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21st June 2004


Classics at Poole Quay

Russ Gannicott took a ride one Tuesday evening to the south coast, and discovered that a couple of thousand other people had done the same thing...

Have you ever wondered what it's like on Douglas prom during TT week but never managed to experience it? Ever imagined what two to three thousand bikes look and sound like when they're all crammed into half a mile of closed public highway? If you have, then take a trip to Poole Quay in Dorset on any Tuesday summer's evening and prepare to be amazed!

Sorry if that sounded like an advert from the local tourist board, but in many ways that is the message that the liberal-thinking Poole council are promoting. Poole Quay sits on the eastern edge of what is arguably the second or third largest natural harbour in the world and is steeped in maritime history… it also has rather a lot of pubs!

The seaside was never like this when I were a lad.

For years, the Quay has attracted riders; either as a meeting point for a ride, somewhere to pose, or for a night out in the many pubs that used to offer live music. A strange thing happened a few years back though. The amount of bikers visiting the Quay was on the increase and was occasionally causing the odd problem with tourists and other road users. So realising that they couldn't legislate against them, the council decided to embrace the idea and 'organise' them.

For once, this idea worked; with a designated night - Tuesday - and knowledgeable, enthusiastic marshals, the event has grown and grown. Riders are charged (for charity) a pound to park up, or a fiver for a season ticket and organisation is slick and smooth. Entitled 'Dream Machines' the weekly event now even attracts sponsorship from Crescent Suzuki.

Enough of the history, 'what about the bikes' I hear you ask. Well, needless to say, the vast majority are modern sports bikes along with a large turnout of customs and cruisers but if you look around you will always find a goodly number of oldies and classics. There were also some real oddballs there tonight as well; how about a troop of monkey bikes, from bog-stock through to a streetfighter with a swinging arm about thirty inches long; more trikes than you could shake a three pronged stick at, and a Boss Hoss. Now, don't misunderstand me, but I really can't get my head round these beasts. It's got to be a pretty limited market of people who want a bike with an 8.0-litre engine, ten gallon fuel tank, reverse gear, and dry weight of over 1100lbs. Oh yes, not to mention a price tag of anything up to $80,000… before you import it!

Back to reality; the classic turnout was interestingly mixed, but there still seems to be a gap. There were very few 'classic' Japanese bikes in evidence, just the odd Katana and CB750. I don't know where all the early Suzukis, Honda twins and Kwacker triples are, but they're sure not down here!

Nice to see a Brough getting used.

At one point there was a lovely Brough parked up next to an all black Speed Triple. Both bikes looked iconic in their own ways; both exuded an air of rebelliousness. For their respective eras they each seemed to say 'serious riders only'. Rocket Goldies (and RGS look-alikes) were in attendance and drawing more than their fair share of misty-eyed stares, as were a pair of half-litre Vincents. Slightly more understated was a beautiful Rudge Ulster. With the setting sun glinting off its alloy, chrome and nickel, this bike positively glowed.

No two Vincents are ever the same. Like snowflakes, but blacker.

What do you think of when you think of a Triton? Featherbed frame, alloy tank, clip-ons, rearsets, a pre-unit twin carb 500 motor? How about taking a bog standard Norton, fitting a Tickle brake plate and sticking a Triumph motor in it and gold leafing 'Triton' on the tank. Fantastic, and much the same way as it would have been done 'first time around'. I love to see bikes that look true to their era, whether original or recreated. It always saddens me when I hear of a bike which was modified by its owner back in the Sixties, being restored back to it's 'original' showroom condition. There are enough of those around already, and unless we're careful then we're going to obliterate a complete chunk of our motorcycle heritage by over-restoration.

Russ. Get down off that soap box. Looks nice though.

Right; off the soapbox and back to the bikes. The mysterious breeding of Sunbeams seems to be continuing. At first there was only one, a sidecar tug, in evidence, but when I looked round again another had mysteriously appeared. I'm starting to think they are alien landing craft which are slowly infiltrating sheds and roads around the country prior to an all-out invasion. I'm sure I've seen more in the last few years than ever left the factory!

Pastel shades and sidecars... Hmmm...

I'm sure a number of riders must have been cautious on their way down to the Quay having spotted a following police presence in their mirrors. Nothing to worry about though, it was RC stalwart Phil Cragg on his splendid Polizia V65 Moto Guzzi. Phil's got a second one of these under restoration at the moment… I can't wait to see them both out on the road together. I don't know what the Italian is for 'CHiPS', but I'm sure as hell going to find out just so I can wind him up!

JAP on the left, Rudge on the right.

If ever there was an engine that should have a permanent tribute to it in the Design Museum, it should be the ubiquitous JAP. In just about every guise those engines epitomised the perfect balance between form and function. They have a timeless quality about them and look as purposeful today as they did sixty years ago. Therefore it was great to see one in its natural habitat - a speedway frame - amongst a display of bikes by local (and national) heroes, Poole Pirates.

When men were men, and pudding came in a basin.

I could prattle on for hours about all the other bikes there, or how good the atmosphere is and even how easy it is to get served in the pubs, but I won't, best to get down one Tuesday and see for yourself. The event was best summed up for me by a couple in their seventies who were sat on a bench eating ice creams and watching the proceedings. They'd just come to visit Poole and had no idea about the bike event but told me they'd been sat there for the past two hours enjoying everything about it. The chap told me he hadn't ridden since the early sixties when he and his wife toured the country on their last bike; an Ariel Red Hunter.

'If we were forty years younger, we've decided we'd be here on that one,' he said, pointing to the black Speed Triple.

What would it be if you were a teenager again?

'Whoop, whoop, that's the sound of the police...' Obscure hip-hop reference no.341

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