Tomatina: Ducati Multistrada S, KTM 950SM & BMW K1200R

Take three barking bikes to the world's biggest food fight and it's a guaranteed
recipe for chaos. James Whitham is your referee

Tomatina: Ducati Multistrada S, KTM 950SM & BMW K1200R
Engine Capacity

Imagine cramming 40,000 people into the centre of a Spanish village. Next, allow them to get slowly drunk, then pour 20,000 gallons of cold tomato soup over the top of them. Now you have some idea what happens at the annual Bunol 'Tomatina' festival near Valencia. I could tell you about it being part of a week-long fiesta in honour of the town's patron saint, San Luis Bertran, and includes paella cooking competitions, dancing and all the rest. But who cares? It's about tomato war!

The pelting starts at 11am so we arrived three hours early to suss the job out. We parked the bikes - BMW's K1200R, the Ducati Multistrada S and KTM's 950SM - fairly near the Plaza del Pueblo, or Ground Zero in tomato conflict terms. You're going to have to wait for the bikes, because the Tomatina was so unbelievably mental that I've got to tell you about that first.

The centre of the village was a hive of activity; residents and shopkeepers were furiously boarding or sheeting their windows and doors, makeshift street bars were selling wobbly one-litre plastic glasses of beer and people were arriving in t-shirts and shorts, mostly with a pair of swimming goggles dangling round their wrists or necks. This was gonna be fun.

Everyone was issued with an A4 sheet of Tomatina 'do's' and 'don'ts' as they enter the square - this was organised silliness. The rules of engagement are simple:

  1. Throw tomatoes, and only tomatoes. (Fair enough, I suppose) 
  2. Squeeze the tomatoes to crack them before you throw them. (Yeah, right...) 
  3. Don't take all your clothes off.

The square and surrounding streets gradually filled up until we could hardly move. Then the beer throwing started. Imagine the biggest, sweatiest mosh pit you can, and we're right in the middle.

A 20-foot greased pole had been erected with a 'prize' in a bag at the top. After the first couple of drunken, calamitous attempts to shin up it, it became obvious that a single person could never hope to get any higher than he or she could jump. Gradually, a sort of disorganised co-operation evolved between complete strangers, and a huge human pyramid grew, the people at the bottom allowing other idiots, egged on by the crowd, to clamber over them to form the next level.

Our own Shitehawk, (real name, er, Shitehawk, I think) even had a go, but his 16-stone frame wasn't exactly conducive to greased pole-climbing. His effort ended eight feet up when he stood on someone's head (they duly, and quite understandably, collapsed). The bag was retrieved by a four-stone Spanish monkey boy and found to contain a cured leg of pork, the ones that hang outside continental shops for years and smell of death. Shitehawk felt cheated!

By the time we'd stopped laughing it was 30 minutes to zero hour, and there was a real atmosphere of anticipation about the place, similar to the nerves you get as you sit on the start line before a race.

At 11am a cannon boom kicked off the mêlée, but the lorries containing the ripe tomatoes could only inch their way through the throng. The only people who had any ammo at this point were the local residents, all of whom had stocked their roof terraces with boxes of tomatoes, and who proceeded to pelt the crowd of mostly Aussies, Yanks and Brits in the street below.

The first lorry unloaded, then it was carnage, people madly hurling, throwing, smearing, rolling on the floor and tearing at each others' clothes. And the lorries kept coming, five in all, each with 25 tons of tomatoes - that's 250,000 tins' worth!

An hour later the town had become one huge Bloody Mary. At midday the cannon sounded to signal the end of hostilities, and 40,000 pulp-soaked warriors emptied their hands and just wandered off.

Four hours after the armistice a huge clean-up effort left the place with hardly a trace of what had gone on. And there was a total lack of trouble. Forty-thousand semi-naked drunk people throwing tomatoes at each other, and I never heard so much as an angry voice.

The Bunol Tomatina is the silliest, slimiest, smelliest and funniest thing I've ever been involved in. It makes even less sense than wheel-trims that keep going round when the car has stopped, but it's absolutely mint fun!

As if that wasn't good enough we then had a couple of days blasting three great bikes round some of the best, most deserted roads I've ever ridden on. Our weapons - the 950SM, Multistrada S and K1200R - are all different, all difficult to pigeonhole and, I think, would all appeal to quite different types of rider.

Continue for the 950SM, Multistrada S and K1200R Review

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