Friday, 8 February 2013

Of Man and Motorcycle

     We're going to go back to 2010 and the inaugural running of the coast-to-coast Cannonball Endurance Run made on pre-1930 motorcycles.. An Ottawa man, an engineer, husband, grandfather and, incidentally, a collector and restorer of vintage motorcycles, went to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina to see them off. As a member of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America, he'd heard something big was planned and he wanted soak up the excitement at the starting line. He also wanted to see who was participating and, especially, what they were riding, to measure up the American metal and whatever else was being ridden, against what he had in his garage back home in Canada's capital city.

     His excitement turned to pensive thought as he sat hunched in a pickup truck and followed the pack for a couple of days on the first leg of their east-to-west trek .The roar of the engines and smell of the exhaust was intoxicating. He realized with a forehead-slapping moment that he was missing out. Incredulously, he whispered to himself, “Why aren't I doing this?”

    The Cannonball Run was named for race car driver, Erwin “Cannon Ball” Baker (1883-1960) who rode across the United States in 1914 on a 1914 Indian. It took him eleven days.

     The motorcycles involved in the 2012 Cannonball had to be older than 1930 and the 3,956 mile trip was accomplished in 17 days including a day's rest stop at Sturgis, South Dakota. The east to west similarity is one of the only, however, if one considers that Mr. Baker was riding a brand new bike and he was roughly half he age of the majority of today's participants. Of course, the roads would not have been as good in the teens but it is possible that some of the same roads were used in 2012 as less than 100 miles took place on the Interstates, mostly the blue-market highways being used. All paved, mind you. Erwin Baker endured some dirt, no doubt.

     To be fair, the pre-1930 bikes involved were permitted updates in the name of safety. If the machine didn't come with a front brake, it could be put on. It was the rider's choice to run clincher rims and ties or to upgrade. Originality is important but head, tail and brake lights were essential.
The core motorcycle had to be 1929 or earlier and running the original carbs, modified or updated as long as they were period-correct.

Erwin "Cannon Ball" Baker and his 1914 Indian.