One hundred or more old motorcycles will roll into Pierre on Saturday right in the middle of a transcontinental trip from Portland to Portland — westbound, Maine to Oregon — mostly to show off the vintage machines.
The Pierre City Commission on Tuesday approved bike enthusiast Ryan Riedy’s request to close Dakota Avenue for a short stretch along Steamboat Park, from James Street to the bridge exit, near the Chamber of Commerce building.
He’s the general manager of the Grey Goose Store and Social Club north of Pierre, which is a sponsor of the Cannonball.
A nation-wide endurance race, the Cannonball Motorcycle event of about 100 vintage bikes built before 1929 will roll into Pierre Saturday afternoon, Sept. 15.
Some of the vintage bikes will be on display in Steamboat Park parking lot and nearby street area from about 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and people are invited to come and see them and ask questions, Riedy said
The endurance run now has a strong South Dakota biker connection since Jason Sims of Sturgis took over coordinating the Cannonball after the death a year ago of founder Lonnie Isam Jr. from cancer.
Sims is on the Cannonball’s run, riding a 1925 Harley, he told the Capital Journal on Thursday from Iowa where the group was slated to stop in Anamosa, 25 miles northeast of Cedar Rapids.
Anamosa is home to the National Motorcyle Museum, which is one reason the racers stopped there on Thursday.
It’s not really a race.
Riedy said the Cannonball takes mostly “back roads, because most of these motorcycles can’t go more than 50” mph.
This year’s fifth Cannonball started in Portland, Maine, on Sept. 7 with a practice run, “tech inspection,” and a banquet.
The riders hit the road on Sept. 8, with “stages” of about 220 miles to 320 miles each day, mostly less than 300 miles. On Friday night they are slated to hit Spirit Lake, Iowa, where the Indian Motorcycle Factory, America’s first motorcycle company. After spending Saturday nighti n Pierre, the riders will take the short jaunt to Sturgis for Sunday’s stage 10 and a day off. They plan to ride on into Montana next week and end up in Portland, Oregon on Sept. 23 after about 3,500 miles.
In the history online of the Motorcycle Cannonball is an explanation of why Isam started the biennial event in 2010.
“All Lonnie wanted to do was to see the scenic Americana landscape one mile at a time from the saddle of ancient iron with his riding buddies. His main objective was to motivate antique owners to break the stigma of sequestering collectible old relics to museums and the life of oversized dust catchers and to let the old machines spend their geriatric years living as they were intended: on the road. He felt the ancient motorcylces deserved to be tended and ridden.”
The event’s name comes from long-distance biker pioneer Erwin “Cannonball” Baker, according to the event’s history online at motorcylecannonball.com.
Several of the Cannonball stops are slated to include local Harley-Davidson dealerships.
But Petersen Motors in Pierre, which has been a Harley dealership for decades, won’t be an official part of the Cannonball’s night in town.
Ross Petersen, one of the owners, said Riedy was the local coordinator.
“We helped him,” Petersen said. “I think it was going to work better here as a community event.”
Petersen Motors is unusual in that it can fix many old Harleys.
“Most Harley dealers won’t work on anything older than 10 years,” Petersen said. “But Russ (Dulany,co-owner) and I have been doing this our whole lives here, so we are able to help (owners of older bikes)out.”
But even for Petersen, these World War I vintage bikes would be a puzzle.
“They gotta know how to work on them themselves and stop and do all their own maintenance,” he said of the Cannonball riders. “It’s just like having an old car.”
Despite having a longer heritage than many Harley-Davidson dealerships, Petersen Motors doesn’t have a bike that would qualify, technically, for the Cannonball this year.
“The oldest one we have is a 1935 flathead,” Petersen said. “It was my dad’s. He got it back in the early ‘70s.”