► Motorcycle News 2010
2010 Wootton Bassett Bike Run
Thank You, Wootton
by Alice Dryden for webBikeWorld.com
Motorcycle Safety Page |
Wootton Bassett is a pretty market town in Wiltshire,
in the south-west of England (Google
Map). It has a
half-timbered town hall and a 15th-century church, and
is recorded in the Domesday Book. These days,
however, Wootton Bassett is famous for a much more
Nearby is the RAF base at Lyneham. Here, the
bodies of British soldiers fallen abroad are
repatriated. On their way from the air base, the
coffins pass through Wootton Bassett.
Members of the local branch of the
Legion, a charity which supports past and present
members of the armed forces, were the first to pay their
respects to the fallen. Gradually word spread, and
every time a repatriation takes place there is a larger
crowd in Wootton Bassett awaiting the solemn procession.
Often only a couple of days’ notice is given, but
word of mouth and the internet get the message out to
the many faithful attendees. Plenty of these are
bikers, some from the recently-established
Branch of the British Legion.
Politicians, however, have been politely requested to
keep away. This is not an occasion for praising or
blaming the government. And whatever your opinion
on the conflicts abroad and Britain’s part in them, it’s
impossible not to be moved by the ceremony.
Although some inhabitants don't like their new-found
fame, the majority of the population has welcomed the
visitors and been proud to form part of this spontaneous
On March 14th 2010, bikers from all over the country
gathered to thank Wootton Bassett in return, as well as
raising money for the Afghan Heroes charity.
Originally a rideout for a few friends, posted on
Facebook, the event grew in size and support until ten
thousand bikers had signed up with many more on a
waiting-list. The route was planned, the police
were informed, trained marshals volunteered to help out,
arrival slots were assigned, and the plan took shape.
My boyfriend and I were scheduled to arrive between
11 and 12. Having travelled along country roads as
far as possible, we hit the junction with the M4
motorway and were immediately surrounded by other bikes
of all descriptions - plus a few bemused car drivers who
really should have listened to the traffic news.
Progress was slow, but we rolled on to Hullavington
airfield at 11:15 and were shepherded to our place in
the outermost of ten or so 'lanes' of bikes.
The airfield, which operates gliders, had been
completely given over to bikes for the day. The
mass of motorcycles was the width of the runway and more
than ten minutes' walk from one end to the other.
Behind this group were even more bikes whose riders
hadn’t registered, waiting patiently for their turn at
Taking the ten-minute walk revealed every possible
type of bike and rider.
Astonishing custom trikes rubbed shoulders with the
latest sportsbikes. A group of classic scooters
looked tiny among the big bikes, like brightly-coloured
insects. Riders ranged from the archetypal hairy
biker bloke, leather waistcoat barely visible under all
the patches, to young couples and fathers with their kid
on the pillion.
Many of the bikes bore paper flags with the Afghan
Heroes logo and the legend ‘Thank You’. Those
mourning a personal loss had filled in a name under the
All of these very different types had come together
to show support for our troops and gratitude to the town
that has come to symbolise our losses.
Once you'd admired the bikes on display, there wasn't
much to do but hang about, and not much clue as to when
we would be moving (answer: as soon as I'd popped into
the Portaloos, obviously).
Even when we got going it was only for a few yards at
a time, resulting in lots of switching on and off and
unhappy, overheating engines. We crawled painfully
up to the front, and at last we were in the dispersal
area and it was our turn.
Now things really got started. With police outriders
and volunteer marshals in hi-viz escorting us, we hit
the open road and flowed along in a stately 30 mph
convoy of shiny plastic and metal, exhausts rumbling.
Both during the long wait and the ride itself,
everyone’s behaviour was exemplary. No burnouts,
no wheelies, no aggressive revving, just responsible,
respectful riding - essential in such an enormous,
There was plenty of hooting and waving, however.
Not only in Wootton Bassett itself but in every
village along the route, people lined the streets.
It was now four in the afternoon and the bikes had been
coming all day, but many of the spectators had obviously
been in position for the whole thing.
They smiled and waved and gave us the thumbs up.
There were St. George flags and signs that read 'THANK
YOU BIKERS' and 'BEEP FOR THE HEROES'. Small
children held out their hands for high fives as we
passed (which made me wobble). Cameras clicked;
old ladies in wheelchairs beamed; a man held up his
small doggie and made it wave its paw to us.
It was an extraordinary feeling - like being heroes
ourselves, when all we were doing was honouring the
people who had been truly heroic. We wanted to
show our gratitude to Wootton Bassett, but here they all
were thanking us!
In Wootton Bassett itself we slowed down to pass the
war memorial, where a small group of veterans and local
dignitaries stood. The bronze and marble edifice
with its bright poppy wreaths was a sobering reminder of
why we were here, after the fun of the ride.
Then we were through the town and dispersing.
The solid mass of bikes broke up surprisingly quickly;
if you had been on the M4 that afternoon you might have
thought there were a few more motorcyclists about than
usual, but probably put it down to the first sunny
Sunday of spring.
The forty-five minute procession was well worth four
hours' waiting around. Expressing and receiving so much
gratitude, being part of something involving more than
ten thousand bikes and riders, was a truly unforgettable
Plus, the rideout has raised over £100,000 for
charity. The UK’s bikers can be very proud of
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