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11th April 2005
The RealClassic Club in Action
So what is RealClassic, then? A website, a magazine, a roadshow - and what about this 'club' thing? Graham Ham offers explanation and an introduction to the Kent branch...
When the RealClassic website first hit our screens, following dark events at another magazine, it was received well and soon had a core of regulars loitering around on its message board. It didn't take too long for us to realise that here was an opportunity to do things differently. When the paper version was launched around a year later, the essential 'club' feeling that had grown amongst the web users was turned into reality - a RealClassic subscription would turn out to be much more than just paying to receive a magazine every month. Oh yes indeedy, a RealClassic subscription was going to give RealValue™.
Like any club, there are those who are happy to be on the periphery of things, enjoying the membership at a distance, making use of the discounts, the prize draw, the newsletter, the excellent read every month or just lurking on the message board to soak up the knowledge, humour and electronic camaraderie. For others, there is the chance to meet other members, people who you'd never have met if not for the active RC RoadShows or the suggested rendezvous at an upcoming event. RC shirts sold like hot cakes as members settled on an agreed method for identifying their fellow members.
Before long, club lore is writ, in the form of emerging tradition, so young already but set in stone for always. The JaffaNob was born, and is now an expected offering at any RC show or event. Flapjacks have crept into the frame and members drink 'Sporran' where normal mortals would settle for beer. The stripy tablecloth is surely with us to stay and it's an accepted fact that the standard greeting to any member, proudly showing off his pride and joy, is to earnestly offer the now immortalised '£100'.
Winding the clock on a year then, it's not surprising in the least to discover that just like any conventional motorcycle club, geographical groupings have emerged, the members from the localities have met up and become friends, and they are determined to have fun together in the pursuit of this, our favourite hobby. The thing has taken on a life of it's own, and it seems that there's no stopping it. Hurrah!
If I had any doubt about this, my chance to sample the phenomenon came whilst loitering about at the recent Ashford Classic show. There we were, stripy tablecloth flapping gently in the breeze, a steady trickle of RC clan members dropping by to partake of the sacred JaffaNob and some banter whilst FW offers each the now ritual £100 for their mounts, and before very long we are the centre of a happy group indeed. Introductions are constant as fellow members and message-board scribblers meet, some for the first time outside of cyber-space, and it's not long before the talk turns to bikes, rides and how about a local South-East bimble sometime?
I have probably just witnessed the birth of the RC South East section, because returning home that evening there is already a thread on the message board announcing an informal gathering of the faithful, a mid-week bimble, open to any who wish to turn up, and giving a meeting place and time. I had agreed at the show that should such an event be organised I would tag along and record the historic event for posterity, but in the event I had other commitments which prevented me from being able to get to the start point in time.
Kent Shaun, the nominal organiser, decides that if Mohammed can't get to the mountain, then the mountain shall come to Mohammed and with only a few lines of electronic collusion it is agreed that the bimble shall be to Broadstairs jetty, a stone's throw from me, and I shall join the group there with a view to bimbling with them in the afternoon.
And so it came to pass. I have discharged my other obligations by noon, the agreed rendezvous time at Broadstairs, and find myself threading my way down Ye Anciente Harbour street, overlooked by Bleak House of Dickens fame, and onto the equally ancient jetty. There before me are the results of Shaun's badgering on the site; his own BSA A10, a fine looking AJS single, another BSA of the A65 blend and an eighties Beemer. With 'Grandad' (AKA Spider, or Allan if you prefer) joining us on his mid fifties Speed Twin, and Daisy of course.
I park up amidst this fine gathering of splendid iron and go in search of the riders. They are, of course, ensconced at the tea-hut-cum-café at the end of the jetty, and as it's lunch time and this is the seaside they have ordered fish 'n' chips all round. Introductions are made once Grandad arrives, and it's heartening indeed to find that the gathering is made up of a fine geographical spread. Shaun has come from South-East London, we have KarlB (I'll stick to RC message board pseudonyms) from Ashford, ChazzyB from Surrey, ED from Kent and of course us two locals, Grandad and G&D. That makes six of us. Not bad for a mid-week gathering at short notice!
With the grub and a few mugs of tea duly consumed, and the weather promising to behave for the afternoon, it's time to bimble once more so I lead the happy group on a rather pleasant coastal cruise before heading inland to enjoy the Kentish lanes and a rather good traditional public house. This is no ordinary pub, if such a thing exists. No, this one has a particularly endearing quality for anyone riding a classic motorcycle, and before we had set off I had found myself having to explain what's in store for us when we get there. Nestling quietly in the green lanes to the South East of Canterbury is the superb little hamlet of Stodmarsh, which on the face of things is no more than a cluster of a dozen houses surrounded by rustic farmland. In its centre is Ye Olde Red Lion Inn, a worthy place indeed for a gathering of old bikes.
A delightful character named Robert is the proprietor of this House of Sporran, and he happens to be absolutely besotted with historic transportationary artefacts. His own particular pride and joys are the four wheeled variety, but he's a push-over for the two wheeled type as well. When I first came across this pub, some years ago now, I was amazed to find myself giving the slightly eccentric character a ride around the lanes after he had all but demanded one, and following his directions we had ended up at another watering hole buried in the countryside where he insisted on buying the ale. The same routine has been repeated on almost every subsequent visit, and has become a bit of a tradition. It was this rather quaint custom that I had warned my current colleagues about, particularly as Robert, bless 'im, tends to 'choose' his ride and virtually expects to be facilitated by the rider.
Once at the place, it doesn't take Robert long to abandon his bar to inspect the assembled offerings outside, and as usual he is hugely enthusiastic that we should have brought the things to his pub. He soon pops the question; 'Are we going for a ride then?' and not waiting for an answer he promptly 'chooses' Shaun's A10 as the preferred conveyance. He is only put off for a matter of seconds by the small fact that nobody has a spare crash helmet, disappearing momentarily to return wearing a black beret! Our group have a moment of indecision, but we're all agreed that a slow bimble around these tiny lanes will surely avoid the piercing eye of the Plod, and Shaun magnanimously agrees to allow Robert his pleasure.
I should have warned Shaun that Robert, in keeping with his general eccentricity, is an unorthodox pillion. He sits close, grinning madly as he peeks over one shoulder of his host, both arms wrapped tightly around the pilot's middle. The black beret finishes off the bizarre picture rather well, and without further ado we're off under Robert's directions to the small village of Ickham, a couple miles into the lanes. On arrival, Karl does the honours with the camera (silly beggar here forgot to bring one!) and Robert slaps a tenner on the bar, inviting us to 'make up the difference' for a round. A pleasant half hour is spent before it's time to take the old boy back to his own den, and here we finish off with a round of coffees in the bar. Robert simply won't here of us paying for it either. Top Man. Go visit him on your classic if you're ever in South East Kent - a warm welcome is assured.
So, a pleasant end to a very pleasant afternoon, we all agree, and the maiden outing of the RC South East Section is at an end. From here we split up to go our separate ways home, but one thing we've all agreed on is that it won't be long before the next one. Oh, and we're up for a camp at the Brenzett war museum on May 7th too. Marvellous.
Club RealClassic: Website? Magazine? Roadshow? Club? All of those, but potentially so much more - the rest is up to us!
NEWSFLASH! Watch this space (well, not this exact space, more like the main menu), for an announcement very soon about the first RealClassic Rally. Make a note in your diary on September 17th and 18th 2005, and keep an eye open for more info...
So. Who else wants to set up a RealClassic Club section?
Photos by Karl Bentley
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