After two frustrating years of Covid-related cancellations, the Wheels & Waves moto and surf annual festival made a grand 11th anniversary return to Biarritz on France’s southwestern Basque coast.

The timing could not have been more perfect as I had been invited to the resort by Honda to ride the Rebel CMX500 and CMX1100 DCT bikes. The plan was for a 150km ride-out through the Pyrenees and the beautiful Basque country, hopping between France and Spain along wonderful balcony roads.

Biarritz
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Biattriz: Sun, sea, sand… yes, a very kind of special

Weather on arrival was stunning, with packed beaches and dozens of surfers riding the waves. The plan was to enjoy a brief visit to the festival that first afternoon, enjoy the ride-out the following day, and back to the festival Friday. Well, that never came to fruition.

Biarritz
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The weather having taken a turn for the worse with periods of heavy rain, the ride was postponed until the Friday and instead we headed back to the festival’s central village on the Thursday afternoon. I’m glad we had the opportunity to do so because there was so much to take in. The multi-site festival is scattered along the Basque coast and features five days of extreme motorcycling, surfing, skating, live music concerts, and wild partying (I’ll come back to this later).

Wheels and Waves fest was born in Biarritz in 2011, and the combination of moto and surf sports seems quite natural for this southwestern coast of France, particularly as the town is the surfing capital of the country with great swells and stunning beaches stretching for miles. Wandering around the central village was a treat, with over 120 stalls displaying numerous specially modified bikes and paraphernalia.

Biarritz
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Image | courtesy Honda

Honda had brought 10 of the best customised CMX500 and CMX1100 Rebels from across Europe to display. Fans were able to vote in person at the event, or by visiting www.hondacustoms.com website, and the winning bike is due to be announced at the end of August. As many of you may already lnow if you are a regular visitor or subscriber to the site, Honda has kindly loaned me a Honda Rebel CMX 1100 for my long-termer, so reviews will be appearing on the site and YouTube through the year. Since Honda began the selling the Rebel 1100 last year, 52 per cent of the sales have been the DCT version…and looking at only this year, it is up to 57 per cent. Now that is impressive.

HOnda
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Image | courtesy Honda

I am a big fan of cruisers, and the Rebel could not be more laidback. Having said that, it has a dual personality lurking behind that persona, one which I was eager to exploit when we rode high into the mountains and be treated to some stunning views – and riding – up in the Basque country. Sundappled roads, twisties, clear mountain air… breathtaking doesn’t cut it. (I rode both the Rebel 500 and 1100 DCT version, and will attach a link for the riding review once I have written it… derr, obviously!…and posted the video.)

Indian Motorcycle, in collaboration with W&W, had previously commissioned four European builders to design their vision of an Indian Chief inspired from the past, anchored in the present and looking towards the future. Builders were Remi Reguin of BAAK, a brand that combines beauty, utility and functionality; Lucky Cat Garage, run by the creative duo Laurence and Sebastian; Francois Creche of Mystic Mechanic, which he founded in 2018 and is exclusively dedicated to design and motorcycles; and Tank Machine, a workshop in the Paris region founded in 2015 by Clement Molina and specialising in motorcycle design and customisation. Only one of the unique designs in the competition was to be realised, based on a public vote and a panel of super voters, and the winning machine was due to be presented to the lucky individual during a VIP trip to the show.

Apart from the village, the Punks Peak sprint race is the traditional opener, when riders race at the top of the Jaizkibel mountain, competing in classes in one-on-one duals along a 400m stretch of track. El Rollo is a series of dirt track races where riders from across the world compete in separate categories ranging from vintage to modern. The Vintage Rally separates riders into three classes – pre-1975, pre-1985 and pre-1995, when spectators are greeted to outlandishly dressed riders along a 6km time trial.

I popped along to the Artride custom vehicle exhibition at the Skatepark Biarritz. If ever a place was dedicated solely to expressionism, this was it. Daring, poetic, off-beat, creative, there were major works of art, radical visions and forgotten ‘saviour faire’. The focus was on artists from around the world dedicated to bikes, photography, street art, custom, painting, all making the exhibition a unique palace of communion… and for some of the riders, even a place of worship.

Biarritz
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No, that’s NOT the major…

I picked up on a rumour that in previous years the Mayor of Biarritz had not been particularly impressed with the antics of showgoers on the Saturday evening of the festival. ‘Carnage’ was one word I heard, with boozing, street races, wheelies and general good-natured, but noisy revellers enjoying the atmosphere a bit too much. So much so that there was talk that the festival may have to move out of town. Mmm. The riding is fine, but it’s difficult to surf high up in the mountains. And when you think about the incoming revenue to Biarritz each year, we’ll see, eh.

Oh, and we’ve listed the 10 Honda customs here… http://www.bikersnod.co.uk/honda-showcases-10-of-the-best-european-custom-cmx500-and-cmx1100-rebels-at-wheels-waves/

  • Words and Pictures – Michael Cowton