There seems to be a fair amount of confusion about the Motorcycle Cannonball. First off, it is a competition but NOT a race. It could best be described as a timed and controlled endurance run (more detail in a moment). It has been held just three times, first in 2010 (for pre-1916 motorcycles) from Kitty Hawk, NC to Santa Monica, CA. The second one (for pre-1930 motorcycles) was from New York to San Francisco, CA. And the most recent one was (for pre-1937 motorcycles) from Daytona Beach, FL to Tacoma, WA.
- Pat Simmons and his wife Cris Sommer-Simmons of Adventure Power’s Team American Iron pose with other Motorcycle Cannonball riders on the Bonneville Salt Flats for a photo.
The admission fee, which has climbed significantly (to $2,500 per machine for the last one) covers the admission and various support functions. Each rider (and team support staff) has to supply their own bikes, parts, spares, gas, food and hotels. The hotels and discount room prices are arranged by the Motorcycle Cannonball staff but must be confirmed and paid for by the riders. So this is not an inexpensive deal.
- My 1936 Harley VLH on the last day of the 2014 Motocycle Cannonball in Washington. Not the Cannonball plates, large saddlebags, sheepskin seat cover and spare gas tank on the back. All good ideas for a tough endurance event like this.
At the end of each day, all riders are given the following day’s route sheets (printed on paper that can be as few as 8 pages and as much as 22 pages, depending on the route and number of turns planned). Most riders has purpose built roll charts mounted up for this purpose. We are also told the evening before when the next day’s official start time is (by class), how many miles we will cover, when the first scheduled gas stop is and minimum and maximum height over sea level we will be riding that day.
SCORING. A rider gets a point for every mile ridden each day on course IF he (or she) leaves the start of the day on schedule, arrives at the end of the day on schedule and travels the entire distance under his or her own motorcycle’s power. If you are late you lose points. If your bike brakes and you can not fix it enough to ride to the end of day you lose a point for every mile you do not ride that day. You can fix your own bike with parts and tools you have or can obtain from other riders or strangers. You are not allowed to ride with or deal with a support mechanic on the ride.
- Many of the riders have found it better to partner up into teams to help support each other on the road. These four riders and classic motorcycles (left to right – Buzz Kanter 1936 Harley VLH, Cris Sommer-Simmons 1932 Harley VD, Pat Simmons 1929 Harley JD and Paul Ousey 1925 Harley JE) are members of Adventure Power’s Team American Iron,
At the end of each day the scores and ranking are announced and posted at the “host hotel” for the day. The way this works is basically like this: Points (not necessarily miles) are the initial ranking criteria. Then, in case of ties, Class I bikes (smallest displacement) rank higher than Class 2 (medium size displacement engines), which rank higher than Class 3 (largest displacement). Then the older motorcycle ranks higher than a newer one. In case there are still ties the older rider scores higher than a younger one.
If you DNF (Did Not Finish) a day on the Motorcycle Cannonball, that’s bad. If you DNF too often you are disqualified from finishing. ALSO if you and your bike does not start and finish the last day on schedule you are penalized as a DNF for the entire event. This year (2014) and amazing 25% of the riders finished the event with DNF status. And what do the winners get? The top ranked rider took home a wonderful bronze motorcycle statue, a few other riders got amazing Michael Lichter yardlong photos, and the rest of us get little more than amazing memories, the feeling of accomplishment and some great new friends and stories.
For more information please visit www.MotorcycleCannonball.com or you can read about some of the exploits and adventures in American Iron Magazine or www.aimag.com. Click on PRINT to subscribe in print or on DIGITAL for a digital delivery subscription.