The Grape Escape

Words by Chris Nelson, photography and videography by Scott G. Toepfer

My legs trembled and my lungs burned as I gasped for breaths between sips of water. I was whipped after riding a SUPER73-RX e-bike around a six-turn, quarter-mile dirt course that snaked back and forth through the rows of grapevines at Doffo Winery, with four steep switchbacks that required rigorous pedaling to maintain speed to the top of a grassy collina that overlooked an expanse of the Temecula Valley.

Wheezing and nauseous, I lowered myself to the dirt ground and laid by the start-finish line of SUPER73’s “The Grape Escape” time trials course, and motorcycle builder Roland Sands walked up to me and asked if I was all right. “I’m fine, just terribly out of shape,” I said, “but have you ridden that course yet?” Roland smiled and said, “It’s sketchy,” and I laughed and replied, “Perfectly sketchy.”

For the past few years the Roland Sands Design crew has hosted the annual Moto Beach Classic — a huge, weekend-long moto gathering in Orange County, California with art, music, custom motorcycles, and flat-track racing — but unfortunately this year the event couldn’t happen due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so instead Roland and his team settled for a smaller, more intimate gathering where 200 invited guests could socially distance and ride motorcycles during the day, and drink wine and party late into the night: The Moto Ranch Invitational.

Roland chose to host the inaugural two-day event not at the beach but rather 25 miles inland in Temecula, known as “the Napa of southern California” and home to more than 30 vineyards. It is a destination not only for oenophiles but also for motorcycle enthusiasts, because the Doffo family has an eclectic collection of over 100 vintage motorcycles on display in their winery’s barrel room.

The Doffo’s collectible bikes weren’t the only motorcycles to gawk at the Moto Ranch Invitational. BMW Motorrad, Ducati, Indian Motorcycle, Royal Enfield, and Triumph had their newest offerings on display and let attendees ride whichever model they pleased, whether it was a big, 1,800-cc, opposed-twin BMW R18 cruiser or a savage Ducati Streetfighter with a 208-horsepower V-4 engine.

Scattered throughout the grounds of the winery were two dozen custom motorcycle builds from world-renowned shops including Brat Style and Revival Cycles, and one of the builds that garnered the most attention was the one-off SUPER73-RX “Malibu” made in collaboration with Rolands Sands Design.

Roland said, “The Malibu was inspired by my kids and my life by the beach. We moved the battery to the lower frame tube for a lower center of gravity, and crafted a long seat that makes it easy to carry a couple of kids when you’re headed to the surf. The color scheme is inspired by a SoCal sunset and wraps the whole build all together.”

Under a huge tent in the heart of the Doffo Winery, SUPER73 hosted an art show described as “not a curation but rather an expression of how we feel, of our truest selves … a community of reckless adventurers who refuse to conform, who love deeply and do not fear our shadows.”

 The installation included paintings from artists Adara Dillabaugh, Ewa Moss, Kaitlin Ziesmer, and Ryan Quickfall; photography by California-based shooters Jeff Stockwell, Kev Bennett, and Rob Williamson; and hand-drawn illustrations by three SUPER73 employees:

"What's Up" by Karoline Davidian
"Electric Attraction" by Lucian Lee
"Fossil Fuels" by Chris Nelson

A few steps away from the art show was SUPER73’s “The Grape Escape” time trials course. For both days of the Moto Ranch Invitational the registration booth at the start-finish line was constantly swarmed by people who hoped to turn the hottest lap time and win a $1,000 gift card to SUPER73. Early on the first day of the event, SUPER73’s director of product development William Weppner rode like a banshee and threw down a one-minute lap, which became the time to beat.

More than 50 people rode SUPER73-RXs around “The Grape Escape” time trials course, but it seemed no one would beat Weppner’s time; Royal Enfield-sponsored racer Johnny Lewis came close with a lap time of 1:01.448, reigning Pikes Peak “King of the Mountain” Rennie Scaysbroook did his best lap in 1:04:996, and ex-racer Jamie Robinson crashed really hard as he chased a sub-minute mark. Then 26-year-old flat-track racer Andy DiBrino rolled up to the start-finish line and crushed his lap in just under one minute, and took home the big prize.

The Moto Ranch Invitational closed out with whiskey tastings, hot-air balloon rides on a full moon night, and a funkadelic musical performance by Wargirl. As I said my goodbyes to colleagues and friends, one of the guys from the Roland Sands Crew walked up to me, thanked me, and said, “‘The Grape Escape’ was the best part of this event, hands down.” I agreed  wholeheartedly but replied, “I definitely to be in better shape before I try that again.”

 

Thanks to Doffo Winery and the Roland Sands Design crew for having us be part of this spectacular event!