It was billed as “3,400 miles from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Oregon,” but the 2018 Motorcycle Cannonball race actually staged its finish line in a little town 40 miles away from the Rose City, and indeed, not even in Oregon. But, hey, details, right? What’s not up for dispute is that the event featured more than 100 century-old and older machines racing across the country on back roads in an epic motorcycle endurance race: a glorious way to pay homage to a simpler past.
It was also a fitting way to pay tribute to the Cannonball’s founding father, Lonnie Isam Jr., who passed away earlier this year. When Isam first started daydreaming about this whole thing, his only plan was to cruise scenic American back roads a mile at a time from the saddle of his vintage iron, in formation with his riding buddies. But he also wanted to pay homage to long-distance pioneer, Erwin “Cannonball” Baker, and other larger-than-life adventurers of the early 1900s.
Since 2010, the Motorcycle Cannonball has been running its vintage race coast to coast, but mapping a different route each year. The concept is pretty simple; take your unaltered, pre-1929 machine 3,500 miles from the east coast to the west in 16 days, following the allotted route. If you and your machine cross the finish line before the other vintage gearheads in one piece, you get to hoist the trophy.
This year’s Grand Finale was held in tiny Stevenson, Washington, on September 23, with a wide variety of bikes from old Harley JDs to Nortons to Excelsior Model Ks, riding from Portland, Maine, then taking a breather for a day in historic Sturgis, South Dakota, before all rolling west to the finish line. According to organizers, riders averaged around 250 miles per day, adding up to approximately 3,750 miles on straight, flat roads. By some estimates, less than 10 miles of the race was on interstate highways. But, really, it was all about the bikes. Take a look at these beauties.