When I lived in Australia, I used to hate going to motorcycle shows.
Summertime motorcycle shows would be set up in a large hangar where the temperature hovered around a million degrees.
Parking was a nightmare, and you’d have to leave your bike miles away at the edge of a massive parking lot.
Then you’d trudge for half an hour in your leathers and boots under a blazing sun, back to the hangar.
On this delightfully sweaty trek, you’d try to ignore the circling packs of suspicious, aggressive policemen just itching to make an arrest.
Finally, you’d arrive at the hangar door: scowling, sunburned, and panting.
And the fun just kept on coming…
You’d better hope you’d made a large ATM withdrawal recently.
Because the security gorilla on the door wanted a large chunk of your cash as an entry fee.
He was grinning like a maniac.
Not because he was into bikes.
He was loving his moment of power over the hordes of biker scum.
By this stage, I was usually hopping mad.
Drenched in sweat, I stopped even caring about the bikes.
Back in those days, I honestly spent most motorcycle shows worrying whether our bike would still be in that distant parking lot when the ordeal was over.
But Some Motorbike Shows Happen in a Parallel Universe
Last weekend, I had an entirely new experience.
It transformed my understanding of what motorcycle shows could be.
The British Bike Show is held every year in the South Island of New Zealand.
It should come with a warning: ‘You Are About To Travel In Time’.
Because you really could be forgiven for thinking the year is suddenly 1965.
For a start, it’s held at an airfield in the countryside.
You stand around in gentle sunshine in the middle of a field, surrounded by beautiful British bikes.
If you get sick of all the motorcycles on display (he he) you can grab an amazing coffee, and wander through the museum packed with restored British aircraft from the 1920s and 30s.
The love of old British machinery is heavy in the air.
How to Tell if You’ve Time Travelled at Motorcycle Shows
Wandering around grinning in the sunshine, I started to notice some telltale signs that this was in fact suddenly 1965.
Here’s the kind of thing you should watch out for – all dead giveaways…
- The bike show IS the parking lot
At this event, if you arrived on a British motorcycle, you didn’t need to worry about parking.
Just ride across the field, and park your bike in the line-up of other British bikes.
Your bike is now part of the show.
- There’s zero security
There are no packs of biker-hating policemen waiting to pounce.
There’s not a bouncer in sight.
And the crowd is perfectly behaved – 250 smiling, bike-loving folks chatting with complete strangers, and admiring the sunshine on chrome.
Piles of expensive bike gear lie around on the grass.
Top-of-the-line helmets dangle from handle bars.
Bike keys sit safely in the ignition of 200 bikes.
It’s 1965, remember?
- It’s free
There’s no entrance fee here.
It’s a field.
How many other motorcycle shows only cost you a tankful of gas and the price of a coffee?
- The bikes aren’t roped off, or displayed on untouchable mirrored platforms
The motorcycles are parked where their owners left them.
They’re not even arranged into categories.
That would require someone in a high-vis vest bustling around with a clipboard.
There’s none of that here.
Hundreds of gorgeous motorcycles are sitting right there in front of you, their side stands digging into the grass.
So you can walk right up to that Vincent that’s just arrived, and check it out up close.
Your mouth’s hanging open, a friendly stranger pointed out helpfully, as I stood there in the sunshine, ogling the Vincent with some little smudges of road dirt.
If only all motorcycle shows could give you the power to time travel.
Next year, I might have to look into getting some flared riding jeans.
And I really don’t know how I’ll fit my new beehive hairdo under my helmet…