This fall, men and women from across the globe will gather in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, for a ride of epic proportions. The world’s first "Motorcycle Cannonball Run" will kick off its coast-to-coast journey on Sept. 10 at the birthplace of aviation in North Carolina as over 70 participants gear up for a true test of man and machine on their way to Santa Monica, Calif.
"What makes this coast to coast ride so different than others?" you ask. Quite a bit — most notably, that each and every machine on the run must be built before 1916!
The Motorcycle Cannonball Endurance Run is the brainchild of Lonnie Isam, Jr. of Jurassic Racing in Sturgis, SD. Over Lonnie’s 30+ years in the old bike world, he’s developed a particular taste for extremely early American motorcycles, and has had the opportunity to work on and restore several of America’s rarest two-wheeled machines.
In September 2009, Lonnie began tossing around the idea of a coast -to-coast run on motorcycle’s nearly 100 years old. Within just a few weeks, Lonnie began receiving a great response from dozens of riders, and before he knew it, a field of almost 70 riders signed up to test their grit in September 2010. Motorcycle Cannonball is appropriately named after a true American pioneer — Cannonball Baker.
Baker was born in 1882 and by the time he was 22, he was winning dirt track races around his local area. Over the next three decades, "Cannonball" would go on to set over 140 motorcycle and automobile speed and endurance records for numerous manufacturers. It is said that he racked up over 5,500,000 miles over his years a record setter, making countless cross-country and other point-to-point runs.
Each rider in the field of over 70 participants has been developing his or her machine (and strategy) for months now, taking all the right measures to prepare both their machines and themselves for a 3,300-plus mile trek across these great United States.
From Matt’s Blog on WTT: "Here at the museum, my dad and I have been working hard on two 1915 Harley’s for the run. Each machine has about 300 test miles on so far, and we’re making all the little adjustments to have them both ready for the road come Sept. 10."
"While some of the riders will be riding bone stock machines, just as they left the factory almost 100 years ago, most have been slightly modifying their machines to make them a bit safer, more comfortable, and more capable. Adding more modern drop center rims has been a common upgrade, as the old style clinchers tend to be a little dangerous at high speeds."
"The addition of a front brake is another big step as far as safety goes, and of course, headlights and taillights will be installed to keep the law off our backs. We’ve also modified the two ’15 Harley’s on Team Wheels Through Time to fit a rear mounted gas tank on the luggage rack for extra fuel range. I’ve been following the builds of many of the Cannonball bikes, and I’ve got to say, some of the innovations are pretty impressive. Our friend, and vintage bike builder Matt Olsen even tacked on a recirculating oil pump on his 1914 Sears."
Riding machines of this age across the continent will not be an easy task. Its my guess that only a small percentage of the bikes will make it to the finish in Santa Monica. The run will be a true test of stamina, endurance, preparation, and grit. Few riders have ridden a distance of this magnitude, and even fewer on bikes as old as these."
"My dad and his friend Ironman Wayne Stanfield will be making the trek, and although they’ve both done rides like this before (Pops on a 1917 Henderson, and Wayne on a ’36 Experimental Harley flathead) each knows it’ll be a challenge. When Wayne rode our ’37 Knucklehead for 24 hours at Talladega, he admittedly said it was the hardest thing he’d ever done."
"After talking with him last week, he’s expecting this run to even top that. With the deadline coming down the wire, it seems like almost everyone is in scramble-mode trying to get every little detail wrapped up for the start. But by the time the riders make it to Kitty Hawk, you can expect nothing but business from there on out."
"If you’re interesting in learning a bit more about "Motorcycle Cannonball", check out the website located at MotorcycleCannonball.com. They’ve got a full route sheet posted, and lots of information about the run."
On Sept. 12, they’ll be a few days in, and will stop at Wheels Through Time in Maggie Valley for an overnight stop and tour of the museum. We’ll be open late, so if you have a chance, come on down and show these guys your support. It’ll be a once in a lifetime experience, whether you’re riding or not! See you there."