Motorcycle Cannonball 2014, Part I – Preview


From l., Buzz Kanter, Cris Sommer Simmons, Pat Simmons, and Paul Ousey, ready to ride!

By Buzz Kanter, photos by Michael Lichter, Jim Dohms, and Buzz Kanter

Part I: 3,938 Miles of Blood, Sweat & Gears

The ride is almost 4,000 miles from Daytona Beach, Florida, to Tacoma, Washington. If the bikes — all 1936 and older machines —have mechanical issues, other riders could help without losing points, but team mechanics can’t help as they follow a different route from point to point. If you think this is fun, you’re right. If you think it’s easy, think again.

CANNONBALL 14This was the third running of the Motorcycle Cannonball, a timed endurance event for antique motorcycles that will push even the most experienced rider to his physical and mechanical limits. Some 101 motorcycles were officially recognized as starting the event in Daytona Beach. Seventeen days and 3,938 miles later, 72 of us were considered finishers in Tacoma. Along the way, we encountered some of the most stunning and mind-numbing experiences a motorcyclist is ever likely to encounter. While most of the riders, including me, were focused on getting our antique motorcycles and ourselves across the country with minimal drama, some were focused on winning this event.

Yes, this was a competition with a complete set of rules and scoring procedures. In terms of scoring, you earn a point for every mile ridden provided you make it to the start and finish lines at the scheduled times. If you get lost, run out of gas, or break down, you can do what you need to make it up as long as no one from your support team helps you. If you switch riders, you lose points. If you swap engines, you lose points. If you leave a hosted event early, you lose points. 7 Burning HarleyIn addition, if you DNF (do not finish) more than seven days, or the last day, you were disqualified and listed as DNF for the entire event. In the event of a tie (and there were many), Class I motorcycles (700cc or smaller engine displacement) beat Class II (701cc to 1000cc), which, in turn, beat Class III (1001cc or larger displacement). After that, the next tiebreaker was the age of the motorcycle: the older one beats the newer one. In case of a tie where the bikes are in the same class and the same age, the tiebreaker is the age of the rider, with the older rider beating the younger one. Got it?

After covering the planned 3,938 miles, an impressive 32 riders covered them all on course, but, due to scoring issues, only 24 were considered as perfect scores. The others were penalized points for various reasons. This year’s overall winner was …



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Celebrities Ride Antique Harleys From Sturgis to Milwaukee For Harley 110th Anniversary!

A long ride on very old motorcycles is the near future for Doobie Brother guitarist Pat Simmons and his wife, American Iron Magazine columnist, Cris Sommer Simmons. On the August 20 the pair will depart from the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum in Sturgis, South Dakota, and ride 1,000 miles east to the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to help Harley-Davidson celebrate its 110th anniversary.


Cris will be riding Effie, her 1915 Harley-Davidson twin motorcycle, and Pat will ride Vinnie, his 1914 Harley two-speed, twin. The first Harley-Davidson motorcycle was built in 1903 and 110 years later the legendary brand is still an American icon. “We’ve always been Harley people, that’s what brought us together” says Cris, a three time motorcycle hall of fame inductee, published author and motorcycle journalist.  Pat and Cris actually met at a Harley-Davidson event in Sturgis in 1989. “We were introduced by a mutual friend, who was a marketing executive for Harley-Davidson.” Pat adds “Our mutual love of motorcycles, riding, and the lifestyle drew us to one another. We’ve been together ever since.”

This year the couple will celebrate 24 years together by riding their nearly 100 year-old motorcycles to Milwaukee, where Pat, guitar player and singer with The Doobie Brothers will perform with the band at the event on August 29th. “The Doobies have a long history with Harley-Davidson. Besides riding, we have been performing at their events and biker parties for over 40 years. We love motorcycling, and the riders. It’s such an honor to be part the Harley-Davidson family, and the 110th anniversary celebration, and we plan to rock in overdrive that night!”

Cris will be at the Harley-Davidson Museum on August 30th at 2pm, where she will talk about her experiences and sign copies of her three books.

“We’re not sure what to expect as we ride 1,000 miles or so from Sturgis to Milwaukee, but we’re excited. Cris has already ridden a lot farther Effie. She rode cross-country on the 3,330 mile Motorcycle Cannonball run in 2010. I’ve never ridden this far on a motorcycle so old. It’ll be a new experience for me” said Pat “I know this will be a ride to remember.”