guzzi. Helmet vendor Schuberth was stationed nearby providing loaner lids to folks, and Shoei did the same inside the show. Even Land Rover was there offering people a go at its four-wheeled off-road experience.

Gard Hollinger, co-founder of Arch Motorcycle, standing proudly in front of his latest creation, Method 143.

Paulo Rosas/Kahn Media

Among my favorite things on display was a 250cc Grand Prix bike from the 1950s which was started via bump-starter and revved in a manor that totally belied it's value. I was also a huge fan of the collection of Vincent motorcycles on display. Vincent motorcycles are among the world's most valuable and most beautiful. They packed powerful 1,000cc V-twin engines in an era when most had single-cylinders and as such set a number of speed records at places like Bonneville.

Lastly, I have to mention how much I loved the amazing variety of Wankel-powered bikes from Suzuki, Hercules and Norton; the latter of which I had no idea had ever made a rotary-engine motorcycle.

Everywhere in the show, people were mingling and talking, crossing cultural and economic boundaries. Chopper enthusiasts were laughing with cafe racer fans; racing nerds were making merry with the guy on a 1930s BMW. In terms of events, it's a great equalizer. Everyone is welcome, which is something that I, as a new rider, have found to be true across motorcycle culture as a whole. It's inclusive, supportive and evangelical in a way that I hadn't previously experienced with cars.

A few words on the Honda CR-V

Honda's compact CUV has really matured in this generation. It looks grown-up and professional, and the interior is thoughtfully organized and well-appointed, especially in its highest Touring trim, which still comes in below the $35,000 mark.

Over 1,000 miles from Los Angeles to Carmel and back, the 1.5-liter turbocharged I4 engine exhibited adequate power, though its continuously variable transmission and accompanying droning sound proved unpleasant after several hours behind the wheel. That said, the all-wheel drive CR-V's 33-mpg fuel economy rating was easy to achieve. I didn't have to stop for gas on the drive from Carmel back to LA.

The 2018 Honda CR-V Touring proved to be a willing and frugal road trip partner, delivering me to Carmel and back home to LA with nary a hiccup.

Kyle Hyatt/Roadshow

The Honda Sensing safety suite is really a standout bit of tech. Specifically, the adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist are a dream on long highway drives, though the latter bit struggles a little on twisty roads. Unfortunately, I wasn't as enamored by Honda's factory navigation system, which continually thought I was several hundred feet off the road, even on major highways, and failed to detect a road that had been closed for over a year, resulting in a 50-mile backtrack and detour. My iPhone's map software had no trouble tackling this, and thankfully, the CR-V allows for Apple CarPlay compatibility.

Whether I decide to make the trek by CR-V or motorcycle, the Quail gathering is definitely on my must-attend list for 2019 and beyond. Even if you don't ride, it's a spectacle for folks who appreciate all forms of motoring. Who knows, you might even catch the motorcycle bug and join the tribe.