No fears it’s not the Hells’ Angels come to wreak havoc on our islands, but an incredible gathering of over 350 bikes as Italy’s and Malta’s biking community celebrated the second Malta International Bikers Festival, all for charity. I spoke with organiser Luigi Cacciatore to get the whole story.
It was a two-wheeled weekend for many as the Bike BoyZ committee, headed by Luigi Cacciatore and John Micallef, made it possible for what is probably the biggest gathering of bikers ever to take to our streets in style. There were Harleys, Hondas, BMWs and more as some 250 bikes descended from the catamaran last Friday and made their way to Baystreet in one impressive corteo to join their Maltese brethren.
An even bigger gathering made its way to Gozo the following morning for the traditional blessing of the helmets; the ceremony was presided by Don Gerardo on the parvis of the basilica of Our Lady of Ta’ Pino. After the ceremony, it was off to explore Gozo and to delight anyone who happened to be visiting Dwejra, Victoria, Marsalforn or one of the popular Gozitan villages with the majestic sight of the bikers in full regalia.
The festival continued on Sunday, with the whole group returning to Malta to conclude the gathering here. It was a veritable feast for the eyes for anyone into custom bikes, as the bikers met up in Rabat and proceeded to place their bikes on show outside the L’Isle Adam Band Club. The fun and games soon started, with a massive tug of war organised between the Maltese and the Italian teams; the Maltese did their country proud and, despite it being a close call, won with flying colours.
The celebrations culminated in Sliema with a huge party that included dancers from the Kynetics Dance Company and a live performance by local group Colour Blind. The fun continued on the dancefloor, also thanks to DJ Jackie. All proceeds from Sunday’s activities will be donated to Dar Sacra Familja in Żabbar and Dar Santa Tereża in Żurrieq.
Preparations for the festival started some six months ago, with all Maltese and Italian biking clubs being invited to take part. Early December was chosen precisely because it’s the natural time of the year to think of helping those who are less lucky.
“The Italian bikers hailed from Palermo, Marsala, Mazara, Caltanissetta, Gela, Noto, Ragusa, Randazzo, Catania, Taormina, Messina Barcellona Pozzo di Gotto and Falcone amongst others. There were also a number of participants from Sardegna and Olbia. A total of 38 Italian clubs took part, most of them affiliated to the Federazione Motociclistica Italiana. You might be surprised that this number included a substantial amount of lady bikers who came down with their own bike to celebrate our lifestyle,” Luigi told me.
The idea to hold a massive gathering in Malta is in fact Luigi’s brainchild; with the support of the Bike Boyz Malta, the idea became reality for the first time last year, when the Maltese group was twinned with the Centauri from Gela.
“It’s beautiful to see solidarity between bikers from different countries. Bikers encounter a lot of prejudice, but in reality we are a very diverse group. We count doctors, surgeons, mechanics and various other professions amongst our numbers .”
Luigi then speaks with pride about his bikes, a 1993 Harley Davidson Fat Boy, a 1989 Ducati Super Sport and a more recent Kawasaki ZZR 1400 (1997). Which one is his favourite? He shrugs and says that he chooses which bike to ride according to the mood. It’s impossible not to mention accidents when talking about biking. Luigi reminds me that every activity brings with it its particular dangers.
“However, if you are aware of the danger you can do your best to avoid it. A high number of accidents are due to excessive velocity and abusing the engine power that is available. A good knowledge of your bike – and a respect for the driver’s code – goes a long way to protect the rider. However, there are also other dangers, such as the railings that are used on a number of Maltese roads. These are fatal for a biker who has crashed and who finds himself being dragged on the asphalt. Car drivers also need to show more respect for bikers’ safety. It’s not the first time you see a car trying to block a biker. We need to show mutual respect.”
Other hazards include the continuous potholes. This is probably one of the reasons why Maltese bikers prefer to gather together in other countries like Italy, Greece or England, Luigi points out. The pleasures of kilometre after kilometre of smooth asphalt are not to be discounted – after all, the biggest pleasure of riding a bike is the inherent sense of freedom that comes with it.
This post was published on The Times TV Guide (The Times of Malta). All photography courtesy of Ryan Borg. Don’t forget that there will be another bikers’ event for charity in December. Click here for details.