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11th May 2004

Italian Day at the Ace Café

Real Mart catches a cold, turns up in a car, and has to deal with some awkward questions…...

"Why do people come here?" This is what happens when you go to a bike meet in a car with someone new to biking. We were only in the car because I had a stinking cold and had been talked out of riding 75 miles in Saturday's drizzle on a bike with Italian electrics and a seat like a vinyl plank. Then again, if I'd done that we probably wouldn't have made it all.

But back to the question my curvaceous companion had posed, and an answer. "Why? Well, it's mostly for the ride to get here, to be honest." We were threading our way between the ranks of Aprilias, Benellis, Ducatis, Guzzis, Laverdas and Morinis scattered around the Ace Café forecourt, looking for Bob or a cup of coffee, which ever came first.

Orange Laverda SF750 - Classic Italiana. As good as it gets.

"But why do they come here, rather than go somewhere nice?" A short history of the Ace Café followed, but my companion was obviously unimpressed; to her it just looked like the car park of a former tyre wholesaler. She probably had a point.

"Well there's the café - no, you're right, it is too busy to get served and yes, I suppose most people aren't going in there. But mostly people are just looking at the bikes, and talking about them."

"So what do you look at then?" These are all good questions, and to come up with if-you-have-to-ask-you-wouldn't-understand isn't really an option. I cast around at the crowd for inspiration, and then nearly trip over it.

It's impossible to appreciate the tinyness of this Benelli; use the indicators to get an idea of scale, and then think of Kylie's teeth.

"This Benelli 250 Quattro; I can't remember having seen one before apart from in pictures, but it sums up a brief period in late seventies motorcycle design - a cul-de-sac, but a very stylish one. And that Ducati 500 parallel twin - another rare and almost forgotten bike."

Ducati did the right thing sticking to Vees.

I'm on a roll now. "See that Gilera twin - I've never seen one of those before either. Or the Motobi next to it. And they're from a period when engineering innovation and styling were running a bit wild - manufacturers would try something just to be different, just to stand out."

Guzzi Lodola gets the seat bounce test, while (l to r) a Motobi, Gilera and Laverda avoid eye contact.

"This place, on this slightly damp Sunday afternoon, is the best kind of museum you could hope for. All the exhibits work, all the curators are experts, and if we come back next year - or even next Sunday - it'll be completely different. Now, do you want to go and get a coffee?"

Morini Tresette, keeping it Real.

"Only if you want to. That Morini isn't the same one as you've got, is it?"

There is a God.

From a distance I thought this was an Aermacchi engine; close up I don't think I can even spell Aermacchi...

350 Sport or Strada; what does God ride?


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