Box Hill: Breaking the habit

Is this Mecca for bikers. Or just a damp car park?

Last weekend I went to Box Hill, I hadn't been for at least 5 years. I woke up on Sunday morning and had the urge to check it out on my way to Brighton for Brightona.

I used to go to Box all the time when I was 21 and had a Bandit 400. I'd while away the hours drinking tea, eating burgers and looking at the bikes I couldn't afford, dreaming of owning a superbike. One day.

Back then biking was a massive learning curve for me and Box Hill was a great place to be to immerse myself.

Last weekend was a bit of a trip down memory lane, albeit a lane covered in white lines, GATSOs and anti-speeding signs. The run down to Rykas cafe from Sutton was plastered with white paint and double-white lines, infact the whole area is. It's as if the local council have painted solid white lines on every road where there's been an accident involving a motorcycle. The whole place feels hemmed-in, probably just how the council want it.

The car park was fairly empty, just a few cruisers stopping on their way down to Brighton. Rykas cafe was exactly as it was when I last saw it. The solemn faces of the girls behind the counter serving countless cups of tea to middle-aged bikers who are trying to juggle a lid, gloves and keys to find 95p amongst an old earplug and a tissue stuffed in their jacket pocket.

It's kinda nice I guess.

And what would Box Hill be without the Fastest Man in the Car Park. He turned up on the GSX-R pictured here. Revving, no-one looking, more revs, another lap of the car park, a final rev before killing the engine. Has everyone noticed him yet? Good. He struts into the cafe area then gets back on his bike and fires off up the hill holding onto first gear all the way into 21,000rpm.

It's funny how many stereotypes there are in this small world of biking.

After my cuppa, I rode around almost every road in the area that I - and many Visordowners -  used to ride on, back in the day. The bloke who paints the double-white lines on the roads around here must have retired a rich man. Every road is full of them. Can we not be trusted? I suppose not.

I don't know whether it's just me becoming a grumpy old man but the rebellious haven for biking that was Box Hill seems to have been destroyed. Was it ever rebellious or have I got my rose-tinted specs on? I remember when everyone used to hoik wheelies up the dual carriageway, do burnouts before leaving the car park and almost crash metres later. The police put a crushed Fireblade on a pole by Rykas cafe, a bike that was crushed after the owner flipped it outside and did a runner. That to me was an invasion of 'our space' and a real affront to biking. Now it's swarming with old duffers on K1300s. But it's not just about what's going on in the car-park, the roads in the surrounding area appear to have been castrated.

I saw a small group of Latvians on their motorcycles. They must have heard about Box Hill, turned up and wondered why they'd bothered.

It seems over the years, Box Hill has been chastised by the powers that be. And it got me thinking: what's the formula you need to create a popular biker hangout? A pub or cafe, a big car park, good roads.

It's not like we have a shortage of those in the South. So where's the new Box Hill?

Or, like me waking up on a Sunday and picking a place to go on the bike, are we all just creatures of habit?

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