By Mark Turner of Blacktop Media. Photos by Daisy Turner (Age 13).
Nestled in the protective bosom of Kevington Hall just outside London in the UK, hidden in the unspoiled, peaceful, rolling countryside where the morning breeze gently caresses the pendulous, sagging tree branches, heavy with lush green leaves, lies one of the greatest and most inappropriate motorcycle events I have ever had the pleasure to be part of: The Malle Mile.
Now in its fifth year, the Malle Mile is a celebration of the diversity, individuality, and creativity of our dysfunctional, maladjusted family of devoted and welcoming motorcycle addicts. There’s no room for discrimination, everyone is equal. There’s no bourgeoisie, no proletariat, all are kings and queens, all are part of the same rabble, kith and kin.
The Malle Mile is a motorcycle event, a racing festival if you will. A celebration of the motorcycle in all its forms, and I mean all its forms. Stretch scooters with knobblies on, crazy homemade bikes with balloon tyres, one-off custom works of art covered in mud, old trials bikes, classics from a bygone era, and just about anything else you can think of.
Held over 3 days, there is a steady diet of inappropriate motorcycle racing. The programme includes sprint races, hill climbing, the Malle 100, the Derby and even MotoPolo. Races are all held on dirt (or mud this year) and run with enthusiasm, respect, and most of all, a smile…oh, and this year, it rained.
All in all, something like 450 motorcycles race over the weekend on a “run what you brung” style. The organisers of the Malle Mile event are proud of their ethos; everyone is invited to race anything on 2 wheels and no one is expected to win.
The sprint races and hill climbs are run side by side, rider and machine versus rider and machine, locked in mortal combat.
The sprint course is a 1/8 mile grass track sprint race on the flat. It is a straightforward drag race from the start line to the finish line, swinging around the hay bales in the middle.
The hill climb is a 1/8 mile slalom drag race, also run side by side in a steep field. When the flag drops, competitors gun it, carving a path up the snaking course. The winner is the first past the flag at the top.
Both sprint and hill climb races start with competitors placing their left (clutch) hand on their helmet. When the flag drops, they grab the clutch, slam the bike in to gear and let rip.
MotoPolo is a hilarious team-based competition. Two teams go head to head, kind of like soccer but on motorcycles. No getting off the bike, no picking up the ball, only kicking allowed. The two teams were Malle London on a collection of random motorcycles, and team Royal Enfield, on a fleet of Royal Enfields.
The match seemed weighted in favour of Royal Enfield. Their bikes were good, their riders skillful, and the team seemed to have actual tactics. Malle London’s Team seemed more like a thrown-together collection of strangers on bikes they had just found or stolen. No matter!! Team Malle London simply wouldn’t be beaten. They battled on and on, staring defeat in the eyes and not backing down. The end result was a very hard earned draw 2-2.
The Malle Mile is a 1-mile dirt track circuit race, and takes place on a twisting, winding course in a farmers field. A LeMans start sets 10 competitors heading off into frenzied racing, often ending with bikes and bodies strewn along the course. Three or four laps later (I can’t remember) it’s over.
Sunday is the culmination of the weekend’s racing. Sundays races are run in a knockout style and by the end of days, when the 2-stroke haze has settled, the true champions are revealed for all to see. There seemed to be classes for ladies, men, lightweights, novice, customs, classics, and probably some others that I can remember.
On Saturday night we were treated to one of the most unique and spellbinding extravaganzas I’ve ever witnessed. “A sonic and visual spectacle not to miss” they said. One of Europe’s biggest electric motorcycle dealers, English Electric Motor Co, had brought along a selection of their electric bikes.
They raced them in spectacular fashion, in the dark, on the hill climb course. The bikes and riders were adorned with neon lights and the track was bathed in blue light.
An unearthly, ethereal soundtrack provided a chilling atmosphere while smoke bombs and smoke machines filled the air and shrouded the track. It was the highlight of the weekend and man, those electric bikes are fast!
I was at Malle Mile with my daughter Daisy who is only 13, which brought home to me the inclusive nature of the event and it’s devoted followers. We made some great new friends, caught up with old faces and talked motorcycles and shit until the early hours.
The guys at English Electric are a great bunch and let us shelter from the rain in their boudoir. Daisy even stole one of their Sur-Ron electric bikes for a ride around site.
We got talking to two guys who were there with a collection of old bikes. It was a kind of memorial meeting for them. Their dad used to own a bike shop and when he passed, the shop was sold but the brothers kept a few bikes. This was the first outing for the bikes since then. There was a James, a Villiers, a Greaves, and more. This is typical of the Malle Mile, it’s so much more that a motorcycle event to so many people.
The Clockwork orange guys — Pete, Paul and Mark, are some old faces we bumped in to. They’re awesome guys, it was great to catch up with them. Paul had his beautiful ‘73 Triumph 750 Bonneville and his ‘92/’93 CCM flat tracker.
Mark even let me ride around site on his ‘63 Triumph Tiger cub 200. What a cool guy.
Dane from GNAS was there with their wicked custom ‘99 KTM EXC 200 stink wheel. These guys reek of rock ‘n roll attitude and build some very cool bikes. We’ll have a feature on this bike very soon.
There’s so much more to the Malle Mile — live bands, guest speakers, an art exhibition and even more. I could go on and on, but for now, enjoy the pictures and maybe we’ll see you there next year.
Special note from the organizers:
“The Mile could not happen on the scale and with the sense of fun that it does without the support of our fantastic staff and volunteers. Building The Mile is another adventure altogether. Do you want to join our team of good looking, un-shaven, but well-scented race marshals in exchange for all-access weekend passes? Great, drop us a note! [email protected].”