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31st October 2005


Opinion: Judge Dread - The Ardingly RealClassic Bike Show

"It seemed that the real show was out here in the bike park, in the rain." Anarchy at Ardingly...

Another great event full of lovely shiny classic motorcycles and friendly faces. To ensure the predicted torrential rain would stay away I hitched a lift by car that also provided ample room for some fab bargain purchases.

Now then, this is a show, not just an auto jumble, and carefully lined up were an impressive selection of pride and joys.

Plaques were up for grabs for the chosen exceptional motorcycles and the entrants seemed eager to claim these favoured prizes.

A couple of Mugs. On the table, next to the magazines.

This is where I realised that I don't understand this mystic, possibly pagan, Classic motorcycle selection process. From what seems an impossibly eclectic selection of rides, a Noted Expert must select the prize winners, including a best in show.

I try to fake the task of Noted Expert in my mind and weave in and out of the motorcycles noting incorrect paint, some fantastic detailing, oily rag offerings and labours of love. What on earth do you mark high for? Originality or condition? Rarity or excellence? How do these esteemed and respected judges do it? Do you simply vote high for red bikes and low for green bikes?

Myself (and of course this is simply a very personal opinion), I veer away from blatantly incorrect paint. This is quite hard to do some times as you can see the blood sweat and tears that has gone into a freshly restored motorcycle but the vibrant two-pack plastic paint just shouts naff and spoils an otherwise lovely restoration.

I also quickly lose interest in bikes that have clearly never been ridden; painstakingly restored with the cleanest surfaces, ever under the fenders. Such bikes have mutated and morphed from 'spirited machine' to some strange frozen-in-time 'static ornament'; what a dreadful shame. Before and after photos decorate the crime scene.

Many of the bikes are from wildly different eras and design cultures; how on earth can you equate the two in terms of a 'best in show'?

Wrong pipes, but nothing a contemporary owner wouldn't have done in 1978.

How is a seemingly perfect (bar incorrect pipes) Kawasaki KH250 better or worse than a Triumph speed twin, albeit with not quite the correct shade of paint?

I sought advice from a Noted Expert. It seemed that the bike of the show was likely to be an as new, red of course ;o) Norton Commando that had never been ridden, with zero miles on the clock.

Unridden. A waste?

Now this I truly don't understand. Surely a bike that has never been ridden is merely an unfinished collection of new motorcycle parts? Where is the spirit, the life, and the passion in the bike? I question what the keeper of the bike has contributed to this entrant.

But of course as I said before I haven't a clue about the seemingly impossible task of judging such an impossible contest. I'm not an expert in anything in this field really.

So I fled the scene with my chastisement ringing in my ears and sought solace in the bikes parked up around the show. This felt better. 'Real bikes' owned by 'Real riders' who had eschewed the certain bad weather and heavy rain to ride, yes ride, to the show. Much better; everyone on the same level playing field, owning, riding, and actively enjoying these interesting and just as wildly different bikes.

And there were gems, oh yes.

Sparkling orbs of colour and light. Motorcycles that were such beacons of gorgeousness that you had to simply stop dead and let the shapes, the alloy paint and chrome feel your heart and soul for a moment.

Note boot about to stamp on Laverda tank...

The clutch of two Ducatis and a Laverda, I believe owned by the same lucky person, stood out as the bikes of the show in my eyes. Probably unseen by most of the show visitors.

Stunning condition, emotive sounds and used with a passion.

It seemed, through my uninformed naive eyes, that the real show was out here in the bike park in the rain. It just shows what an impossible task it must be to be a show judge, a task I would certainly dread.

Anarchy.

Random Laverdas on eBay.co.uk

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