The Cannonball has been called “the world’s toughest antique motorcycle endurance run,” and Dave Currier rode the 3,700-mile, 16-day route from norther Michigan to South Padre Island, Texas, on his classic refurbished bike.
The route saw riders roll south, then east to the Carolina coast and then angled back toward Texas. The race crossed 11 states.
The Cannonball has typically been held every second year, but the 2020 event was delayed until 2021 due to COVID concerns.
The modern Motorcycle Cannonball began when Lonnie Isam, Jr. first started considering a plan to cruise the back roads of America with his antique motorcycle riding buddies. It turned into a challenge to motivate antique motorcycle owners to pull their bikes out of museums and garages and ride them again.
Isam says he wanted to pay homage to the forefather of competitive motorcycle distance riding, Erwin “Cannonball” Baker and other figures from history who shared Baker’s obsession. Those early riders stormed across the country in the early 1900s, and his dream was to have modern riders on those classic machines do the same.
The Motorcycle Cannonball riders will begin their approximately two-week journey across the United States on motorcycles built before 1930, and many of them were exactly the sort of rides you might expect: Harley-Davidsons, Indians, BSAs and BMWs.
The competition involves accurately navigating the route using a set of Course Instructions laid out for each day. The bikes are separated out in classes and the winner for each class is the motorcycle and rider who covers the most on-route mileage over the 16-day run. Part of the challenge is that each day includes a specified time schedule and requires compliance with the Event Regulations.
In 2010 Isam assembled a group of riders willing to share miles with him along the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, and 45 intrepid riders took off from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, for a transcontinental journey which would ultimately end at the shores of the Pacific Ocean.
Currier’s bike featured the original engine and also included the cylinder, crankcase and carburetor. Currier’s father, Dick Currier, was a dealer of Harley-Davidson and Indian motorcycles in the 1940s and 1950s. The elder Currier also raced motorcycles. Son Dave dedicated the Sept. 10-26 ride to the memory of his father.
“[The bike] is very tall, and I have short legs so I can’t touch the ground,” Currier told WDAY TV of Fargo. “You have to pedal it to start it. It’s a belt-drive – the only way to move it forward is you pull the level which tensions the belt, and then you move forward.”
This year’s event was supported by a long list of motorcycle industry sponsors and attracted 88 competitors.