To help celebrate its first 30 years, Chelsea & Fulham H.0.G. were invited to participate in London’s New Year’s Day Parade. Alongside the local authority floats, the Texan marching bands and the helium filled giant balloons would be 14 gleaming Harley-Davidson motorcycles ridden by ourselves. We would be broadcast live to a worldwide television audience assessed to be in the region of 500 million people, but not unfortunately on any terrestrial UK station.
Road Captain Rob Warr was in charge of the arrangements - those selected met at 611 Kings Road for a short briefing, then rode together to Piccadilly where we parked up until called forwards to ride (very slowly) along the parade route. Piccadilly, Regent Street, Pall Mall, Cockspur Street, Trafalgar Square, Whitehall, Parliament Street and finishing in Parliament Square. Every few hundred yards there was a grandstand with announcer, where we were variously introduced, engines were revved and waves and smiles exchanged with the enormous crowds. The parade was sufficiently well spread out that any noise we were making was not going to interfere with the other participants or frighten any horses. Instead we were met with a sea of small waving Union Jacks.
There is something about the Harley Davidson mystique that lends itself uniquely to participation in this sort of event - is it the noise, the chrome and paint, the relaxed riding style, the feeling? The cooler day certainly ensured that nothing overheated, although my right leg did get uncomfortably hot from its proximity to the oil tank. Everyone was very careful not to let the enthusiasm of waving to the crowd be followed by the ignominy of running into the back of the bike in front, so we adopted a compressed staggered file to suit the conditions.
London seemed to excel itself; the weather behaved, the marshalling was effective, policing visible enough to be reassuring but not intrusive. All the side streets around the procession route were thronged with tourists and locals and the whole thing had the air of a giant outdoor party. One French couple we spoke to said they had come to London because they felt safer here and we hadn’t cancelled anything so as to spoil the fun. Apparently the only glitch was one of the giant balloons snagged itself on a building and had to be substituted - by a giant unicorn. Nothing less would have sufficed.
By Michael Howers - C&F Road Captain
Photographs by Rob Warr, Michael Howers, Keira Vallejo and David Austin-White.