South of Heaven – Davida at Wheels & Waves 2013 By Jules Watts
Arriving at Biarritz lighthouse this year felt like a Dirtquake reunion as much as a Wheels & Waves one, Thor of See See, Portland rolled up on a suitably ridiculous Triumph: ‘The American’ as it’s appropriately called, a 1600cc parallel twin he was loaned in London, I immediately took it out for a spin and though heavy, very comfy, I reckon he had the comfiest journey out of anyone. Many had ridden great distances to reach Biarritz and most of them on customised and vintage machines, old Triumphs with Brooks bicycle seats for example or how about an Aprilia Mille with proper knobblies? Axto pitoa.
Blitz were unloading a plethora of their bikes and I stole an all too brief joyride on one of their bikes, a Suzuki DR650 ‘Street Dracker’, a fun looking, orange and blue, urban hooligan bike, set up with tons of ground clearance and with the frightening habit of randomly self-revving. Once the possessed throttle had been tweaked into submission it was a joy to razz through Biarritz’ refined decadence, the exhaust note pure devilry, possibly the noisiest all weekend and there was serious competition.
Gaixoa. Fiddy, Remi and I had all arrived sans bikes this year, thankfully Jacques of Royal Enfield Biarritz was kind enough to loan one of his fine machines complete with capacious leather saddle-bags; if you’ve experienced Fiddy’s proclivities for luggage, ergela, you’ll understand how much this was appreciated. BMW had a large presence this year as we shall see, and, given the number of bikes they’d brought, were able to offer me a choice of bikes. I figured pillions were in my future and thus asked for something big, seconds later the keys to a new model GS were in my hand, thank you so much BMW France.
The first night witnessed an art, photography and motorbike exhibition featuring provocative yet tenderly sincere photography from Alberto Garcia Alix (of whom you can read in my Lisbon chronicle). It was my first chance to see El Solitario’s post-apocalyptic Ducati, ‘Petardo’ in the flesh. The pilot’s view now all aviation gauges, dials and switches it’s one for the boys and already sold before display, good work amigos.
BMW had a retrospective celebrating 90 years of design and there were two very special bikes on display, the first, a new commission undertaken by Roland Sands in California, featuring design cues from the wonderful 70’s R90S and utilizing R&D components from BMW, it achieved I think that tricky balance of incorporating the old and the new with some style and confidence. However, a far older, yet no less radical incarnation of the horizontal-twin stole my attention a 1934 R7 concept, a few were made yet another design was chosen.
Friday saw us heading south for some hill climb/drag racing next to an airstrip, I had photographer Marta Rodriguez, a protégé of Alberto Garcia Alix’ on the back of the GS and so comfortable and well behaved is that bike that I spent the journey riding with one hand, chatting away when she wasn’t manipulating analogue cameras.
At the hill climb, the stretch of road limited the racing to two at a time, just as well as the races were fiercely contested, the bikes as matched as possible, Maxwell Paternoster’s BSA vs. Dimitri Coste‘s BSA for example. Vincent and the Southsiders’ backs were emblazoned with Nico/Ornimental Conifer, Four Horsemen idents, Vincent set quite the scene with an auto’ in his hand (I never knew he was left-handed). It was about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on as the man says, though arguably more dangerous (unless you’re Michael Douglas).
Seemingly everyone was welcome to have a race, I seriously contemplated it but having watched a GS wheelie half the course, barely in control, I decided I’d be forced to thrash it in much the same way and with the BMW boss in attendance I thought it best to give it a miss, shame on me, should have ridden down on my own bike like last year. A guy raced a Corvette Stingray up the hill, not sparing the rubber, turns out his name’s Terry and he worked at the legendary Sound City Studios in LA when he was 16 for 8 years; gives you an idea of the kinda’ people you meet at this thing.
On the way back to Biarritz a coupla the guys decided to go off-road in the woods (blame dirtquake and Aprillia Mille’s with knobblies), they arrived back at the lighthouse drenched in mud with smiles and stories. The eve saw us all rambunctious at ‘La Cantina’, a ‘night restaurant’ that is basically a late night Basque bar that will make you fabulous wild mushroom omelettes at 1am as a matter of routine.
Getting up early on Saturday for the big ride-out should have felt painful for us all yet it’s what we were there for so we all shook the brief dreams from our hair and got our bikes down to the lighthouse, rested or not, to ride the fine roads the Southsiders and El Solitario had found for us to dance our bikes round the curves of the Basque country’s hills, mountains and coasts. What’s so nice about these rides apart from the shared playfulness and solidarity of it is the enthusiasm and love of the inhabitants you come across, stirred by the sight of us punks to raise their arms and cheer us, at least I think they were cheering us. We came across a wedding in San Sebastian, several hundred attendees all cheering us as we honked and revved our blessings.
The foothill roads were wonderful and the curves tight and coming fast, our pack spread out and we were all able to push our bikes more and more in the corners with confidence that we were all looking out for each other, as well as cyclists and whatnot. Remi generously let someone ride his Enfield, with him on the back, he was white as a sheet at the bottom of that hill section, the vintage bikes were in no danger of being out-ridden by the more modern machines, no-one was hanging around. He tried to get a pillion on mine but photographer Irene Kotnik was quite happy on the back of my GS and didn’t fancy going through what he’d evidently just experienced. Remi found a ride on the back of an XT, as we were pulling away, I said to the rider: “Give ‘im hell!”. From what I heard he got just that, sorry Remi, ipur beltz.The evening witnessed another glorious sunset at the lighthouse enlightening bikes by the likes of Pure, Deus, Wrenchmonkeys, and all the usual suspects as we all took in the day. Like last year there were some really good live bands, the one I saw were a two-piece I could best describe as being somewhere between Ladytron and Sonic Youth.
Sunday took us at last to the beach with James, Maxwell Paternoster, late arrival Richard Baybutt, Remy and a few others plus a crate of beer, conversation inevitably turned to such mundane topics as ‘invisible water’, ‘necro-sadist mummification’ and ‘twitching’. At that point it was clearly time to return to the hotel though we couldn’t help picking up a stray in the form of a Polish bodypopper who we insisted must perform in the hotel later. He did, motorbikes were involved, it was professionally filmed, the management were too baffled to care that much, twas a great night, Zozoa. Thanks Vincent and Valerie and everyone who made it all such unbridled fun, ikus arte.
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