I used to hate going to motorcycle shows.
Back when I lived in Australia, summertime motorcycle shows were an ordeal.
They’d happen in a large metal hangar where the temperature hovered around a million degrees.
Parking was a nightmare.
You’d have to leave your bike miles away, at the edge of a massive, jam-packed parking lot.
Then you’d trudge for half an hour in your leathers and boots under a blazing sun, to get 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 motorcycles.
He was loving his moment of power over the hordes of biker scum.
By this point, I was usually hopping mad.
Drenched in sweat, I stopped even caring about the motorcycles.
I spent the next 4 hours worrying whether our bike would even still be there, all the way back in that distant parking lot when this horror was over.
Motorcycle shows don’t have to cost a fortune and be patrolled by troops of security gorillas.
They can be relaxed, friendly gatherings of motorcycle people and their beloved bikes.
And sometimes, a motorcycle show is so laid back, you might think you’ve gone back in time to when a simple love of motorcycles was enough.
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, this motorcycle show happens in an airfield in the countryside.
You stand around in gentle sunshine in the middle of a field, surrounded by beautiful British motorcycles.
If you get sick of all the motorcycles on display (he he) you can get a 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.
There are four signs to look out for.
1. The motorcycle show happens in the parking lot
At this motorbike show if you arrived on a British motorcycle, there are no parking problems.
Just ride across the field, and park in the line-up of other British bikes.
Your motorcycle is now part of the show.
There’s no-one telling you how to position your bike.
No-one’s shouting at you about parking in the wrong area.
There IS no ‘wrong’.
Park wherever you like.
It’s all good (maaan).
2. There are no security gorillas on patrol
At this motorcycle show, there’s no security.
There are no packs of biker-hating policemen waiting to pounce.
There’s not a bouncer in sight.
And there’s no need for one.
The crowd is perfectly behaved – 250 smiling, motorcycle-loving folks chatting with complete strangers, and admiring the sunshine glinting on chrome.
Piles of expensive motorcycle gear lie around in heaps on the grass.
Top-of-the-line motorcycle helmets dangle from handle bars.
Motorcycle keys sit safely in the ignition of 200 bikes.
It’s 1965, remember?
3. This motorcycle show is 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?
4. The motorcycles aren’t roped off, or displayed on untouchable mirrored platforms
At this motorbike show, 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, barking orders.
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 and its little smudges of road dirt.
If only all motorcycle shows could give you the power to time travel.
As you can imagine, this motorbike show has become an annual tradition for us and our biker friends.
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…
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