Surfer dudes & dude-ettes in Raybans, riding brat-style CB500s with board-racks, beach-hopping with bikini-clad girlfriends on the back of their bikes in sunny Biarittz at Wheels & Waves, or, another weekend in unseasonally cold and wet London? ...Hmmmm. Decisions, decisions. It's easy to make an event look cool when it's populated by cool media types who know how to take decent photos and cut stylish videos, but you still need the bikes, the crowd and the scene to make it real, and it was pretty obvious that a huge part of the entire European cafe/brat custom scene had rocked up for a great weekend at Wheels & Waves last year, and it was all going to happen again. We also knew that BikeEXIF's cafe/brat guru Chris Hunter was making the pilgrimage to the event from the far side of the globe and that BMW were turning up with Roland Sands and that BMW we all want them to build. Something good must be cooking. We could also be sure of a host of outlandish bikes from David from El Solitario plus our friends William & David from Pure Motorcycles were going to be there (with a spare bike) and there was even a Brit posse going from Kingdom of Kicks, including Maxwell from Corpses from Hell, and Fiddy's crew from Davida. On top of that, the other BSMC guys couldn't go - and they were gutted. ...Not going would be a crime. The Dutchess & I really wanted to ride our bikes down to the event through France and have a mini-adventure, but we only had one day to get there and one day to get back, and the last thing we needed was a ten-hour 1000km motorway charge on two Ducatis with clip-ons. Sure, we could make the ride, but we were expected to hang-out and party when we got there, not collapse in a gibbering heap - ego's intact maybe - but our arses would be in tatters. The journey really needed two days each-way, and another 500kms to find a more scenic route. Luckily we had an ace up our sleeve, as we'd been offered Blue Moon to ride, a really lovely 1972 CB500 build by Pure who are based in Cannes. David & William would be on their other two CB500s, so we could join their posse. So - excuses made and guilt swept under the carpet, we took the car. Arriving in Biarritz with Wheels & Waves in full swing was like arriving in cafe/brat paradise. It's nice enough being by the beach on the Altlantic coast near the Spanish border, but to be in a town buzzing with bikes on every street corner and crowding around every cafe was bliss. It was the perfect place to sit with a coffee and watch the world go by. Every few minutes a crew of bikes would ride past, clearly from all over Europe. There were German plated Ducatis, Belgian Beemers, more brat-style R100s than you could count. A posse of funky chicks & skinny dudes in pisspot lids buzzed passed us three times on a group of brat-style two-strokes, clearly lost in the maze of streets, leaving a light blue trail of castrol smoke at knee-level wherever they went. We rode Blue Moon up to the Lighthouse (the perfect landmark for bikers without a Sat Nav) and joined the throng of bikes - and were waved through the car park to the main bike display area where we parked-up next to Pure's other two CB500s. Military marquees surrounded a small green on a cliff edge, selling beer, gear, skate & surfboards, sunglasses and there were obligatory stands from Ruby, El Solitario, Deus and of course a special tent for Rolands Sands' much talked-about BMW. Hip dudes and funky babes hung-out and chatted, looking painfully cool in the way that the French & Spanish seem to have mastered. It was all eye-candy wherever you looked, from the bikes, to the ink, to the hipsters' painted denim and retro style. The vibe and the scene couldn't have been further away from a wet November at the NEC bike show in Birmingham, drinking lukewarm frothy coffee in a plastic cup while choosing between a dry old Cornish pasty and a limp horse burger for £8. ...I just had to delete what I wrote next, as I got on a rant... but you get the picture. Biarittz was epic. The NEC... Isn't. It was also really happy and friendly. I have to admit that I don't normally associate time spent in France with a friendly crowd (ever tried to get a Cab in Paris at 11pm?) but this was Biarritz, heavily influenced by it's proximity to the Spanish border, and the crowd was all ours. Friends and fellow riders. By turning up two days into the event we did miss quite a few things. There was a lot of stuff going on during the Thursday & Friday (while we worked and travelled). Event organiser, Vincent from Southsiders, set up a drag race in the mountains, and there was a grand unveiling of the Roland Sands Beemer with speech from BMW's head of design. We also skipped the Saturday 9-hour ride, as we had a late one on the Friday night and wanted a day at the beach hanging our with biker friends. We love a good ride-out, but two-up on a 1972 Brat style CB500 for a whole day wasn't massively appealing (and the Dutchess is not a natural pillion, she likes to ride her own bike). Anyway, plenty of other visitors skipped the ride too so we hung out in beach-side cafes for half a day and then headed back to the lighthouse to join the party. As you'd expect the bike park was almost as entertaining as the show - just as it was at the BSMC event in May. Hundreds of custom brats, bobbers and cafe racers parked-up along side hot-rod cars and pickups. The bike-park security were pretty ruthless with people turning up on the 'wrong' kind of bike, and made half the crowd of visitors park up the street, but no-one seemed offended and it did all add the vibe on the inside of the event area. I guess we wouldn't have wanted to spoil the scene on a rented VFR either. We met lots of really cool people over the 36 hours we were there. A lot of custom builders who contribute to the Bike Shed were present, as we have been championing the Euro scene pretty hard over the last 18 months, especially the Spanish builders. We also missed lots of people we'd like to have met face to face, as it's not like anyone wore name tags, and most people weren't speaking English, so we didn't know who everyone was - at least not until all the photos came out, and names were put to faces. ...We were actually told to look out for "the cool-looking bearded dude with the rocker's haircut" several times, but as that was the description of the whole crowd it really didn't help. So, was it all worth a 2000km round-trip at 110mph on expensive toll-road motorways for one day and two nights at Wheels & Waves? Yes, it was, but lesson learned. ...Next time we take the whole week off and we ride our bikes, and we do the whole event. ... And meanwhile, we are on a serious mission to help bring more of this scene to life in the UK too. We may not have the weather but we do have the bikes, the people and the vibe and a very cool, growing scene. In fact we're just planning our next BSMC event, so watch this space. Thanks to Merry Michau for the original photos. There are a ton more out there, many on the Southsiders pages.