On a gray Easter morning, black and chrome clash with suede and tweed. The Rockers and the Mods descend upon the town, 2-stroke scooters screaming like bees; the bikes are booming, thumping singles pounding the road. But this isn’t Brighton, England, and this isn’t the Sixties. It’s Dallas, Texas, and it’s 2008.
Both tribes brave the balmy morning. The Rockers are here, wearing their jeans in their boots, white silk scarves ’round their necks, bandanas over their faces beneath pudding-bowl helmets and sleek, metal-framed goggles. The Mods have shown up, too, in their most modern of dress, wearing suits and ties and fishtail parkas. The gathering started with a Friday night meet and greet, and a midnight ride across town.
Now preparing for their third event (March 20-22, 2009), the Annual Rockers vs. Mods event in Dallas begins bike by bike, scoot by scoot. They come in ones and twos and threes to a parking lot just off the interstate beneath Moto Liberty, the local gear shop. Café racers of all makes find their way out of dusty garages and into the eyes of lookers on. Old Triumphs cut to the bare minimum, BSAs reflecting all in their chromed tanks. A lovely-but-worn Norton sits proudly wearing its silver heart on its sleeve. The scooters are there in full force. Vintage Vespas and Lambrettas rasp through the gears, with worn paint and stickers galore on more than one classic scoot.
The ride begins
At half past one the riders gear up; helmets are cinched and gloves pulled. For those more authentic bikes not blessed with the invention of electric start, many a starting ritual is enacted. Find top dead center, tickle the carbs, 10 Hail Marys, whatever it takes.
Soon, they’re all off, over 60 bikes and scooters, a staggered parade from the past. While modern rides are welcome, those true in spirit look like they’ve made a turn off of the M1 in 1963 and found themselves in the middle of 21st-century Dallas.
The first stop is Harley territory: Rick Fairless’ bar, Strokers Ice House. With a forecast of rain and temps around 50F, big cruisers are few this afternoon. Soon, vintage European metal overruns the motorcycle parking behind the bar.
Stepping off his Paul Smart Edition Ducati 1000, its seafoam green frame and silver bodywork flanked on one side by two flat-black pipes, Peter Gould looks the part head to toe: The classic black jacket with “Ace Café” and “59 Club” patches, socks out over his tall boots, and the slicked-back hair with the occasional curl hitting his brow.
Hailing from England, Peter has Rocker blood in his veins. His father was an original, riding a Fifties BSA so stripped down he’d even removed the entire rear brake assembly to save weight, leaving only one leading shoe up front to bring it down from the ton. “He said, ‘I didn’t even think about stopping,’” Peter recalls.
Entering the bar, Peter walks up to order a beer, greeting the bartender with a cheerful “How are you, love?” A resident expert on the original British scene, he’s also one of the organizers of the event. Rather than a traditional Ton Up run from café to café, the idea is to stay off highways, keep the speeds down for the Mods, and to have a few stops along the way to let the group re-gather.
After a few minutes at Strokers, the sun finally burns through the gray and everyone instantly feels 10 degrees warmer. In happier spirits, the riders jump back on their machines and line up for another grand exit.
Back on the road
On their way to the next stop, The Dubliner, the string of monuments to bygone engineering gathers waves and smiles from people all the way through downtown. Children point excitedly and old men glare.
Broken up by timed lights, the Rockers and the Mods arrive in waves at the bar. The parking lot, fenced off for bike parking only, soon overflows and bikes begin to line the sidewalks, mirror to mirror.
Every make, shade and state of repair is represented. In the back of the group sit a few contenders for this year’s “Best Rat Bike” award. A couple of bikes show the telltale lines of a homemade café bike, smothered, of course, in flat black, along with tattered seats and black electrical tape in bold X’s across the headlights. Among the crowd are a few more highly-polished versions. Some are restorations, while others are all out custom café bikes.
A vendor is pushing his hot dogs in front of the bar. “Get your weenies, right here!” he pitches. “Five dollars! We got your weenies right here!” “Five dollars?!” a Rocker yells. “Damn! You can buy a beer for that.” “Damn,” cries the vendor, “we got damn!”
Large speakers inside the bar blast rebellious classic music to match the machines out front. The DJ, in a shirt, tie and sweater-vest, throws down vinyl after vinyl, the needle humming ’round the grooves.
Bikes, beer and blasting music on a sunny Easter day, Rockers and Mods hoist their glasses and live in peace.
We’ve come a long way, but it’s always fun to go back. MC
Rockers vs. Mods, March 20-22, 2009