Mention salt and racing and you’ll probably think of Bonneville Speed Week, USA. Now the newly recognised ‘Roaring 20s’ sees salt and racing on the Shores of the North Sea at Bridlington, East Yorkshire, U.K…..and when the tide is out obviously.

The Race the Waves beach racing events by Backfire Promotions (link below) were first run at Bridlington in 2018 and 2019, and then followed by a 2 year break due to ‘you-know-what’, so there were a lot of people desperate to get their vehicle back on the sand. I entered on the basis that I haven’t done one of these beach drag race events before, and equally importantly, I would get to see and hear and a lot of other great bikes and vehicles.

The two-day beach races were preceded by other events like ride outs and parades, and the weekend also saw a big Steam Punk event, so creative fashion and engineering was everywhere in Bridlington. Crucially, the weather was great for the whole weekend (phew!). I had entered my trusty 1978 Bultaco 350 Sherpa, which I had recently fitted a new clutch to, so this event would be a great test of my garage work and the bikes capability on sand.

The format of this event is simple; get everyone on the beach and race both cars, trucks, specials and bikes down an 8th of a mile drag strip as fast as possible. There are no prizes. Bikes ran in groups of 4 with no specific classification other than it ‘has two wheels and an engine’. This meant that a 125cc bike would be up against a 1000cc bike, and actually, might get off the line faster. My Bultaco 350, being a trials bike, is very low geared, so I started in 3rd gear and got it into 5th gear pretty quickly, so the rest of the distance was flat on the tank to the end of the run. Over the weekend, I had about 18 runs, which is pretty good, and I got to the finish line first on two occasions amazingly. I think this is partly due to the great grip the bike had and how fast it got off the line. For the other 16 runs, I was well beaten by everything from a new Indian Super Hooligan flat-tracker to a super fast Lambretta that had MX tyres on it.

The view from my Bultaco waiting in line to Gooooooooo!

Anyway, it wasn’t about the winning as much as the achieving the widest smile that could be attained whilst wearing a helmet. What was also great, was that as the sea went out and the water drained out of the sand, the surface of the drag strip changed, so every run required a slightly different line. Accelerating hard for an 8th of a mile is easy. Slowing down on a big bike on road tyres in sand was less easy, and some of these bikes semi-violently weaved their way back to a low speed. This was no problem for the Bultaco, being quite light and on trials tyres.

Competitors were also encouraged to dress appropriately, so there was a fashion element too. From a motorcycle perspective, I was really impressed at what was actually being run down the beach, and here’s a few observations that illustrate my point:

1. There were special bikes built purely for this Bridlington event, and untested until the event.

2. There were bikes that were designed for beach drag racing and had done previous beach races.

3. There were bikes that absolutely weren’t designed for beach drag racing, but were ridden anyway.

4. There were bikes that weren’t running when they were loaded into the van and which were then fixed in the event car park prior to racing.

5. There were bikes that were running when they were put in the van and wouldn’t run at all on arrival.

6. There were road and racing bikes that had been fitted with trials and MX tyres to aid grip.

7. There were road bikes racing on the normal road tyres that they had been ridden to the event.

8. There were bike marques from all over the world, including the only bike made in Yorkshire, The Panther.

9. There were expensive, prized and polished classic bikes that were in showroom condition being ridden through the salt and sand.

10. There were bikes from the 1920s to the present day, and nobody was scared of letting the corrosive salt get between them and a good time beach racing.

Gossiping in between runs up the Bridlington salt strip. Photo courtesy of Paul Anthony Wilson

At the end of a beach race, there is one obvious rule regarding post-race vehicle care, and that is to gently hose down (not power washer) the bikes really well after the day on the beach to get rid of the corrosive salt and abrasive sand, and it just needs cold water. No detergent or hot water. Finally, when you think that you’ve got all of the sand out of the bike, it its best to go and get changed out of your race wear, because if you find sand in your underwear, it’s best to go back out and hose the car or bike down again. This is because if sand has managed to get in your underwear, you probably didn’t get all of the salt and sand out of the bike either.

For this post, as I’ve now I’ve painted a picture of this great event, it is the engines which are my focus, as implicitly, behind them is an amazing community of creative people. Therefore, this post is wholly dedicated to the engines of the beach. Below, you’ll find an amazing collage of different bike engine pictures that really impressed me.

Below, you’ll find an amazing collage of some soulful bikes that really impressed me.

Beach bikes of every size, shape and sound

Finally, if you’ve never done a beach race, my advice is to get out there and try it because its great fun. Beach races are not run very often and I’m lucky to have one close to home. A lot of competitors travelled from Southern and Northern Europe to be able to run their machine down the Bridlington beach. I’m looking forward to the 2023 event already!

The calm before the sandstorm

Link to the Race The Waves event organisers

Feature photo courtesy of PWPics👏

All other photos by the Author