Motorcycle Cannonball Run at Pat Rogers Harley-Davidson

By: On: September 12th, 20101 Comment »Updated: March 12, 2016

Christine Sommer-Simmons during Motorcycle Cannonball RunThe Motorcycle Cannonball run finished stage 2 at 223 miles with a stop at Pat Rogers Speedway Harley-Davidson in Concord, NC on Saturday September 11, 2010.

The motorcycle cannonball is a coast-to-coast endurance run for pre-1916 antique motorcycles.

The run started at North Carolina’s Outer Banks in Kitty Hawk on Friday September 10th, and finishes in Santa Monica, California after 17 days.  The only scheduled day off is in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

To see a pre-1916 motorcycle is rare, but to see several of these antique motorcycles actually running with their riders and the hundreds of motorcycle fans all enjoying – well, all I can say is that was this was truly a special event to witness.

Christine Sommer-Simmons riding 1915 Harley-DavidsonOne of the participants that arrived to the check-in point while I was there was Christine Sommer-Simmons riding a 1915 Harley-Davidson.  In case you haven’t heard of her, she is a bit of a celebrity in the motorcycle world.  The cheering from the Motor Maids just about drowned out the live music as she arrived.

Christine is the author the book The American Motorcycle Girls 1900-1950, A Photographic History of Early Women Motorcyclists.  She helped form the second chapter of the Women in the Wind.  The magazine Harley Women was one of her works, and several other popular motorcycle magazines have included, and continue to include, her articles and columns.

Christine and her husband, Patrick Simmons (of the Doobie Brothers), are both such motorcycle enthusiasts that she was able to bring her 1915 Harley-Davidson out of their collection and made ready for ride in this cannonball run.

Shinya Kimura's 1915 Indian C3 motorcycle in Cannonball Run 2010Another motorcycle celebrity in Cannonball run is custom motorcycle designer-builder Shinya Kimura. As his 1915 Indian C3 Big Twin arrived with a different rider, the fans cheered him on; however, Shinya was soon docked 50 points by the officials for changing riders.

In an event like this, simply being part of it is a huge accomplishment for anyone. It didn’t appear that the 50 point deduction bothered the Shinya team much, as I was happy to see they both looked like they were having a great time being part of it all.

Motorcycles at Cannonball run included a 1914 Henderson four cylinder model DAll of the motorcycles in the event were really amazing, but one of my favorites at the Cannonball stage 2 finish was Frank Westfall’s black 1914 Henderson four cylinder model D motorcycle.  The Henderson is a long, low, amazing machine that stood out from the rest in my opinion.

The sleek, inline four engine, the automotive-style foot levers, the striking gold graphics, and the entire motorcycle’s design just really captured me.  It was literally hard for me to walk away from it.

Motorcycle Cannonball riders and fans inspect the motorcycles at stage 2 stop in Concord NCThese rare vintage motorcycles almost looked like scooters compared to more modern bikes because of their pedals and bicycle-like structures.

All really seemed to be running really well as they arrived.  Sure, a few were leaking oil, some more than others. In a way, it didn’t seem possible that they were as old as they were since they were running so smoothly.

I am sure it was several years of many people’s dedication and hard work that we were all seeing and hearing.  Thanks to all of them because we thoroughly enjoyed the motorcycle info history lesson of the Motorcycle Cannonball, the mechanical brilliance and the chance to experience a bit of what it was like in the earliest years of motorcycling.

About John Clay

John Clay is the author of MotorcycleInfo.Org. He and his family reside in North Carolina in the United States. A graduate of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's Experienced Rider Course, he enjoys riding his Moto Guzzi in charity rides and serves as a volunteer motorcycle marshal for an annual bicycle charity event in the Carolinas.

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1 Response

  1. Colette says:

    Hi from Kelly’s Leathers in Richmond, IL ! Hi Cris, purchased a copy of “The American Motorcycle Girls” in Daytona/March, 2011, you were gracious enough to sign for me and allow a photo. Showed the photo to Cleo (Kelly’s Leathers) and was surprised Cleo knew you. Pulled out some photos of you from Kelly’s album and would love to send to you – same long hair and great smile ! Cleo remembers you well and has a copy of “Patrick wants to Ride” when you initially published that book. Shop is still open, I work there part time and Cleo’s son, Sam now works with her in the shop. I am going to order Cleo a copy of “The American Motorcycle Girls” for her birthday in May. Next time you are in the Chicago, IL area – Cleo would love to host a book signing at Kelly’s Leathers. (Cleo does not have an e-mail or computer, so I am writing on her behalf – shop phone is 815-678-4200 if you need to verify ).
    Friend, Mr. Russ Kasten was also in Daytona and talked with you. He appreciates your dedication to research, as he is putting the finishing touches on his screen play on motorcycle racing in the 1920’s. Russ read you also have a screen play as well as the television documentary “Biker Women, 1996. He would love to send you a synoposis of “Glory Days” to critique, may have a lot in common with your love of motorcycle history (
    Appreciate your love of motorcycling – Colette