The Ace Café
Follow the crowd on Friday nights to see and be a piece of biker history
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.