2nd March 2012
Classic Motorcycling meets Kustom Kuture at Ally Pally; think spotless Vincents next to bobbed Hondas. Martin Gelder went along to see if it was a marriage made in heaven or a muddled up medley...
The classic motorcycling world is a fairly small one. Go to more than a couple of shows a year and you'll see the same bikes, the same traders selling the same stock and the same faces avoiding the same burgers. I suspect that the world of custom bikes is the same. The more shows you go to, the less there is new to see.
But what if the two worlds were to collide? What if there was a show, in the middle of winter, where the classic people got to see some crazy custom creations, and the custom people got to see some classic bikes that hadn't been reduced to their component parts and dipped in chrome? What if that show was held at Alexandra Palace last weekend? Would you have gone?
Well I went, and I think I saw the future.'Road Shark' built by John Holt in 2007..
No, not the future in hand-beaten aluminium, but the future of classic motorcycling. Young people, interested in bikes. Young men and young women. Imagine that. And they're not just interested in motorbikes as commodities; they want to tinker, to fix, to improve, to fettle and to ride. They're the classic motorcyclists of the future, if you ask me. Let me explain why.
I like Blues music. I like it because I discovered it for myself; if someone had told me to like it because they said it was good, I'd have hated it. And I discovered The Blues for myself through listening to the pop music of the time. I followed the trail back from the commercial contemporary music of my teens to the bands and musicians that had been their influences. It took time, and I had to do it at my own pace, but it was an enlightening journey that wouldn't have started if I hadn't listened to what was fashionable when I was a teenager.
In the same way, the twenty year old guys with the piercings and tattoos and bobbed Honda Super Dreams are on the path to discovering the bikes that we call classics today. They're into bikes now because they're fashionable, but talking to them it's obvious that the love for motorcycles is as strong in them as it is any of us. They'll still be riding bikes in 30 years time, but by then I suspect they'll have well restored classics sat next to their chopped projects.
In some ways, the classic element of this year's Ally Pally show sat slightly uncomfortably next to the custom element, like folk musicians at a country music fair; same instruments, different tunes. Overall, though, the effect was like a breath - no, a gust - of fresh air. There were even cars there; fancy that.
The halls weren't crowded - some would say they were half empty - but that added to the laid back atmosphere of the event. There was certainly no shortage of paying customers - at one o'clock on Sunday the line of people waiting to buy tickets stretched round the entrance hall and out of the doors. For a bike show in winter, in the middle of a harsh recession, that was encouraging.
Most encouraging, though, was the feeling that I was mixing with people who were making motorcycling hip again. And that can only be a good thing for all of us. Just go easy on the fake patina, guys...
Words and photos: Martin Gelder
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