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15th July 2011


Festival of 1000 Bikes - Why You Need To Go Next Year
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It's all about the bikes, and it's all about the riding. One week on, Martin Gelder is still buzzing from the VMCC's classic motorcycle extravaganza at Mallory Park...

Motorcycle. A motor, a cycle. The motor moves the cycle, the cycle goes round. So a motorcycle should be something that moves around. Sounds obvious, really.

And it explains why the VMCC's Mallory Park Festival of 1000 Bikes is so good. The bikes - more than a thousand of them, this year - move. You can sit and watch them move past you, all day Saturday and all day Sunday. Or you can get on your own bike and take part in the movement.

An Indian, a Honda CB750 and a Moto Guzzi Monza or Imola; all to be seen out on track on Saturday...

All bike shows should be like this. Yes, there are static displays, but a fair proportion of the bikes parked up on the many and various owners club stands are likely to be seen in action at some point over the weekend as well. The motorcycles at this show are there to be ridden.

And then there's the multiplicity. This isn't a festival of 1000 British bikes, or a festival of 1000 ex-racing bikes, or a festival of 1000 completely standard bikes, or a festival of 1000 restored to within an inch of their life bikes, it's a festival of 1000 ridden bikes. The vast majority - although not all - are VMCC eligible and so over 25 years old, but beyond that variety is the spice of the festival.

This tasty BSA chop was out on track a couple of times...

I signed up for three sessions on my 1982 Moto Morini 350 Sport and was on track with a bewildering selection of machines that someone had decided were compatible. Scrolling through the official track photographers' images of one of my sessions unfolds a magnificently random set of machines.

A Morini, a Velocette single, a BSA A10, a Honda XBR500, a Scott twin, a Triumph Thunderbird, a "Gilette" home-built Mobylette/Gilera special, a Norton single, a 'Bobbed' Ariel single, an Ariel Arrow, a Honda XBR500, a Moto Guzzi V50, an early Honda CB750 four, another Triumph twin that might be a Daytona, and on, and on.

Morinis bikes on Right Now......

And that's just part of one of the "medium" speed groups. Everything from the smallest cycle-motors to former world champions on ex-Grand Prix machines could be seen on track at some point. And then there's the Grass Track sessions, the Trials arena, the Sprint demonstration, the sidecars...

As was this Cal Raybourn Harley Davidson...

There are dozens of club stands, there's an autojumble, there are chances to meet the stars of past decades, there's real ale in the beer tent and a surprisingly good fireworks display on Saturday night but all of that is - to me - secondary to the action on the circuit.

Thousands of spectators pass through the gates each day, but the Festival of 1000 Bikes always feels like it's an event laid on for the participants. Tall tales are traded in the bar at the end of each day's riding, and spanners and sympathy are swapped in the paddocks and the campsites between sessions. It's all about taking part, and I'm convinced that this reflected in the atmosphere of the event. People aren't there to count rivets or critique originality, they're there to ride, and they're there to enjoy doing it.

BSA C15 or Suzuki GS550? Better sit down while you decide...

If you're thinking of going next year, and you've got a bike that's even loosely suitable for riding on the track (Has it got wheels and an engine? It'll do) then you should sign up as soon as the entries open. Put your bike in for a track session and you'll receive passes that get two adults and one vehicle into the event and free camping; it's as cheap as just going along as a spectator. If you ride an old bike, you'll love it.

Words and pictures: Martin Gelder

Good weather helps...

VMCC Festival of 1000 Bikes website: www.vmcc.net/1000bikes/

More photos from RealClassic Message Board regulars The Mighty Gusset and Hazel:

  • www.flickr.com/photos/8742107@N02/sets/72157627155883286/show/
  • www.flickr.com//photos/bsanorthstaffs/sets/72157627158577878/show/

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