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March (G.T.) – It's the attack of vintage motorcycles: not just museum pieces or old-fashioned beauties to be admired at rallies or dedicated shows. The “Cannonball”, held every two years, gives them great exposure to the public and to the press. Enthusiasts are already chomping at the bit because registration is open for the 2023 edition which promises a coast-to-coast ride across the United States, from Virginia Beach, Virginia to Huntington Beach, California: a route about 2,731 miles (4,395 kilometres) long. But not all vintage bikes can register. In fact, the endurance run is reserved for motorcycles built before 1933. In other words, rumbling two-wheelers 90 years old and up! It is an enormous challenge - a truly devastating race that puts the endurance of bikes and riders to a hard test. But naturally, it’s better to reach for glory rather than let them gather dust in the garage.

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In early September 2023, one hundred or so Motorcycle Cannonball riders will start a two-week journey across the United States on motorcycles built before 1933.The 2023 route will consist of departing Virginia Beach, VA with a grand finale in Huntington Beach, CA.
The competition will involve correctly navigating the route using each day’s Course Instructions. The winner for each class will be the motorcycle and its rider that covers the most on-route mileage over the 16-day run, within each day’s specified time schedule and in compliance with the Event Regulations.

Around a hundred bikes are expected to participate in Cannonball 2023 divided into two categories (built pre-1923 and from 1924 to 1933), and each division will be split into three categories based on engine capacity.

So, these days there are very few brands that qualify to race the Cannonball Endurance Run – scheduled for the beginning of September 2023. The previous editions were dominated by the ultra-American Indian Motorcycles (the first American motorcycle by birth year, as production started in 1901. However, the founding of the brand dates back to 1898 at the hands of former race car driver George Hendee with Oscar Hedstrom) and Harley-Davidson Motorcycles (founded in 1903, turning 120 years old this year), not to mention rare Henderson Motorcycle Co. models (an American brand of 4-cylinder bikes manufactured from 1912 to 1931). From this side of the Ocean, distinguished participants were Excelsior bikes (the first British motorcycle manufacturer - 1896), Norton (founded in 1898, with production of the first bike dating 1902), German manufacturer BMW Motorrad (from 1923) and, above all, the ultra-Italian Moto Guzzi, founded in 1921 in Mandello del Lario, on the banks of Lake Como, a favourite destination of countless worldwide fans of the Eagle Brand for an incredible 102 years.

For editorial purposes, shot taken from the article which the Italian magazine ‘Moto Ciclismo d’Epoca’ (number 7-8 of 2020) dedicated to Pino Savoretti’s undertaking on the Guzzi Sport 15 (racing number 103), authored by Klaus Nennewitz.
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Why “above all”? Because the “heroic” undertaking achieved by a 1931 Moto Guzzi Sport 15 in the 2014 Motorcycle Cannonball Cross-Country Endurance Run edition went down in the annals, ridden by Giuseppe Savoretti (A.K.A. Pino, 66 years of age at the time) from Rimini. The Italian bike-rider duo not only finished the race, but shone with an unprecedented third place on the podium. For the record, the other Italian bikes that participated in that edition of the Cannonball deserve a mention: the 1924 Moto Guzzi Sport 500, ridden by Ciro Nisi (expert Cannonball rider) and the two 1926 and 1928 Frera bikes (a brand active from 1905 to 1936). There were 101 at the starting line, from Daytona Beach, Florida, arriving after 16 incredible days of riding in Tacoma, Washington, travelling more than 4,000 km from south to north.

The Moto Guzzi Sport 15 is a Gran Turismo motorcycle from the Mandello del Lario manufacturer (100 years: 1921-2021) which is now a classic international collectors’ item. The bike represents the technical pinnacle of the period for a vehicle dedicated to gran turismo. The model made its début at the 1931 Milan show as the heir to the Sport 14, another Moto Guzzi icon, a single-cylinder, four-stroke bike that sold extremely well in the late twenties.

From generation to generation, the irresistible attraction of the Eagle: on the left, young Moto Guzzi Sport 15 fan, in perfect vintage style. His name is Matteo Bollettin. On the right, a young couple in front of the legendary red gate of the Mandello del Lario Moto Guzzi factory (photo posted by Alex Pezzotta).
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The Moto Guzzi Sport 15 repeated the victory in the thirties – horizontal 498 cm3 four-stroke engine with cast iron head and cylinder and aluminium crankcase with a top speed of 100 km/h – and it is still one of the most beloved veteran bikes, with dedicated clubs and rallies. Next event: 17 September 2023 in Cremona.

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A brief history of the Cannonball, considered the oldest and most difficult endurance race in the world. It was originally an illegal car race which, in the ’70s, crossed the United States from one coast to the other. The last edition dates back to 1979. In 2010 there was an even “crazier” race dedicated to two-wheelers: the Motorcycle Cannonball Endurance Run where 45 participants faced off, crossing the States coast to coast astride bikes built prior to 1916. Two years later it was repeated and this time all bikes built up to 1929 were allowed to enter, so the number of participating riders went up to 77. The Cannonball started on 3 September from Newburgh, New York and, after about 6,000 km it ended on 21 September in San Francisco, California. The 2014 edition (101 participants), 2016 edition, and the 2018 edition followed. 2020 was skipped due to the pandemic and it picked back up in 2021.


The Cannonball takes its name from Erwin George Baker, who earned national glory in the ’10s and ’30s of last century, who set 143 endurance records, specialising in coast-to-coast crossings. He was unstoppable and that’s how he earned the nickname cannonball. Just to give you an idea, in 1933 he travelled from New York to Los Angeles in 53 hours (a record which remained unbeaten for 40 years), on the primarily dirt roads of the period.

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