No limits.

Sources of inspiration and fresh ideas at Wheels and Waves.

Forget about dreary French towns

For the past five years, free spirits of all kinds have been flocking to the elegant little town of Biarritz every June. Their destination: the Wheels and Waves Festival – the ultimate place to be for motorcyclists and surfers. It originally started out with only a few hundred people, and now it attracts well over ten thousand visitors. The basic spirit of Wheels and Waves hasn't changed much over the years. But each year there's always a new attraction to look forward to.

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During the day, festival-goers can check out motorcycles, take in exhibits and meet up with friends. Surfing, biking and skating are also on the agenda. In the evenings, bands play live at Cité de l'Océan de Biarritz and the atmosphere feels like a music festival. The friendly and open atmosphere and countless custom bikes are a real source of inspiration and motivation for the ambitious bike customisers in the crowd.

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Motorcycle culture done right

He designed the artwork for Wheels & Waves: Naoto Hinai alias NUTS ART WORKS.

The organisers of the Toulouse Southsiders MC always do an amazing job of capturing the open and inspiring nature of the event in their ArtRide exhibit. Housed in a 3,000-square-metre former fish factory in Pasaia near San Sebastian, the exhibit showcases an exciting selection of rare historic bikes alongside international photography and art. Wheels and Waves is a meeting place for today's motorcycle avant-garde, whose influences can be seen all over the festival.

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French "savoir vivre".

French "savoir vivre".

The whole town of Biarritz is gripped by motorcycle fever, as you can see when you stroll through town or wander through the stalls on the festival grounds at Cité de l'Océan de Biarritz. Businesses decorate their shops with motorcycle lifestyle knick-knacks and carry products geared toward festival-goers. In the town's lively street-side cafés, heads turn every time a motorcycle thunders by. Even if it's the hundredth bike of the day, every single one is unique, and that goes for the riders too. They travel here from all over the world and make no secret of just how proud they are of their special creations.

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The styles, clothes and accessories they bring to Biarritz couldn't be more far-out. No limits. Far-out conversions (most of which are not road-approved) capture the imagination of creative motorcycle tinkerers. At dinner time, Basque tapas and wine share the menu with motorcycle talk. Anyone who didn't come here on a motorcycle at least brings a helmet along. That's because hitch-hikers are much more likely to catch a ride on a motorcycle. Cars are clearly outnumbered here.

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Surf. Skate. Ride. Repeat.

Surf. Skate. Ride. Repeat.

So are there only motorcycles in Biarritz? No way! The Basque coast is one of the hottest surfing spots on the Atlantic coast. American tourists began coming here with their surfboards as early as the 1930s and gave the beaches in and around Biarritz their reputation as a surfer's paradise. The local youth quickly caught on, built their own boards and developed their own style. During the "Thirsty Fins" contest at Wheels and Waves, the surfers among the motorcyclists compete in a wave-riding challenge on Milady Beach. Those who want more after the "early shift" on the beach can head over to the festival grounds and show off their tricks on the half pipe before taking a motorcycle ride through the scenic countryside. California lifestyle, made in France.

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Inspiration on wheels

The Concept Lac Rose at the ArtRide.

The Concept Lac Rose is unveiled at the ArtRide exhibit in Pasaia in homage to Gaston Rahier's victories in the Paris-Dakar rally. BMW Motorrad's Head of Design and Enduro enthusiast Edgar Heinrich and his team created a real eye-catcher in the style of the iconic 1985 rally bike, which is also on display. Details like the neon-orange paint job and the large tank instantly reveal how much the bike was inspired by the original rally bike.

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Proud Designers: Edgar Heinrich and Ola Stenegard.

The Concept Lac Rose is an impressive example of how customizing can transform a stock bike. Even though it's not actually designed for competitions, the Concept Lac Rose, whose name was inspired by the legendary finish point of the Paris-Dakar rally, could easily compete in an amateur event. "Pure, unadulterated fun is what this bike is all about. There are no limits, just like at Wheels and Waves", says Edgar Heinrich.

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"Pure, unadulterated fun is what this bike is all about. There are no limits, just like at Wheels & Waves.

Edgar Heinrich

La Copita on Punks Peak

It's now a standard part of the event: the legendary "Punks Peak" one-on-one hill climb contest on Jaizkibel mountain. High up in the Pyrenees, on remote, tortuous roads, bikers meet to face off against each other on their customised bikes. But the weather has been hot, and it starts to rain just when the race is set to begin. The clouds are low over the mountains as a cold front sets in. The hardcore cyclists gather on Jaizkibel; their trim panels look defiant in the foggy and almost mystical setting. But it's no use, the race still has to be cancelled. But the 50 cc riders competing for the "La Copita" (little trophy) line up at the starting line anyway. Let the show begin for the real show talent. Here again it's clear to see: Everything goes. As long as it's fun – and runs.

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A lot of horsepower on the horse racecourse.

A lot of horsepower on the horse racecourse.

By contrast, you could feel the heat at the first-ever flat track race at Wheels and Waves. A group of international riders headed to the famous San Sebastian racecourse, which is like the Ascot of Basque country, to make big clouds of dust on a beautiful sunny day. Karl Maier, four-time dirt-track world champion an BMW Motorrad dealer from Neufinsing, was the only one who caused even more of a stir. After 20 years away from motorsport, the legend returned to the track to compete against wild young racers on the R nineT Scrambler he customised himself. Once a racer, always a racer. Maier rode full throttle, but was defeated in the finals by his fierce competitors. "It was a great feeling", he says, blown away by the heated race. "But these young guys are very strong and I'm not 38 anymore. Let's just say its been more than a few years since I last competed".

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