Words: Ed Oxley, Hebtroco
Photos: Tom Bing
It was a daft idea. You don’t see that many motorcycles on the road in December, they all seem to be on Instagram. Sensible really to stick with the van or car. If you’re on a bike and it snows, then you’re really screwed. You don’t fall off a car and if it does get stuck at least you can sit inside whilst awaiting rescue.
So with our pals from Sideburn motorcycle magazine, we decided to put on a winter party and camp out. Rather than use an indoor heated city centre venue, we had our party at the New Delight Inn, high up on the hills in Yorkshire, somewhere near Hebden Bridge. At 300m above sea level, it makes for a good sledging location in winter and it has a camp site next to the car park.
The Sideburn X HebTroCo winter party would be strictly no cars, no vans, no bunk house. Good old fashioned fun: ride your bike, put up tents, drink beer, watch some slide shows, do a quiz, have group hugs, go to sleep, get hypothermia.
I have an ancient Danish motorcycle which has been a project for the last 13 years. 1987 was when it was on the road before going into boxes, jars and tobacco tins. The grand debut of the rebuilt bike was to be DirtQuake this year, but it wouldn’t run and certainly couldn’t race. So giving it a second chance I decided that the Nimbus would be the perfect choice as my ride for the winter party. The day before, with the help of a skilled man with a limp, we got it running. 12 miles home in the dark, over roads covered in slush and packed snow was not the familiarisation ride I had in mind but I made it. All I had to do was ride it 50 miles to the party. I was terrified, slept badly and couldn’t wait to get it over. Would it break down? Would I skid on ice and crash? Would I freeze to death?
The plan was that anyone who wanted could meet at the excellent Temple Coffee in Leeds and then ride in to the party. The Nimbus took a good 30 to 40 kicks to start and then stalled four times on the way, requiring the same starting procedure each time. At least I was very warm. Eventually, safely sat inside Temple, it was as if I’d completed an epic tour and ridden all the way to somewhere far far away. For a brief period I bathed in euphoria, coffee and donuts. My bike parked out the front of the cafe, I felt like the Lone Ranger. After half an hour I started to wonder where everyone else was.
'This is a bad idea,' were the first words that Gary (Sideburn editor) spoke through frozen lips. He’d ridden for three hours non -stop up the motorway. He started to thaw out with a ‘Black Sabbath’ hot milky drink. Sipping my ‘Golden Milk’ turmeric chai, I tried not to think about getting the Nimbus started again. We kept looking out of the window for the arrival of other bikes.
'Do you think anyone will come?' Several people had messaged to say that they weren’t coming and you could hardly blame them. Severe weather warnings were in effect and a ‘snowpocalypse’ was forecast. Christmas shopping and getting that DIY project finished suddenly seemed very appealing.
The bark of a KTM Duke announced the eventual arrival of four brave souls who had ridden in from Beverley. So at least there would be six of us. With different routes we all set off for Hebden Bridge. The Nimbus eventually started and so I began my increasingly tense journey. It wouldn’t tick over and had to be revved like a drag bike on the start line at every traffic light or roundabout. Was I enjoying this I wondered? Was it even legal? No, no not really. Then it started snowing heavily.
Cresting the hill above the destination, on a snow covered road, I finally knew I was going to make it. Suddenly it was one of the best rides of my life. Over the afternoon about 15 bikes made it to the party. In the spirit of “it’s not what you ride but how you ride” the bikes included a Hayabusa, flat head Harley chopper, CoBuilt ‘crosser, valiantly piloted and pushed scooter and a 150cc Honda dirt bike. All of them loaded up with camping gear and nothing really appropriate for the inappropriate conditions.
There are plenty of great, well organised, big scale fancy events in the calendar. This wasn’t one of them. We wanted simple pleasures and a break from the high tech and so had asked several inspirational characters to give presentations using nothing more than their own wit and an overhead projector. How to start a new business in the age of Facebook algorithms and online sales, racing on an inappropriate machine against the pros on the best bikes and an amazing motorcycle and surfing safari in the Americas on tiny trail bikes were the subjects covered. ‘Can do’ people telling the story of how they had got stuff done, or at least failed in style. Much better than watching telly.
We drank our own specially branded beer (some of us much more than others). We laughed. We had a quiz, ate Yorkshire Puddings and stew, won some prizes, lost some bets, talked shit and listened to an eclectic range of DJ skills and tunes. There was a wolf mask and perhaps some penguin cuddly toys, although I am a little bit vague about the end of the night. Then we went to sleep in our tents in well below zero temperatures.
There were casualties but no one died. Bikes were dropped on ice and levers broken. Some people had big headaches (including me). Breakdown recovery services had to take two bikes home. It was a brilliant night spent with good people who share a common love of motorcycles. If you made it there, thanks for coming and if you didn’t make it we don’t blame you.
Thanks to the New Delight Inn, Brant, Tom, Dave, Geoff, Wilky, Conway, Kriega, Davida