By Ian Solley
These days I do a fair few road trips, and this my third visit to Wheels and Waves is also my third road trip so far this year. To try and make the trips stand out, its important that we test ourselves a little bit more each time, and for this year Paul Lesson and I decided to visit W&W properly, by riding all the way there on old bikes – Paul on his 1970 Honda CB 175cc and me on my 1977 Harley XLCR 1000cc – and although I had the engine size advantage we both slipped into an easy 55mph ride through France to Biarritz.
The trouble came on day three, when it started to rain seriously hard making riding in an open face helmet a trial and did not help Paul who had been struggling with a manifold problem on one of his cylinders – this eventually got worse, and just 150 miles short of Biarritz his bike failed and has had to be re-patriated.
Losing your riding buddy is always a downer on a road trip, and what with the continued heavy rain I was hoping once I got to W&W all would be good. The site has moved from the Lighthouse of the past 2 years to Cite d’Ocean a complex on the south side of Biarritz; I understand for various political reasons and also to provide more space for the growing visitor numbers, in the form of a secure shopping entertainment village for the vendors and sponsors like Ducati, Yamaha, Harley and BMW.
I was lucky enough to get a Gold Pass so I could park my bike inside, but sadly this year failed to get an entry to the event highlight the Punks Peak race. Despite this and the continued bad weather, we went to the bar in true British fashion and had a great weekend – as ever made by the people you are with, rather than the crowds around them!
In terms of crowds there was around 10,000 who turned up – which is a stark contrast to the 500 or so who came in 2013, it certainly made me feel it was not so special, but growth like this is inevitable, when sponsors and the media combine to elevate the event to almost legendary status. On the plus side I was really pleased to see lots of really cool young motorcyclists who will no doubt take this idea and re-create it in a range of smaller events throughout Europe.