Review: The Malle Mile – Old school dirty racing
The retro custom scene has its very own racing season, with The Malle Mile now firmly on the calendar. Paul leaves his superbike at the entrance and goes back to motorcycling’s racing roots – the grass track.
It’s billed as “The British inappropriate motorcycle race and exhibition in motion,” which on the face of it seemed like a custom/rat/cafe racer/classic motorbike festival undertaking a series of races with fun at the heart of it. Hey, racing and inappropriate, both words that are high on my list of interesting things to do, so why not.
As a superbike-riding, Power Ranger dressing all-out TT/MotoGP nut, this alternative racing scene got the better of my curiosity, so armed with a pal we hoofed it down to The Malle Mile 2018, at the rather lovely Kevington Hall.
The event itself is a whole weekend event where camping is encouraged to really enjoy everything that the event has to offer, but I’m a busy boy so could only do the Sunday, on a day ticket.
Turning up at about 12pm at the gates caused a kerfuffle. Clearly, they were not expecting late arrivals as we had to wait 10 minutes before one of the marshals could be summoned to give us a wristband. He was dressed in what was clearly the attire of the marshals at the event, a white boiler suit and a beard perfectly groomed with beard oil. That’s not what I’m used to at racing events, for starters.
Neither is parking on the lawn in front of a stately home. The lawn was edged with teepees on one side and a real mish-mash of interesting bikes parked in an unorganised fashion which was refreshing and was clearly the theme of the event. Two bikes down was this rather lovely Honda CX 500, which was a nice intro to the event:
There appeared to be two tracks; a Hill Climb and a Sprint track. The smell of petrol and a sound of unmuffled exhausts pumped the air, joined by plumes of dust being thrown up by riders. Much of this Kentish dust came home with me on my shirt and leathers.
Unfortunately, our ‘late’ arrival meant we had missed the hill climbing, a shame as the track looked pretty interesting. Having seen the sprints a little later I’m sure it would have been good fun for a spectator.
There was a small “village” of sponsors huts and places to get food, listen to music and get a drink. A burrito was £10, another thing I’m not used to. Even at a Moto GP, ten quid for hand-held food is hard to stomach. We chewed slowly, to get our money’s worth.
As we stood there tucking in, a heavily tuned American pick up wheel span by, summoning the crowd to the sprint track for the start of the races. On the walk up there we took in the array of beautiful and interesting bikes parked in a marquee. The detail on the bikes shows how creative and technically innovative the current breed of custom builders has become.
Onto the races, and we found the “sprint track” was, in fact, a two-lane flat grass track with two hay bales that created a slight slalom. Each competitor took on another competitor with seemingly the only rule being “winner stays on”, reminding me of my pub pool days!
The racing was certainly fun, with a series of classes vying for victory. No two bikes where the same and no two riders had the same style or build. What seemed like a shambles with no real order to the racing was probably what made it so engaging. As the flag dropped, the riders dropped their hand off their head, grabbed the clutch, smashed in 1st and tried to launch off the line with the minimum of fuss, no mean feat as their rear tyre span in the dirt. Racing was close but fair – a bit of jostling – the style was to spin wheels with maximum power and hope you could hold on. It was fast and furious and highly entertaining. I imagine this is exactly how motorcycle racing started – take your bike to a field and get racing.
All of which brings me to the downside of the day. £40 for a day ticket seemed a lot but I suppose if you put it into context MotoGP at Silverstone charges more for a single day ticket and you can roll off pretty much every music festival and the ticket prices will be more. So was it worth it? I wasn’t convinced, unfortunately.
When I mentioned the price of The Malle Mile to another friend of mine, I got the response, “That’s because it’s the posh, monied end of biking, a bit cliquey for me and priced to keep the riffraff out.” He’d possibly judged the book by its cover, well website, but it’s a bit harsh, as there seemed a real mix of people at the event, from students to Bike Shed wannabees.
But it struck a chord. The general vibe was a bit pretentious and I’m not sure I would want to spend the entire weekend there. That said, I fully get that if you love the idea of custom builds and subscribe to Built magazine this could be the event for you.
Me, I’ll probably spend my next £40+ going to MotoGP at Silverstone, where admittedly I won’t get as close to the action and I’ll probably still get fleeced on the day but there is something about sheer speed and the air filled with the sound of high-performance engines that makes the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. Sadly, adding dust doesn’t quite have the same effect.
All images: © Biker & Bike