Moto Talbott Collection and a chance meeting with Wayne Rainey

A lineup of classic flat trackers. On the right Kenny Robert's '74 title winning XS 650 based Yamaha.

Text + Photos: Mike Blanchard

Spotlight  |  Collector Robert Talbott’s motorcycle museum, the Moto Talbott Collection, is located in Carmel Village, an uber-hip slightly western crossroads in Carmel Valley. The collection resides in an L shaped building under large oak trees. Vintage motorcycles mounted on steel poles rise above the stylish fence surrounding the compound. Large Ducati racing banners line the fence on the west side of the parking lot. Out in the driveway a ’65 MV Transporto three-wheeled truck greets visitors.

An Airstream trailer and ten or twelve motorcycles lounge around near the shop and on the deeply shaded porch propped up against the wall. It is clear from the parking lot alone that Talbott is in love with Italian motorcycles. There is a Gilera on a pole and a couple small MV Agustas by the front door. Talbott has significant motorcycles from all over the world but the bulk of the collection’s 150 plus bikes are Italian. 

The museum opened in late 2016 to critical acclaim from motorcyclists and the press. When you walk in you are struck by a riot of color and form. The bikes sit like sculpture loosely grouped by theme. Motorcycles sit in racks of four along the wall. The thing that grabs your attention right off the bat is the world championship winning 1957 FB Mondial 125. It is stunning in its blue and silver dustbin fairing surrounded by a gaggle of red small bore Italian race bikes from the ‘40s through the ‘60s. 

There sits the oldest known BMW race bike, the 1925 R37. There sits Von Dutch’s Triumph bobber. Here is an orange Laverda SFC 750 twin personally delivered by Massimo Laverda and only ever riden by him. There on a rack is the only Devil four stroke race bike ever built. In a corner is the fastest Scott Flying Squirrel on the west coast. There is Kenny Roberts’ title winning Yamaha XS650 based flat tracker. 

There are newer motorcycles as well. Kenny Roberts’ Yamaha OW35 on which he won his first world championship in 1978 sits front and center. “The bike showed up in the back of a pickup,” docent Richard Watson said, “We didn’t even know it was coming. It just showed up. That’s Kenny.” Watson is a charming and hospitable guide to the museum. He has a great deal of knowledge about the bikes, many of which are one of a kind or have significant racing or cultural history, and he is happy to let you in on their storys.  

There are three rooms of motorcycles. Upstairs are the road machines and downstairs are the dirt bikes and flat track racers as well as some of the overflow of road bikes.

Next to Roberts’ OW35 is the 1990 YZR500 Yamaha Wayne Rainey rode to his first premier class world championship for team Roberts. Across the isle sits an MV Agusta F4 that was run by the factory at Bonneville. It set a record at over 180 MPH and was donated to the collection by the manufacturer.

Watson proudly points out a perfect super low mileage completely original un-touched ’77 MV Agusta 850ss. The MV is one of the holy grails of Italian bike collectors. “Bob had been looking for one of these for years,” Watson says, “A friend found it in Italy. It was sitting in some guys living room.”

There are three rooms of motorcycles. Upstairs are the road machines and downstairs are the dirt bikes and flat track racers as well as some of the overflow of road bikes. The walls are covered with large blow ups of period photos, old racing posters and other memorabilia. Most of the bikes are beautifully restored but Talbot is not afraid to let a bike have its history and a number of them bear the patina of racing combat.

Talbott is an avid cyclist and around the top of the room are hung his collection of bicycles both vintage and new.

In the back room a large flatbed truck bears a radial aircraft engine on a stand. At one and of the building is the shop where the bikes are maintained by the collection’s curator and restorer Bobby Weindorf, ex of the Honda road racing and super cross teams. Weindorf also did time with Fast By Ferracci and Erion Racing. He had a motorcycle dealership in Santa Barbara where he began restoring bikes. He met Rob Talbott through a fellow collector and was eventually enticed to move up the coast to be the curator and head wrench of Talbott’s collection. 

As we poked around the collection a group of riders on small Italian bikes pull in to the shade of the shop area and get off their bikes to stretch and pull off their helmets. One asks “How far did we ride?” His friends laugh and joke with him.

The facility is set up to be a gathering place and a destination for riders and friends. It’s a place where you could expect anyone to show up, especially on a Sunday afternoon.

The facility is set up to be a gathering place and a destination for riders and friends. It’s a place where you could expect anyone to show up, especially on a Sunday afternoon. When we returned from enjoying the motorcycles in the basement there was three time world champion  Wayne Rainey and his wife talking with Weindorf and inspecting the YZR5000.

They are talking about a strange drop of black tar-like fluid that appeared recently on the rear wheel. It seemed to have leaked from the rear brake caliper area. Rainey explains that the orange and white number 2 Marlboro liveried bike was never intended to leave Yamaha’s possession so it is exactly as it was when he won his championship. It was pulled out of the race shop and sent to California. 

As he looked it over Rainey explained the that the rear brakes are Nissin but the front has AP calipers. The bike sports carbon fiber discs with carbon fiber covers to retain heat. In wet races larger cast iron discs were substituted and the forks have alternate caliper mounting points to accommodate them.  

“When you went out with the carbon discs, when they were cold, you would hit the brakes, the bike would keep going, you would be wanting to drag your feet,” Rainey laughed.”But when they warmed up they really worked.”   

“When I had my accident they gave me this bike. I got the ’91 bike as well. I tried to get the last one but they wouldn’t go for that.” Rainey said. “I should probably start it. It hasn’t been run for five years.” 

Three time world champion Wayne Rainey and the bike he rode to his first world championship in 1991. The fearsome two stroke  Yamaha YZR500. Rainey is still very involved in racing as the supremo of the new racing organization Moto America. 

Rainey was eager to talk about Moto America, the new race sanctioning body that he is heading. “Are you going to the race coming up at Sears Point?” he asked with a stare that said, you better be. Over the last few years, big league American road racing has been slowly dying. Internal feuding within the AMA and manufacturers pulling out over last minute and unrealistic rules changes have hurt the chances for American riders to make it at the international level. Rainey and Moto America are aiming to turn that slide around.

“Considering where we were, we’re doing good. We wanted to get it stable and we have done that,” he said. “But we have to market and build an audience. We have to take it to the next level.” 

“We have Honda back. In Superbike we have the same rules as World Superbike, and we have five factory riders,” Rainey said, “We mostly work to make the classes competitive. We have to get our thing competitive. Cost caps on ignition and suspension, I think that is why it is so competitive. It’s coming. But we have to remember where we were and where we are going.”

Rainey says one of the most competitive classes is the KTM RC390 group. “Did you see the KTM race? It’s like Moto 3, they are really…Dale Quarterly has a team. He has five riders,” Rainey says laughing. “He runs a tight ship, he doesn’t put up with anything, he’s on it. I think he spanks them.”

As the afternoon wears on, the heat and sunshine of Carmel Valley add a golden haze to the scene. We are surrounded by amazing moto bling talking with interesting, accomplished people about motorcycles. Rainey is one of the greats but he is just a regular guy, a very determined regular guy. He warmly bids goodbye and pulls himself from his wheelchair into the drivers seat of his mini van and drives off down Carmel Valley Road. Watson and Weindorf announce it’s closing time and begin closing up the museum. It’s a quiet end to a magic moment. If you get down to the Monterey Peninsula take a trip out the valley and have your own magic experience.

You can find the Moto Talbott Collection at 4 East Carmel Valley Road in Carmel Valley, California. They are open Thursday through Sunday and you can call them at 831-659-5410

Check out www.motoamerica.com. Find a race to go to.