Antique motorcycles to roll into Tacoma on Sunday, ending cross-country ride

It’s not easy to ride a motorcycle across the United States, especially when the bike’s an antique.

And when the motorcycle is from the early 1900s, the ride can mean repairs and rebuilding along the way.

Richard McMaken knows all about that.

The Roy man and his 1915 Harley-Davidson were one of only nine riders and bikes to complete the first Motorcycle Cannonball Endurance Run, traveling from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, to Santa Monica, California, in 2010.

Sunday he’ll help welcome this year’s riders to the 2014 finish line in Tacoma.

About 100 antique motorcycles left Daytona Beach, Florida, on Sept. 5 to start the run. The journey spans 4,000 miles and 17 days, and this year is exclusive to bikes made before 1937, according to the event’s website.

“It’s quite a challenge with all the elements and the weather, even on a little more modern bike,” McMaken said. “A 1936 is still a very old motorcycle.”

The run, organized by the Antique Motorcycle Club of America, is in its third year.

The first run, in 2010, was reserved for bikes made before 1916. The second run, in 2012, was for motorcycles made before 1930. This year, to compensate for the more capable bikes, organizers made the route more difficult.

Some riders compete to finish first in their class of motorcycle, and others just aim to complete the ride.

The pre-1916 bikes that took part the year McMaken made the Cannonball Run were old, but well-made and durable, he said.

Still, they’re not indestructible.

“There were several of the bikes that had major problems where they overhauled them overnight,” McMaken said. “So many of them broke down for one reason or another.”

While McMaken didn’t do the run this year, he plans to hop on his bike and join the riders for the stretch from Yakima to Fife, where local antique bike enthusiasts will host a welcome party and history exhibit at the local Harley-Davidson shop.

The public is invited to take photos and chat with the riders.

Then the bikes will continue on to Tacoma for the grand finish at the LeMay – America’s Car Museum, where the Seattle Cossacks will perform motorcycle stunts.

“The whole thing is just going to be really fun for all the people of Tacoma,” said Thomas Samuelsen, historian with the Pacific Northwest Motorcycle Museum. “It’s just a great honor to have this thing here. They are just durable, amazing pieces of machinery.”