Come rain or shine, summer or winter, Friday night was Chelsea Bridge time. Looking back I can see why some people thought it was a little dangerous. After all, what could go wrong when you mix crowds of young men and motorcycles?
The inevitable wheelie displays could often end with something going pear-shaped, occasionally involving wrecked bikes and flames. And like any gathering of friendly, sociable people, when there was a mishap the crowd would be sympathetically cheering and whooping. The lure of the Bridge was the tea hut, pulling in motorcyclists from around the metropolis like a magnet. Many a friendship was forged over bikes, banter and a cooling cuppa. Swiftly followed by the cold of the Thames forcing you to empty your bladder whilst admiring the rotting remains of the Battersea Power Station.
In the summer, the Bridge would be constantly filled with bikes coming and going. It was like a cross between the good bits in Mad Max, and the pit stops in a 24 hour endurance race. Winter months were less frantic, but a hot drink was a better choice than Friday night TV. And Chelsea Bridge was only half of the story, as after midnight all the little cliques arriving throughout the evening would set off for Heston Services on the M4. As the bigger bikes cleared off and the smaller machines brought up the rear, I don’t think the run ever slowed below 70mph the whole way.
Heston was a 24-hour kettle which reached boiling point when we arrived. I saw my very first Suzuki RGV250K there – just before my younger brother lost control of a wheelie and crashed straight into it. And there were new tales to tell every Friday, like riding an RG250 Gamma, complete with pillion, home from Heston to Dagenham with a snapped clutch cable.
I hadn’t been to the Bridge for a while, but did stop off there one recent summer evening. It’s now flanked by luxury flats and other new developments. To my surprise, the tea hut was still there, although the hordes of bikes weren’t. The most anti social behaviour was parking my bike on the pavement and the odd dropped plastic cup.
I left with a sad feeling. It was like going back to your old school to find they’ve bulldozed it and built an Academy on the site. I think it would be good though to maybe take it to the bridge just one more time? I’m in, is anyone else?
I never thought to take a camera along with me in those heady days of bridge fun and frolics, I have though found a few snaps in the family album showing the sort of bikes that got me there! If you’ve got any photos we’d love to see them.