Alain deCadenet aboard the ex-John Edgar, Rollie Free ‘bathing suit’ Vincent, one of the world’s most famous motorcycles​ [Paul d’Orleans]
The outlook wasn’t brilliant for a Pebble judge that day,
As bikes stood proudly two by two, all winners – so they say.
And then a gent claimed Gunga Din was faked up, though a looker,
And partly by a judge there, a good man who is no hooker.
But Gunga, true to Kipling’s muse, did sally forth, a win,
While lovers of old Rollie Free’s machine called it a sin.
That year another prize was took, a streamlined Indian,
T’was claimed to be from Burt Munro, but some said ‘guess again’.
What part was Burt’s and what part new, nobody there would tell,
But surely he who built the thing is answerable to Hell.

The controversial recreation of the famous Vincent racer ‘Gunga Din’​ [Paul d’Orleans]
A silence like a cloak covers the patrons of this game,
The millions stashed from ticket sales protecting them from shame.
A straggling few raised protest for the fakery, and more –
The bolstering of class divides was something to abhor.
Some clung yet to hope which springs eternal in our breast;
They thought, “Surely Pebble Beach will always do its best.
While motorcars are one thing, motorbikes are something new,
Perhaps a whole new game’s afoot, Class X is now on view!”
The Guggenheim had sung their praise, the Art of Motorcycles;
The Legends Show had proved that bikes on grass could be delightful.

An Excelsior Super X racer, built of a mix of old and new parts, and patinated to look well-used​ [Paul d’Orleans]
Cycling through each country who’d built bikes in times before,
Was the theme at Pebble Beach on hallowed golf link shores.
But country categories surely limited the choices,
Unlike grouping cars by factory – Ferraris and Rolls Royces.
The country theme as annual display proved ill-considered,
Though those first few nations featured proved their bike were worthy winners.
Collectors spent a bundle prepping rare machines to show,
Like the Hildebrand and Wolfmuller that simply wouldn’t go.
The year of Italy’s display was best, with bikes after the ‘Thirties,
My MV pic was in the New York Times, ‘cause of John Surtees.

The French lineup, included several lightweights of mixed quality.​ This is Pebble. Fucking. Beach, people. [Paul d’Orleans]
A few years in, the choice grew thin, as was indeed the entry,
One year they featured Vietnam, with one sad rolling sentry.
The French theme fell as flat as a meringue from a hack chef,
We shan’t speak of Eastern Europe’s year; good possibles were left
In museums and collections far across the ocean’s span,
It seems foreigner collectors did not support the plan.
“Fly in your bike, at your own cost, of course,” they all were told,
Which – from the richest of all shows – seemed brazen, crass, and bold.
American collectors had been told but did ignore it,
That racers run on pavement since the ‘Teens were most historic.
Their dirt-track kings and board track bikes were hounded to obsession,
Which meant when Pebble called ‘GP!’ there’s none in their collections.

My photograph of John Surtees aboard his World Championship MV Agusta was used in a New York Times article decrying his lack of knighthood for his double World Championship status, on cars and bikes – still the only person to have done this.​ [Paul d’Orleans]
There was a time not long ago when motorbikes were fashion,
And car collectors far and wide declared a new-found passion,
For motorbikes collectible, much cheaper than four wheels,
And set about to write big checks for seven-figure deals.
With polished skin and suits that cost as much as a new ride,
They suddenly appeared at auctions, advisors by their side,
Who earned commissions from the Millions in old-bike finance,
By overlooking inconvenient truths ‘bout provenance.
But 6 years on, the thrill is gone, and car folks have decided,
That tin and doors and solid floors is what gets them excited.
Organizer Sandra and her minions sniffed the trends,
So earlier this year decreed that Pebble bikes would end.

A nautical theme! Rumi made submarines and torpedos in WW2… hence the anchor logo​. [Paul d’Orleans]
Oh, somewhere on a twisty road the sun is shining bright,
A motorbike is purring and the rider’s found delight,
With the joy of simply riding an old bike – though valued highly –
The ownership of which marks vintagents as money-wily.
True joy from motorbikes is motion, not the money game,
Though bikes in galleries these days would not suggest the same.
Two wheels make lousy sculptures; better riding them around,
The greedy types are merely vultures, much like car guys, I have found.
The Concours thing is tempting with big money all about,
But there is no joy from Pebble — motorbikes are pencilled out.

Christine Reed graces John Stein’s amazing Ducati Imola racer​. [Paul d’Orleans]


Paul d’Orléans is the founder of TheVintagent.com. He is an author, photographer, filmmaker, museum curator, event organizer, and public speaker. Check out his Author Page, Instagram, and Facebook.