On September 5, the Motorcycle Cannonball will be welcoming back another familiar face to the endurance run in the form of Paul d’Orleans. For anyone involved in 2012’s event, you probably remember Paul and his small but extraordinarily quick 1928 350cc Velocette in the Class 1 Division — that and his chronicling of the journey through tintype photography, but we’ll get into that later. If you’ve never met him, he’s the motorcycle aficionado behind The Vintagent and a respected consultant for Bonhams who splits his time between New York, San Francisco, and Paris. This year, he’ll be riding a 1933 Brough Superior 11-50 courtesy of owner Bryan Bossier of Sinless Cycles. In stark contrast to the little Velocette back in 2012, this particular bike is the largest model in the Brough production lineup and boasts a sidevalve v-twin JAP engine featuring a 60-degree configuration that Paul claims to be very smooth.
Having gotten into the antique motorcycle scene well ahead of the curve, he loves Broughs and has owned many over the years. He views these beautiful, old British motorcycles as grand touring machines along the same vein as Harley or other American touring bikes. Ironically enough, by his own admission, he’s not a touring kind of guy, though. Like the seductive sounds of Calypso’s siren song, racing is what actually calls to him. It speaks to his soul and is his true passion in motorcycling.
We were fortunate enough to catch up with Paul in between his busy schedule (he’s in the process of publishing his third book in the last year!) in mid March regarding the upcoming event, the bike itself, the team he’s assembled, and their efforts to put a Brough Superior across the continent this fall. All in all, this multifaceted individual seems pretty confident at the prospects for success and what lies ahead.
Q: In regards to a Brough Superior making a transcontinental run, to your knowledge, has it ever been done before?
A: I don’t think so, at least not in modern times. I think this is the first time anybody’s done it, or at least tried — but we haven’t done it yet (laughter).
Q: Bearing that in mind, I guess the $64,000 question is: will it make it?
A: I do. I really do. I think we’re going to take it easy. The bike’s a little bit of an unknown quantity, because I know more about its history from when it lived in England than America. But I’ve been in touch with some of the people who worked on it back in England for the preparation of its more recent sale, along with my riding partner and the man who will be doing most of the preparation — who is certainly a capable mechanic — and we’ll be bringing the right spares and hoping to make it all the way through this time. It’s a strong bike.
Q: Will it be a challenge for the mechanics?
A: It’s so unpredictable. Some of the other folks who really didn’t have many problems in the past on the run have spent years developing these motorcycles. We’re basically taking an old motorcycle. It’s pretty much as it is — which may seem foolish in light of previous experience (more laughter) but, you know, we’ll just see how it goes. It really is the only luxury motorcycle intact in the event and definitely the only Brough.
Q: What's special about this model?
A: This was considered the most robust of the Broughs. It was used a lot by police forces in England, Canada, and in South America. It was actually a surprisingly fast sidevalve that would do 100 mph, but it was always intended as more of a sports tourer and not like a full house racing machine. Interestingly, it was also George Brough’s favorite motorcycle back in the 1930s. This was probably due in large part to the point he was at in his life.
Q: Any weaknesses or drawbacks?
A: Weaknesses of the bike include the timing side bush on the crankshaft, which drives the dyno. That bush is known to be slightly weak, so we’ll need to keep an eye on that. But otherwise the frame, the forks, the wheels, and the brakes are good. The gearboxes are standard. It’s basically the same gearbox as on a Norton Commando. It’s a good, strong bike. Broughs aren’t exactly known for their handling (limited cornering clearance), but it’s just a matter of getting used to it. It’s nothing dangerous.
Q: Speaking of brakes on old bikes, have you ridden this on any steep grades or inclines yet?
A: Actually, I haven’t been on this particular bike yet.
Q: I can only assume you’ll be remedying that soon . . .
A: Oh, absolutely. I just haven’t gotten round to it yet because it’s currently in Austin and I’m looking at a May deadline on my last book, but I’m not too worried about it. I’m going to be going to Austin probably during the summer to hang out with it.
Q: Who’s your team comprised of?
A: Bryan Bossier, the very generous owner of the bike I’ll be riding who lives in Baton Rouge, LA, should be along at some point; Alan Stulberg of Revival Cycles in Austin, TX, who is my riding partner and who will be bringing his No. 1 mechanic along; and Susan McLaughlin, who is my photography and life partner. I want to express my extreme gratitude to all of them, especially Bryan for the loan of the motorcycle. It’s pretty amazing when you think of it.
Besides being a rider with a need for speed and a self-professed flea market junkie, Paul’s also into tintype photography, as mentioned earlier. The tintype process was patented by Hamilton L. Smith back in 1856. A cheap process used mainly by beach photographers and other itinerant lensmen, it was also commonly used during the Civil War by photographers following the military encampments and early Western explorers. He was introduced to it two years ago by his paramour, Susan McLaughlin, who is an alternative process photographer, and he’s been smitten with both ever since.
Much like old bikes, the thing Paul loves about tintype is he doesn’t feel like it’s an obsolete process. He considers it a photo process that has a lot of character; it takes a lot of attention and the same kind of interest and dedication and love that it takes to get the best out of an old motorcycle. It’s a very natural relationship for him because, as he says, he’s already got something very much like that in his life with his strong connection to old bikes. The process is very unpredictable, which is surely akin to riding antique motorcycles, and a real draw for him.
This year, as in 2012, they’ll be using a mobile darkroom on the road with all kinds of temperature and altitude variants beyond their immediate control, which makes it all the more exciting in his view. If you’re not familiar with tintype, check out Paul and Susan’s latest joint endeavor at mototintype.com where you can visit several galleries consisting of their amazing work. Though all of the galleries are visually arresting and capture the viewer’s imagination, the Cannonball and Bonneville pix will be of particular interest to riders in this event. The love and enthusiasm brought to these intriguing images can only be matched by Paul’s love and enthusiasm for living life full speed ahead. We wish him and his entire team the best of luck in 2014.
[March 11, 2014] The 2014 Motorcycle Cannonball’s caravan of antique motorcycle riding adventurists will include four dynamic women. Each one of our Cannonball Belles is as indomitable, unique and elegant as are the motorcycles they ride. Three of the ladies will be accompanied by their significant others while one will make her journey a solo ride. Three are American riders while one will be shipping her bike from her homeland of Italy.
As a returning rider, #89 Cris Sommers Simmons, will not be on the same motorcycle for this year’s run that she had during the 2010 Cannonball. Instead she will be astride a 1934 Harley-Davidson VD as her husband, Pat Simmons, a first-time Cannonballer, rides his 1929 Harley-Davidson JD. The couple hails from Hawaii. Cris is a mother, accomplished rider, book author and well-known motorcycle personality. Her latest book, The American Motorcycle Girl’s Cannonball Diary, chronicles her transcontinental adventures with “Effie,” the 1915 Harley-Davidson she rode during the inaugural Cannonball Run. Cris came along to help the sweep crews for the 2012 Cannonball.
California resident #81, Sharon Jacobs, will jockey a 1936 Harley-Davidson VLH along side her husband Scott as he rides his 1926 Harley-Davidson JD. Watching her husband cover the miles with smiles as well as struggles during the 2012 Motorcycle Cannonball served to make Sharon determined to embrace her own challenges for the next coast-to-coast ride. She began searching early on for a motorcycle that would suit her as she made preparations to tackle the 2014 route from Florida to Washington and was delighted when she found the VLH last fall. The work to get it road worthy is well under way.
Our third Belle, Dottie Mattern as rider #43, is from Florida. At a time when most people are enjoying their retirement by slowing down the pace of their lives, Dottie is doing just the opposite. As a 12-year survivor of colon cancer, she embraces motorcycling with the same enthusiastic vigor that she has for life. Having read Cris Sommers Simmons’ book documenting her 2010 Motorcycle Cannonball adventure and following the daily blogs from that event, Dottie got the idea that joining the run would be a good thing to do as she celebrates her 70th birthday in October. A rider for over 50-years, Mattern has competed in many 4 or 5-day motorcycle events with the AMCA and traveled around the world with her husband for a three month trip that she describes as “fantastic.” Dottie has not, however, been across the United States on two wheels. Her 1936 Indian Scout, which she has owned for 25-years, will be “fresh as a daisy” by September and the indomitable pair are well prepared to tackle what Dottie expects to be an “extreme adventure.”
The fourth lady to join us this fall is rider #105, Claudia Ganzaroli, who will be shipping her 1928 Moto Frera motorcycle from her home in Italy. Riding scooters since she was 12-years old when, she tells us, it was forbidden to do so, Claudia knows her way around a motorbike. When she turned 21 her grandmother gifted her a 150cc Parilla. “My first true motorcycle!” she tells us. After that she purchased a variety of bikes until 1985 when she met her partner and fellow rider on the Motorcycle Cannonball, Sante Mazza, who was a member of a riding club for Harley owners. Because she did not own a H-D, she could not join so she bought her first Harley, an 883 Sportster. Both Sante and Claudia gravitated towards their mutual love of vintage bikes and the pair now has a collection of both Indians and Harley V-Twins dated pre-1909.
For the 2014 MC, the couple, who have never been to the States before, purchased a pair of Italian made Frera 4’s since, after all, “It is stupid to send two American bikes to the USA,” Claudia declares. “We are impatient to arrive. This trip is wonderful because we are not only tourists; you prepared a good trip for us! See you all in September.”
Be sure to follow all four of the Belles of the ‘ball as they compete along side riders from all over the world while they wend their way across these great United States.
Win a Chance to Ride The Cannonball on a 1936 H-D Knucklehead!
At Born Free 6 on June 29, 2014, one lucky motorcyclist will win the antique-motorcycle adventure of a lifetime in the Golden Ticket Sweepstakes, being organized by old bike enthusiast and builder Matt Olsen.
What’s the Golden Ticket? It’s the opportunity to ride Olsen’s 1936 Harley-Davidson EL on an all-expense-paid “factory ride” in the vintage motorcycle event of the year—the 2014 Motorcycle Cannonball Endurance Run, a 16-day, 4,150-mile coast-to-coast ride only for motorcycles made before 1937. The run will travel from Daytona Beach, Florida, to Tacoma, Washington, September 5-21, and thanks to this unique opportunity, one lucky rider from anywhere in the world, will be making the trip in style.
All of the available entries for the 2014 Cannonball, priced at $2500.00 apiece, were sold out long ago. But Olsen secured one to award as the grand prize in this sweepstakes.
That coveted entry is just the start of the Golden Ticket prize package, though. Because not only will the winning rider get to ride a truly historic motorcycle for the Cannonball, the winner will also have the benefit of a full support crew headed up by Olsen himself, whose bike-building resume includes the Best in Show Award at last year’s prestigious Born Free Bike Show. Matt and his wife, Brittney, will drive a support truck, taking care of needed maintenance on the bike and the 36 el that his father Carl will be riding each evening while the winner gets some needed food and rest in the hotels that will serve as Cannonball stops across the country, all expenses paid. Says Olsen, “This is a turn-key deal. You show up for the start in Florida, and we’ll take care of everything until we reach Washington.”
The Golden Ticket machine is Olsen’s own 1936 Harley-Davidson EL, a rare first-year example of Harley’s “Knucklehead” design that remained in production through 1947. The Knucklehead—the first production Harley V-twin to feature overhead valves, re-circulating oil system and integrated dash —is often regarded as the most iconic American motorcycle of all time, setting the trend for the American cruiser style. And Olsen’s machine, finished in Venetian Blue and Orlando Orange paint, is one of about 1,500 Knuckleheads made that year. Although the winner will want to own this amazing motorcycle after he or she rides it on the Cannonball, Matt is keeping this beauty.
The “pre-1937” restriction on motorcycles entered in this year’s Cannonball means that a ’36 Knucklehead will be the most advanced machine eligible for the ride. And Olsen’s is a well sorted-out example, having served as his primary motorcycle for eight years.
“I have ridden this bike everywhere,” says Olsen. “It’s completed two Iron Butt 1,000-mile days, and is the oldest harley to complete one of the bun burner 1000 challenges.”
That grand prize is impressive enough. But the Golden Ticket Sweepstakes offers a pretty spectacular second prize, too, donated by the Harley-Davidson Motor Company*: an all-expense-paid trip from anywhere in the world to the Harley-Davidson factory in Milwaukee for an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of the company’s museum and archives, along with its Milwaukee-based powertrain plant.
It all adds up to two Golden Ticket prizes—one for the Cannonball Endurance Run and the other for a rare tour of Harley’s headquarters and archives. And those prizes are available to anyone who enters.
* The Harley-Davidson Motor Company is not a sponsor or otherwise involved in the operation of this event.
Coast to Coast on a Neracar
Written by Rebecca West
Back in 1918, Carl Neracher designed a lightweight, feet first motorcycle that went on to be known as a Neracar. Unique for its hub-center steering and widely acclaimed for its stability, there were roughly 10,000 of them produced by the Ner-A-Car Corporation in Syracuse, NY, between the years 1921 and 1924. Shortly after production began in the US, Nerarcher licensed his design to the UK’s Sheffield-Simplex, where an additional 6,500 were manufactured for British consumers. By 1926, it was pretty much all said and done for both manufacturers, but this incredibly reliable bike lives on with alternative motorcycle enthusiasts even today.
This is the route for the 2014 Motorcycle Cannonball. In working on this route,we have tried to fulfill several criteria:
A coast-to-coast route across the United States. We start the run in Daytona Beach, Florida on the worlds most famous beach. We finish the run after 4150 miles, on the Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington.
Approximately a two-week schedule. We start on a Friday in Daytona Beach, and finish in Tacoma two weeks later on a Sunday. The route is 17 days total, 16 days on the road, and one rest day in Junction City, Kansas. The day off is on a Friday, a week after the start, a weekday when shops are open. The two days before the start in Daytona Beach we will have registration, vehicle inspection, an optional practice run, a short classroom session, and a hosted welcome reception.