Your Chance to Catch History
Cannonball 2012, the second edition of the coast-to-coast endurance run for antique motorcycles, is only days away, and you’ll be able to keep up with all the action through daily updates right here on the AMCA website.
The Cannonball will start Friday, September 7, at the Motorcyclepedia Museum in Newburgh, New York, and finish more than 3,800 miles later on Sunday, September 23, in San Francisco. The event will consist of 16 stages, ranging from a low of 93 miles (on the final day) to a high of 320 miles (on the second day). There will be one rest day—Friday, September 14, in Sturgis, South Dakota.
The Cannonball isn’t a race. Instead, it’s a timed competition for riders on motorcycles made before 1930. Riders will start together each morning and must arrive at the finish line within a 45-minute time window each evening.
This year’s event has attracted a full field of 75 entries from all parts of the United States, plus Great Britain, Sweden, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Poland and South Africa. The bikes they will be riding include 36 Harley-Davidsons, 17 Hendersons and eight Indians, plus one or more machines from BMW, BSA, Sunbeam, Rudge, Excelsior, Husqvarna, J.A.P. and Triumph.
The overwhelming number of Harleys isn’t a surprise, since the Milwaukee brand dominated sales in the American market by the late ’20s. But the prospect of bringing together 17 rare four-cylinder Henderson Deluxe and KJ models, all being tested in long days on the road, has Cannonball organizer Lonnie Isam really excited.
“This year is the 100th anniversary of Henderson (a brand founded in 1912),” says Isam. “I don’t know how long it’s been since 17 Hendersons were all running together on the road. That’s a sound I don’t think any of us has ever heard before, and I’m looking forward to it.”
The route this year is very different from the one that faced riders in the inaugural Motorcycle Cannonball in 2010. That ride, for machines made before 1916, took the easier southern route across the U.S. and covered 3,300 miles coast to coast. This one is about 500 miles longer and includes three Rocky Mountain passes, topping out at 9,600 feet.
But Isam notes that in addition to that challenge, the first few days of this year’s Cannonball will be particularly tough on riders.
“The second day (Saturday, September 8) is 320 miles, which is the longest day of the ride, and we have to get through the whole Cleveland area before arriving at the finish in Sandusky, Ohio,” he says.
“The next day is nearly as long (300 miles) and includes a ferry trip across Lake Michigan before we ride into Milwaukee. Everybody needs to make it to the ferry for us to stay on schedule.”
After that, Isam says, the ride should settle into a more relaxed pace for several days across the Midwest and the Great Plains.
“Once we leave Milwaukee,” he says, “it’s all cornfields till we get to the mountains.”
The days in the Rockies will take riders through the Yellowstone area. And in addition to the altitude, they could face challenging weather.
The final days will see riders working their way down winding roads along the California coast before riding into San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge.
But as Isam notes, the real test of the Cannonball isn’t overcoming any one of those individual challenges. It’s the cumulative effect of more than two weeks on the road.
“A 300-mile-day isn’t that hard on an old bike,” he says. “But 16 days like that in a row, that’s something else entirely.”
The 2010 Cannonball generated plenty of interest among antique fans, modern motorcyclists and the general public as it rolled across the country. If you’d like to follow Cannonball 2012, there are a couple of ways to get in on the excitement.
First, you can check back right here every day. Bill Wood, editor of the AMCA magazine, will be driving the sweep truck trailing the 2012 Cannonball, and he’ll be posting stories from the road here in the News area of the AMCA website. Because of the long days of riding and wrenching in the Cannonball, these daily updates may appear late at night or early the next morning, so check back often to see what’s new.
If the Cannonball is passing near you (see the map above or the list of stages below), the day’s ride is likely to end at a motorcycle dealership or, this year, several major museums. Those locations provide a great place for fans to see the bikes and talk to the riders. The museum visits this year—September 6 (the night before the start) at Motorcyclepedia in Newburgh, New York; September 10 at the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee; September 11 at the National Motorcycle Museum in Anamosa, Iowa; September 12 at the Pioneer Auto Museum in Murdo, South Dakota; and September 13 and 14 (the rest day) at the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum in Sturgis, South Dakota—will be among the highlights of the trip.
For other dates, check with local motorcycle dealerships to see if they will be playing host to the Cannonball. Host dealerships often put on special celebrations to welcome the Cannonball riders into town, and these will give you a chance to see the bikes and riders up close.
You can also watch the riders head out on in the morning. Each day’s route is kept secret until the evening before, but all of the bikes will depart from the host hotel in the morning. Departure times vary from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., depending upon the day, so check things out the night before to be sure you’re on time for the morning rollout.
Below is a list of all 16 Cannonball stages, from Newburgh, New York, to San Francisco.
Cannonball 2012 Stages
1. Sept. 7 Newburgh, NY—Wellsboro, PA, 209 mi.
2. Sept. 8, Wellsboro, PA—Sandusky, OH, 320 mi.
3. Sept. 9, Sandusky, OH—Milwaukee, WI, 300 mi.
4. Sept. 10, Milwaukee, WI—Anamosa, IA, 210 mi.
5. Sept. 11, Anamosa, IA—Spirit Lake, IA, 280 mi.
6. Sept. 12, Spirit Lake, IA—Murdo, SD, 280 mi.
7. Sept. 13, Murdo, SD—Sturgis, SD, 300 mi.
Rest Day, Sept. 14, Sturgis, SD,
8. Sept. 15, Sturgis, SD—Sheridan, WY, 250 mi.
9. Sept. 16, Sheridan, WY—Yellowstone, WY, 235 mi.
10. Sept. 17, Yellowstone, WY—Jackson Hole, WY , 155 mi.
11. Sept. 18, Jackson Hole, WY—Mountain Home, ID, 300 mi.
12. Sept. 19, Mountain Home, ID—Hines, OR, 275 mi.
13. Sept. 20, Hines, OR—Klamath Falls, OR, 230 mi.
14. Sept. 21, Klamath Falls, OR—Fortuna, CA, 286 mi.
15. Sept. 22, Fortuna, CA—Cotati, CA, 245 miles
16. Sept. 23, Cotati, CA—San Francisco, CA, 93 mi.
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