Malle Mile 2019: The British Inappropriate Motorcycle Race and Exhibition in Action
Last year, in 2018, myself and our Art Director, Drew, attended what would become for us the best motorcycle event of the year, the Malle Mile. This year, we excitedly returned, with Ferrous now ticking onwards towards its second birthday. While we knew we’d enjoy the event to come, this year’s full camping stay at the event was a whole other experience.
Having left Worcestershire in the heat somewhere around 11.30, we trundled into the Malle grounds at Kevington Hall somewhere in the mid-afternoon. We got ourselves pitched, took five minutes to make it liveable, had a beer watching riders roll in with their tents, and went out to grab supplies - mostly more beer.
After getting back from our wanderings around Orpington, we grabbed the camera, some more beer, and went to work. First up: Moto Polo. For anyone that hasn’t witnessed this novel sport before, it’s essentially riders on whatever bike they have pelting a giant ball up and down a field, perhaps more like Moto-football than polo.
The teams are divided into competitors from Royal Enfield and the plucky Movember team, featuring Henry Crew. As with last year, whatever the exact sport is, it makes for fun watching. While Drew continued to watch and shoot the Rebel Alliance’s Rat Race, I headed over to the main stage tent to watch Henry Crew and Kane Avellano give a conversational talk on their experiences travelling the world by bike and setting their respective records.
I definitely didn’t regret watching the talk, with Henry and Kane recalling some more than dodgy experiences from various parts of the world, and raising some interesting points about their struggles to find funding for their trips. We got to drinking with Henry and Kane some time after their talk, firstly about Henry’s piece he put together for Ferrous on the Great Malle Rally, but also about this scene as a whole, and how small it really is.
This was a point so prominently demonstrated by the very fact that we were so easily able to chat and drink with Henry and Kane, also by the number of faces and bikes which we recognised from our trip to Bike Shed earlier in the year.
After the first night’s mellow and comparatively lightly beer-related experience, we went back to camp, our heads buzzing with the rally-wide rumours of Saturday evening’s fun - my notes from that part of the day read: “01:28 as I’m writing, bikes still blazing into camp”.
Day two in the Malle camp, and we wake around 8.30 to the sound of engines zipping around the tent and the roar of the rain beating the roof of our tent. Once we’d slightly sluggishly climbed out of our sleeping bags, we were greeted with something of a stream in our tent, giving us something to ponder while ate breakfast and planned the day’s shooting.
Issue number one for the day was the rain, which isn’t exactly healthy for cameras. We decided to run out in the car quickly, grabbing a few minutes in a dry box and picking up some freezer bags. This was followed by the joy of watching Drew fashion a camera cover out of bags and rubber bands.
Once we’d waterproofed the kit (but not necessarily ourselves), we headed back out to work. The first event being the sprints, of all categories. One of the most diverse events of the whole weekend, the sprints are an opportunity for anyone to rock up on literally anything they have with two wheels and an engine or motor of some kind and fling it across a field against competition.
Unsurprisingly, this premise makes for entertaining watching. The sprints are perhaps the best summary of Malle’s ‘inappropriate’ tagline, allowing you to watch Evel Knievel race against a modified Cub with rubber ducks hung off it. The entertainment value is added to a little when the ground is a sludgy as it was, with the rain still coming down the ground had become a little less than solid.
After the sprints, we headed back to camp for catch-up, some note-taking, some food and a beer. We didn’t sit for too long before heading back out, this time to witness the Hill Climb. With the weather not the cheeriest and the ground still more like gritty custard than a dirt track, the ever-present commentators injected the same humour that they had been all weekend. Honestly my favourite was their decision that one particular bearded rider resembled one half of ZZ-Top and played ‘Sharp Dressed Man’ as he pelted up the hill.
The Hill Climb was a winding course up the site’s steepest hill … essentially a hill climb. In a similar way to the sprints, a bunch of mismatch bikes pelting up a hill is always fun viewing, it must be said though, those with the foresight to bring dirt bikes or even just knobbly tyres made better progress.
As the rain picked up again, we headed back to camp, for another refresh, and another beer. Conveniently, the next event, the Malle 100, was just at the bottom end of the camp, meaning comfortable viewing and beer in hand. I think the 100 was my pick of the weekend as far as viewing goes.
Following the 100, the night gets … hazy. We were furnished with free cocktails, followed by free whisky, coupled with beers. Around this time, a biplane entered the Hall’s airspace, performing stunts above the grounds. Besides some memories of this looking pretty cool, my notes consist of Drew turning to me and saying “Don’t write this, I’m not taking any fucking shots.”
After this, we decided we should carry on working. We shoved down a damn good burger from the Damn Good Burger stand and headed over to the Midnight Rally, a little more aware of our surroundings. Riders in the Midnight Rally came decked-out with LEDs while the track was filled with smoke and intermittently illuminated by an impressive light display. The overall feeling was somewhat like a home-made Tron, only more fun to watch than Tron.
After this, the night became hazy again. Memories of watching the burning art display put on by Ben Piper from Firefly Light and Magic, after which we stopped for chat with Ben, who, if you ever get the chance to meet him, is an interesting guy.
“I like the skeletal remains as it’s burning. It’s a nice effect, ‘ya know?”
Later, we found ourselves sipping Rebel Yell with Chris Corona and Nicole Wait, two lovely human beings all the way from Austin, Texas. From here, it was on to the basement nightclub in the Hall itself for lots more beer and unexpectedly but very happily hanging out with Helen Stanley & Ant Partridge, two other awesome people.
After that … we ended up at the tent at some point, somehow.
Sunday was a slow start, not waking until midday and spending the first hour or so concentrating on stopping the tent spinning. After plenty of food, water and some mild protesting, we were up and Drew managed to (slightly impressively) launch his little Hyundai up the mucky hill to the camp.
Not too long after, our camp was packed down and back in the boot of the car. We headed back down to the arena for the last time, sad to know we were leaving but definitely feeling a shower and a lie down.
We caught the finals of the sprints, crowning the winner of the Mile, this time with even the commentators, who we’d drunkenly bumped into the night before, being a little quieter. Following the final sprints, it was over to the centre of the arena for the awards ceremony. With the winners and nominees for various ‘best in category’, such as ‘smile of the Mile’, put on display, we were taken aback as we found ourselves watching a rider propose to his long-term girlfriend, in a very unexpected but equally wholesome end to the Mile.
We made our applause, said our goodbyes to our weekend accomplices, and sluggishly jumped back in the car, with Hendrix taking us most of the way home. We hit Worcestershire sometime after dark.
While I was absolutely exhausted, I honestly have a hard time thinking of many better ways to spend a weekend. My ears still ringing with exhausts and rain, I can’t wait until next time.