Cowboys & Engines - GoldWing Owners' Club UK

A cacophony of easy-listening heralds the arrival of another clutch of GoldWings. Matt Monroe grates against Geoff Love in a syrupy rolling sound-off as the GoldWing Owners' Club UK rolls pleasantly into the Banham Leisure Park in Norfolk. Hey, it's a Win

A motorcycle rally is traditionally an opportunity for people to give motorcycling a bad name. A large number of people here are doing their level best to give motorcycling a good name. GoldWing people are, on the whole, a gentle crew who enjoy few things more than a brew of tea.

Other visitors to this large and well-tended campsite are cordially invited (via sandwich boards) to come and see the GoldWings. And they do, so benign, unthreatening and other-worldly are the Wings and their people.

"This is one of the best Wing Dings of the year," Dinger Graham Wade tells us. He goes on to explain the various strata and relative status of the many and varied worldwide Wing events, like 'Treffens' (from the German 'meeting of friends'). He then reveals how the spirit of internationalism stops at the English Channel, for him at least. "Not being rude," he advises, "But I have never, and will never, go to a French one."

The Norfolk gig is popular: around 350 people and a friendlier bunch you couldn't hope to meet; either quite old or very young. This whole Wing trip is largely for folks who like a social but still have a bit too much energy and independence for a bus-bound Saga holiday.

"The thing is it's a family club," says (actual) bus driver Dusty from Folkestone. "There's no pissheads. I've been there and done all that. I don't want to stand in the same clothes all weekend. We've got showers and we've brought the grandson along this weekend."

He hasn't quite got a walk-in shower attachment zipped to his capacious tent, but what looks convincingly like a luxury fitted-kitchen lurks behind the two-ply nylon sheeting of his mobile home. "It's the sheer easiness of going by Wing," he continues. "You can take a King-size blow-up bed, a generator and a fridge with you." Literally, he means. This lot really like to camp it up.

"I bought a new Bonnie once way back - bloody awful it was. Then a Virago, then I did the BMW thing, but once I got a 1200 Wing I never looked back." Except to reverse a substantial trailer of course. Dusty and his mate George from Manchester fairly rack up the miles. The Luxemburg Treffen, via Switzerland, for starters, George has even done Route 66 (Chicago to LA).


George now rides a trike after an encounter with a somewhat unyielding stone wall in Yorkshire in '95. "Then I knocked it again - in Yorkshire - it's always in Yorkshire," he laughs (and if you'd seen the state of his leg you'd wonder how he saw the funny side of anything). "An ordinary 15 (1500) weighs about 900lbs and if it starts to go you just can't hold it. Now I've got used to the trike, I love it." This particular trike has clocked 60,000 miles and counting.

There's a hardcore of high-milers and distance Dingers, it's not all gaudy charabancs festooned with Christmas lights and tinsel, you know. Oh, alright then - it is. "If you don't have loads of flashing lights, you're not a real GoldWing owner," says Graham Wade. Someone else assures us that you can now get custom mirrors to fit in between the wheel spokes to add yet another dimension to decoration.

The standard enhancements tend to centre around murals, cuddly toys, chrome or gilt trim and a big line in quilted, leatherette panelling. The soft toy routine is something connected with area mascots. For example: if you were a member of the Hampshire Wings, you would carry a selection of toy hamsters attached to your Wing, if you were from Essex - squirrels. Even Ian Lloyd from Essex wasn't entirely convinced by the connection. "It's because you don't see us in Winter and we only come out in Spring or something - I think."

The murals are fairly standard among those who seek to improve or personalise their transport, extra shiny bits are again compulsory for those with a penchant for embellishment. The diamond-quilted vinyl however, is another matter altogether. The quilting is borrowed from American truck interiors, traditionally finished in a hard-wearing, wipe-clean surface.

A trike and trailer is commonly referred to as a 'rig' and the iconography of the independent trucker pervades this very unselfconscious scene.  The confederate flag is popular, so are Stetson-style hats and plenty of Johnny Cash 'Man in Black' clothing. It comes as no surprise that line-dancing is a popular pursuit amongst Wingers.

So is charity. Chairman of the GWOCGB is copper Ken Forster. A plain-speaking, thick-set man who makes it very clear that he doesn't want Visordown (or any other publication) taking the piss out of anything to do with GoldWings. Giving money to people is a large part of Winging. "And not just money," Ken points out. "It's about getting out and getting involved too."

They enjoy a run to nearby seaside town Cromer, rattle a few charity buckets and pump up the volume with James Last on the way back. Nice. Here we have a large body of people, friendly and generous to a fault. They like to be liked but plainly don't give a blind bollocks what anyone thinks of them. A fair few of them should be tucked up in bed with a mug of Horlicks. Others are harmless exhibitionists who might be equally happy driving a pink Cadillac dressed as Ronald McDonald.