Biking for All the Family
A kaleidoscope of friendly, colourful and (slightly) laid back biking fun, the Malle Mile is almost a village fete on two wheels
Article by The Papa Gorilla
The 2018 Malle Mile, “the greatest and most inappropriate motorcycle race in the country” – for so it is (rightly) billed – took place from 29th June to 1st July in the grounds of Kevington Hall in Orpington.
The Malle Mile is a weekend of racing, eating, drinking, music and gentle frivolity. An assembly of well-presented stalls and stands, set between the manor house and the main race track, feels almost like a wild west covered wagon circle – rustic, cosy, inviting yet exciting.
And then there’s the paddock, where all manner of machines are lined up, ready to race. It’s access all areas here, and you can wander at will amongst riders and their multifarious steeds. This is racing, but not as we know it. Forget smooth tarmac, grandstands and high-tech pits, and think rough grass, hay bales and a judiciously-wielded oil can.
Scramblers, dirt bikes, café racers and scooters old and new all sit side by side. Some shine, some look more dishevelled, all are clearly well-loved and well ready for the upcoming challenges of the flat racing and hill climb that form the core of the weekend’s many attractions.
The flat race is a short point-to-point, with two hay bales as slalom posts between start and finish lines. Commentary is excitedly delivered via a PA from the back of a classic pick-up truck, and provides colourful insight into what otherwise (or indeed still) appears to be near-mayhem on the track.
Some riders slalom gracefully; others appear to ignore the course. Bikes seem equally (enough) paired in heats, then are whittled down to face off in the finals. Are they practising? Is it a heat? Who won? Surely that was a disqualification! None of it matters as the riot of fun unfolds on the turf before you.
There’s also the hill racing and Derby – a whole host of ‘run what you brung’ events that access the pure joy of messing about on two wheels.
As a biker I was in heaven: pretty much all manufacturers, styles and eras were represented. There’s a custom bike tent with some true works of art; and a show paddock with bikes and also trucks to drool over.
But you don’t need to be a biker to appreciate the Malle Mile. It’s a feast of sights, sounds and fun. The whole atmosphere of the thing is quite enchanting. I bumped into a friend there by chance and he said “it’s just like a village fete, really” – and it is. There’s no rush, no stress – there’s a schedule and they kind of stick to it. You can watch the action but stray away and not feel that you’re missing out. You can drift in and out of the racing, the exhibits, the food stands…
And you’re well catered for, despite the relatively small scale of the event. Fish and chips, burritos, barista coffee served from atop the sidecar of a classic motorcycle, and some of the finest ice cream I’ve ever tasted – it’s all within easy reach.
I say small scale and it sounds disparaging. It’s really not. There’s hundreds of bikes and hundreds of people. There’s plenty to see and do, all required amenities and no sense of the event being under-attended. And yet at the same time it achieves an intimacy, a friendliness, an effortless air of informality that is utterly beguiling.
We went there as a family: myself, Mamma Gorilla and Gorilla Boy. There weren’t that many kids about but those that were there had a great array of activities laid on just for them. We will definitely make this an annual fixture from now on and in a few years Gorilla Boy and I will be setting up our tent and spending the whole weekend on site to catch all of the action and atmosphere.