HONDA CMX1100 REBEL LONG-TERM REVIEW: PT11
Shiver me timbers. A ride-out with the Hells Angels. When does that ever happen?
It was not that long ago that I read Hells Angels, the seminal work by American Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson; a no-holds-barred account of a year on the road with the biker gang and which transpired to be a masterpiece in underground reportage. The book was first published in the States in 1966. As The Man’s Magazine noted a year earlier, ‘They call themselves Hell’s Angels. They ride, rape and raid like marauding cavalry and they boast that no police force can break up their criminal motorcycle fraternity.’
More recently, I finished reading Under and Alone – Infiltrating the World’s Most Violent Motorcycle Gang by William Queen, a veteran law enforcement officer who penetrated the San Fernando Chapter of the notorious Mongols, his lengthy undercover work isolating him from friends and family for over two years. It is an adrenalin-charged, riveting read if that is your bag.
Riding with any motorcycle chapter or club is one of brotherhood; of reliance on one’s fellow bikers. Only the other day I had stopped briefly on the side of the road with my Harley to stretch my legs and a passing sports bike rider pulled over and asked if I was okay. Now that’s camaraderie. I read about that so many times. Raising a hand or leg, offering that standard bikers’ nod, assisting by the roadside, this is common practice no matter what you ride, an acknowledgement to a fellow devotee of two wheels.
Then I read a post on Facebook. The HAMC Nth. Lincs branch, one of 18 Chapters in England, was organising a ride in dedication of the life of one of its late brothers, Piggy. All bikers were welcome to join in on the day. I decided to take the Rebel as it seemed appropriate for the occasion.
I rolled up at the clubhouse near Spalding to be met by dozens of other riders parked up on the opposite side of the road, where I was directed by a Prospect. Well, I think he was a Prospect. I wandered across the road, signed in, and popped into the building to buy a can of Coke. There was one Angel sat at the bar and several others lounging around on settees, yet another by a table strewn Support 81 N. Lincs merchandise. It is funny how you can build up an image after years of reading about the MC. I first came across them back in the early 1970s at a pop festival which I was reporting on. A gang had decided to take over control of the front of stage as ‘marshals’, others lingering around the grounds watching for any sign of trouble. Yes, without doubt they were intimidating. Cross one and you cross the lot.
I had known of the 81 N. Lincs Chapter, but this was the first time I had had the opportunity to meet any of them. Members of other clubs had turned up in their colours, including members of the Warlocks from Grimsby. I was wearing my cut with the HOG Lindum Colonia UK Chapter emblazoned on the back. No one asked why I was riding a Honda and not a Harley, although there were plenty of bikers curious enough to ask about the Rebel, most not realising that Honda had updated the 500cc bike to the 1100 iteration. A beautiful engine and lovely looking bike, I commented, low slung, easily manageable and a breeze to ride, a bit more manageable than my hog, which brags 13-inch apes, so can be a bit of a handful approaching slow, tight bends. It all takes practice!
Anyway, back to the clubhouse. The first person to greet me was a President by the name of James. I very nice guy, but not sure which MC he was from and I did not ask. I was later to meet the Nth. Lincs MC’s Sergeant at Arms, another pleasant character called Lee. This was going to be a fun ride. The MCs run hard and fast, as I was soon to find out. As the Angels roared ahead, I joined the eclectic mix of bikes in about the middle order of over 120 riders, aligned in staggered formation. As we approached the first right turn-off, outriders blocked any oncoming traffic so we could all stay together. It was to prove the same at roundabouts and traffic lights, whether on red or green. Clearly, the Police allow the Angels to take care of things themselves. After each junction or roundabout, the outriders would come flying past to get to the front again to allow clear progress at the next road obstacle.
We stopped at Woodland Waters Caravan Park, just west of Ancaster on the road to Grantham. For holidaymakers and daytrippers we must have made an awesome spectacle, let alone a deafening roar as we pitched up.
I was waiting to talk to Lee when I overheard a brief conversation that along the way some riders had stopped to allow other traffic to pass across them and thereby held up the procession of bikes. I think that was the gist. The Sergeant at Arms, wholly unimpressed, told one of the Prospects to tell the riders to either do as instructed, or do one. Fair enough. With the boot on the other foot, so to speak, it is worth mentioning here that as we were waiting in the queue for the café, an elderly couple stood meekly at the back. In front of me was a member of the Warlocks. He approached them, took hold of the ladies’ arm and, with her husband by her side, walked them to the front of the queue. Admirable.
“If you can stay up, you can keep up,” I recall a President of a California Chapter once commenting. My Rebel ran without a hitch, proving its metal against the best of the big Harleys. When I mentioned to Mac, a very good friend of mine and a former Sergeant at Arms in Australia, about the run, he commented: “MCs generally ride hard and fast but, hey ho, they meet Mr Reaper. I’d sooner arrive alive.” Yep, I concur. But what a bonkers day out, all the same.