London motorcycle show: My experience



I really need to start drinking.

It’s starting to look like I take life too seriously, everything needs to have a purpose, all actions must have some meaning. This attitude doesn’t work with the world I have to live in. I do realize life is inherently meaningless, and nothing we do makes any difference, but if I’m not going to kill myself anytime soon, I might as well have a good time.

I hadn’t gone to a motorcycle related thing for a while, so when I saw the event for London motorcycle show, I knew I was going. Went to the website to book a ticket, and saw a link that said “Press”.

I applied for a press pass as a joke, Riderzone is primarily focused on the Indian market, although in reality there really isn’t any focus, so I thought there was no reason for them to accept. I didn’t give any impressive plans as an answer to the section that asked “Please outline how you intend to cover the Show from your attendance”. I wasn’t even expecting a reply, but 2 days letter I got an email confirming I had got one.

It was a strange feeling, it’s like one of those job interviews that you don’t prepare for because you don’t care about the job to begin with, and you try your best to fuck everything up and they still hire you, what do you do? I am not press, in any sense of the word. It’s a weird kind of impostor syndrome, I’m not afraid of being exposed as a fraud, but I don’t think I’ve done anything special either.

In any case, I never say no to free stuff.

I have no interest in the bikes parked at such shows, I don’t understand why people are so happy to sit on them. Do they imagine what it would be like to ride one? Must need one hell of an imagination. I guess alcohol helps. The only thing I was interested in the show was the Adventure stage, where a number of world travelers were supposed to give talks and share their experiences.

Saturday morning I reached the venue, and went to the press office to pick up the press pass. As I entered, there was a person waiting in front of me to pick his pass. I heard him laugh and say “There’s no such thing as a good photograph”, and I recognized the voice. It was Mat Oxley. He smiled and went away, and my impostor syndrome got a bit more serious.

“Hi, umm I’m here to pick up a press pass. First name Akhil, last name Kalsh.” 

“Let’s see, it’s Riderzone is it?” 

“Mmmm, oh yeah, yes, that’s what my site is called.” 

I never had someone recognize me as the owner of Riderzone, it’s usually just “that piece of shit.”

Entered the venue, and it was packed. My original plan was to make a video of the event as well, but as soon as I got in I knew I wasn’t going to do that. I’m not Powerdrift, I don’t have the time or the energy or the resources to make bikes look beautiful. It would’ve been hard enough if I was left alone at the venue for a whole day, but all I got was shots of the bikes with a random elbows, legs, and asses sticking in and out randomly. I have no patience for this kind of stuff, even if I had somehow shot the footage, it never would’ve got past editing.

First thing I did was walk the whole place to find the Adventure stage, it was tucked away in one corner, instantly recognizable by the rusty old bikes parked all around it. Saw Ed March in his little booth swarmed by people, Rachel Lasham was there too, along with Tiffany Coates and a bunch of others I didn’t recognize. Nathan Millward was organizing the whole thing with a giant cast on his leg, that man can talk.

The first presentation I saw was by Nick Sanders, I have never seen that much energy in anyone who’s not doing cocaine. I think he lives on coffee and injections of raw sugar. He talked about his many record-breaking journeys, and how he goes about executing them. Not my kind of riding, but I admired and almost envied his energy. He’s the only person I have ever seen for whom the expression “Bouncing off the walls” makes sense.

I heard a few bikes being raced in the middle of the arena on a makeshift track, but by the time I got there a tiny Indian man like me had no chance of watching it. I could barely find an angle to look at the screen, should probably have slid through the legs of these giants all the way to the fence.

By this time one of my Facebook friends who helped me plan my trip to the Isle of Man TT showed up. Yuban and his wife were attending the show with a bunch of biker buddies, and without them I would probably have gone back home within 2 hours of arrival. The Adventure stage was nice, but I couldn’t find a place to sit, and the rest of the giant aircraft hangar had nothing of interest to me.

Before they arrived, I was bored, and I hated it. The show was excellent, I was the problem. I need things to make sense, I want purpose, and there was none to be found. It’s the same reason why I’ve never understood the concept of India Bike Week, or all those RE meetups that seem to happen every alternate day. What do all those people do? After Yuban arrived, I found the answer.

All these events like the Auto expo and IBW and RM are meant as an excuse to meet friends and drink, the bikes and the gear and the rest of it is just a side-effect. If everyone who went to such events was as boring as I am, they would’ve stopped organizing them long back. I went to Silverstone MotoGP and got bored there for fucks sake, it doesn’t get much worse than that.

When I go alone I always imagine that I would make some new friends and have a good time, but that usually doesn’t happen. I’m not much of a talker, I never approach anyone, and if someone approaches me I give direct, bland, robotic answers that either end in one word or go on for 6 paragraphs. It’s nice to imagine a perfect world where you just go and be friends with anyone, but I haven’t been able to do that in reality.

I watched another presentation by Ed, then one by Rachel, and also by Espleth Beard. I enjoyed Rachel’s the most, there’s a sense of British awkwardness in her that’s charming. After she was done I was ready to bolt, I had been walking for some 5 hours and had seen everything. The only other thing that felt mildly interesting was a walk through of his Isle of Man TT lap by John McGuinness.

We walked over to the parking to check out Yuban’s ZX-14R. That is one hell of a machine, I kept thinking if I was riding it I would look like a fly on a dog’s balls. I don’t want to own a superbike, but it’s hard to deny that the sound of that thing tempted me. How does it feel to have so much power under you? It must be like flirting with a gorilla.

The 4 of us without bikes found our way to the train station, my initial plan was to head back home, but the guys planned to go to a pub and I couldn’t give up on that chance. People, events and places owe me nothing, they do not need to impress me, they don’t need to have meaning or purpose, I’m the one who has to make the effort to find it, and enjoy its non-existence. I need to make more friends, to have some bad experiences, to move out of the bubble I live in.

While on the way to the station we got free copies of Top Gear, things must have really gone to shit for those guys, there were random women just flinging them at you from a few feet away. We made our way to Old Street and went to some pub that felt more like a mall for alcoholics. I got to know that I don’t have to wait a year to ride big bikes in the UK, I can directly get a full license after giving a bunch of tests. These guys had done so many trips to so many places that I wanted to go, it felt nice to talk to someone who knows what you’re talking about. We talked about track riding, touring, and spannering, it was brilliant.

I enjoyed the pub much more than the motorcycle show, and I just drank some coke. It must be even better with some beer I guess, but I can only guess for now. I live in too much reality, it’s time I gave into fantasy a bit.

As Morty said, “Nobody exists on purpose, nobody belongs anywhere, everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV.”

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