Without wanting to state the obvious, scooter rallies have changed over the years; or more noticeably how some people attend and support the rallies has changed. For years, nearly everyone would set off as soon as they possibly could. Often Friday morning or straight from work. The journey to the rally was usually manic to say the least, and once there the scooter was usually parked up until the Sunday or Bank Holiday Monday mornings journey back home. The exception being if said scooter needed some sort of repair to make that journey home.
In more recent times, a large percentage of riders seem to be far more selective as to how many rallies they attend each year and for how long they stay at the rally. Day-trippers, or overnight visitors make up a massive part of the attendees – juggling home, family and work life between an ever-increasing scooter rally calendar is very difficult. Added to the fact that the average age of a rally-goer is well, let’s just say, well beyond our teenage years!
The flip side to the above observation is that some people choose to make a longer adventure out of a rally weekend, and on this occasion, I fell into that category, more on that at the end of the write-up.
Anybody that has ridden on the A68 road that links North Eastern England with Edinburgh will surely smile. It’s as close to a roller coaster ride as you will ever get whilst riding a scooter; exceptional scenery with some testing riding conditions thrown in for good measure. Arriving at the Scottish border there is always a steady stream of riders parked in the layby. It’s where many of them take the obligatory “I’ve made it to Scotland” photograph next to a big rock. This stop off signifies that Kelso is nearly in touching distance. The Scottish No1s are always a welcome sight at the Showground campsite; ever ready for banter, and dishing out generous goodie bags (if you’re one of the first 300) to arrive.
The campsite had a more hurried buzz than normal for a Friday afternoon – many were hurriedly erecting tents to then head over to the on-site Scooterists wedding, yes, you read it right, a wedding on a scooter campsite. Rally regulars, Terror and Karen from the North West of England, had decided to get hitched at the rally in the company of fellow Scooterists. They had already had their respective stag and hen nights at the previous National Rally in Weston Super Mare.
“When scooters are such a massive part of your life it seemed the logical thing to do”
…or at least I think that’s what the very drunken groom (Terror) tried to keep telling me over the course of the weekend? The happy couple seemed just that, and were also very grateful to the rally organisers for help in making their wedding happen at Kelso, especially as it was one of them, Alex who actually performed the ceremony. Congratulations to you both.
North Coast 500
The first bunch of scooterists I bumped into on Friday evening were members and friends of York SC. They had attended an LCGB member’s rally the weekend before in the North East of England and so instead of heading home after that they had set off on an epic journey following the coastline around the top of Scotland and calling in at Kelso on the way back down. They picked up more riders on the way and had very varied weather throughout the trip, a hard-core 10 days away from home for sure. Big respect.
VIDEO | Lexham Insurance at Kelso
With the rally in full swing at the showground, the headline act were The Gimme Gimme Gimme`s, playing punked up covers and hilarious parody versions of some songs that wouldn’t normally flag up as punk. Absolutely superb! The Scots can party as hard as anyone and the after party in the silent disco room, as ever, proves this. Many partygoers were bouncing about in there with more energy than people half our age.
Motorised beer garden
Saturday morning at the Borders Showground is my favourite part of the rally. It is the bit I keep referring to as the giant motorised beer garden. Scooters sparkling in the sun, and drinks flowing from sunrise onwards. What’s not to like? Loads of dealer stalls with old and new stuff for sale, and as is also the norm at Kelso, a very eclectic bunch of custom show entries. However, this year more riders than ever before seemed to be leaving for home. But, to fill the gaps they left, was a constant buzz of Saturday new arrivals.
Quite a few Kelso regulars were absent this year, possibly preparing for the forthcoming Euro Lambretta rally to Poland and World Vespa Days rally to Hungary. Again, proof of how varied and busy the scooter riders calendar can be. Walking around the campsite it was easy to spot at least another full custom show of modified and custom scoots just parked next to their owners’ tents.
The words ‘Custom show’ conjure up an image of the most outrageous paint and sparkling chrome and gold plate for most people, and this rally had all of that; well-ridden customs too. But this year’s Best in Show trophy winner was a quite subtle but very tidy 80s retro blue cutdown Lambretta – complete with old school reed manifold Amal carb and 250cc barrel. By no means the blingiest (is that a word) scooter in the show, but none the less, a very well executed custom, that proves just how nostalgia mad us scooterists are nowadays. Metalflake paint will never go out of fashion on the rallies either, and the paint on the Lammy chop Florida Girl was flawless.
The custom Lambrettas Avatar, This is Ull and Can’t Get Over These Memories are all ridden hard and far across the UK and all rightly won trophies for their owners. But, if I’d had the chance of owning one scooter from the show I would have had to toss a coin for either The DTC No73 GP (how can you not like Maca’s work?) or the well engineered LD Junk Yard Dog a rusty looking heavily modified ratter. Two very different scooters, but both would make me proud to call them mine.
Visitors to the show were also treated to the musical talents of “The Substitutes” – Scotland’s excellent tribute to the mighty Who. I’d forgotten how much I like The Who’s music, and this group certainly did them justice in a very very loud way.
The town of Kelso seemed a little quieter on Saturday evening than in previous years, but then the campsite seemed a little busier at the same time. As night fell the showground got a whole lot noisier and after the DJs worked their magic the headline act “Suspect Device” came on stage. I naively expected a Stiff Little Fingers tribute band with the name (not a bad thing I know) but I was pleasantly surprised to hear a massively mixed set of very popular punk covers. The Scottish No1s clubs know which formula works at this rally, and in my opinion they get the music and vibe just right. Although to be fair, they have had a good few years of practice at it. No silent disco room for me, just a fairly early retreat for the next day’s journey.
Now here’s the bit where I get a bit repetitive; I shout from the rooftops about the Kelso rally. I’ve always loved it. For me it has ALL the ingredients needed for a good weekend. Yes, some people say ‘same old same old’ but, I say (as I did last year) it’s the UK’s longest standing inland scooter rally for a very simple reason, IT’S A BLOODY GOOD RALLY. It has now also been promoted to the third longest running current National Scooter Rally in the calendar (Brid and Cleethorpes are gone, for now anyway).
We all know there is far more to the Scottish scooter scene than just Kelso. Millport, Ayr and Berwick to name just three, all host well-supported rallies. So, if Kelso isn’t your thing anymore maybe one of the others might be? I just hope that if or, when Kelso is replaced, it’s with an equally good event.
Leaving the campsite on Sunday morning, members of the organising clubs always man the gates to wave off us riders as we leave and bid us a safe journey. It’s a small gesture that goes a long way in my book. I would normally thank them for their weekend’s hard work and efforts at this point in the write-up, but I don’t feel the need to; the fact that we all turn up, buy a wristband, and enjoy their rally so much each year, is probably the only thanks they require. LONG LIVE THE SCOTTISH NATIONAL SCOOTER RALLY.
Anorak firmly on
On a final note, one of my many terrible traits is that I constantly bang on and reminisce about rallies gone by, or back in the day stories that probably bore my mates senseless. But, during one of these ramblings, I realised that I hadn’t been back to the town of Oban since the last National Rally there in May 1994, or to be more exact 25 years to the month of May. So I thought ‘that’s it – I will leave Kelso and head for Oban sight-seeing instead of heading home to Scarborough’. Once at Oban I realised that it was 30 years to the VERY day that we first went to Fort William for a National Rally (a strange but true coincidence), so further up the coast I went to Fort William, and then before I knew it I was passing Loch Ness on my way to “O’Groats. Thinking to myself “This is getting fucking silly on a standard PX125”
All in all, a brilliant excursion, taking in some of the finest scenery I have ever seen whilst riding a scooter and reliving trips from years gone by and riding down some of the roads I recognised from many years ago.
You might not be surprised to read I was a few days late getting home from this rally and the rally report is even later…
Ride safe SLUKers.
Words and photos: Col – Wedding photos, Andy Gillard @ScooterNova
Thanks to Lexham Insurance for the video