The Ace Café

Fol­low the crowd on Fri­day nights to see and be a piece of biker his­tory

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Riding - By Char­lie Lester

News­flash: in a shock twist, mo­tor­cy­cling pub­li­ca­tion fea­tures the Ace! I can feel eyes rolling from here, while che­quered flags stream over the rows of bikes and I ram chilli cheese chips ag­gres­sively into my face.

The Ace is the ob­vi­ous name that screeches into the mind when we talk about biker haunts. Its ri­otous rock-and-roll biker his­tory made it the leg­end it re­mains to­day; the Ton-up boys tear­ing up the roads, rac­ing to get back be­fore the juke­box’s song ends, caus­ing trou­ble for po­lice with their wild an­tics.

Yet look­ing around at the slick pro­fes­sion­al­ism of the place, the selfie-tak­ing pun­ters eye­ing the mer­chan­dise with a tourist’s stare rather than a reg­u­lar’s smile, I can’t help but feel its suc­cess has made the Ace more estab­lish­ment than un­der­dog. It’s a hugely pop­u­lar melt­ing pot of peo­ple and ve­hi­cles, with Fri­day’s bike nights both draw­ing a crack­ing range of ma­chin­ery and show­cas­ing spe­cial­i­ties each week (check the web­site’s var­ied cal­en­dar) – but it per­haps lacks the cosy char­ac­ter of smaller meets. I long for some heart and soul.

The inim­itable sound of soggy leather; a group of lads squelch in from the grey, all tired eyes and wide grins. It’s their first visit and it’s taken them five hours to trickle down from Nor­folk, keep­ing pace with their slow­est mate whose 70cc Pi­ag­gio Ty­phoon can’t ex­ceed 50mph with­out cut­ting out. They’ve been rid­ing since 5am and will head home later.

“We’ve al­ways talked about the Ace,” they tell me, rev­er­ently. “It’s an ex­pe­ri­ence – a leg­end! Every­one knows it, and we want to be part of that.”

They glee­fully adorn their kit with Ace stick­ers, yelp­ing with ex­cite­ment at the lat­est ma­chines to pull up out­side, lis­ten­ing ea­gerly as the age­ing tat­tooed cou­ple nearby tell sto­ries of the old days. It’s a rather beau­ti­ful thing. So the Ace might be a lit­tle more com­mer­cial than non­con­formist these days – not that it stopped the place get­ting an ASBO. It’s a mo­tor­cy­cling leg­end that brings us bik­ers to­gether; a place for new rid­ers to forge their way to, for en­thu­si­asts to share their love for their rare breeds, for ad­ven­tur­ers to con­verge upon be­fore dash­ing for the Chan­nel.

Just re­mem­ber the neigh­bours, eh?

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