Something like this only happens if you really have petrol in your blood and an insatiable appetite for tarmac: 24 mix-and-match petrolheads saw the 1/8 mile at the atmospheric Glemseck 101 merely as a warm-up round for a trip to the United Kingdom. From the province they headed straight on to London. The destination of this journey comprising over 1,222 kilometres: the legendary Ace Cafe – itself a founding member of the Glemseck 101 event. At this almost magical place, the traditional Ace Cafe reunion awaits the participants of the Continental Run. In brief: the party picked up right where it left off.
Cradle of all Cafe Racers
But what exactly has been driving countless bikers to London for years and on Sunday along the Madeira Drive on to Brighton? The history, the myths or a very special spirit which lies in the petrol-impregnated air there? The Ace Cafe was founded in 1938. When one of many Road Cafes was on the North Circular Road in north-west London not far from what is now Wembley stadium. It quickly became a famous meeting point for motorcyclists who took their break in the Ace. It was a place that became a striking point in the local infrastructure. Yet during the war, the favourable location took its revenge. The Ace fell victim to a targeted bombardment of the surrounding important rail and transport facilities.
In 1949, the completely destroyed cafe was replaced by a new construction. In the prudish England of the post-war years, that which everyone refers to today as the cafe racer culture emerged. Rock’n’roll, maybe the first uniform youth language in the world, made the Ace into one of the most popular meeting place for young motorcyclists. Class is irrelevant here. But speed and rock’n roll more than make up for it. This is where the cafe racer ancestors met to hear the music which was played on the radio back then and organised joint trips to nearby Brighton or small speed races over short distances. Black leather, chrome and personalised machines characterised the image of the Ace. Back then, the adults would critically eye the styled up machines and their riders, who would enjoy the new wild music there. This mistrust of course only spurred the cafe racer style on.
In the middle of the 60s, rock ’n’roll increasingly lost in significance, just like motorcycling itself. From now on, the beat spread its conscious-expanding effect – not only in the musical sense. Drugs and a change in the audience did not pass by without a trace here either. After several problems with the authorities, the Ace Cafe finally closed its doors in 1969. But the spirit lived on, just in other places.
The original Ace Cafe was finally resurrected by Mark Wilsmore. In 1993, he started the "Ace Cafe Reunion". The clear objective: the Ace had to come back. The first reunion was already a roaring success with incredible visitor numbers. And today? Today, horse and rider are once again romping about visiting concerts, organising trips and living out their shared passion together. And just as was the case before: every biker is very welcome here. Especially on the 2nd weekend of September each year, when hundreds of enthusiasts on the way to the Ace Cafe reunion make their way to the Madeira Drive with Sunday's Brighton Burn Up. Just like the 24 bikers from Glemseck.
Black Forest hunting.
Black Forest hunting.
Although the first kilometres took them through the Black Forest, the famous gateau was nowhere to be seen. The riders were far too focused on the hunt. The hunt for kilometres, that is. The lowest common denominator of the group was clear from the outset: ride, ride, ride. This enabled everyone to quickly get to know and trust one another. The varied route was more than picturesque and offered a great deal of fascinating shadow play: into the curve, into the light, out of the curve, out of the light. Kilometre after kilometre. Some participants were already calling it the best trip of their lives after the first pit stop.
Pastures, forests, signposts.
Pastures, forests, signposts.
The journey continued through the Alsace, the Luxembourgian, Belgian and French Ardennes. The Who is Who of the scene were among the enthusiastic participants. Glemseck 101 program director Jörg Litzenburger, US racer Nathan Kern and last but not least Ace Face Mark Wilsmore were all on the start line. The latter could of course under no circumstances allow himself to arrive late in London. So the pace was brisk. And so it was just as well that the route through the Belgian forests in some places was similar to a true natural race track. Meaning of course that there was not much time for any proper souvenir photos. But after all, this was all about riding – and sometimes also about getting lost.
One road, one destination
The group reached Calais in time for their scheduled crossing. In front of the ferry, the much admired two-wheelers had to share the great deal of attention with historic four-wheelers, which also left no expense spared when it came to chrome and personalisation. With the machines securely and properly secured, the riders enjoyed the 40 kilometre crossing over the English channel in peace out of the saddle. A welcome break: helmet off, feet up. The anticipation grew as the destination drew closer and closer.
Land in sight. The direction was clear: only another 161 kilometres on the road which leads directly to the Ace Cafe. Then they will have finally made it: jackets full of pins, cool bikes and petrolheads – destination reached. And when it didn't smell of petrol and oil, the smell of excellent English food combinations wafted into their hungry nostrils: Fish&Chips or Bacon&Beans. At the latest at the bar, old friends met up or new friends were made. Because hardly anyone is here for the first time. On the contrary: everyone seemed to know everyone. Like one big family. A very big one, mind you. Surrounding the Ace Cafe besides the high-spirited joy of the reunion, there was primarily a feeling as if everyone had already been here before. Or as it so fittingly says on the Ace Cafe's website: once an Ace, always an Ace.
Photo credit: Oliver Rummler