Okay Rockers, mockers and shockers! It’s the obligatory “What we did on our hols” story. I won’t bore you with the details of the flight to ol’ Blighty. Suffice to say, it was horrendously tedious, but we got there EVENTUALLY.
As this was my first trip back since the age of eight, much time was spent catching up with relatives in Burton-on-Trent, smack bang in the middle of England. While staying with my cousin Ian and family, I was introduced to the “Gypsy of Bell House Lane”, Ronnie Coxon, who has raced on almost every circuit in Britain and the Continent through the sixties and seventies. Now semi-retired, he still keeps busy in his shed tinkering with his bikes. I was surprised to find enough parts in this shed to build three A65 Beezas, including a Devimead 750 roller bearing motor! Among more together bikes were a Velo Venom, G80 Matchy, G3 Matchy and an A65 sidecar racer. Ronnie and family are good people and made our stay all the more enjoyable. I spent many a quiet afternoon talkin’ bikes at Ronnie’s. They make a living doing horse-drawn weddings and funerals, and own some beautifully restored carriages.
Karl with Ronny Coxon in ‘The Shed’
He likes a beer does Doug.
Made the trek to London. A couple of hours on the VFT, and stayed with some muso friends in Willesden Green. I decided one morning to walk the three miles to Stonebridge Park in search of the Ace Café. This was a weekday, and when I found it it was closed. Went back on the w/end and met the owner Mark Willsmore, who gave us the royal tour of the building, detailing the plans afoot, and the hurdles he faced. The most fun was seeing his archives of newspaper clippings photos and letters dating back to the thirties. His collection of original “Rocker” jackets also had my undivided attention. This guy is PASSIONATE! And lucky for us! Good luck Mark. I must also mention Mark’s own copy of Johnny Stuarts “Rockers” book, which is full of circles and arrows indicating who is who. Names and dates provided by visitors who remembered so and so, and such and such.
Ace regular, Pete, takes a trophy for his BSA R/R
While in London we did the London Motorcycle Museum. Not a large place, but some very interesting bikes, such as the prototype Trident. Essentially a ‘65 Bonnie with a triple motor fitted. A very nice A65 proddy racer and some rare vintage stuff.
We stayed with cousin Kev in Crouch End for a few days, who is a filmmaker/ scriptwriter, and likes a drink too! Then it was off to Brighton for Ace Weekender. Friday night was great. The River boys did straight ahead rockabilly, while the Space Cadets were anything but straight ahead, more psychobilly, fast stuff – “flat out like a lizard drinkin’ “. We met some cool people from Germany and France, a really friendly bunch. Saturday we explored Brighton. It’s a really lively place, with lots of entertainment and it goes all night. In the afternoon we hung out at the campsite and checked out everyone’s bikes. That night the racecourse was packed, and I was looking forward to seeing the legendary Crazy Cavan in action. Cavan didn’t disappoint, with his high energy R&R. These guys shake like a freight train! The biggest surprise was the Rapiers, who I’d only heard of. These guys are original rockers. They were riding back in the ‘60s, and still do! But they don’t do rockabilly. It’s mostly instrumentals from their youth. Beautiful, seamless renditions of Shadows tunes and the like. They blew me away!!!
Sunday morning Del and I were down on Madeira Drive at 10 am to see the first bikes roll in. I was armed with a video camera and put it to good use. It would be unreal to expect that every bike to turn up would be a ‘60s café racer. However, Tritons were plentiful, as well as BSA A10s (these would have to be runners up in the café racer stakes). The percentage of British to other machines echoes what we have here, with the majority still being Japanese. Something for everyone the catchphrase. By midday there was a row of bikes either side of the street the full length of Madeira Drive, and by 1pm there were another two rows down the centre. I’ve never seen so many bikes in one place before. Del and I met up with Pete and Andy, and went over to the 59 Club tent to join up. This was a treat for me, as I’d wanted to join since I first found out about them twenty years ago, but I made it a condition that I would only join in person, and, if I got to England. Finally got “that badge”!
It was a fun weekend, and the highlight of our trip.
Back in the midlands and off up to Matlock Bath. This is a lovely historical village in the hills, and a Mecca for motorcyclists. We arrived to see a mile long row of bikes parked in the street, and their owners, in their dayglow racing leathers peeled off to the waist, flexing their muscles in the shop windows. This tainted an otherwise great vibe! I spoke to one friendly fellow and his wife, who said it’s been a haven for riders since the ‘50s, and they had met here back then, and came back at least once a year since.
On the way back to Burton, we stopped in at Darley Moor, to watch the Classic races. Some of the spectators had some sexy machinery, but nothing compared to the bikes in the pits. I went for a wander, and came upon a row of about half a dozen Gold Stars, and on the end an original Thruxton Bonnie! “Pinch me I’m dreaming”.
Got a possie near a 90deg right hander and watched some serious dicing between a Matchy CSR and BSA A65 outfits. I won’t say who won, as it’ll upset Arby. Whoops!
Karl with Sammy Miller’s Matchless
That concludes the travelogue. All that’s left to say is………GO THERE!
At least once. Karl.