Flared nostrils and the sound of thunderous hooves as a group of thoroughbreds jockey for position at top speed; the smell of oil, a puff of smoke and the explosion of noise as a Vincent Black Shadow fires up, kickstarted to a rumbling growl …
Two horsepower-driven worlds will collide May 20, when The Californian Classic Motorcycle Show takes to the infield lawn of the historic Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, the same day as contenders hit Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland for the 142nd Preakness Stakes.
“Before the first engine was built folks were racing and displaying horses,” says event producer Brady Walker, creator of both the Venice Vintage Motorcycle Rally and Ramming Speed. “I am sure riding a steed across the countryside is very similar to trekking a dirt bike around Rowher Flats (Angeles National Forest) or cruising along the PCH on your café racer.”
The new event, patterned after British Field Meets, has its origins in a prior LA calendar event – Let It Ride – and high ambitions for the inaugural year: 150 bikes on display.
“The concept is simple,” says Walker, an audio engineer by trade and an entrepreneur at heart. “Get everyone with a cool old motorcycle to come down and show it off. This is not just for racers, or choppers, or builders, or big corporate brands. It includes everyone, which is extremely important to me.”
-- Brady Walker, The Californian
“So many motorcycle events around the country have been focused on the resurgence of flat track racing. While watching racers hurl their bikes into a corner sideways at blazing speeds is quite radical, have you ever had the opportunity to see a bunch of massive horses reluctantly coerced into a starting gate, kicking and snorting, then released to sprint to the finish line all the while their jockeys gracefully float on their back, explaining what to do with just a flick of the wrist or flex of their calf? It's intense and inspiring as the muscles of the great animal flex and move around the track. There is a lot of similarity in horse racing to motorcycle racing, and my desire is to share my findings with the spectators of The Californian.”
Then there’s the atmosphere which surrounds horse racing … the pomp and circumstance, if you will.
“LA is ready for a more refined program in relationship to classic motorcycles,” Walker says. “The air around the park is inspiring. The history of the complex is apparent. Weaving around jockeys and million dollar horses to get from the parking lot to the offices, my eyes were wide with awe. The place is beautiful. It's the history of the bikes and the Santa Anita Park. It's getting dressed up and showing off your toys. It's the beauty of the San Gabriel mountains and the lush fauna as the backdrop. It's different … and it will be worth the drive.”
The Californian concours of classic and custom motorcycles will – in its first year – feature 12 loosely judged bike categories:
American (Pre-1982) | British (Pre-1982) | Italian (Pre-1982) | European (Pre-1982)
Japanese (Pre-1982) | Antique (Pre-1945) | Custom or Modified (Any Year)
Cafe, Bobber, Brat (Any Year) | Competition On-Road (Pre-1982) | Competition Off-Road (Pre-1982)
Next Gen Superbike (1985 - 1995) | Daily Driver (Pre-1982)
-- Brady Walker, The Californian
“As much as I am attracted to a perfectly restored Vincent Black Shadow, I also find so much appeal in a well-used motorcycle" Walker says "and for that reason I have created classes for competition bikes and daily drivers. It is my desire to display the full gamut of motorcycles represented in Southern California, and that includes the awesome dirty machines that battle on the flat track, road course, drag strip, and 405 freeway.”
While a 1982 cutoff date has been set for most classes, there will be judged categories for customs and modern classics as well.
“I am going to organize the bikes in a very sophisticated manner, giving each ride its moment in the sun,” says Walker, who will likely be bringing some special rides from his own stable, including a ‘73 Norton Commando ex-racer you will see on display in early May at The Quail in Carmel.
Who knows you might even see his daily rider – a 2003 Yamaha R1 notable for its lane splitting prowess – or his Chappy mini-race bike.
“Some great companies have partnered with me on the event. They plan to create a chill atmosphere in their display booths to encourage conversation. I will use these areas as bookends to each style of motorcycle. For instance, wouldn't it be relevant to have the European bikes circled around the Alpinestars tent? And the British bikes surrounding the Royal Enfield show area? It's going to be interactive and low stress, a very good way for enthusiasts to talk to brands without the pressure of buying something.”
The complete list of partnering sponsors for the day includes: Santa Anita Park, Oscar by Alpinestars, Biltwell Inc, Deus Ex Machina, Royal Enfield North America, Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys and Buchanan's Spoke & Rim, Inc. Organized rides to the event from the Southeast – LA County (BA Moto, Long Beach), DTLA (Dejavita) and the Westside (Deus Ex Machina, Venice) will be coordinated by media partner LA Motorcyclist. Ride details will be available soon.
-- Brady Walker, The Californian
For those who go to the official website and register a week before the event, entry fees are waived and include a ticket into the event.
“It is ok to enter more than one bike, in fact it's encouraged,” Walker says. “I am hoping to see some collections out there.”
After Sunday, May 13, there will be a $10 fee to enter a bike. Spectator tickets are $10. Parking is free when entering through Gate 6 on the north side of the track where there will be VIP reserved parking for motorcycles. And, paid admission to The Californian includes complimentary admission to the Santa Anita grandstands, a $5 value. The first 100 entrants online will receive a special souvenir shirt.
Bike entries will be judged by a group of yet-to-be-announced special guests.
“My goal is to make this a true concours event judged by points in a professional manner. I want to get the first event in the books, see if it worked, and then really get to business next year. All I can say is that the trophies will be spectacular, as I have enlisted the talented Joseph Stevens of Lucky Droid Metal Works to create special loving cups for each winner. He has done the trophies for the VVMR over the last two years and does a spectacular job.”
For spectators, in addition to the bikes on view there will be food, drink, games, live horse racing and betting. An awards ceremony at 4 PM will conclude the day.
“To pull this off is going to take a lot of volunteer help and coordination the morning of the event. But if I see big smiles and wide eyes, I will be happy.”
Walker's team already includes a strong grouping of moto enthusisasts and event specialists: his partner in crime, Caroline Patterson; Shawn Armstrong, web; Nils Davey, marketing; Kallah Maguire, social media; Julian Heppekausen, Deus Ex Machina GM; and Santa Anita marketing staff Andrew Arthur and Katie Abbot.
For more information or to register your bike for The Californian visit the official website and follow the event on Facebook and Instagram for updates leading up to May 20:
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