From time to time an opportunity arises for me, through receiving an invite to attend an event that I haven’t been to before and, if it’s held in a part of the country thats new to my sorry arse, it’s an even more interesting prospect altogether.
The 11th Alba West Custom & Classic Bike Show in Ayrshire ticks all the aforementioned boxes so I grabbed the chance wholeheartedly. The thought of a several hundred mile round trip did make me stop and question the wisdom of such an adventure I have to admit, but after a millisecond of thought my answer to one of the hosts was a resounding ‘Yes please, I’ll most certainly be there’. It didn’t matter a jot that it wasn’t to be until ten months in the future – in fact it was actually an agonisingly impatient wait for myself!
Imagine my surprise that when I landed at Eglinton Country Park on the outskirts of Irvine at 5.30 on the Friday morning – there wasn’t a single thing on site to show that a gathering of bikers was about to take place. To say that I thought I’d messed up the dates was a gross understatement. After all, down here in Sassenach country the marquees are very often erected as early as the Tuesday before so I sure expected the same to happen anywhere – especially by the Friday morning given that it’s just hours away from the enthusiastic die-hard punters descending in their hoards. Seeing a couple of trucks arriving a few hours later loaded with lighting rigs and fencing reassured me, though, so I settled back into chill mode and got some shut eye.
By afternoon the area was brimming with a tented village of trade stands, stalls and marquees and, of course, the oh-so important bikes and accompanying bods. The organisers have got their event set-up down to a fine art form, just as Corky had informed me. No faffing around – just a good hard slog and meticulous detail.
Alba West is Scotland’s premier custom bike show and has been for a number of years and, with visitors from all over Scotland, England, Wales, Ireland, Belgium and Germany, it means a colourful array of accents and dress are on display and that bodes well for the future success of the show.
If you’re into dancing to a wide variety of live musical mayhem (thirteen bands!) and a continuous stream of recorded jive in between, then the modest entrance fee of just fifteen notes can’t be scoffed at. Belgian outfit ‘Healer’ and ‘Mid-Life Crisis’ belted out some kick ass toons to quench my particular taste, but there was so much more. Blinding!
A variety of traders were on hand to display and offload their wares. This included the local Triumph and Victory dealerships who, I am ashamed to admit, I didn’t catch the names of. West Coast Harley Davidson were definitely there. I make no bones about the fact that my attentions were grabbed early on by Clydebank’s Area 51 Custom Cycles (the guy’s who built last issue’s cover bike) – the fabricating skills of Richard Bower (one quarter of the crew) were a delight for my camera with his radical TL Thou on show. The project wasn’t yet complete at that time, but it still wasn’t shy of exhibiting the exquisite engineering that’s gone into it’s rolling chassis, and the front end is just lushness at it’s best. That company are going places so keep ’em peelded in the future for more of their work!
The centre of the arena took pride of place on the Saturday afternoon for live displays of happenings linked to Scotland’s historic and turbulent past. Clan aggression and defence was foremost with lifelike displays and running commentaries by Clann Atholl and Clann Albannach, and it was extremely well received by the mesmerised onlookers. A musical feel kicked it all off with a Celtic drum band doing a stint and one could easily be forgiven for thinking that you’d been transported into the past by observing the band’s attire and listening to their sounds.
The event is about a celebration of many things, but the dominant feature (apart from the music) is the bike show. Due to the weather being decidedly iffy almost for the duration, the bike and trike exhibitors seemed unable to make their minds up as to whether to enter their machines or not because it meant crossing the grounds to the show marquee. It took a while for them to realise that the organisers are well switched on and where they hold the event is very well drained – any amount of the wet stuff that falls doesn’t hamper the proceedings here as it does many other venues.
Eventually there was a good and varied selection of customs and classics entered for us to (a) drool over and (b) pit one’s knowledge against that of the judges, if that sort of pastime rings your bell. In fact visitors were able to participate themselves and choose the ‘Best In Show’ category. I have to admit that on a personal note, this doesn’t do it for me – I prefer the judges to pick the ‘Best In Show’ but, hey, when has anyone given a flying fuck as to what I think?
Along with the ever-popular Barnsley Show, Alba West is blessed with the participation of various businesses who sponsor the show categories. This allows the organisers to be able to present some of the most unique trophies anywhere – high class swords, daggers, shields, etc. designed and made by craftsment at the top of their game. Step forward and take a bow the talented duo of Alex Smythe and Paul Lynch.
The top award this year was won by Jock Lamb for his Ultra Sledgehammer chopper – he scooped ‘Best In Show’ and Gary, from BAMC Leeds, took ‘Best Engineering’ with his S&S chop, arguably what some builders think of as the top honour. They were awarded a Claymore sword sponsored by Polar Cycles of Doncaster, and a Targe shield sponsored by Tyres Wholesale of Bellshill for their troubles respectively.
The other category winners also happily fled the stage clutching some very worthy trophies hand made by Dave Rankin and Henry Lawrence.
There was also a special acknowledgement honouring a fallen brother of the organisers – Scoobie’s untimely death may have been some 13 years previously but his memory lives on within his club, and especially with his fellow club West Coast brother Burd for it was he that collected the ESP Coatings sponsored Hand & Half Sword dedicated to Scoobie’s memory. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it was now hung pride of place on a wall alongside a framed pic of Scoobie.
There are many reasons why you should put aside a long weekend to visit Bonnie Scotland in 2008 and the Alba West Bike Show – apart from being assured of some excellent roads to test your riding prowess on once over the border, you’ll also be entertained to the hilt by the Scottish hospitality upon arriving at the show. Make a mental note to keep an eye out for this year’s event and get yourself up there!
Surprise visitors to the 2007 Alba West Custom & Classic Bike Show was a group of children from Belarus, Grondo, Russia. The kids were presented with club T-shirts and a cheque for £300 was given to their hosts for the purchase of childrens clothing.
Picture are the group with members of the Alba West Club, Duke, and Henry Laurence, joined by Allan McKay from Shetland and host Josey Currie from Drongan.