There may be 17 hours of daylight at the moment but we know your biking time is precious - you don’t want to waste it going to the same old bike meets and shows. Which is why MCN’s team of experts have brought you this definitive guide to 2016’s must-do events.
From riding mopeds up the Alps, watching grasstrack in Lincolnshire, and dancing on tables with BMW in Bavaria, if you’re going to go anywhere with your bike this year, make sure it’s to one of these...
Red Bull Alpenbrevet, September 3-4
Grab yourself a couple of cheap mopeds, throw them into the back of a van with a couple of mates, and bomb it over to Switzerland and ride stunning, twisty, gorgeous mountain roads with thousands of fellow nutcases in fancy dress. You’ll have the time of your life.
Inside line: Your moped must have pedals and you must have a sense of humour.
Best for: If you crave speed then this isn’t for you.
Ducati Riding Experience, September 6-7
Good track tuition unlocks doors that seem bolted shut, adding speed without adding to the chances of leaving the circuit in an ambulance. It makes you float on air for a few days too. And if it’s held on a classic race track, preferably one on the far side of a European mountain range, well, pass me that tailpack. Summer doesn’t get much better. Right up among the best is the Ducati Riding Experience held expensively and exotically throughout the summer at Misano, Monza and here, my choice, Mugello.
DRE has courses and levels for all. In the paddock gleeful newcomers in the Intro and Precision groups scrape their Monsters’ pegs between the cones, while out on the circuit it’s all about the lap time as students on Panigale 959s, 1299 Ss and 1199 Rs, pristinely prepared and running sticky Supercorsas, pound round looking to shave tenths. My course is Track Masters, where the main focus is on learning how to wring the most from the Panigale 1299 S and its state-of-the-art electronics.
Many of the coaches are familiar faces. Former 125GP champion Manuel Poggiali and current MotoGP rider Michele Pirro are very much in the house. My coach is former Italian Superstock champion and Ducati offshore test rider Alessandro Valia, a man who knows the Panigale better than anyone on the planet.
The evening before we ride on track he leads my group of just three riders to a classroom above the Mugello pits, and is straight into detail of using the lap timer properly and working out when to push for a faster time or back out of the lap. He explains that ‘regressive’ braking – holding the lever deep into Mugello’s trilogy of ever-ending, high lean horseshoes – is a huge part of a fast lap here and that learning to exploit the Panigale’s cornering ABS is crucial. “Use it!” he says. “We want you to brake all the way to the apex!”
He explains that by braking later than ever before it also helps the Paniagle turn. He points us to lines that will specifically exploit the 1299’s high mid-corner speed, and encourages us to use the traction control so we can nail the throttle as early as possible.
Next morning the pace is hot. I’m new to Mugello and the track rushes at me, and for the first two sessions I struggle to dial in. We ride in bursts of five or six laps, taking turns to lead, and then pit for analysis by video and datalogger, while our bikes are whisked away before reappearing freshly fuelled and ready to go. It’s detailed, fast and fun. As our helmets cool on Ducati’s awesome lid-fridge, Alessandro coaxes me into taking later apexes through the esses. Italian is the main language, but everyone takes care to ensure I miss nothing, while the atmosphere is friendly and relaxed, with a sprinkling of factory fairy dust.
Inside line: The roads around Mugello are spectacular, with the Futa Pass only 30 minutes away, so why not make a week of it.
Best for: Riders with track experience, but DRE has courses for all ability levels.
Entry: €1490 (£1175 approx, prices vary for other DRE courses)
Hard Alpi Tour, September 9-11
Imagine riding with your mates from the UK to the Italian Alps, and then taking part in one of the most epic 24-hour rallies in the world. The Rally covers hundreds of miles off-road through the beautiful Alps and across some of the most stunning scenery in Europe. It’s extremely well run with proper food and rest stops.
Inside line: You must have a three-man team to enter and your bike has to weigh over 150kg.
Best for: You’ve got to be the adventurous type, but you don’t have to be a pro off-roader. It’s for big adventure bikes and is non-competitive so anyone can ride.
Goodwood Revival, September 9-11
Motorcycle racing’s best-kept secret, the Goodwood Revival is the place where legends come out of retirement to race again. But these are no choreographed parade laps, it’s no-holds-barred, elbow-bashing racing on classic machines, made famous by the great battles between former GP champs Barry Sheene and Wayne Gardner in the early noughties. Since then the Barry Sheene Memorial Trophy has played host to the likes of Jeremy McWilliams, Kevin Schwantz, Freddie Spencer, former F1 driver Gerhard Berger and dozens of former BSB stars.
Inside line: Go in period fancy dress – turn up in jeans and a T-shirt and you’ll feel the odd one out.
Best for: The dedicated petrolhead and nostalgia lover. Get close to some of the best two (and four)-wheeled classic racing machines ever built and rub shoulders with a whole host of stars in the paddock. Once inside the gates it’s like going back in time. Everything from the chip vans, shops and crowd’s clothes are pre-60s.
Entry: Friday: under 12 free, 13-21 £25.50, adult £51, Saturday: sold out. Sunday: under-12 free, 13-21 £36.50, adult £73.00.
International Gold Cup, September 24-25
This year’s Gold Cup at Oliver’s Mount promises to be a cracker as the prestigious event celebrates its 70th year. As well as hard-fought racing there will be a parade of racers past and present who have competed at the last remaining true road race in England. The Gold Cup is Olivers Mount’s largest event of the year, attracting the very best of road racing at the only circuit in the UK where you can get up close to racing between-the-hedges. I love the atmosphere and the intimacy of the action, plus the way Scarborough turns into a mini TT as race fans enjoy the festivities on Friday and Saturday night.
Inside line: Take walking boots in a backpack as the track is built on a hillside and the best vantage points take some effort to get to. It’s also worth paying a little extra to get into the paddock: there aren’t garages and riders don’t hide away.
Best for: Fans of real roads racing.
Entry: £20 Sat, £30 Sunday, £50 for weekend pass includes paddock pass.
Sywell Classic, September 24-25
Nestled in the Northamptonshire countryside, the 1940s Aerodrome comes alive with the sound of humming engines from bikes, cars and planes. With the runway converted to a drag strip for the weekend there’s plenty of chances to see bikes and cars from all ages in action. In the air there are performances from various display teams. It’s a petrolhead’s dream.
Inside line: Grab a good vantage point by the hay bales and enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of the day.
Best for: It’s like a mini Goodwood Revival, but with shorter queues, better access and lower entry fees. Period costume is optional.
Entry: Advanced day tickets £18, weekend £30. (£22/£35 on the gate).
Intermot Cologne, October 5-9
The Milan show may be heralded by some as the European show to visit but the Cologne show is the one for me. Not only can you ride there in a nice easy day but its October timing means the weather can still be nice enough for a scenic ride through the German countryside. Cologne is a lovely city to visit and the show is well organised. Precisely the opposite of the generally shambolic Milan show, which is located in a grim industrial area north of Milan.
Inside line: Make sure you get there nice and early as the place fills up fast. There is plenty of motorcycle parking near the main halls. If you have kids there are millions of stickers and small samples of certain items to collect on the way around.
Best for: People who are keen on seeing many of the new bikes for the forthcoming year, and those who are able to swing a city break away while taking a partner who is happy to do something in a beautiful city while you look at bikes during the day.
Entry: Day ticket from £11 (€14)
Stars at Darley, October 9
It’s club racing’s annual end of season extravaganza, where the superstars of real roads racing and BSB go elbow-to-elbow with hardcore clubbies at one of the UK’s fastest circuits. The Stars at Darley meeting sees top riders like Peter Hickman, John McGuinness, Michael Rutter, Richard Cooper and Lee Johnston do battle with a full grid of the club’s quickest riders, for a prize fund of over £7000. With average speeds in excess of 100mph and excellent track-side viewing, Darley offers spectators thrills that are unrivalled by any other UK circuit.
Inside line: Pop down on Saturday lunchtime for the official test session.
Best for: True race enthusiasts
Entry: Race day is £16 adults and £10 seniors, under 16s go free.