Now in its third year, Southsiders Wheels and Waves, has grown exponentially becoming a truly significant event on the custom bike calendar, it coalesces the European scene like no other and attracts increasing numbers of international attendees. Royal Enfield and their Indian contingent for example, were strongly in attendance and Roland Sands and his crew again made the journey. If the scene has a summer jolly this is surely it, Biarritz may be a tad bourgeois for your average custom bike builder’s tastes but it is undoubtable a pretty place and enlivening the atmosphere with some loud pipes and moto-flair is surely no bad thing for the place. The residents have nothing to fear of course, this is no Hollister, the Wheels and Waves Festival atmosphere is excited but in a very benevolent way and the camaraderie that exists, particularly amongst Wheels and Waves veterans, is utterly charming. What really cuts the mustard with Wheels and Waves though is the emphasis on actually riding all these damn bikes, plenty of time for talking about them in the evening.
Wheels and Waves Festival – Friday13th June 2014 – Friday’s ride out was ostensibly to get us to our personal mountain road/race track ‘Punk’s Peak’ for a return of last year’s hill-climb racing. It got pretty lairy last year so Southsiders organiser Vincent this year wisely decided to bring some professional racing standards to proceedings. It all worked beautifully, the location was stunning, fabulous views, it seemed like we were above the clouds such was the blanket on the ocean, above us eagles soared and horses gazed on with bemused interest. The racing was as fiercely undertaken as last year, two riders at a time and bikes as evenly matched as possible. The girls got to experience the thrill of racing this year with filmmaker Irene Kotnik and Valeria Libano, of the phenomenon that is the El Solitario clan, giving it full-chatter, heads-down, racing attitude and they weren’t the only ones. The bikes, many of serious vintage, were not spared the whip and yet only one crossed the finish-line powered by its rider’s legs to much cheering.
Wheels and Waves Festival – Saturday 14th June 2014 -Saturday was the big ride out as usual and the boys and girls of Southsiders had certainly done their homework, the roads and scenery being a real treat with a lot of variety. To aid with keeping everyone on the route, two fellas on Ducati sports bikes would wait at turns till everyone was through then race to the front of our ‘convoy exceptionnel’. ‘Snipers’ they call them there, I thought of them as ‘ghost riders’ as they were extremely skilled at speed, putting our lean angles to shame as they effortlessly swooped through the corners and I never did find out who they were, maybe for the best, professional racers would be my guess.
For such a large and mixed group the riding by and large was pretty smooth and fast, a few guys had some minor dramas but nothing serious. One section of road had a delightful frequency of corners that had me leaning like a 40bpm metronome corner after corner, great fun. We were crisscrossing the border into Spain throughout the day such that I had to start a conversation in a shop by asking what country I was in, Basque country is where we were in reality. At one point as we were all assembled at the side of the road, a Guardia Civil guy pulled up at the head of our procession, as he got out to have a word with us about God knows what we headed off and, realising the futility of his situation, he just held his arms out in despair. Riding with such a large group certainly gives you a sense of impunity for better or for worse.
Davida’s rides this year were a Ducati Hypermotard and an MV Agusta Brutale 800 Dragster rather generously loaned to us by Esprit Moto, the Bayonne Ducati and MV dealership, many thanks to Gerard there and to the supremely capable Anik Labreign for arranging everything. The bikes were both of course more than capable of anything we could demand of them. I got the Ducati. which, needless to say, handled beautifully and inspired a great deal of confidence, a great torquey engine and just so much fun, even riding through city traffic is a hoot. The MV’s aggressive looks ensured that it caught more people’s attention and admiration and understandably so, I decided to start calling it the ‘Envy Mi Gusta’, boom boom.
In Biarritz there was no shortage of motorcycle culture to soak in over beers, Southsiders put on an impressively large exhibition of bikes and artwork featuring two Bonneville BMW’s ridden by Ernst Henne in the Thirties and a troupe of Brough Superiors including their recently triumphant Bonneville machine. Fid had a conversation with Sam Lovegrove, who had built the Brough for Bonneville, a master of his craft, Fid showed him a tiny photo on his phone of the award winning bike at the Norrtalije Custom Show in Sweden the previous weekend, Sam immediately recognised two of the parts not cast by the builder, amazing. Apparently the Americans weren’t crazy about a small group of Brits smashing their records. Whoops.
So Bonneville was well represented, not surprisingly given the Southsiders history with the place, and El Solitairo of course had a plethora of their machines which always garner debate, personally I find them anarchic and always entertaining, I met the guy who bought ‘Petardo’ a teenage fantasy of a Ducati with knobs on, he turned out to be an ex-professional racer so if he’s happy to ride one day to day that’s good enough for me. The artwork benefitted this year from such a large space, Nick Clements of Men’s File said he was particularly impressed this year. Conrad Leach and the photo-realist Nicholas Coleman’s large pieces looked right at home behind the many exotic bikes. Paul D’Orleans and Susan Mc Laughlin exhibited some of their photographs of motorcycle culture taken using techniques from another era, Collodion or wet-plate I believe, the results really transport you, very evocative. Surfing culture was also well represented with a collection of boards created with a Japanese sword-making level of artisanship. Fid reckoned it would have been a great place for our Davida Moto Photo Exhibition, if Vincent does Wheels and Waves Festival again next year we’ll certainly make it available.
We spent a lot of time with Ornamental Conifer, Maxwell of Corpses From Hell , Kingdom of Kicks and the Spanish contingent, El Solitario, again, always the life and soul of the party, in no small part thanks to La Isla del Tesora and their vinyl DJ’ing. Alberto Garcia Alix, never without his Hasselblad round his neck, this year had to contend with people coming up and asking to take his photograph, legend that he is. He had his head down over that camera so much the back of his neck was sunburnt, “He’s right on it” was Fid’s proclamation. His next project will be purely about motorbike culture and how it shapes and reflects our lives, can’t wait.
We met a great bunch of Fins who put us to shame having ridden down from North Eastern Finland on their homemade bikes, one had fixed an unusual old top-box to his Moto Guzzi and Fid surprised us all by being quite taken with it (he’s always said: “If I ever get a top-box, shoot me. Seriously”).
Wheels and Waves Festival – Sunday 15th June 2014
With the lighthouse area being packed out every day there was inevitably talk of the scene no longer being niche, no longer our private sub-culture, I think the scene has such a variety of creativity it will continue to evolve in its own peculiar way regardless of how popular the aesthetic becomes, it feels like a pivotal moment nonetheless, akin to the punk scene back in the day and so many others, its popularity should be taken as approbation I feel. So will Wheels and Waves return next year? Only the Southsiders know for sure though I think everyone who came this year would shed a little tear if it didn’t, here’s hoping and congratulations to Vincent, Val and the Southsiders clan for pulling it all off yet again with such style, aplomb and warm Basque hospitality and a special thank you to the Edwin boys for such a great Sunday. I still can’t get on with synchronised dancing though. Jules.
Establishing an appreciative cult following, Davida’s Jules Watts writes about the people he meets whilst riding his bike.
News360 for a Gestalen video of W&W 2014.
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