Rally, Rally Disappointing!
No, not for me, thanks.
Give me a weekend on the bikes, a few hundred or few thousand bikers at a rally. A good ride. Good company, good times, good memories.
After a few years of small rallies and European road trips, we decided to have a weekend party, a big one.
Which is why we had great expectations about returning to a rally we hadn't attended for a few years. One of the big ones we only do every three years or so.
Friday morning, a lovely ride with my brothers up through Yorkshire, northwards towards the rally.
Previous runs had seen the amount of bikes increase the closer we came to the venue. Always an inspiring sight.
Seemed a bit ...well..bikeless that year? Oh well, suppose we had made an early start.
Got there, few dozen bikes on the gate, many, many more cars and campers...must be another event on nearby?
Into the site, parked up, well away from the heaving car parks, put tents up, had a drink, waiting for the usual influx of bike clubs to set up.
An hour later, only three bikes near us, not many bikers in evidence, mainly student types.
Have we got wrong campsite? Talking to a couple of Scottish Harley riders who were as baffled as us. Seems this year the rally had been advertised as a 'festival', no more 'if you don't arrive on two or three wheels, you won't get in (concessions for disabled bikers obviously). Everyone welcome, bring the car, bring the camper, bring the windbreaks and comfy chairs.
All in an attempt to lure young, fresh visitors to enjoy the biker lifestyle.
Well, they certainly lured young, fresh visitors...unfortunately with absolutely no interest in bikes or 'the lifestyle' at all.
The stalls and attractions had also obviously been booked to cater for the fresh young visitors too. As had the catering vans...and the bands.
Friday evening fell. A quick count...erm 16 bikes around us, the rest arriving in cars.
Still enjoyed the night and hoped Saturday would bring in the usual thousands of bikers to the rally….
No such luck. More cars. More bikeless tents. More young, fresh festival goers.
Sadly, I'll admit it, we felt like outsiders. Packed up the bikes and rode a few hundred miles to a smaller, club-run rally and had a great time.
The week after, social media, and an awful lot of biker websites, all had the same negative reaction to the 'festival' vibe.
The organizers (very well-known in the UK biking scene) justified themselves by releasing a statement proclaiming that the need to alter their rally to attract young, fresh visitors was necessary to bring in revenue to promote interest in new bikers…..blah, blah, blah…
Sadly, nowadays, it is not uncommon for a big 'biker' rally to proudly advertise they are offering glamping1 for those who couldn't be bothered travelling with tents and didn't want the hassle of camping.
Another much loved rally gone down the festival route. Bikers being snubbed for the power and lure of festival money.
As more and more of these big gatherings turn their back on the very people who made them successful, happily the smaller rallies benefit.
Hopefully, there will always be bike rallies. Proper rallies.
Sadly, the big events will lose the bikers and the young, fresh visitors will inevitably find somewhere newer and fresher for a weekend rave.
When they realize they have alienated their core supporters, it may be too late. We will have moved on too...to a younger, fresher and true biker rally!
My advice to any fledgling riders looking for a weekend party; choose a small, bike-only, club-run rally. You'll be very welcome. Avoid the big, non-club 'festival' type events, sadly, they just ain't what they used to be.
Unless you're a young, fresh festival fan!
Next year, the advertising has changed somewhat, assurances that this is a biker rally, not a festival! No cars or campers! Seems the penny has dropped, but maybe too late?
Or, maybe just maybe, I'm just getting old and it's time to leave the big events to younger, fresher festival loving motorcyclists?