Celebrating the bikes of old at “Bike Week on Water”

Written by Staff Writer, CNN MotoGP will finally have a tribute motorcycle and a tribute theme. Dutch rider and motorcycling aficionado Mark Kelly has driven more than 50,000 miles, rode in six world championship…

Celebrating the bikes of old at "Bike Week on Water"

Written by Staff Writer, CNN

MotoGP will finally have a tribute motorcycle and a tribute theme.

Dutch rider and motorcycling aficionado Mark Kelly has driven more than 50,000 miles, rode in six world championship races and won 12 race championships during his five-year professional career. But he hasn’t won the premier-class series. That honor belongs to British-born Jarlinson Pantano, who won his maiden MotoGP race in 2015.

Kelly took the time this week to answer a few questions in honor of what would have been his 41st birthday.

The Bike Week honors

The basic idea behind the inaugural Bike Week on Water (BWWW) is to honor motorcycle style, including “turner-style” motorcycles, called “rumble chairs” in the Netherlands. The motorcycles were first popularized at the Dutch “ride under the bridge” events and have since spread worldwide.

Like the name suggests, the bikes are faster than conventional bikes, but without the added extras, such as seats, and don’t use “soft” tires (as modern motorcycles do).

Michael Byers Bike Week on Water.

This year’s name is a nod to the “BWWW” biking phenomenon, and the names of two million European viewers who will tune in to watch the Grand Prix races in the Netherlands, as well as Kelly’s 14 “rumble chairs” that will cruise along the waterways of Rotterdam to the Grand Prix races.

Global presence

For his part, Kelly is a reluctant spokesman for bike culture.

“As a race rider and a bike lover, I’m generally not a very high-profile person in this world,” Kelly told CNN. “But there is a lot of interest in these bikes and we feel we have a responsibility to educate people about the heritage of the sport and give them a good show.”

Bike Week on Water is inspired by super sportfishers such as the record-breaking Tom Daley.

More than just a clothing line

The latter point comes into play when you get down to the crux of the event — the bikes — and the brands that will be showing off their wares.

This year, of the five riders in action, Kelly will take part in a new collaboration with Dutch bike maker Sidem, and in his own Sidem 108 Yamaha Racing A71 there are both nods to Kelly’s heritage and innovation.

But the Suidem brand isn’t the only one throwing its hat into the ring. There are also nods to the nature-related boutique bike brand “Drifters” and the British-born German start-up Italian Duro-12 and names inspired by Kelly’s time riding in the United States such as Sidem, “riff vintage” and Ken Ulrich S02R.

The bikes that will be racing this year are adapted bikes that appeared to disappear from the streets a century ago.

The bikes that will be racing this year are adapted bikes that appeared to disappear from the streets a century ago.

“It was a mysterious time in the ’20s,” says Kelly. “Bike designs were mostly quite crude, so the bikes weren’t very modern or robust. There were no gears, no traction control, no car mod. They were built with a decent amount of skill and know-how. They were very fragile machines.”

They are also iconic motorcycles, cars or motorcycles.

“I think that makes them worthy of the Bike Week. They’re classics that were made by the masters,” he says.

But, despite his distaste for publicity, it’s hard to argue with Kelly on this one. The Bike Week on Water is truly an achievement by anyone involved — indeed, if it’s simply about honoring the bikes of the past but not the man, then the Bike Week on Water will be the best organically-created tributes of all time.

So what’s next for Kelly? His dream is to get on the bike again.

“I haven’t been on a bike since the last race of the 2015 season and I would love to get back on one in time for the MotoGP grand prix this summer in Europe,” he says.

But the bikes of yesteryear? They’re becoming more relevant than ever.

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