Bike club rocks
Join the 59 club and be inspired to ride
Started as a youth club in 1959 (hence the name), the 59 club really took off when one of its co-ordinators, avid motorcyclist Father Bill Shergold, looked at the biker masses on the streets and wondered how to reach them. In 1962 he plucked up the courage to ride his Triumph over to the Ace Café, and invited the shouting, laughing, leather-clad rockers to a church service, offering to bless their bikes at the altar. The service was packed and word quickly spread, so that by 1963 the youth club element had ended and the bike club was in full swing.
“In those days bikers were seen as dangerous hooligans; you weren’t welcome at pubs, coffee bars… anywhere, really,” says Dick Bennett, one of the club’s managers and member for nearly 50 years. “The club was somewhere you could take your bike and meet your mates. The religious element was only in the fact that we’ve always had a reverend as chairman and met on church premises – but we’ve always been inclusive.
“Now interest in rock and roll, café racers and classics has got fashionable, we’ve got members all over the world, with sections opened up in France and Spain and a huge Japanese following. We’ve had to get a trademark and have teamed up with the Ace Café who handle our membership and memorabilia so we can deal with running the club.
“But one thing we’ve had to push with sections in other countries is the spirit of the 59. They’ve tried to focus on classics and certain sections of motorcycling, but that’s not us. It doesn’t matter what you wear or what you come down on. The youth club way back in ’59 had guys turning up on mopeds – you rode what you could afford! We have dyed-in-the-wool rockers and families with kids reading mags and talking machinery. It was Father Bill who performed the ceremony to marry my wife and me, and also christened our daughter Harriet, who now rides an MV 312RR and is more into bikes than I am! The family element has kept us going; it’s all run by volunteers, who set up at our Plaistow premises twice a week to uphold the whole point of the club
that’s been running for over 50 years now – somewhere that people who love bikes are always welcome.’
‘Now café racers are fashionable, we’ve got members all over the world’
Father Bill gave his fellow riders a place to go when they'd been social outcasts