It had to happen sooner or later; visiting the Copdock Motorcycle Show. For years, people have been advising us to get along there and bending our ears with tales of how great it is.
But season after season we'd been putting it off, pleading poverty, making other commitments, or simply crying mañana (not least because autumn is that time of the year when we're usually groping around in one of our shrapnel filled garages hoping to finish an overdue project before another shivering winter comes down).
But this year we made a special effort to keep the calendar clear and we loped along to Copdock filled with promise and optimism, and we're bloody glad we did. This is simply a great show. In fact, it's one of the best—if not the best—that we've ever attended, and we've seen a few.
If you're not in the know, the venue is Trinity Park on the outskirts of Ipswich, Suffolk.
It's the 22nd event organised by the Copdock Classic Motorcycle Club. But it's not a club in the traditional sense with open membership. Instead, it's a closed club established in 1992 by a group of friends in Hadleigh, Suffolk.
The original idea was to simply create an event to show off and otherwise enjoy their bikes, but it's morphed into a huge gathering that you can bet your life Mortons has got its beady eye on.
The current Copdockers are Dave Baldry, Paul Finch, Phil Sayer, Steph Ruddy, Julian Bye, Rob Dean, Mark Goulty, Graham Godbold, Andy Hall, Chris Harper, Alex Malcolm, Alistair McColl, Andy Randall, Ady Smith and Don Whinney.
So what makes it such a good event? Well, there are a few things that probably have a lot to do with it.
The first is the obvious organisational skill, dedication and enthusiasm of the above members who clearly know how to throw a decent party. These guys and girls no doubt start the next year's show before the last one has ended, and they manage to muster a huge and largely unsung army of helpers and volunteers, all of whom appear to know exactly what they're doing and acquit themselves with the kind of "professionalism" that many other professionals would do well to study.
The second factor is that this is a genuine family show, but with plenty of motorcycle activity at its core (unlike one or two shows out there that appear to have lost the plot and have largely sidelined the bikes in favour of whoever they can get through the gate). Can't remember when we last saw so many kids and dogs at a bike show, and that sounds like a pretty healthy combination and bodes well for the future.
The third factor is the timing. Copdock is always held on the first week of October and thereby offers the best chance of reasonable weather with enough greenery left on the trees to fool you into thinking that it's still summer—and this year, the weather was perfect. So full marks to God.
The fourth factor is the Suffolk sky which has a special light due to a benevolent confluence of atmospherics and sea breezes or something (ask any meteorologist or TV ad maker). And God has to take some credit for that too.
The fifth factor is that Copdock is pretty easy to get to by road, rail and North Sea ferry, hence the large number of European bikers we encountered. And a few people even came in, as if not to be outdone, by paraglider.
Put that lot together and you've got all the makings of decent day out, and so it was. The organisers tell us that they have considered making it a two-day show, but rightly (in our opinion) decided on a single firework with a bigger bang rather than have it simply fizzing away over a weekend.
The star personality was motorcycle racer Carl Fogarty who was there to pick the winner of the prize draw who, this year, was Paul Napier from Clacton-on-Sea, Essex who rode away (so to speak) on a 1972 Norton Commando). But we never actually saw Foggie, partly because we were busy poking around a pretty decent autojumble and hunting bits for our stable of classics and otherwise chin-wagging with the traders.
Beyond that we were watching Kevin Carmichael doing the kind of things on a Triumph Speed Triple that you'd find it hard to do in a cartoon, and we watched some Moto-Ball for a while, which is always an amusing diversion.
Then we took a peek at Ken Fox's Wall of Death which saw a trio of riders circumnavigating the inside of a timber drum and providing the usual centrifugal thrills—which was made even thrillier by the fact that two of the aforementioned wallcrawlers were very attractive girls (Kerri Cameron and Jaimi Starr) who ... well, let's not go there in case anyone of a more sensitive and prudish disposition is on the prowl).
So there you have it. A great day out in a great part of the world and organised by some very competent people.
Chances of a return next year? One hundred per cent, if we live that long.