Ton-up in SW4

Rockers’ Revenge_1

Bikes Culture

Dressed up like a bunch of dandy highwaymen – and women, marauders spat out of a time-tunnel into the smog of rush-hour traffic in central London. The Mean err…so and sos are a loose-knit rabble of café racers, not a back-patch outlaw club adhering to military hierarchy, nor a membership-paying group of weekend warriors. Their menace is only suggested; unless you happen to be a blind U-turning cabby, but even then only your eardrums and panel work will suffer, they’re not blood thirsty.

Established in 1986 their skull emblem is based on the jovial fellow from the cover The Old Bike Mart (a free rag for the classic scene), but with his flesh ripped off. Preferred bikes are svelte 50s / 60s British café racers, (Triumph, BSA, Norton, with clip-ons and an aluminium tank), followed by chunky 70s Italians (more of a GP circuit look), and a spattering of disguised 80s Japanese bikes (faux Olde England, or a mish-mash of several fashions). The only rules are an unwritten – Look Sharp, Ride Fast, Make Noize. These are not sunny Sunday show ponies; their bikes have their nuts royally and sacrificially revved off them. Most own more than one bike, a great majority them mid re-build dripping oil on a living room carpet. One desperado even built his Triton in his council flat, 13 floors up, which necessitated a partial disassembly after the ‘dry-build’ to squeeze it in the lift.

Some of the original founders have moved to sunnier climates; if you refuse to adulterate your wardrobe with leery hi-tech waterproofs, but you’re bored of saturated leathers stuck in an M25 gridlock, there is no other choice. There have been several waves of resurgence over the years injecting fresh blood into new bars. But the new faces are not wholeheartedly respected by other more traditional clubs such as the famous ’59’, as although they look similar (to an untrained eye) their attitude is more modern. For example, ‘Vintage’ Japanese denim with oversize turn-ups replacing more traditional Levis. They mostly hold day jobs in the creative industry – these are not the working class hero factory workers of yesteryear. But neither can they be mistaken as Harley riding city brokers, just dolled up for the ride.

Weather and testosterone permitting, they usually meet up on a Thursday night for a spot of café racing – for the traditional Rocker the sport would have involved a reckless dash between transport caffs fueled purely on milky tea. Each set of traffic lights a new starting grid. Re-invented these days, it’s more likely to be a race to a trendy pub or Soho bar, but the evening is still rounded off by a last dash to the tea hut on Battersea bridge – the tow-away Formica cabin may be modern(ish), but the spot itself has been a Rocker haunt since the 40s. Mostly their terrorizing is done within the M25, but in 1993, thirteen of them made it to the Isle of Man. 365 miles there, 365 miles back, nobody broke down, and nobody shouted at any cabbies.