The Motorcycle Cannonball endurance run of antique bikes arrived at its finish line Sunday in Portland, Oregon, 3,441 miles after 107 motorcycles built before 1929 left Portland, Maine, on Sept. 8.
The winner was Dean Bordigioni, the California winery owner featured a week ago in the Capital Journal when the caravan of antique bikes — 107 riders plus 200 or more team members --stopped in Pierre.
Bordigioni rode the 1914 Harley-Davidson.
The finish line actually was in Stevenson, Washington, a few miles from Portland, to avoid the paralyzing traffic. A few riders continued on another 130 miles or so to the Oregon coast to make it sea to sea, Felicia Morgan, publicist for the Cannonball who rode along on a more recent vintage machine, reported Monday.
There is no cash prize in the Motorcycle Cannonball. The whole concept, according to organizers, is to do it for the thrill and the art of showing off the antique bikes where they were built to be: on the road.
Bordigioni and his Team Vino received a bronze sculpture by Jeff Decker of a motorcycle rider at a banquet Sunday near Portland.
Despite the old bike being tiny with nothing of the classic throaty rumble and roar newer Harleys, running the Cannonball is no small undertaking
Bordigiani brought a whole team to follow him across the nation.
Team Vino includes, besides the owner/rider Dean Bordigioni, his brother, Tom, Bruce Cooper, crew chief Kurt Campbell, and mechanics Robert “Big Swede” Gustavvson and Chrystiano Miranda, who flew in from his home in Sao Paulo, Brazil, to help on the Cannonball.
The team followed the motorcycles in a big Dodge pickup pulling a van trailer that was a mobile garage.
Every night, the mechanics spent hours “wrenching,” to make the ancient iron horse ready for the next day’s run.
The Cannonball swept into Pierre on Saturday, Sept. 15, and lined up the bikes at Steamboat Park for the public to peruse for a couple of hours while team members answered any questions.
The Pierre Area Chamber of Commerce held a big dinner for the Cannonball participants.
The next day the caravan headed to Sturgis where they took a day off after visiting Mt. Rushmore.
That’s where the idea for the Motorcycle Cannonball came from: Lonnie Isam Jr. of Sturgis conceived the idea a decade ago of getting the vintage bikes mostly sitting in storage up to roadworthiness again and back on the road. The first Cannonball was in 2010; this was the fifth of the biennial endurance challenges, taking a different route, mostly back highways, each time.
Isam died of cancer in 2017 and his friend, Jason Sims took over organizing the Motorcycle Cannonball..
For the first time, the race was won by a one-cylinder bike more than a century old, Morgan reported.
Also a record of about 55 riders and bikes achieved “near-perfect scores,” by completing all the miles, said Campbell.
The race is not always to the swift. Each rider begins with a certain number of points and can only lose, not gain, points, for beginning at the right times, arriving at the next point, neither too soon or too late, and completing each stage. The daily stages averaged 264 miles during each of the days of the 15 riding stages, not counting relatively short jaunts at the start and the finish.
The Pierre stop was about the midpoint, 1,754 miles from the Maine start, and 1,687 miles from the Oregon finish line, according to figures provided by Morgan.
Bordigioni rode his 1914 Harley-Davidson, a one-cylinder engine putting out 10 horsepower — more than the factory’s 7-8 horsepower because the mechanics had bored out the cylinder as part of their maintenance, said Miranda.
Its top speed was maybe 44 mph, if the wind was right, Gustavvson said.
“We’re kind of a band of brothers,” said Campbell, who has ridden with Bordigioni for 30 years, including a trip to the Arctic Circle and three transcontinental treks. “If something fails, you fix it, on the spot or bring it back and work on it until it’s ready, whatever the cost, it’s ready by 8 o’clock the next morning.”
On Monday, Team Vino was winding its way back to the Sonoma area in California where Bordigioni has his winery.
Bordigioni and Gustavvson flew back. The rest of the crew drove the pickup and trailer back.
The 1914 Harley will be “retired and put out to stud,” put on display at the winery, Campbell told the Capital Journal on Monday.
“We started eight years ago trying to win this and we finally were able to accomplish that,” Campbell said.
“It was 17 states in 17 days,” Campbell said. “And we got 100 percent of the miles.”
The main qualification for entering the Cannonball this year was riding a motorcycle built before 1929.
The oldest that began the event was a 1911 Excelsior; but it didn’t finish the course.
About 95 of the 107 bikes that began the Cannonball finished on Sunday, Campbell said.
“The reason we took first overall, . . . is we had the smallest motorcycle that finished,”Campbell said. “It was harder for us than for anybody.”