Ace Cafe Xmas run

Published: 16 December 2005

Over 400 bikers met up at London's Ace Cafe for the annual Christmas Toy Run on Sunday, December 18, 2005.

The run was the eighth organised by the Ace. It started with just a few mates one year after the café re-opened and is an opportunity for bikers to meet, dress as Santa and brighten up Christmas for children in the capital’s hospitals. Over the years, the toy run has grown and become more organised. Ace café owner Mark Wilsmore described how in the beginning they set off at the convenience of the bikers taking part, but now are required to keep to a much tighter schedule and must pre-arrange each visit with the hospital and several police forces. A recent addition to the event is the blue light escort, with members of the Met’s Bikesafe London scheme accompanying the riders, making sure their route is clear and no one attempts to obstruct the bikers in their quest. It’s every rider’s dream come true to be riding down suddenly empty London streets with permission to run red lights. The convoy made a fantastic sight, with hundreds of burly bikers wearing Father Christmas beards, machines trailing tinsel and fairy lights. Shoppers and tourists couldn't believe their eyes as the convoy drives by beeping and waving, full of festive spirit. The looks on the faces of both children and nurses when we arrived at each hospital was a mixture of pleasure, apprehension and disbelief, their wards were suddenly full of bikers bearing gifts. Once the initial shock and surprise wore off the youngsters were delighted to see these unconventional Santas.

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Notable riders included Pete Cheney, dressed in full Father Christmas outfit, and riding a Suzuki Intruder labelled "Elf’s Taxi". He works for Croydon Council driving disabled children to and from school, but outside of work, biking is his passion and this particular event is especially close to his heart. Chris Whiting, an estate manager for Penny Hill Farm Spa and Hotel got thoroughly in to the spirit of things, not only did he adorn his red Gold Wing trike with tinsel, he had also bought presents donated by members of his staff for the children and gift sets from the spa for the nurses. Art Burasz, a member of London Bikers had taken the unusual approach of wrapping his entire Kawasaki Three-Six R in Christmas gift paper. Now I know that for many bikers this is the sort of present they dream of finding under the tree but even at the convoy’s sedate 20mph, slipstream proved problematic when every ten minutes Art had to stop and tape his elaborate packaging back together. Few would normally pick out Royal Enfield’s Bullet as a particularly sexy piece of machinery, however James Wrobel’s 2003 model certainly caused a stir with more tinsel than the average Christmas Tree - it took him over an hour to painstakingly wind tinsel through the spoked wheels, but the effect was definitely worth it. Mark Wilsmore believes: “This event is so popular because it provides the opportunity for bikers to do what they like best, going out as a group on their bikes and combining that with the act of giving at Christmas. What more could any anyone want?”

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