The first of two of route master John Classen’s trips across the country to arrange the course and itinerary for our riders has been completed and we’ll be sharing a rough draft of the anticipated schedule with you here. The groundwork has been laid for a great ride, but the practical application of what looks good on paper is not always as smooth as anticipated.
When a seasoned traveler like John, who has racked up over 240,00 miles across the United States, Mexico and Canada during his 30-year tenure with the Great Race, says a route will be “very challenging,” you tend to believe him. As Director of Competition for that race since 1990, John has been laying out routes and riding the back roads in search of the best driving courses our country has to offer. For this trip he was met with road closures, difficult conditions and long days. He has determined that even the fittest of the fit will find this ride demanding.
We can be certain that as Erwin George “Cannonball” Baker mapped out his travels during the early 1900’s, he was just as exhilarated by the magnitude of his undertaking as our riders are now. There will be long days with dawn starts and dusk finishes. Riders will navigate less than 100-miles of Interstate, but there will be freeways, heavy traffic and, as we enter the western states, long stretches with infrequent fuel opportunities. Scheduled entertainment will include four museums; the Motorcyclepedia Museum in Newburgh, New York, the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa, Iowa, and the Pioneer Auto Show in Murdo, South Dakota. Participants will be awed as they pilot their ancient machines through national parks, monuments, memorials and forests. The scenery will be breathtaking.
Competitors from around the world will arrive in Newburgh, New York to spend the first two days readying themselves for this ardent adventure. We will meet up with old friends and new, get registered, conduct safety meetings and set out on practice rides.
A history rich 45-mile scenic practice run is laid out in American author, Washington Irving, country through the Hudson River Valley into the backcountry of the federal military reservation that was established in 1802 by President Thomas Jefferson. That 16,000-acre reservation currently houses the U.S. Military Academy campus, which is also known as West Point. Riders will take in the bluff views of the Hudson River before returning to our host hotel to prepare for the Grand Start.
The Cannonball Course Run Begins
Written by Felicia Morgan
Monday, 14 May 2012 00:00
This fall’s Motorcycle Cannonball, though four months away from the official Grand Start gathering in Newburgh, New York, is already well under way. Lonnie Isam and crew has been busily making preparations for the 2-week, coast-to-coast road trip that will span almost 4,000 miles on pre-1930 motorcycles of all marquis. Though held on U.S soil, the 2012 iteration is for all intents and purposes, a worldwide event.
Over 75 riders, from 11 countries across 4 continents, will participate in a historic motorcycle ride that has captured the imaginations of people from around the world. This odyssey promises to be a once in a lifetime experience for those who will wrangle their vintage iron for 17-days while meeting America and its residents one mile at a time.
Not since the days of Cannonball Baker, the run’s namesake, has a journey been planned on such an intimate and optimistic scale. Baker, who set his records in the early years of the 1900’s, made several coast-to-coast runs during a time when pavement was uncommon and support crews were non-existent.
The route chosen for this year’s endurance run is even more grueling than the 2010 Motorcycle Cannonball and was recently driven by route master, John Classen. He declared the route “Challenging, to say the least.” From road closures to vast distances between gas stops, the riders will have many difficult and tricky circumstances ahead of them as they set their sights on the famed Golden Gate Bridge in September. John will drive the route for a second time in July to make the final arrangements.
“The first three days of this route will be a bitch,” Lonnie Isam states. “It will get a lot easier once we get into Iowa but this will be a true endurance run for both riders and machines. The first half of this ride has a lot of miles per day, and to do it continuously day after day will be a true challenge, we’ll put these guys to the test. We couldn’t have done this route with earlier bikes, this generation of motorcycles will be able to handle it but there will probably still be a lot of rebuilds. It’s going to be a great adventure, we’re all really excited about this.”
As for John, he’s concerned. The route is, as mentioned, difficult. Check back with us as we post his daily findings while making arrangements from the back roads of these great United States. California, here we come!
Henderson Motorcycle Central
Written by Lonnie Isam
Wednesday, 25 April 2012 18:23
Written by Rebecca West
Monday, 26 March 2012 12:00
By all outward appearances, when you first meet Cris Sommer Simmons the first thing that comes to mind is how laid back she is. But you soon realize that she can be equally animated and is a bright, articulate woman who is fiercely independent and determined with a fantastic outlook and a great sense of humor. As it happens, all of these traits would come to serve her well in her life one day, whether she ever suspected it herself or not. Cris is one of only two women to not only compete in the Motorcycle Cannonball Endurance Run, but to actually finish it.
While Cris was in Daytona recently for Bike Week 2012, we were able to catch up with her at the famous artist David Uhl’s tent while she was there on one of the many legs of her book signing tour after having recently published her The American Motorcycle Girl’s Cannonball Diary, an account of her activities in connection with the event from the time she was first informed of it ‘til the bittersweet end as she made her way onto the Santa Monica Pier at the conclusion of it to cross the finish line.
When you ask Cris if she ever envisioned herself taking part in an event like this herself as an actual rider, she unabashedly and with little hesitation says no. She explains that when she first heard about it she immediately thought of her husband, Pat, who is also an avid lover of antique motorcycles. When she first broached the subject to him of his taking part in it, she was disappointed to learn that due to scheduling conflicts and time constraints Pat didn’t think he’d be able to do it and was more than a little surprised when in the very same breath he suggested that she do it.
Although Cris has been riding solo for 35 years, she’d never ridden an antique of the age that was required for the 2010 Cannonball Run departing from Kitty Hawk, NC and had never ridden a bike with a foot clutch before. With a little encouragement from Pat, she began to seriously consider the daunting task before her and even began to revel in it. Soon she was sold on the idea and could think of little else. Her and Pat immediately set about deciding which of their vintage bikes would not only qualify, but would be best suited for the trip.
They settled on a 1915 Harley 3-Speed Twin that would soon become known as Effie and the love of her life – besides Pat, of course. Effie’s namesake, Effie Hotchkiss, turned out to be her hero in a roundabout way, and if you’re curious as to why, then you’ll have to read her book or try and catch her in person at one of the many events throughout the country she’ll be attending this year in conjunction with the bike, the book, and the run itself. Once the issue of the bike was behind them, it was full speed ahead.
Fast-forward to Kitty Hawk in September of 2010 and a very nervous Cris with only 65 miles under her belt at this point on that foot clutch, and you begin to get a picture of the inner strength this woman has. She was not about to let her inexperience or the fact that all eyes were upon her and Katrin Boehner as the lone female entrants on the run to stop her from trying. She had already concluded it wasn’t about winning or prizes or trophies for her. It was about having a dream and living it. And that she did.
When asked if there was ever a “what-was-I-thinking moment,” she laughs and says there were many, and the first few days of the ride were laden with them after having her foot run over the first day out and little time to eat or sleep. Not that the eat or sleep factor improved much as time went on over the next two weeks, but she steeled herself to the notion she was going to succeed and willed herself along with the help of her husband, her three kids, and “Team Effie,” without whom she doesn’t know if she could have made it.
We went on to ask her what the best and worst parts of the trip were, and she replied just making it into the hotel parking lot every night was a joy and that watching people drop out of the run along the way was the hardest part for her personally. She marvels still at the camaraderie they all shared. But for her the most poignant and bittersweet moment was when she arrived at the pier to see her crew there and all the other riders who had endured along with her the satisfaction of having made it and the dawning reality that it was all but over and the feeling of sadness that accompanied it. She doesn’t regret for one moment her decision to enter the event, though.
For anyone interested in reading her behind-the-scenes account of the run and all that she and the other Cannonball riders themselves went through on their memorable journey, autographed copies of her book will be available on her new website www.cannonballdiary.com where you can go for more information or to contact Cris.
Ada Oklahoma hosts the Cannonball
Written by Lonnie Isam
Friday, 09 March 2012 18:07
The Young Guns Are In
Written by Lonnie Isam
Tuesday, 06 March 2012 18:07
BMWs in the Cannonball
Written by Darryl Richman
Tuesday, 21 February 2012 10:00
The 2012 running of the Motorcycle Cannonball, with it's extension to allow bikes built through 1929, is a great boon to we aficionados of the White and Blue roundel. In the inaugural 2010 run, the limit of 1915 or earlier simply precluded running any kind of a BMW, as the company itself didn’t exist until 1917.
BMW was formed from the preceding Rapp Motoren Werke, based in the Munich suburb of Oberwiesenfeld. Rapp had been building engines under license from other manufacturers for the German and Austro-Hungarian war effort, and they had developed their own design that they were trying to sell to the authorities. The name change accompanied the conversion from a private firm to a public stock company, and in 1918 a new logo design was registered that mimicked the round Rapp logo with its black border, but replaced the chess piece with the Bavarian state colors of White and Blue.
(It was 11 years later, on the cover of a publicity booklet, that an imaginative marketer dreamed up the idea that the BMW logo represented a spinning propeller against the sky.) Although the BMW Type III motor was a success – immediately after the war, BMW smashed the altitude record with a Fokker D-VII aircraft and their new engine and special high altitude carburetor – the Allies were not pleased and the terms of the Versailles treaty essentially prevented the Germans from developing new aircraft, so BMW had to find other lines of work.
Among the avenues they followed, BMW began building a small utility engine, the M2B15. It was successful not only as a stationary engine, used as an agricultural motor and even as a water pump on fire trucks, but the company sold thousands of them to be built into motorcycles. A nearby company, Bayrische Flugzeug Werke (Bavarian Aircraft Works), had taken up motorcycle production as well, and produced a luxurious but ultimately unsuccessful model called the Helios that employed the M2B15 motor. In a merger in 1922, BFW became a part of BMW and BMW turned their efforts to producing complete motorcycles. Near the end of 1923, BMW introduced their R32 model to the public. It was a complete redesign that took a modified version of the M2B15, now the M2B33, and placed it crossways in a dual cradle tube framed motorcycle, with a 3 speed unit gearbox and a driveshaft leading to bevel gears, driving the rear wheel. Front suspension was by trailing link dual leaf spring. BMW built their own carburetor, but ignition was via a Robert Bosch magneto or, if optional electric lights were included, by a Bosch mag/dyno. The engine, like the preceding M2B15, was a 500cc sidevalve boxer twin, making 8.5 hp, which could propel the R32 to 95kmh/55mph. Development continued apace, and BMW introduced an OHV model, the R37, in 1925 and began winning a lot of trophies with it. In 1926, the next generation of bikes were introduced, the R42 (SV) and R47 (OHV). Two years later, BMW widened their model line with the introduction of the R52 (SV) and R57 (OHV) 500cc models and the R62 (SV) and R63 (OHV) 750cc models.
Hi, I’m Ron Fellowes, a fast approaching septuagenarian. Not that this makes me any wiser, but it does prove I’ve been around the block a few times….and fallen off!
I’ve ridden motorcycles since I was a kid. The first I owned was a war issue Harley Davidson in New Zealand at the tender age of 13. Not old enough to have a license I built a go-kart instead and made a nuisance of myself around the neighbourhood. In my teens I tried my luck on a ’56 Matchless, a Jawa motor scooter and a ’Velocette. Then as a mechanic, I took up speedway racing with Triumph & Vincent sidecars as well as trials riding, beach & road racing, scrambles & motocross. My restorations over the years also included a 1970 Kawasaki H1 Triple, a 502s Norman, a 1922 and a 1924 AJS with sidecar.
In the early 80’s my wife & I spent 3 years travelling on a ’76 LTD Honda Goldwing towing a camper trailer. Our 200,000km journey took us from the top of the world to the bottom through 24 countries. This was in the days before the internet, mobile phones, digital cameras, GPS…just a map & a good sense of humour was all we needed.
My goal is to ride my 1910 Fabrique Nationale overland from Nepal back to Belgium so I can celebrate the bike’s one hundred years in it’s place of origin – the culmination of a lifetime of motorcycling challenges & adventures.
Flying with the bike from Australia, my plan is to begin the overland journey from Kathmandu, Nepal.
Delhi is renowned for lengthy delays and endless paperwork, a legacy of the British Raj, so a border crossing seems an easier way to assimilate into the frenetic Indian traffic. Crossing the Himalayas sometimes at an altitude of 2582 metres the air is thin and the temperatures plummet once the sun disappears. Roads are narrow and switch back on themselves, winding down into deep valleys which means speeds will be slow and a great deal of care taken.
It’s approx 400 kms to the border at Butwal, where I envisage culture shock really begins. Confronted with a population of 1.21 billion people, all jostling for their own space, it’s a manic place for bike travellers, especially on a machine as old as this one. The plan is to make my way west across India, through Pakistan and on into Iran.
From here, the journey takes me through Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, Romania, Hungary, Czech Republic, Germany and Belgium. i reckon by then I might be a bit saddle sore!
On February 7th 2012 Ron started his epic journey to take the FN home to Belgium.