There’s something fascinating about motorbikes. Whether it’s the chrome, the shiny paint, the compact and complex engines, the helmets and the leather that goes with them, the noise, the smell or simply the power, the freedom and the wild feeling of exhilaration that they bring, I couldn’t say.
I was sitting in a cafe beside a canal in Hamburg City. Nearby a busker was singing Edith Piaf’s La Vie en Rose. Tourist boats rose and sank on the nearby lock. The sky was blue, the sun was shining, the air was sweet with the smell of bacon and eggs and pastries.
From somewhere faraway came a buzz, like a swarm of advancing wasps. It drew closer. It grew louder. It began to sound sinister. It became a rumble, then a roar. A baby at the next table began to cry. Now all other sounds, the singer, the laughter from the boats in the lock, the clatter of plates from the café had been drowned out by the thunderous din. Some people leapt to their feet. Others sat frozen in fear. But I knew that it was the sound of motorbikes, lots of them. Then past the end of the street they roared. On and on they came, in their hundreds in along streak of flashing chrome and gleaming paint.
The noise subsided and slowly petered out as they came to rest on nearby avenue.
Later I headed over to have a look. There were bikes of every make, shape and age. There were great hulking Harleys, Indians, BMWs, Hondas, Suzukis, Ducatis. There were Mum and Dad bikes, Mum, Dad and the kid bikes with side-cars, lovers’ bikes, porno bikes painted with buxom silhouettes in skimpy gear and army bikes in camouflage colours.
Most of Hamburg it seemed felt that same fascination for motorbikes, because there they were on that street, spellbound.
Bikers had ridden from all over Germany to take part in the rally in Hamburg that day.