It has always seemed an odd meeting of minds – the Jack in the Green Festival, the Drummers, the Morris dancers… and the Bikers. Different tribes, different interests, different dress codes but they all seem to jostle along happily together. A real oddity of a social and cultural mix. But it seems to work – in fact it more than works. The different tribes coexist happily.
But what are the bikers about: they seem slightly at odds to it all. HOT reporter, Lauris Morgan-Griffiths, went to find out more about the bikers as this year they celebrate their 35th annual run into Hastings.
They come in their thousands. Literally. And every year they increase. In 2010 there were 10,000; 2011 – 46,000, 2012 – 58,500 and who knows how many will join the trail this year.
Mainly they come from the south east; some purr, others throatily roar their way down the A21. Some meet at Locksbottom in Kent or the 1066 Cafe Diner near Robertsbridge and more feed into the pack along the way.
Howard Martin, Director of Bike1066, is passionate about bikes – the proud owner of a Triumph Sprint and a Suzuki Yabusa –has done much to bring the motorcyle industry and bike enthusiasts together.
Howard was struck by the singularity of Hastings. He sees it as a very special place: one of the few remaining ungentrified seaside towns with its extraordinary energy, edginess; welcoming spirit, creativity and social mix – so he moved here at the end of last year. With his background in television, music and advertising, he can see the potential of Hastings as a tourist and leisure town but is also evangelical about contributing to the town’s regeneration. And he wants to help implement that through the bikers and the biking industry.
Sponsored by The Daily Telegraph and Brands Hatch Racing, on Bank Holiday Monday there will be exhibitions, stalls, as well as plenty of opportunity to talk and admire bikes. There will be a giant video screen in the town centre showing Super Bike Racing and Barry Sheene’s starring role in Silver Dream Racer. This year the event is celebrating the life of Barry Sheene. Sheene died of cancer in 2003 and did much to popularise bike racing as well as lobbying for better safety conditions for drivers.
The whole day is organised as a family event. And it’s free.
Bikers might look as if they stand around discussing bikes, routes and sprockets. They do. But they is also more to them than that. Not in the prime of their youth, bikers are mainly over 38 years of old and cover the gamut of the social scale: many are professionals, in the ABC1 demographic. 24% are female. And not only do they have their gleaming chrome bikes but also have cars, houses, families – they have a lifestyle they like to indulge, they have (out of recession) disposable income and they come to Hastings.
With this number of people coming into the town they want somewhere to spend their money. Howard Martin is quite critical of the lack of hotels in Hastings – “if these were doctors, designers, business people coming to Hastings in these numbers there would be an infrastructure to attract them, but people haven’t fully recognised the spending power of bikers.
His bike plans don’t stop with the annual trail.
He is keen to help train young people and the unemployed into jobs. He is introducing and assisting on courses at Hastings College and Hastings Trust on putting on events, security staff training.
Bank Holiday is not intended to stand as a once a year event. This summer he is launching Bike Nights on the first Thursday in the month attracting hundreds not thousands of bikers. Again, with the eye on regeneration – a sort of Meet and eat Fest. “Poole in Dorset runs similar Nights every Tuesday in the summer which has succeeded in attracting £7 million into the town.”
And if there are concerns about petty crime, violence and drunkenness, according to police records there has been very little evidence of that over the years.
So interesting times for bikers and Hastings. And that strange and wonderful juxtaposition of the mixing of the May Day tribes.
To learn more go to www.bike1066.com
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