The Malle Mile, a very much needed adventure

Racing motorcycles off road
Finally, in a year where many of us thought we probably wouldn’t get to attend any major events,  the news that the Malle Mile was going ahead was very welcome.  For one weekend in August, within the confines of Kent's Kevington Hall, we gathered to celebrate the joys of racing inappropriate motorcycles just for fun. This year's Malle Mile was exceptional for many reasons…

While screens are good for sharing things, I have a passion for print. Holding a book or magazine still feels special to me so I’ve published an extended version of this story as a magazine. It’s a 60-page publication printed on quality paper containing over 100 images and my full write up. This is a self funded, personal project, but enough people have asked to buy copies that I’ve had a very short run printed. If you’re interested then use the link below to purchase a copy.   

It’s taken me three attempts to attend the great Malle Mile. I first discovered the event via images being shared via social media after the 2017 event and immediately thought I need to attend this event. Fast forward a year and I’d somehow missed all the promotion of the event, again picking up all the sharing over the weekend. ‘Next year I will definitely be attending’, well so I thought, but a clash with a family holiday put paid to that intention. Rolling into 2020 and I’d booked for the inaugural (Malle) Mile Beach Race and with the news that it would be delayed due to lockdown things were not looking good for the Malle Mile. However, a lot of effort from the Malle London team and the fortunate easing of lockdown restrictions allowed the event to go ahead, with a few restrictions.

Caballero Scramber Delux

A weekend of firsts

Not only was this to be my first Malle Mile, but also the first proper adventure on my newly acquired Caballero Scrambler. Also, the first time I’d been camping on a bike too – that’s a lot of firsts for one weekend. I’ll talk more about my new ride in another post. Riding with both camping and camera gear strapped to me and the bike was an interesting experience. I’m just thankful that the location, Kevington Hall, Crockenhill is less than 10 miles from home for me. After a short solo ride, without losing any kit, I was pleased to ride into the beautiful grounds of Kevington Hall. The gate staff were very helpful and efficient, it took me longer to get my gloves off than it took them to process my entry.

A short ride through the main camping field and I found my partner in crime for the weekend, Paul Welch, already setting up his tent. With camp set up I was full of excitement for this new adventure and as the sun started to slowly lower itself, I was well prepared to forget the outside world and the global pandemic for a couple of days and fully enjoy what was about to unfold.

There appeared to be a great buzz of positivity and excited anticipation throughout the site. While people were socialising and enjoying being outside together, the evening felt a little subdued. Which was more to do with a sensible and considered amount of social distancing rather than the event. It was great to catch up with people and meet new friends too. 

Race marshals

Saturday startline madness

Everyone appeared to be up early Saturday morning, was this a keenness to get started or the lack of hangovers due to the quieter than usual Friday evening shenanigans? Probably a mix of the two. A tasty breakfast, while sitting in the glorious morning sun, provide time to catch up with Tony and Tom from Sykes Harley Davidson, before the racers safety briefing. Along with all the necessary racing rules, there was also guidance on how to keep safe off the bike too – which spectators appeared to be following.

Motorcycle riders

First up were the sprint races which, for this year, had added corners to negotiate rather than the usual straight line dash. I think this caught a few people out on the practice runs as there were riders running either side of the hay bales. All was in order by the time racing started.

The rules are very simple, riders race head-to-head, at the startline bikes must be in neutral and riders place their clutch hand on their helmet. When the flag drops you go. Which is easier said than done when under startline pressure. Rushing to grab the clutch, kicking down into first gear and then dumping the clutch often resulted in stalling the bike.

The mix of adrenalin and frustration is added to by the friendly encouragement from the Channel 9 commentary crew – when I say friendly encouragement, what I mean is taking the piss and ridicule, all in a friendly and highly entertaining manner.   

Motorcycle throwing up rooster tails of dirt

The sheer volume of riders meant the sprints lasted right the way through the whole morning into the afternoon, in a knock-out format, with the winner continuing until we got down to the last two riders. Due to the extremely different types of bikes entered it’s a highly entertaining race format. Where else do you have the prospect of a BMW GS racing a 1970’s 50cc moped? And the winners not always the most obvious. While there are full-on dirt bikes there are also café-racers on street tyres, street fighters on knobblies alongside classic and retro bikes. There is truly something for everyone and every budget too. This is grass roots through and through.

Retro scrambler motorcycles

Afternoon Hillbillies

With the sprints out of the way, attention turns to the hill climb. It’s the same format as the sprints, but with more turns and uphill. Thanks to the dry weather the track turned very sandy and quickly resembled a motocross track with the large ruts appearing. These caused problems for some of the riders, but much entertainment for the spectators. The conditions made it extremely hard to work out who might win each race as the wrong line choice at one corner could see a quick end to your run. Mid-weight, high-revving bikes appeared to have the advantage as the ruts and dust increased.

Black and white motorcycle racers waiting

I couldn’t tell you who won any of the races as I was so wrapped up in the overall atmosphere of the event. As the light faded, attention moved back down to the bottom field and the moto-polo final. Two teams of riders, one from Royal Enfield the other from Herald, a giant football and two sets of goalposts. I’m not sure if there were any rules involved as it appeared anything went. Lots of shouting and cheering from the crowd was a sign of how much everyone was enjoying the mayhem.

The lack of light didn’t stop activities but offered up the inaugural all-electric Malle hill climb. Riders were adorned with multi-coloured LED strips and set off up the hill two at a time. Eerily quiet, but visually impressive those electric bikes shot up the hill. Keen to get in on the action, and fresh from his latest adventure Long Way Up, Charley Boorman took a Harley Davidson LiveWire up the hill. Judging by his face after the run I’m not sure it was such a good idea.

Sunday felt a lot calmer with a slower pace. The racing was still highly entertaining, but we enjoyed it lazing in the summer sun. Making the most of the weather and the company, but mostly thankful that the Malle Mile festival had not only happened but that it had been such a great success too. Robert, Johnny and the whole Malle crew made such an effort to make sure the event not only happened but that everyone who attended could safely enjoy themselves. Thank you for such a great weekend, it was much needed.

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