One of my favourite films is the 1999 classic, 10 Things I Hate About You… based loosely on The Taming of the Shrew (which they forced me to ‘do’ for O-Levels. I think it’s by Shakespeare). The film even features a clueless motorcyclist, who narrowly avoids castration during an unplanned downhill excursion – so the bard was my kind of biker. In an early scene, the different high school tribes are introduced and that is my aim here: to give you a socially-distanced virtual tour of my local bike night.
This ritual is set in the carpark of an adventure playground, at a civilised distance of about 250 razor-edged speed bumps from any residential areas. It’s always surprisingly quiet, although a doughnutter may light up about once a season. He’ll be allowed perhaps 720 degrees before he gets told to catch himself on.
We sometimes benefit from a fast food van, but neither the van nor the food are, particularly. Though the facilities tend to be sparse, any night when it’s not actually tipping down will quickly be declared summer and a hundred or more machines will roll up. Every form of motorised bicycle is represented, although I haven’t yet seen an electric machine – maybe they are only rumours you hear in a tradeshow pavilion. In addition, there will be 3 wheeled vehicles and an occasional quadbike – it’s so open-minded that even cars are allowed in, if they promise to behave themselves and stay in the corner.
Several clubs and charities turn up with their tents and you’ll be lucky to escape without sponsoring a therapy dog, joining a pie-eating competition or giving the kiss of life to a rubber torso. Volunteering for organ transplant transport is a popular one… just don’t peek in those panniers.
Women-only clubs are now a thing, as are their raucous beaver in-jokes that have to be explained to me. Who knew that The Taming Of The Shrew was actually a symptom of institutionalised patriarchal gender oppression? (I’m joking, hahaha. Ha?) However, they do occasionally adopt me as a ride-out mascot, so I can’t complain. Or keep up.
We have Codgers aplenty who can be spotted arguing that disc brakes are merely a new-fangled fad. Who knows why they favour the once-orange, tarry coats of road menders? Maybe they prey on road menders. Fair enough.
Some overlap exists between tribes, in that the boiler-suited Beardies are related to the Codgers – although not genetically, please god. They also include a number of kilt wearers on Harleys… careful with that skean dhu bro’. Trike drivers resemble Thor on his way to Valhalla via the off licence. Dogs in tankbags are quite the thing amongst the facially hirsute. At least I think those were dogs.
I used to associate facial tattoos with productions like Devil Riders Hell Vengeance 2 – proof that C-movies do exist. Now, though, they remind me of our regular binman, a fellow bike night veteran. For many years, he would empty the bin, then cuddle our dog and feed her digestive biscuits and pork pie. (Naturally, said dog could detect an approaching bin lorry when it was still four streets away.) And at bike night, even that officially oppressed minority, the L-riders, are made welcome.
Some couple have always returned from an around the world trip on a Honda 90. The bike looks contemptuous of the mileage, while the riders look in need of a major service and a few years of catch-up gardening.
Inevitably, there are those riders who like to use the time-stamped tickets from parking machines to prove their blistering Iron Butt transit time for a straight run across several mid-sized European countries. At least one of these fellows will be riding a £30k machine whilst wearing a Primark cardigan. These guys are seriously committed – or in need of being committed, perhaps.
It’s true that I haven’t yet quite got up to speed with the nuances of local idiom, since the tribes often employ regional dialects (I suspect that no two bike nighters actually speak the same one).
Many of these folk will have stopped more than once to offer help to “yon Irish boy with the KTM who stopped on the bridge and was near greetin’.” A friendly thumbs-up signifies the same thing everywhere though, and certainly nobody needs a bike lock here. No thief would be stupid enough to attempt a theft with so many retired police inspectors present. Better not mention that whole car park ticket thing though. If anyone asks, just say it’s a liver delivery.