VROOOOOM for everyone

Dressed in black, with their many tattoos, love for skulls and roaring engines, bikers sometimes have a bit of a scary image. Take almost 30,000 of them and you’d expect the 35th bike meeting of Moto Clube Faro to be a brutal event. Not at all. Enjoy the Algarve joined in the festivities and discovered a party where everyone is invited, especially those with a passion for two-wheelers.

Pictures by Kyle Rodriguez

See the original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine August 2016

A guy wearing a t-shirt which says ‘Motorfucker from Hell’ steps aside smiling so a mum can pass with her toddler in a stroller. The family wants to get a closer look at a little Chihuahua dog, called Rita, who’s wearing a tiny pink helmet since she regularly joins her owners on their motor trips. Almost as popular with the kids as the dog is Ana Goncalves’ (53) trike, which is completely covered in ladybirds. “It’s my favourite animal; it brings luck,” says Ana, who has matching ladybird tattoos on her arms. Next to the plastic ladybird windmill toy on top of the bike there’s a Portuguese flag; her husband Luis has his beard painted in red and green. “We actually live in Paris, but after Portugal won the Euro 2016, we decided not to put the French flag on,” Luis laughs.

The back of Ana’s trike boasts a tow bar, which allows the Portuguese couple to transport all the stuff they need in a trailer. They’ve driven over from France, combining the biker rally with visiting their family. “Riding brings me freedom. It’s such a nice way to travel; I love the tour over here. Nine years ago I’ve bought this Rewaco trike instead of a bike as it’s more stable and comfortable,” explains Ana. She and Luis have been coming to Faro in July for the event for as long as they can remember. “Everyone here is very friendly, it’s a nice community. Although we spend the nights in our house in Fuseta, we love the atmosphere here at the campsite area.”

With tents of all shapes and colours, camping chairs in front of them and towels hanging over washing lines strung between trees, this area looks like a scout camp. There’s even a poem stuck to a tree. Only the constant engine noise and the smell of petrol reveal that it’s the biggest biker meeting in the whole of Portugal. At night, performances of the Legendary Tigerman and the Fun Lovin’ Criminals are interspersed with stripteases and miss wet t-shirt competitions, but still the atmosphere resembles that of a family camping trip. The only difference being the enormous logistic effort; this party isn’t just a case of putting some beer cold and asking the neighbour for extra garden chairs. It took about 1000 volunteers 1.5 month to organise. Worth it though. At least that’s what the almost 30,000 attendees think, many of them who’ve been making the trip to Faro for years.

For Stefan Krones (48) and his girlfriend Manuela Wintrich (48) it’s the third time they come to the motorcycle meeting. The German couple from the Eifel brought along two motors in their huge camper; Manuela’s Kawasaki and Stefan’s Harley Davidson Screamin’ Eagle 103. Previously they came by airplane, but this way allows them to explore the Algarve on their bikes. “We’ve been to Faro harbour and done some exploring in the mountains, which is really interesting. The weather here is amazing so you can ride in shorts and t-shirts, although you have to be careful, especially on roundabouts.”

Stefan and Manuela will be combining the event with a week holiday to Lisbon and a trip to Cascais, to visit their favourite tattooist. “We actually met Paulo Pereira here on the motor fair two years ago, when he did part of my sleeve. He’s the best!” says Stefan. Manuela agrees enthusiastically and shows the plans for her next ink: completing the flowers and skulls tattoo on her left arm. “Meeting new people is one of the nicest of the event. Bikers are really friendly. I avoid the area of the Hells Angels, but everyone I’ve met until now is nice,” she adds. “I’ve been going to motor club meetings for 30 years, but this one is really something different: the sea is nearby and it’s one of the biggest in Europe, so a lot of people to exchange tips and news about motors with,” says Stefan, whose jacket is full of patches, a giant one of the Bisons Germany, his home club, on the back. “This is nothing,” he shrugs. “My old one was full, but it was falling apart at the seams so I left it at home.”

Might this jacket rip too, then he’s certainly in the right place to buy a new one. The dress code, it seems, is black and leather. In the shopping area of the fair, stalls sell about every possible item in leather, from rows and rows of black jackets (along with the patches – they’ll even sew them on for you) to saddlebags and bra’s. The t-shirts and scarves are made of cotton though. For the rest there are free AIDS and alcohol tests available, there’s a piercing and tattoo area and, to complete the mix, home-baked quiches.

And of course the motorbikes. From massive Honda Goldwings which can easily carry two grown man, to a tiny Di Blasi, a foldable Italian bike which’d be ideal to put in the back your car and use if you’re too lazy to walk, everything is parked on the grounds. Those craving more uniqueness head to the Kustom Bike Show, an area full of crazy cool bikes. Apart from a barber shop, there you’ll find saddles that are either ridiculously low or so high you’ll need a step ladder to get on, bikes painted completely frog green, retro old school motors that seem to been driven straight from a 1950s movie, and even a bike with a wheel without any spokes in it. Transforming your bike is big business and it seems that everything is possible.

Fancy Bob Marley on your saddle? Then talk to Antonio Cramalheira (42), who makes leather saddles and saddlebags by hand. He starts off with a piece of vegetable-tanned leather and a drawing, then cuts the pattern out with a small knife and processes it further using a hammer and some scraping tools. One saddle takes one to two weeks. “It’s a hobby that turned into a business. I’ve done everything from album covers to reproductions of their favourite tattoo; people like customising their bikes,” the Portuguese craftsman explains. “With most bike models you can choose between different colours, but for the rest they’re all the same. It’s like turning up at a party and discovering you’re wearing exactly the same shirt as the guy or girl next to you. That’s not nice, you want to be unique!”

Still, business comes on the second place for Antonio, who has driven here from his hometown of Aveiro, 500kms away. “Firstly, this is fun. It’s a place to meet up with friends. Once a year, everyone, from Lisbon to Coimbra, gets together in the Algarve. We all share the same passion; rebuilding bikes is my life,” says the biker. Antonio is hobbling slightly as he hurt his leg earlier at the event. While riding a bike? “No, I was trying to jump a skipping rope while I was drunk,” he sheepishly admits. “Riding a bike I’m pretty safe; I don’t drink and drive. It’s when I get off the motor, park it for the night and have a beer or two, that’s more dangerous.”

Safety first indeed. Moto Clube Faro is proud of the fact there haven’t been any fatal accidents in the 35 years they’ve been organising the event. Almost every biker wears the compulsory helmet, also in the Sunday morning tour when thousands of bikers make their way into the city of Faro. It’s perhaps in this parade, that the diversity is best visible. In people as well as in motors; there’s a small bright green Vespa followed by a gigantic Harley. Bikers come from all over the world, Russia and Cabo Verde being just two of the more faraway countries. They show their country of origin through their patches, flags or, in the case of a Scottish man, by wearing a kilt. A leather-clad big young man rides next to an old woman, both smiling, as is nearly every participant. Even though they can’t possible all know each other, the bikers seem a gigantic group of friends. Which might also has to do something with the fact that pushing along a 450kg Harley is easier when you’ve got a pair of helping hands.

“The festival is very inclusive; it’s a party for everyone who loves motors,” says President of Moto Clube Faro José Amaro, who leads the Sunday parade (pictured below). “There are a lot of different persons here, but they all share the same passion. I love riding in the Algarve, both in the barlavento and the sotavento, the mountain lanes as well as the coastal roads. The diversity is what makes this region so attractive,” he explains, his eyes gleaming when he speaks about getting on his bike. If there’s one person who lives according to the club’s motto ‘live to ride, ride to live’, it’s José. Still, when having to choose between riding in this region or attending the event, for the President of Moto Clube Faro, the choice is simple: “Here, we share this spirit of freedom; to me, these are the most important days of the year.”


See the original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine August 2016

Posted in Features.