When most people hear the term “Motorcycle Club” they instantly change the word club to “gang.” They picture bikers riding into town terrorizing the local folk, taking what they want and leaving the town in shambles. Ok, so I may have watched “The Wild Ones” a few too many times and I do record the “Sons of Anarchy” each season, but not all “clubs” fall into that stereotype, thank goodness.
A long time friend of mine belongs to a motorcycle club that is simply a group of guys and gals that love motorcycles and the motorcycle culture, more precisely the “Cafe Racer” culture. Welcome to the Cretins Motorcycle Club.
First, what is a Cretin? By Websters Dictionary definition you would think a Cretin is a stupid, childlike person full of pointless information that appeals only to other Cretins. If you dig a bit deeper into Cretinism, you find that it is medical term from 18th Century France that describes a condition of severely stunted physical and mental growth due to untreated congenital deficiency of thyroid hormones. This condition was often attributed to stagnant air in mountain valleys and bad water. Uh, does Pabst Blue Ribbon count as ‘bad water’? Probably.
Second, The Cretins I know are not stupid nor childlike…well maybe a bit childlike (that’s when the fun begins isn’t it?) and yes, in this case we are full of useless information that only we care about…engines, chassis, cool bodywork, fun roads to ride…you get the picture.
The Cafe Racer culture was born in England post World War 2. Blokes would gather at a pub, have a pint and then race each other to another pub and have another pint. There are all sorts of stories about how cafe racers came about, but I’ll stick with this one for now. These were like minded riders just having fun on their motorbikes. And maybe they did terrorize a few motorists here and there. All in good fun…?
Now, the truth about the Cretins Motorcycle Club: These are people that simply love the Cafe Racer motorcycle culture. I had the opportunity to spend an evening with the Los Angeles chapter of the Cretins. This was not my first time with the Cretins. I met them back in 2010 when they hosted the LA Moto Film Fest, but this was the first time I rode with them on their weekly Thursday night ride / meeting. See the photo gallery here
“It was a dark and stormy night” (really it was!)…Scott Fabbro, club president, and I had finished our interview for The Motoworld Podcast about his racing experience at the Isle of Man and headed to the first gathering spot, The Thirsty Crow pub on Sunset Blvd near downtown LA. When we arrived we just pulled up onto the sidewalk parked our bikes and waited for everyone else to arrive. In just a short period of time the sidewalk was lined with bikes. Scott’s classic GS750, a cool Honda CB400-4, First Lady Susan’s BMW Boxer Cup (signed by Randy Mamola!!), my old Honda Hawk and a variety of other bikes. The Cretins are an equal opportunity motorcycle club.
After a pint (Pabst Blue Ribbon of course), it was back into the damp evening and off to the next stop. Now, it was a wet and rainy night but these guys and ladies didn’t let that slow them down. Picture this – a swarm of cafe racers riding in the wet like it was a warm sunny day at the beach. I felt like we were really keeping true to the “Rocker” culture in England.
How about some pinball? That was our next stop…a very cool pinball arcade, ‘Pins and Needles’ in a recording studio somewhere near Downtown. At this point I was totally lost but I didn’t care. I was with the Cretins and having a great time. Some of us played some pinball, some just hung around outside and talked, and after about thirty minutes or so it was off to the club house.
The Cretins Club House. When the Cretins show up it’s not quiet. You can’t have a meeting space in a nice residential neighborhood where Ozzie and Harriet are getting ready for bed now, can you? So, you pick a very cool building in an industrial area and make as much noise as you want.
Inside the clubhouse is the requisite bar stocked with the required PBR (and some other better beverages…all drank responsibly, really). Inside there is all sorts of memorabilia from racing, rides, charitable events (the Cretins are very socially conscious), and good music.
When we got to the club house, members and friends of the Cretins who couldn’t make the earlier ride were showing up and the place came to life. Talk about bikes, rides, races, politics, family and friends was everywhere. The club really is a family of its own. Also along for the ride were two guys from Cycle World Magazine, photographer Jeff Allen and writer John L. Stein. It was very interesting that the Cretins were invaded by two journalist teams (The MotoWorld and Cycle World) at the same time and none of us even knew it was going to happen. But the Cretins welcomed us all with open arms…or was it handlebars? I didn’t get a chance to talk with John but I did get a chance to spend some time with Jeff (who will be a featured interview on The MotoWorld podcast in the near future) while watching him ply his trade as a pro moto/photo journalist.
At around midnight it was finally time to head home. I had had a wonderful night with the motorcycle club. If all goes well this will not be my last ride with the Cretins.
Ride with your mates, share a pint or two, swap stories and carry on the tradition. For this group, this is motorcycling at its best. To know more about the Cretins click http://cretins-la.com/
Thank you Scott, thank you Cretins
A couple Saturday’s ago I was riding up in the Santa Monica mountains on my way to a Vintage BMW gathering down in Venice, California, and one of the required stops on that kind of ride is The Rock Store on Mulholland Highway. It’s always a good stop because you’ll see a few really cool motorcycles, (on Sundays you see hundreds…), maybe friend or two and, if you’re hungry or thirsty, good food and drink. While I was hanging around and checking out a couple of bikes, I saw a flyer tacked to the oak tree in the parking lot advertising a motorcycle film festival in L.A, cool. I took a picture of the flyer so I would have the info and headed my way down the coast.
As I was sorting through my photo’s of the day later that night, I saw the flyer and thought this is an event I really want to go to. I showed Heather, my usual passenger and wife, the flyer and she agreed, I should go. I’m a lucky man. Actually, I think she just wanted a Saturday night all to herself.
The film festival was being held at the Cretins Motorcycle Club in downtown Los Angeles. I know a couple of those guys and I’ve been wanting to interview them for my podcast program for a while, this is perfect!
Film Festival day came and the weather was looking pretty iffy for an outdoor event but I had faith it would come off no matter what. For me, I had to decide to either ride or drive. It’s a pretty long ride for me and if it does rain, the LA freeways are not where you want to be. If I drive and it doesn’t rain…what a wimp. Every now and then, style trumps practicality. I rode.
It was an easy ride to Downtown until…I got off the freeway. Google maps and downtown Los Angeles apparently don’t have a good relationship. Without going into boring beyond words yet comical details, I was lost for a good half hour. I made more U-turns, asked more people in cars at a stoplight I had been through at least five times to roll down their window and tell me where the hell Sotello St. was, (not one of them knew either..), even the guys at a gas station (that turned to be just about six blocks away) had no clue. About the time I decided these guys really are Cretins, Google maps that is, I thought I would give it one more try before heading home…I’m not letting some computer directions beat me, no way! The last try paid off. As I rode up the driveway I knew all the frustration of being lost was well worth the price of admission…six dollars by the way.
What a fantastic event. These guys, the Cretins, have it together big time. The Cretins clubhouse is on the roof of a parking structure looking right into the LA night line. Picture this, a couple hundred motorcycles with skyscrapers for a back drop…too cool. When I got off my motorcycle, I checked in with my friend, and Cretins club member Scott Fabro. After a fast visit and swapping of a few racing stories ( we used to have some epic battles in the Formula Singles class at Willow Springs ), I couldn’t get my camera out fast enough.
The Cretins are known for being a cafe racer / rat bike kind of club and it’s true. But…this event, and as it turns out, pretty much everything they do is open to all riders. On this beautiful roof top were ratty ass old Honda’s, long in the tooth BMW’s, a big Suzuki Cavalcade tourer, Harley’s with ape hangers…you name it it was there. As at any motorcycle gathering, we all walk around, look at bikes, talk to the owners, take pictures and start making wish lists.
As interesting as the bikes are, it’s the people who make any event an ‘Event’. Believe me boys and girls this was an ‘Event’. I don’t think I have seen a broader group of motorcyclists talking, telling stories and laughing in one place than I did Saturday night on a roof top in downtown Los Angeles. The Flaming Knights Motorcycle Club, The Pyrate Riderz (yez, I spelled it ryght)…I’ve never heard of these clubs but that doesn’t matter, we were all hanging out together. Couples that rode in looking like movie stars on bikes that just came out of a fashion magazine photo shoot to guys riding on bikes that made you wonder how they made up the driveway. It’s the people and their stories that are always the most interesting…and, they all came out for a good cause.
There were two reasons for putting together this event according organizer Mark Duncan. First was, in his words (sorta) “there all kinds of film festivals but none about or for motorcycles, so I decided to do one”. On top of that, he wanted to help his favorite charity, Riders for Health. The Cretins Motorcycle Club, being the good charitable guys and gals that they are, offered up their clubhouse and all their good (?) connections to help out. Mark sent out emails and built a website www.lamotofilmfest.com looking for film makers to join in.
After going through about twenty five short films he settled on fifteen for the festival. There were movies about ice racing (the true lunatics of the motorcycle racing world), traveling across Libya, learning how to race at Willow Springs, even a great comedy about Captain USA capturing Osama Bin Laden, this film had everybody laughing their asses off. Films about off road adventures and urban adventures, racing old Honda 160’s and how to travel on $54.80 a day. It was all great stuff and we were all watching these films shown on a brick wall, on a roof top, in LA. How lucky were we.
While having some pizza and moving a trash barrel, I had a good visit with Mark Duncan; Willow Springs racer, creator of the event and, film maker in his own right www.nckfilms.com. This guy was so stoked as to how the evening was going, you couldn’t have wiped the smile off his face with a blown motor. It only took Mark two months to pull this all together but he’s already planning the 2nd annual film fest. The Motoworld interview with Mark is at www.themotoworld.com it’s short but really great.
I can’t say enough about how great the 1st Annual Los Angeles Motorcycle Film Festival was, the Cretins Motorcycle Club as hosts and, all the people who came to support the film makers and the Riders for Health organization www.riders.org
A full photo album of the gathering is on the website www.themotoworld.com this is an event that you really don’t want to miss. I have a feeling that with the success of this years film fest, the Cretins club house is going to be way too small next year