Images Sideburn /Jonny Wilson/Subsculptures

Britain has some great motorcycle events, but many are as stale as the last supper’s leftovers. A few years after first launching our own independent motorcycle magazine, the Sideburn team started thinking about bigger events. We were jealous of cross-genre shows in Yokohama and Brooklyn and knew British riders needed something more stimulating than sitting in a field wearing a jester’s hat while listening to an AC/DC tribute band.

The result was Rollerburn. Held last November, in Nottinghamshire, it mixed a broad custom show with a slalom skateboard race. It threw in a full, all-girl roller derby match and an art show. Thirty dealers and three bands set up. A couple of Arctic Monkeys paid on the door. Comedian Charlie Chuck destroyed a drum kit. Donkey!

Sideburn magazine focuses on motorcycles that ‘go fast, turn left’ from the worlds of dirt track and speedway, and also the road bikes loosely inspired these worlds and the DIY ethic, but we wanted Rollerburn to have much wider appeal.

The roller girl connection came from feature we did on the cult 1970s movie Rollerball. Roller girls go fast and turn left too. And a lot of them are better looking than the majority of people who turn up at British bike events. They were in.

The show bikes were inclusive too. This wasn’t a chopper show. Exhibits ranged from Shinya Kimura’s Junkyard Phantom (that featured in the movie Iron Man) to a Rossi replica Ducati Desmosedici RR.

The artist Conrad Leach created an 8ft square painting to face the ramp (it was later auctioned for charity) and slalom skaters, some of who turned up on their own Harley lowriders, launched themselves down it.

The highlight of the nine-hour event was world’s first and last indoor Rollerball drag race. Three 600cc dirt track race bikes towed three fearless rollergirls down the 150m strip. The team of TT hero Guy Martin and Catfight Candy won the three-way heat. Candy limped away with friction burns as big as your fist.

People came from all over the UK, France and Spain. The only lows of organising an event like this is the fact it takes over your life in the run-up, when you regularly ask yourself, ‘why are we doing this?’ That and the fact we couldn’t do everything we wished due to restrictions from the venue. It’s the kind of stuff that made me publicly state ‘never again’. The highs are the feedback, in the form of smiling faces on the day and internet buzz after it. That’s what makes me think, maybe we should do it again.

It’ll take some beating, but we’ll try. And there wasn’t a jester’s hat in sight.


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