The Rotten Race / Athens / The Real Intellectuals
With autumn upon us and the summer drifting away into the distance The Rotten Race feels like one last stolen moment before the chill of winter sets in for good. The event is put on by The Real Intellectuals, a motorcycle shop based in the centre of Athens headed up by Nikos. I met Nikos and his wife Maria as I was planning to launch Bolt back in 2013 and we have been good friends ever since. The event like everything they do is punk, creative and a great deal of fun.
The Rotten Race is a held at the Vagoni cafe in the hills above Athens. The track is a tight loop of sand, not the heavy compacted sand you see at the Pendine sand races, this is the sloppy loose "i'm gonna take you down' type. The sand makes the bike skid out if you touch the brakes and as soon you gun the throttle out of one corner you're facing the next. I love it, you literally have to wrestle the bike around the course and you are always one slight error away from stacking it.
The event has grown year on and this year saw another big leap forwards as they took on the neighbouring Polo club next door to the track. A stage was set up on the lawn and two bands along with dj's kept the crowds entertained throughout the day. The Rotten Race has always been a great party and it opened up the event to a lot more people, creating a festival feel to the day.
I was racing a custom bike built by the Real Intellectuals and Bandisca - a super cool looking flat tracker built around a Honda CB 400 engine. When we arrived at the Real Intellectual's store on the friday the bike had been sat for over a year and wouldn't start. We found that the throttle had no return and the back brake had rusted and was sticking. The petrol was a dirty yellow so we cleaned out the float bowls, put some fresh petrol and after a few runs it bumped started and came alive. The sticky throttle and the brakes loosened up and I took it for a spin around the block, it felt really good.
The day started with the moped / scooter class which always seems to attract the craziest of the lot. Then came the motocross heats where some professional riders really threw their bikes around the track. Finally came the street / custom class made up of a mixed bag of motorcycles from choppers to vintage classics. It was quite late in the day by the time I came to race and in some twisted logic I had calculated the exact amount of beers to drink to bring out my optimum performance. My theory was to aim for enough to loosen up and ride confidently, maybe even a little bit crazy, but not so much that I couldn't control things. This is also my basic recipe for life.
I was racing the muscle man, a tattooed hulk in a victorian striped bathing suit, who came charging on to the track swinging dumb-bells from his handlebars. I bumped fists with the camp gladiator and started warming the engine. I was in the outside lane so I needed that first corner, the flag dropped and we both gunned it. The extra 200cc I had over last year made a big difference and I managed to take the first corner, things were looking good. I had put all my weight over the petrol tank and with my left flung out in front the bike did its thing and i managed to keep it in check with my left foot. In true flat track form I had no front brake and the back brake simply sent the back end swinging round so both were best avoided. I kept ahead for the first lap and then on the second I touched the back brake a little too hard and the bike spun around and the engine cut out - shit. By the time I kicked the bike back into life I had been lapped.
The event ended with a band playing to a full crowd as a beautiful sunset glowed orange over the hills of Athens. The Rotten Race is one of the most exciting motorcycle events world wide and a great excuse to visit Athens, a city bursting with life and culture.