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Indian Riders - 25 Years Young

25 years pissing about with old bikes………let’s keep on, keeping on!!

I left home at 09.30 to meet Tim, Claudia, Ron and Chris in Christchurch. I went via Tesco to by some food………….STOP!!!.........Now, I could start this 25th Anniversary report like that but it’s a bit predictable. What with how bad the traffic was (it’s the UK), what weather we were likely to encounter over the next few days (it’s the UK) and whether my van would make the short trip from Dorset to Kenley (it’s an old VW).

So…….let’s start again. 25 YEARS!!! 25 YEARS…..the ‘Indian Riders Club’ has been doing it’s thing all over the UK, Europe and the world. Representing what, for the most of us with vintage motorcycles, is a way of life! The majority of us (at times) would choose Indians in a swamp soaked field with gale force winds, alongside greasy hands, over a hotel pool or beach any day. I know I just mentioned all of the negatives there but a lot of the time the sun is out, the wind is more of a pleasant breeze and it’s Pete or Phil with the greasy hands.

Since 1917 Kenley Aerodrome has been a busy venue to say the least. It’s been home to the Royal Flying Corps, who then became the Royal Air Force during the 2nd World War, and was one of the 3 main fighter stations to defend the air space over our precious capital city. I could ramble on and on about its history but I shall hold it there. So now? Now it becomes a home from home to a herd of humans that call themselves The ‘Indian Riders Club’ for a weekend of food, booze and bikes!

This all started for me at the fledgling age of 15. I attended my first Indian riders rally with my Uncle, Auntie and cousin to which some of you may know. I sat on a few bikes and watched you all go out on the ride out whilst I sat in one of those agonisingly uncomfortable camping chairs, drawing pictures of bikes, day dreaming of the day I will own an Indian myself. Ever since that day, and from attending various rallies, I began to realise that as a club, we love a first rate Fish n Chip van!........and on the Friday evening that is exactly what we got and a ruddy good one it was too. Shortly after everyone had indulged in that British classic it was to THE BAR………for reasons we are all too familiar with! 

The morning after, I awoke like a sleeping princess (a sleeping princess who had been smacked in the face with a hot iron).  You may of predicted that I awoke to the sound of motorbikes but you would be wrong. I arose to the rustling sound of a large bag of crisps I had clearly opened and scattered the night before, in a ditch attempt to fill my body, and sleeping bag, with as much salt as possible before sleeping! I had obviously gone to sleep on the crisp bag, therefore creating a large pit of what I can only explain as crisp flavoured dust! I can’t think of a better way to greet a day of riding old bikes. This left me with no choice but to man up and crawl out of my crisp scattered sleeping vessel (van). I needed fuel in the form of greasy food and coffee. Claudia came to the rescue with a superb coffee which definitely trumped my cheap sachet I had `commandeered` from a Premier Inn I once stayed in. Finally I was ready for the day ahead of me.

First off it was time to get fuel….fuel for the bike this time. This was the first time I had started the bike since April so one was rather excited to get going. Tim and I zipped to the petrol station but…….it was on the return to the top of a HILL! That’s where the sweating began. The bike had ran out of puff ,due to what I believe to have been my coil packing up, so I had to push it up the hill whilst everything I’d eaten and drank the night previous kept threatening to make an appearance again. I am sure most of you would agree that one of the worst places to stall or run out of puff on these bikes is on a hill, all because of a crude clutch and a front brake that only the Flintstone family would be impressed by. For me, and I’m sure for the majority of you also, it is the way it is and we wouldn’t have it any other way. We returned back to the campsite (myself rather hot and bothered), renewed my coil for one that was a lot smaller than the current one and just hoped it would be man enough for the brawn that is my 741……and that was me and everyone else good to go!!

Carl was our Shepherd on the ride out, leading us 30 miles to Verral's and 20 miles back. A place I had never been before but had heard there were 1 or 2 bikes there. On these ride outs, I don’t know about you, but it gives me a lot of time to think about things. Yes, there’s the obvious such as ‘I don’t recognise that sound’, ‘I didn’t need those brandy’s last night as a night cap, you are not a fighter pilot’ and ‘I’d better choose my road positioning wisely as I’m not sure what part of Tim’s bike is going to fall off next’ (I’ll touch on that shortly). But sometimes there are other thoughts such as realising what these bikes are doing and what they are going to carry on doing in the future in every way, shape and form. Past, present and future, these bikes are to be ridden with absolute pure rapture and bliss, bar the odd cuss word here or there.

Whilst hammering along on the ride following Tim and Claudia I noticed something long and chrome…….in the middle of the road. It resembled an exhaust and that’s exactly what it was. Going too quick to stop, it was salvaged by Chris who picked up the hotter than lava pipe with his asbestos hands, zip tied it into his pannier and cracked on. Now following Tim was like riding behind either some type of inaccurate weapon system, or a spitfire. It was a bike with some attitude…………….that much attitude, a few miles on, it threw something else off! I noticed something sliding around behind the bike but still attached by a wire. Whilst trying to sound my rather pathetic horn, I tried to attract the attention of them to stop but it was too late. Whatever it was that was sliding about had let go and was sat in the road. It was only the whole battery box AND the entire contents but Tim was gone, merrily riding off on his angry battery-less canon down the road. Only a mere 5 miles away from where the bike shed its second item of the morning, Tim eventually came to a stop. Unfazed by it all, the bike was put back together and we motored on, this time I rode in front for reasons too obvious to mention. We finally rocked up to Verral’s and piled into their courtyard where they had tea, coffee and biscuits laid on….CHEERS! And WOW!! What a place Verral’s is, with its collection of beautiful bikes which a few of them have now been added to my mental list of bikes I would love but will never own.

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There was an odd sound when we got to Verral’s. A sound I’m sure I had heard before when I’ve been stood near a bee hive on a clear warm spring day. This sound was getting closer and louder. It was only a matter of time before what I thought might be the biggest swarm of bees riding a Dyson hand dryer coming round the corner. Luckily I was wrong. Thank god it was just a bunch of blokes on fizzies, gleaming ones at that. How many of you in the past bought a fizzy when they were all the rage and either rode it so hard you were left with no choice but to leave it in a hedge? Or just to show off to your pals, ghosty it into a disused quarry? Because if you did either one of those or worse you’ll probably have kittens now as they’re worth an absolute fortune so I’ve been told.

We passed the time by watching Tim have a bracket fabricated by the good people of Verral’s to refit his exhaust. Now all sorted it was time for the off. Again Carl leading the way back to Kenley with Pauline doing the final sweep behind to make sure none of us strayed in with the fizzy crew! Soooooo on the way back I had just a few minor problems. I don’t need to go into them massively it’s all very boring but cheers Ron for the plugs and the others that hung around with me every 6 or so hundred meters, I had to stop and wait for my coil to cool down  HAHA!!

Swiftly moving on……. I/we eventually arrived back at Kenley, me as hot and bothered as I was prior to leaving that morning and about ready to drink my body weight in ale. The brothers did their thing with the daft games which I must admit, the prizes to be won would have only been seen on an episode of ‘Bullseye’ what with a mug, some dashingly enormous ‘Y’ fronts, my banana and pack of jelly babies……chuffed to bits. Oh! and not to forget Tim’s well warranted ’WANKER TROPHY’

Saturday night food was a fine BBQ, done by the people who were brave enough to take on such a task, and to those people, you know who you are, a massive ‘thanks’ from everyone who ate your hard work! It was soon approaching that time of the evening, again, where it was bar or bust……yes please!! There was a chap on stage playing guitar and singing and correct me if I’m wrong but he played for nearly 5 hours? And when he wasn’t playing, the ‘musicians’ of the club stepped up and plugged in. Cliff was doing his thing on whatever it was, (I can’t really remember what the hell was going on after Bootsy made me drink 3 double Navy rums, one after another). Then we saw Paul Taylor with his mouth organ out and a bloody good job he did and then it was my turn. It was the first time I have been on stage on my own with my banjo and attempt to entertain. I had a go at an instrumental and a classic sing along number……..and that’s when it all went belly up. It was the worst thing that could have happen to me on stage on my own…..after a few beers ……my G-string snapped!! A complete tragedy, for myself and any of the poor on-lookers who had to see me on stage with a snapped G-string! If my mind serves me right, I’m sure shortly after that it was a ‘Great night’ and finally at some unknown hour, like a pin ball, I went back to the van. So cheers to the excellent staff behind the bar of the Portcullis club.

Much to my surprise I awoke to a crispless sleeping bag but of course with the standard throbbing head. Already a bad start to the day that nobody enjoys. It was time to pack up go home, then unpack, degunge and get ready for the next one. A few weren’t ready for that straight away so they had an excursion somewhere out on the bikes for a last moment of pure joy before heading back to reality.

Lastly, and I’m sure you would all agree, a massive ’CHEERS’ is owed to Mike and Sybil for starting all this 25 years ago. If we didn’t know you we’d have no one else’s house to go to, to eat and drink our own body weight in biscuits.  Also ‘CHEERS’ to everyone else for organising, running and knocking things up. Oh, of course there’s everyone else who turned up and had a laugh!!


Brad "Seasick" Watt Brad Watt



Indian Motocycles - you can't wear them out                                  Indian Motocycles - built to last  
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