Surfing, motorcycling and art – the Wheels & Waves festival on the coast of Biarritz offers a fuel-laden mix of custom and easy lifestyles. Which is why the event attracts the most colorful fans from all over Europe. For the fourth time, Biarritz came alive to the sound of motorcylces as they rolled into town.
Good friends. Awesome Bikes. Cheerful mood.
For many visitors, the main reason to be there was to reunite with old and new friends from previous Wheels &Waves 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.
Punk’s Peak: Crazy up the hill race.
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.
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).
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.
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.