For the fourth time in as many years, Biarritz came alive to the sound of motorcycles over the weekend of 11-14 June as the Wheels and Waves festival rolled into town, courtesy of the Southsiders MC. Celebrating the best of the surfing and motorcycling lifestyles, and showcasing some of the most inspiring custom creations on the scene, the event was also the perfect opportunity for BMW Motorrad to unveil a unique custom ‘scrambler’ of its own, created in the true spirit of Wheels and Waves…
For many visitors, the main reason to be there was to reunite with old and new friends from previous W&W festivals; for others it was their first opportunity to experience one of the most relaxed, welcoming events on two wheels, where it doesn’t matter what you ride — or how well you ride it. Long before the official opening, the motorcycle community had taken over the town, with hotels full, campsites buzzing with activity and every restaurant and bar spilling out on to the street with revellers.
Not even the unseasonable weather that saw the cancellation of Thursday morning’s surf competition could keep away thousands of enthusiasts, who rode through the storms to the popular seaside resort from all directions. Of course, what brings men and women of all ages and nationalities to Wheels and Waves is the fantastic variety of bikes; and there were bikes everywhere you looked — lining the streets, outside bars and cafes, down at the port and along the beaches. There were all kinds too but few that had been left unmodified by their owners. Customisation can take many forms but over those four memorable days in Biarritz it was most definitely celebrated in all its glory, with the sound of open pipes and laughter resonating well into the night.
A welcome surprise for many was the unveiling of the BMW Concept Path 22 — yet the next step in the line of the successful R nineT series, but this time direct from BMW Motorrad itself, and with a generous nod to the Wheels and Waves community (click here for more details on the bike). Complete with a host of special ‘extras’, including graphics from Ornamental Conifer’s Nico Sclater and surfboards shaped by Mason Dyer of Dyer Brand, the one-off 9T special took pride of place among many impressive ‘exhibits’ in the Garage Foch. It was one of the main talking points during Thursday night’s opening party in the cavernous gallery, which was attended by the bike’s designers, as well as Nico and Mason, both of whom had travelled in to soak up the scene.
Although the presence of Wheels and Waves could be felt all over the town, the event was centred in several areas, so after the opening at the Garage Foch, the action and most of the bikes moved to the Cité de l’Océan — a tented village a couple of kilometres further down the coast, where exhibitors offering everything from vintage clothing to pristine, precision-built custom specials were cited. The village was used as a rendezvous point and also the place from which to depart on a variety of ride-outs throughout the weekend, following the scenic coast roads or criss-crossing the border into Spain to encounter the wonderful riding that this Basque region offers.
One of the many highlights was Friday’s Punk’s Peak race, a quarter-mile sprint to the top of the Jaizkibel mountain in Spain, where 64 riders competed one-on-one to find the fastest rider on the hottest bike. The eventual winner would be the one who remained undefeated on six eliminator runs up the mountain. Competitors and spectators could first enjoy a scenic ride-out to the spectacular surroundings of this protected nature reserve, with mountains on one side, the ocean on the other and a spectacular stretch of tarmac on which to do battle. This was motorsport at its purest — two racers side by side for the mad dash up the hill. Slow or fast, it didn’t really matter, as all competitors were cheered with gusto by the crowds lining the track.
There were many great bikes racing up the hill, including the Concept Path 22 (concept bikes aren’t just for looking at!) and a quartet of BMW R nineT customs direct from the Land of the Rising Sun, complete with three of their Japanese builders who had travelled to France especially to join the event. The fourth ‘Japanese’ BMW was ridden by Ola Stenegard, one of the inspirational design team behind the 9T success story. However, it was another BMW bike that stole the show at Punk’s Peak, as the nitrous-oxide fuel-injected ‘SprintBeemer’ from the Lucky Cat Garage — ridden by Sebastien Lorentz — saw off all challengers to become the newly-crowned King of the Mountain (Seb finished fourth in 2014 so was determined to work on his self-built BMW Special and then come back to challenge for victory.)
Back at the Cité de l’Océan, the party continued all weekend, with live music concerts, pop-up bars and street food stalls, and the sound of motorcycles emanating right across town. It didn’t matter what you rode, just to be there was all that mattered, along with a shared love and appreciation of two wheels. The 2015 edition of the Wheels and Waves will surely be a hard act to follow, as it was a near perfect example of motorcycling at its finest, and even despite the best efforts of the weather gods, nothing was able to dampen the spirits of the thousands of riders and enthusiasts that came along to support the event.
To see some inspiring film footage from the event, click here here and visit http://www.facebook.com/bmwmotorrad to see photos direct from the festival. Those who are looking forwards to seeing the new BMW Concept Path 22 in the metal will not have to wait too long either. Expect it to put in an appearance at BMW Motorrad Days in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, from 3-5 July, and at the Pure and Crafted musical festival in Ferropolis, from 27-28 August.