I almost didn’t do this one. Being one of Royal Mail’s finest, I have to work on Saturday mornings. I get up at 3.30am & don’t get finished till around 1pm, so by the time I’ve commuted home it’s nearly 2. Add travelling time to the venue & it’s hardly worth doing Saturday shows. So I got home on Saturday, had some lunch & was soon beginning to feel drowsy & convincing myself I should have a quiet afternoon at home instead.
Thankfully though, I managed to rouse myself enough to eventually jump in the car & head for Leatherhead.
I live just a couple of miles from the infamous M25 London orbital motorway & the Star pub turned out to be a very short hop away, only a mile or so off junction 9. Less than 15 minutes after leaving home I was driving slowly past the pub. Then turning around & driving slowly back again. And again. Lots of bikes. Lots & lots of bikes. I could hear a band playing. I could see guys checking out the bikes & listening to the band. I couldn’t see a carpark. The entire pub grounds were given over to bike parking & it was obvious Joe Public’s cars weren’t being allowed in.
The Star pub sits right beside the very busy A243. There wasn’t a convenient lay-by to stop in & the kerbs were too high to risk driving up. Cruising past for a fourth time I’d made up my mind to give up on the whole idea & head home again when I spotted a tiny sign pointing up a dirt track in the woods beside the pub. “Carpark”. Aha. The track led to a ramshackle collection of mobile homes dotted about amongst the trees. There were horses tethered to trees & faces peering from open doorways. I could almost hear the banjo music playing. “Cars parked entirely at owner’s own risk”. That’s encouraging.
So by the time I’d walked back down to the pub I’d already made up my mind I wasn’t going to enjoy it & would have a quick wander round then go home. I ended up being one of the last to leave.
What a crackin’ show. Having chatted to a few organisers over the years, I know it takes an awful lot of hard work behind the scenes to make things appear so effortless, but the format seemed deceptively simple. Guys arrive, park their bikes, listen to the band & consume ale, while admiring each other’s bikes & nattering, then saddle up & ride home again. That’s basically all there was to it, but being a National Chopper Club show, there were contingents of bikes & trikes from NCC branches far & wide, plus several other back & side patch clubs. These guys really know how to put a top bike together &, unlike some trophy hunting machines that do the rounds of the bigger shows, every one here was built to ride, not just look pretty. As well as the usual Harley big twins, there were just as many multi cylinder Japanese sports engines, old Brit twins & singles & a smattering of v8 car engines too. Although there were some fine examples of traditional chop styling, there was also plenty of evidence of original thought, with some impressive workmanship, from tiny, beautifully executed engineering details, to wild & wacky machines that must be a real handful to ride. As a chop & trike builder myself, I was looking for clever ideas to steal for future projects & found several, all of which have been noted & filed away for that next build. The British custom scene’s certainly alive & well & every bit as innovative as our American counterparts, if not more so, as we have to build around ever tightening legislation.
Judging of the show bikes began at 1pm & while the judges were perusing the assembled bikes & making their decisions, a rather fine 7 piece covers band took to the stage on the back of a curtain sided truck. I’m not a big fan of groups that just trot out the same old standards, sounding nothing like the originals, but “Road Dog Jackson” were good, very good. I wished I’d made the effort to arrive sooner to catch their earlier set. They played everything from The Jam to Green Day, to Eddie & the Hotrods to Hootie & the Blowfish. Well worth listening to if you get the chance.
The trophy presentations were at 4. As always, I agreed with most, but not all of the judges’ choices, but that’s what makes customising so interesting ain’t it. Everyone has a different idea of what makes the perfect machine. With trophies awarded & handshakes exchanged it was time to saddle up for the ride home. I wandered back to the car.
For a first show, the Surrey guys did a pretty good job. I’ll definitely be back next year.