August Bank Holiday weekend can only mean one thing in the BSRA calendar; an annual pilgrimage to a little diamond-shaped island situated in the English Channel about three miles off the south coast of England.
To call it a big scootering event is an understatement. I wouldn’t think there’s a Scooterist in the UK that hasn’t visited, or at the very least heard of, this scooter riders mecca. Or, to put it another way – the 140,000 people that call the Isle of Wight home will definitely be outnumbered by the number of Scooterists that have visited the island over the last four decades.
Getting hot down south
My journey started as usual on the Thursday morning before the rally officially starts. A fairly long journey that just got hotter and hotter the further south I rode. The only respite from the heat was when I was stood on the top deck of the ferry enjoying a cold beer and a sea breeze in the Solent, sharing the good company of some more early starter rally goers
The whole island seems to have scooters buzzing about all over the place, but the masses head to the North-Eastern town of Ryde and its Smallbrook Speedway Stadium. Or, as I call it, ‘Rally Central’
If you’re planning a full weekend at the rally, the VFM Smallbrook AAA advance tickets are without a doubt the best ‘Value For Money’ of any event on the rally calendar. Up to four nights of camping and evening entertainment; 4 live bands, a mega custom show, and three full days of dealer stalls selling all things scooter related. As well as more varied food vendors than on any other rally. Thirsty Scooterists are well catered for with a large bar in the clubhouse and a beer tent on the main field. There is also a very large supermarket just a 5-minute scooter ride away. Added to this, the organisers had arranged for the hottest August Bank Holiday weather the UK has ever had!
Thursday night’s ‘meet and greet’ in the on-site clubhouse is usually the calm before the storm. But, this year the DJs stepped it up a level, and the place was in full swing right up until closing time.
Friday morning sees wave after wave of scoots arriving at the stadium. Each time a ferry arrives at the island, another massive group of riders seem to swamp the main gate and cause the stewards to rush around in a Benny Hill-style chase, whilst giving out goodie bags and wristbands. And while tents sprout up all over the campsite, the dealer’s stalls and gazebos all seem to fall into place inside the big central oval of the speedway track. Way more traders turn up at this rally than any other event. By lunchtime the site looks busier than the entire contents of a full weekend rally at some other large scale events – such is the draw to the I.O.W.
This year, far more scooters seemed to be being repaired on-site than in previous years. Maybe it was the heat? In a different walk of life, if your transport taking you on holiday blew its engine it would likely spoil the holiday outright. But when it’s a scooter and a Scooterist, well that’s a different story altogether. It never ceases to amaze me just how determined and ingenious some of us lot really are, when it comes to mending things.
A Scooterboy doesn’t see a holed piston as a problem, he sees it as a ‘solution opportunity’. A chance for mates to take the piss, and then chip in and help make it work again by any means possible. Parts loaned off fellow riders and parts modified and stripped to make another part useable again. With the advent of social media things get a whole lot easier when it comes to having the correct parts brought to the rally. I overheard one lad saying that after a Facebook shoutout he now had four different people bringing him a spare Lambretta stator wrapped in their luggage, all friends that were just setting off to the rally. That’s without even heading over to check the dealer’s stalls for one. Your average Scooterist could quite easily make a square peg fit a round hole if it meant getting home.
If you’ve been a regular to the Isle of Wight for some years you will know that whilst Smallbrook has been the official campsite for 20 odd consecutive years, things have changed and evolved in small ways. The traders area was once just the small square of grass in the bottom area of the campsite and it now takes up all of the speedway inner oval. The night-time discos have been held in the Ice Arena, the Balcony Bar, and my old favourite, Livingstone’s night club. But now it’s all on the Smallbrook site in marquees. I know there are multiple other venues used around the Island but I can only relate to the official VFM/BSRA venues that I proudly support.
Friday night’s DJs warmed the crowd up for the band “The Kings of Outer Space”, a mixture of punk, rockabilly and psychobilly. Their set went down just as well with the audience as it had at last year’s end of season rally in Mablethorpe. I’m sure we will see more and more of this band on the rallies in the future. Soon after, Mod legends Secret Affair were on stage playing to a very appreciative packed marquee. Blasting out sing-along anthems from 4 decades ago! An even scarier thought is that 20 years ago to the weekend, I stood in the same field at this rally singing along to many of the same songs, and to be truthful it doesn’t even feel anything like 10 years ago. For me, the 1979 era spawned some great music and this band are responsible for plenty of it. With the live music finished the DJs were back on the decks pleasing everybody into the wee small hours, and even into the dead of night scooters still arrived on site.
Saturday morning sees a repeat of Friday’s start, but with even more scooters buzzing around. A constant swarm of riders heading out for supermarket supplies, or, just cruising about in the glorious summer sun. Without wanting to upset the environmentalists, so far we have had a trio of scorching Nationals in 2019. The hottest ever Easter rally at Scarborough, a melting hot Big 7 rally in June, and now what turned out to be the hottest August Bank Holiday weekend ever – if this is partly down to scooter exhaust smoke, then let’s get revving them more!
The village green on Ryde seafront always seems to be packed with scooters parked up, with the riders enjoying a slightly cooler sea breeze. The different styles of scooter is more noticeable than ever before, and I lost count of just how many different scooter manufacturers brands were lined up. Much to the annoyance of the Vespa and Lambretta purists – times are changing indeed.
Back at Smallbrook, 40 plus scooters lined up to take part in a custom show that was awarding a staggering 30 trophies. As ever, the entry list could have been double or even treble that number. Many owners seem uninterested in entering show worthy scooters? After the show results, many of the trophy winners take their scooters to the ScooterNova stall to park up and show off their winnings in proper sunlight. Seeing the spectators flock around them is funny – they’re like magpies drawn to shiny things; very cool shiny things at that! The level of engineering seems to get better and better every year, and the quality of detail in paintwork is mind-blowing. Well done to all entrants.
I think all the traders did good business for the second full day and the food stalls and beer tent had queues all weekend!
Custom show results and sponsors
Old School Classic Cut, sponsored by BSSO
SX200 MOD 18F, sponsored by Photography UK
Vintage Vespa Pre-72
Green Goddess, sponsored by Classic Scooterist
Hammer Horror, sponsored by All Or Nothing SC
Rally 200, AWV 474K, sponsored by VCB
Blue Summer, sponsored by Distant Echo SC
Bruce Wayne Batscoot, sponsored by Macca & Dobbins scooter repairs
Street Racer Vespa
Peaky Blinders, sponsored by LCOC
Rallymaster, 135 ASV, sponsored by K2 Custom Classics
Alwin Pushpak Rum Runner, sponsored by Tasso Works
Repsol Replica, sponsored by Lexham Insurance
Breaking Rocks In The Hot Sun, sponsored by Mansfield Monsters SC
O’ Fortuna, sponsored by Smallbrook Speedway
O’ Fortuna, sponsored by Scootering Magazine
Best In Show
Breaking Rocks In The Hot Sun, sponsored by ScooterNova
First Time Entrant
Hammer Horror, sponsored by Crusader Promotions
Series 2, 982 XVA, sponsored by Lexham
Vintage Lambretta Pre-65
Series 1 496 YUJ, sponsored by LCGB
Breaking Rocks In The Hot Sun, sponsored by Scooter Restorations
NYPD LI 150, sponsored by Maygreen
Lambrettini 50cc, sponsored by South West Scooter Clubs
Best Ridden Scooter
NYPD LI 150, sponsored by SLUK / Northern Gary Cordon Memorial £50
Street Racer Lambretta
Rule Britannia, sponsored by Lexham
Breaking Rocks, sponsored by Lexham
Pimms O’Clock, sponsored by A Touch Of Glass
Repsol Replica, sponsored by On Two Wheels magazine
Breaking Rocks, sponsored by SIP Scooter Centre
Top Banana, sponsored by Colchester DVLC
Champion Of Champions
O’ Fortuna, sponsored by VFM/J Bolland Memorial Trophy
By Saturday evening, the marquee was filling up again, in anticipation of the evening’s first band ‘The 5.15’. A very energetic set of classic covers followed – they got the wooden-floored tent bouncing! I hope the band gained lots more gigs off the back of a very impressive performance – well worth going to see these lads.
Smoove & Turell
What followed though was to be a musical highlight for me. Not just at the Isle of Wight Rally, but at any rally for a very long time. Smoove & Turrell are a full-on assault on the senses, Northern, Funk, Soul, Jazz. Call it what you like – it was superb. I’m not normally a big fan of bands on scooter rallies, I’d usually rather have a couple of different DJs playing. But, I can see myself becoming a big fan of this band. Very powerful vocals, infectious bongo drums and a keyboardist that makes Keith Moons act look a bit tame. They had the audience gagging for more after each song.
Thankfully for us, VFM’s Northern Correspondent, Evo Evans was on hand to translate the band’s words to the crowd between songs. The lads have strong Geordie accents for sure – if you get a chance to see them do so, you won’t regret it. A fine end to a blast of a scooter rally Saturday.
Sunday morning sees lots of riders decamp to catch ferries home, but for the remainers, it’s another day of the same – only slightly less full-on. The big thing on Sunday is the scooter ride out (as covered by Sticky here last week). It is usually about an hour-long ride departing from the seafront and arriving back at the stadium. To some, it’s the highlight, to others its part of the reason they don’t attend this rally. I don’t join in on the ride out, I’ve always felt I’ve covered enough miles riding to the rally without doing more on the island once I’m there. But, I genuinely do enjoy the spectacle of seeing all the different scooters – although this year’s ride out seemed to attract more critics than normal.
Sunday night’s entertainment at Smallbrook is a chilled way to end the rally. VFM’s DJs are well-practised and they know what their audience want to hear. They don’t always play it, but they do know what you’d like! Seriously though, these lads have massive musical repertoires – why not test them with a request the next time you see any of them out spinning the tunes.
And so ends another Isle of Wight rally, the 6th of eight Nationals in the 2019 calendar.
History repeats itself
It has been debated many many times over as to why people won’t and don’t attend this rally. Most of the critics I know personally say it’s the “Comedy Mod element” or “re-enactment brigade” that make them stay away.
Here’s my take on that (for anyone that cares to know). In 1963 my uncle bought a brand spanking new Vespa GS160 for cash. He already had a Series 2 Lambretta and he thought of himself as the areas top mod. He didn’t have his scooters for years and years but he always lived a very stylish life and loved his music. Fast forward to the 1979 /1980s Mod revival; whilst he loved seeing a load of scooters riding around again, he thought that many of the riders were missing the point in dress sense and style somewhat. He even went as far as to say some of them looked comically wrong (just his opinion of course). You can imagine his horror when he saw loads of these lads morphing into the great unwashed dirty Scooterboys many of us know and love today.
But, there’s the point right there – nearly every Scooterist that I know, that started riding in the early to mid-80s – cite ‘that’ movie, Quadrophenia as their first insight and attraction to scooter ownership. Most moved onto Scooterboy style, with chops and cutdowns rapidly, but nonetheless started as Revival Mods!
Oh how I wish my Uncle was alive today, he would be amused to hear that many of the lads he thought looked like comical copy mods in 1981 now don’t attend some rallies because of the ‘Comedy Mods’ and their chosen scooter style and dress sense?
I’m sure many of you reading this will know plenty of Scooterists that fall into the above category, maybe you do yourself, who knows or cares really?
For the record, people have taken modernism very seriously for 50 plus years now, and so they should, and yes I’m very aware that many people came to the world of scooters with zero Mod influence.
As ever, massive thanks to everyone the gives up their time to help make this huge rally happen, and an even bigger thanks to all of you that turn up by scooter with an open mind and just do your thing.
Ride safe SLUKers
Photos: Col and Booga
Rallery by Col
Rallery by Booga
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