Bike Show Southwest


I’ve attended this show more times than I can remember over the years. As has been noted in the forum several times, it used to be the season opener. The first big show of the year, that everyone strove to have their new projects ready for. It’s seen the unveiling of some truly beautiful machinery -I’ve displayed both my red & green Reliant trikes here too! It’s been said that it’s not the show it once was, that other events have taken away it’s bike debuting status, that the frequent changes of organisation & name have led to drops in attendance, that the removal of the camping facilities a few years ago almost wiped it out completely. All of those are probably true, but it’s still an enjoyable show. Rainbow was there with me this year &, not having known it in it’s heyday, she saw it more impartially than some. She enjoyed it. I’ve no idea of the attendance figures over it’s 2 day run, but there seemed to be a steady stream of visitors flowing through the site whenever I had the chance to look. This year was a little different for me as I was there as part of the Manky Monkey Motors allstar trike display -we had 5 unfinished trikes on show, which took up a lot of my time, meaning I didn’t get to wander around the stalls & exhibition halls as much as I would’ve liked & took less photos than normal.
The show’s held over the May Day Bank Holiday every year, (the first weekend in May), at the Royal Bath & West Showground in Shepton Mallet, Somerset. It’s a nice venue for a bike show with a permanent purpose built exhibition hall, which houses the classic & custom bikes & a series of separate barns, more usually used for cattle during the agricultural shows, which hold the trikes & auto jumble. The main hall has a gallery above it,  which as well as hosting some of the trade stalls, including the Back Street Heroes/Street Fighters emporium, also gives a great view of the show bikes below. At one end of the gallery is a restaurant & bar.
Outside, various food stalls are arranged in a wide semi circle. To one side is an indoor bar which in previous years has featured live music sets, but I’m too busy with our own trike display to investigate. Beyond the food area, the rest of the trade stalls form a long grassy avenue selling the usual bikeshow custom parts, clothing & jewellery. There’s a climbing wall for the kids -magnetic boots & gloves mean they can scale a steel wall & practice their SpiderMan techniques. I’m too scared to try bungee jumping, so maybe this would’ve been the place for me to start. At one end of the avenue is a display of birds of prey. Falconry &…owlery. Beautiful birds. Huge razor-sharp beaks & talons yet so graceful. They eye us with undisguised distain. I wonder what they think about as we gawk at them all day long. Yoda says “If I can escape from here I’m gonna have that big juicy one in the wheelchair”. There’s a funfair for those feeling energetic & a barnful of assorted bouncy castles for the kids. Visiting bikes have plenty of hard standing to park on right next to the show halls. The camping has been re-instated which will hopefully lead to an increase in visitor numbers in years to come, though Nigel & Simon, who stayed for the weekend, found the evening entertainment a little limited. Live bands played in one of the barns but were lost in the vastness of the building & would’ve been better suited in the indoor bar where most of the campers spent the evening.
Of course, it’s the bikes people come to see & though it may have lost it’s place as the venue of choice to debut new machines, there are still plenty of gorgeous bikes here. The main exhibition hall is packed with an interesting variety of both classics & customs. Any one of them could feature on a magazine cover & several already have. It’s quite sobering to realise I’ve owned several f the bikes now labelled as classics, though none of mine ever had so much love & polish lavished on them as these. Of the customs, all are of a high standard though some really stand out from the crowd & have throngs of awe-struck show goers lining up to photograph them all weekend. Customising in this country has really come a long way in recent years. Some, (including me), may decry the rise in big money, professionally built bikes over the home grown, self built & thus more personally expressive machines, but there’s no denying the talent, creativity & artistry that goes into them.
Vic Jefford’s latest creation, “Ultimate Vision”, is an obvious winner & duly collects the trophies for Best Custom in Show, Best Paint & Runner Up Best Engineering. It’s a little fussy for my taste but beautifully done. I’d happily park it in my living room as a work of art, though I wouldn’t particularly want to ride it home. The Trike Shop have brought along their latest show bike too. The Harley engined “The Dealer” is the star of their stand & wins Best Trike. I’d question just how much tread the 300 section bike tyres would have in contact with the road, but it makes a nice departure from their usual style. Though very professionally built, most of their output consists of the latest model road bikes fitted with their trademark bolt-in independent suspension trike conversions. They look great but a bit kit-bikey, whereas The Dealer appears more of a complete one-off creation.
Our own MMMotors trikes are in the second hall. I’m not sure if it was a deliberate decision on the part of the organisers, but most of the machinery alongside us there is of the Designed to be ridden, rather than Built to be shown, variety. Triking’s become hugely popular now & seems to offer more scope for innovation & creativity than our two wheeled cousins. Bikes tend to conform to recognised styles & trends while trikes are far more free form. That’s not always a good thing & there are certainly plenty of examples on the roads of owners who should have their spanners taken away from them, but thankfully most at this show are very tidy. Lots of bike/trike conversions, some VWs, including our own “Lunatic’s” “Psycho Triko”, a smattering of Reliants & small Ford engines etc. In addition, the builder of Yoda’s new trike is showing his Ed Roth inspired show trikes. One is Rover V8 powered with the rider perching above an inverted VW camper gearbox & steering through impossibly long & flexy apehangers & risers, the engine breathing through 12 inch long straight through drag pipes on either side. The other appears to be a supercharged Hemi motor mounted transversely across the back of the trike frame, with direct chain drive to the axle, (no gearbox), & a stack of organ pipe style exhausts rising up above the rider’s seat. I’ve no idea how road legal these are, & the finish may not be show quality, but at least they show plenty of imagination & creativity. Of the trikes in our hall, only one picked up a rosette; a Suzuki Intruder trike conversion in the Best Paint category I think.
I still like this show. It’s a nice ride for us, about 80 or 90 miles straight down the A303 from Basingstoke, past Stonehenge & on down to the West Country. There’s as much to see & do as any other show; the provision of indoor halls means at least some of it is weatherproof, (I’ve been here in previous years when the rain was so heavy I haven’t ventured outside the buildings all day); the bikes on show are as good as ever; being a permanent agricultural showground, the facilities for food, drink, loos etc are pretty good; the prices are reasonable. I can’t really fault it.
No, it may not be as big as it was ten years ago, but all such shows rise & fall in popularity. Yes, I’m sure I’ll be back next year.