My own private gulag

Ummed and ah’ed a bit about writing this because essentially it’s just a massive moan, but it’s a moan that reveals some really troubling attitudes so I’ve cracked open the Kronenbourg and I’m going for it.

This morning I went to a Motoring Event billed as the past, present and future of vehicles. Let’s pretend that you don’t know who was organising it, otherwise we’d have to get into right of reply and that would just get tedious.

Why did I go? Because I got an email asking anyone interested in displaying a vehicle to get in touch. I thought an Eastern Bloc sidecar would be an interesting addition to the vehicular gallery, given how sidecars were low-cost family and trade transport at a time when cars were only for the top brass. I got my joining instructions and I rolled up this morning, before 8am, on a day when the skies were grey and the forecast was Deluge.

The cars were being lovingly greeted and arranged in the prime spot on the plaza.

“Where do you want me?”

“Oh, bikes usually go over there by the steps. Just head over there and one of the men will come and talk to you.”

Over by the steps? That’s where bikes park when they’re just …. parking.

I learnt many useful things from Big Chief Polar Bear and one of them was “if other people are being vague, do what you want to do and they’ll probably just agree.”

So I parked about halfway up the plaza, next to a big sign so it was clear I was part of the event, and near a handy concrete feature that I could sit on if I got tired.

Then a nervous chap in hi viz shuffled up, presented a bucket and asked for my donation.

This was the first time it was mentioned that this was a paid-for opportunity. I had been promised a voucher for a free pastry if I bought a coffee. At no point was it suggested that I would need to make a donation for the privilege of getting up at 6.30am on my weekend and freezing my tits off. I expressed this to him, more or less in these words, and he shuffled off again saying “thank you for the feedback.”

More cars came in, and were lovingly arranged.

I remained on the edge of the plaza.

Now, I accept that I am unusually prone to feeling unwelcome. But politically, this was really bad. An event promising to showcase the future of transport has excluded bikes from the main display and left us “over there by the stairs.”

I accosted a BeardedBro in another hi-viz, while a vintage chap on a Triumph put–putted over to join me.

“Oh,” said the Beard. “We always put the bikers on the edge. You’re our security. If people get funny we say behave yourselves or the bikers will sort you out.”

Let’s unpack that.

The problem with that statement isn’t just that bikers aren’t part of the transport mix, not welcome to line up with the other vehicles on the plaza. (Well, eventually it was conceded we could shuffle over once all the cars were in. Like an afterthought).

The problem with that statement is that Progressive Beard Dude thinks we’re just thugs.

I fixed him with my best beady glare and said “Don’t you think that’s a bit of an outdated stereotype?”

“Oh no,” he bearded back at me. “One of my friends is a biker and he doesn’t mind.”

I bloody mind.

Later on the Mayor turned up in his official car. He was met by a rush of hi-viz organisers and ushered straight past the four bikes – two of them built just up the road – to admire the cars.

Maybe I had missed something and it was just a car event? But I sent a photo of the outfit to be sure they knew what I was offering to bring. There was an opportunity there to say “actually this is just for cars but we do plenty of other stuff where bikes can come along.” But they didn’t.

And they didn’t say they’d be asking for money either.

So I finished the coffee I’d brought with me in my thermos, got a push start from the vintage chaps, and huffed off home.

No-one, at any point, said “thank you for coming.”

So I shan’t bother again.


Filed under Riding

5 responses to “My own private gulag

  1. Stone me! You just carry on an moan. That’s disgraceful on so many levels.

  2. Maybe you should name the event here. You’re just talking about your experience there, which was really appalling. Why would they be so dismissive of bikes? Kind of makes a joke of the whole thing.

  3. I’ve felt the same at similar events I was invited to take part in, only to find out I’d been not so much lied to, but intentionally misled. One of those times was an invite to a football party, only to find it was a recruiting meet for a church I had less than zero interest in. And no there was no beer. I rode home from that in the rain. Fifty miles in the wet and not a beer to be had. They didn’t believe in drinking coffee either. And one person tried to lecture me on the dangers and evils of motorcycles.
    Here, every year there is a concourse meeting up the coast about an hour. Some year I’ll be in town and park my bike and a lawn chair there as I get an invite. I’ve missed reading your stories. Looking forward to the next. Oh, and I’ve been helping a friend resurrect his sidecar; a mass of parts from all over the place. The latest bit was the German frame broke in half thanks to previous owners hamfisted assembly. We’ve remedied that. Next up is brakes, then suspension and finally the horror that is the electrics. Loads of red wiring running this way and that. So far we have had a time. Two 70-something or nearly so old men huffing and sweating, laughing and swearing. We’ve even planned a few rides for future, so progress has been made.

  4. Mike Paterson

    Motorcycle events can be just as bad for segregation. I used to put on a stand for the MZRC at the Scottish Show. The strange thing about the organisers of the show at the time was that they always gave us a stand in the hall amongst all the classic bike clubs. So, the place was chock full of beautifully restored, and ever so shiny, British bikes and their proud and very shiny owners. Then there was US in a corner, usually next to the bogs. I remember Sammy Miller being hurried past our stand as if we had the plague on his way to present a ‘Best Club Stand’ award to somebody like the Norton Owners Club. To be honest, the only reason that I did it for so long was that I got a handful of exhibitor passes so we got in for nothing.

    • highwaylass

      Shows are such strange things – so many clubs seem to see the stand as a social event for themselves, which I suppose is fine if you don’t want any new members!

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