Alba West Bike Show 2009

Article reproduced from Back Street Heroes magazine

Like many other bikers around the country, I’m sure, come January, I’ll sit down and discuss with my club mates which rallies and parties we fancy going to through the season. This year, however, we all agreed that it’d be good to go somewhere that we hadn’t been before. I’d hear some good things about Alba West Bike Show in Scotland and, after meeting some members of the host club, the Blue Angels, plans were duly made and days booked off work.

So, early one Friday morning towards the end of June, we headed off on what was going to be a 450 mile blast up the country. The weather forecasts had said that it might be mildly moist on the way up, but once past the Midlands it’d be baking. I think the weatherman must have had the map upside down, but still, we arrived on site early in the evening having ridden what, it has to be said, is some of the best countryside and most spectacular views these fair isles have to offer.

After the tents had been sorted we took a brief gander at some of the bikes that Area 51 Customs had brought along to display. They really do know how to put a bike together and I particularly liked their AC Cobra themed Harley – a real stunning bit of kit. I didn’t catch the first band of the night as I was tucking into a potato scone and black pudding in bread rolls (food of the gods…) but I did see Clan-an-drumma taking to the stage. Being a sassenach from the deep south I have to admit I’d been sceptical about watching a Celtic pipe and drum outfit but they just blew me away. It was a fantastic way to get the party on full throttle for the rest of the night. The high tempo continued all night and each band that played could easily have headlined at most of the events I attend throughout the year. You name it – punk, rock, blues – all had their moment on stage and all went down very well. The beer kept flowing from the most reasonably priced bar and the party didn’t wind down until well after I’d hit the sack in the early hours of the morning.

After a healthy, low fat breakfast (yep, more black pudding but this time with lorne sausage in a soft white bap) we thought that, as we were in such a picturesque part of the world, we’d get on our bikes and bimble up to Loch Lomond a few miles from the site and then stop off for a pub lunch on the way back. So, after a few hours in the surrounding countryside, it was back to the site for a look at the custom show.

The custom show was held in its own marquee. The bikes were laid out well, allowing you to get a good look at each one, and all tastes in bike and trike styles were catered for. With this year marking the 50th anniversary of the Triumph Bonneville, a special trophy had been made in addition to the highly prized claymore trophies that are traditionally presented at the Alba West Show.

In the afternoon we were treated to a history lesson (I kid you not!). There was a talk and display by Clan Atholl and Clan Albannach on how warriors were trained centuries ago and how they fought in battle along with a bit of sword dancing thrown in for good measure. The crowd became involved too, being given weapons to wield before being lined up in traditional battle formation ready to charge. It was all very impressive as well as informative – if history could be taught like this at school it’d be far more interesting (though I did hold my breath for a for second or two when one of the clansmen ran at me with his sword… I’ve heard of being camera shy, but that was taking the piss!)

Then it was back to some excellent live music. In between the traditional rally acts, the stage was filled (and I mean filled) by Clanadonia who’d hot footed it from the Highland Show to treat us to some more Celtic music and they really set the hearts beating and the feet stomping.

As the night wore on the presentation of trophies for the bike show took place and it made a real change to hear every winner receiving a great, well deserved cheer. The music on Saturday was just as good as it’d been on Friday and the party rocked along in fine style. Later on we had something different again – a burlesque dancer who reminded me of the late, great Betty Paige and who was excellent. She was followed by a few exotic dancers and there was some more live music to keep the masses entertained and dancing right through to the wee hours.

To sum things up I can honestly say that in all the years I’d been going to rallies and parties this really was one of the best. With excellent live music, cultural and historical elements and a venue which can only be described as one of the most scenic in the British Isles I can’t recommend the Alba West Bike Show strongly enough. Do yourself a favour – clear some dates in your diary next year and you’ll be guaranteed a bloody good time.

If I had one complaint it would be simply that I hadn’t booked more time off work. If I had have done I could’ve spent a couple more days riding round and enjoying the area a bit more. Thanks to the Blue Angels for their hospitality and for putting on a blinder. See you next year.