A Celebration of Motorcycles on the Move!
By Mark Turner of Blacktop Media.
On a windswept weekend in October at the Lydden Hill Race Circuit in Kent UK, I attended a pretty damn special event; a celebration of motorcycles and the people that build, own and ride them. Hosted by none other than The Bike Shed MC, the event offered something for all tastes.
It was an eclectic series of races, both on track and off-road, a trade village, busy paddock and a host of manufacturers showing off their current and new models and even offering test rides.
Weather conditions weren’t desperately kind with sunny spells, interspersed with rainy showers which made racing challenging, to say the least. One minute you were bathed in glorious sunshine, the next cowering from the rain under your umbrella.
The racing format was innovative and imaginative. Non-stop, fast-paced racing and such a diverse range of classes ensured an action-packed timetable. Classes were created for the most random but fantastic collection of racers. For example, there was a race called “Commuter Cup.”
This class is open to riders wearing hi-vis, riding motorcycles with panniers and top boxes. Overtakes must be made with indication, or the place had to be yielded. Come on, that’s pretty damn cool, isn’t it?
Other classes included the Café Racer Cup, aimed at modern, custom and retro cafe racers, with clip-ons, single seats, and rearset pegs. Round, oval or square headlights were allowed, but no fully-faired monstrosities.
The Street Cup race was for naked street bikes, custom or standard, but not supernakeds or faired sportbikes. Easy Rider Cup was set up for customs, cruisers, choppers, and bobbers. High-bars and feet-forward roadsters is the name of the game here.
The Herald L-Plate Cup – for newbies on 125s and the Vintage Cup was as described, for proper vintage bikes. People that should know better, you could say.
I did receive an invite to take part in the Journo Cup, a race for Journos and ex-champs on borrowed (press fleet) bikes they have managed to blag from the manufacturers. Unfortunately (or fortunately), I wasn’t able to borrow a bike so I didn’t compete. Probably for the best.
Another unusual race format was the part tarmac/part dirt race, the Dirt Bike Cup for scramblers, street trackers, and older twin shock supermotos.
If this wasn’t enough for you, the Malle Team were there again running their Malle trials on the hill, inside the circuit.
BikeShed put on a cool, polished and well-organised event, but it would be nothing without the competitors. Bikes in attendance ranged from the sublime to the unsightly. A casual walk through the open pits brought you face to face with the type of two-wheeled creations as beautiful as any painting that graces the walls of the finest museums, and some that were not.
There were more than a few beautiful, hand-built creations that had clearly soaked up many hundreds of hours of highly skilled labor. The builders were brave men indeed — journeymen, prepared to risk their labors of love on track to entertain the crowd. The artisans took their handcrafted, works of art and raced them in the rain. “Are you not entertained?”
At the other end of the spectrum, some of the bikes look like they have just been fished out of a river. Honest, shed-built, no-frills bikes ridden by genuine enthusiasts.
There were a couple of motorcycles that particularly caught my eye. One such machine was the Storik ‘Rafale’ Triumph Cafe Racer. The bodywork is all hand-beaten aluminium. It’s one of those bikes where, the more you look, the more you see. It’s absolutely beautiful and the builder Laurent is such a nice guy.
There was an old Kawazaki GPZ that looked pretty ropey, parked in the paddock. Sorry to the owner, I mean no disrespect. However, this was brilliant to watch on track. The rider rode the wheels off the thing, wringing its neck. Glorious to watch.
One guy had a shed-built Triumph Daytona T959 cafe racer. Another bike that was easily overlooked but man, that thing was so something to behold on track.
I met a really cool guy called Vince Cheeseman who was there with his tracker-style Triumph. Vince had a fascinating, petrol-fueled history and let me waste too much of his time listening to his stories.
For me, this is one of the coolest things about this type of event. The characters are fascinating.
Royal Enfield fielded a pair of beautiful Harris bikes that were drop-dead gorgeous, and by far the fastest bikes on track. Unfortunately, one of the pro riders threw one of them down the road, ending his race early. The other went on to win with ease.
Flicking through the pictures from the event leaves me pining for the amazing atmosphere, sharing the experience with brothers in arms, making friends and watching some amazing racing.
If you are around next year, maybe I’ll see you there. It’s worth the trip.