By Bruce Smith
Hoggin’ the Bridge started in the year 2000, it came from a request by one of the Bridgwater chapter members, a Rex Forster (who sadly is no longer with us). He was involved with the Spencer Dayman Trust who were holding a sponsored walk which would finish on the Severn Bridge. He asked for a few Harleys to escort the walkers across the finish line. This seemed like a good idea but then started to grow into ‘How many Harleys can we get on this Bridge?’
So on October 22nd we were to meet at Magor Services to ride back over the bridge. When I arrived there were a couple of hundred bikes waiting, by the time we left we were just short of 1000! We rode across the bridge escorted the walkers and went on to a Rugby Club in Bristol, the weather had been kind, it was dry and not very cold. So the whole event was deemed a success.
The next question was should we do it again? The answer was yes because we were certain we could top the 1000 figure next time. Hoggin’ The Bridge 2 (The Return) was going to be a bigger event all round. For Hoggin’ 2 we would cross two Bridges.
The weather for this one could not have been better, Warm and sunny and did it draw a crowd. Magor services could not cope. It looked like the Welsh equivalent of Sturgis, the Sunday drivers could not believe what they had driven into. We certainly got the required number of bikes and then some. The plan was we would ride over the new Severn Bridge and into Bristol, over the Clifton Suspension Bridge and into Ashton Court.
The ride took quite some time as we brought the place to a stand still. I was riding a Sportster and was able to drop out of the line, fill up with fuel and join the line again just a few places back. I don’t think Ashton Gate had seen so many people wanting refreshment at once (but we did tell them).
For Hoggin’ 3 a few changes were necessary. Magor Services did not want us back under any circumstances! And we did not think 3 bridges was a good idea. So the plan was meet at Severn View Services (used to be Aust) on the English side of the old Severn Bridge and ride over both Severn Bridges to Ashton Court.
Weather was ok, numbers maybe not as many as ‘2’ but still good. Good enough to keep the roundabout at Magor Services full for about 15 minutes (we had to turn round somewhere!). Ashton Court was coping a little better but this was probably down to the stalls out side providing food and entertainment and spreading the load a little.
Hoggin’ 4 was memorable for me because on the previous Thursday I picked up my brand new Anniversary Heritage. Not the ideal first big ride especially as I was trying to run it in. Oh and the weather, it fell down all day up until we were going home and then it really poured down. This kept the numbers down but it was still a great success.
I also found out that it takes a lot longer to clean a Heritage than it does a Sportster.
The run its self was on the same route as ‘3’ and there were a lot of wet people at Ashton Gate. This was also the year it became a bit of a weekend event with getting involved in the Taunton Carnival, which took place on the preceding Saturday Night.
Hoggin’ 5 followed the same formula and was better supported than the previous year due to better weather but there were some problems at Ashton Gate and it looked like it might have run its course.
Then our friend Rod Bate who had been one of the main men behind the scenes managed to convince the good people of Chepstow that it would be a good idea to turn their town over to a couple of thousand bikers for the day.
What a move that turned out to be! As Hoggin’ 6 approached the streets were lined with families waving and cheering and a Great big Sign said ‘Chepstow welcomes Harley Davidson’. The weather was great the sun was shinning and we all had a great time, Bands playing on a stage in the High Street, all the car parks closed to cars as were a lot of the roads, it was all ‘Bikes Only’ The only problem that arose was the ride from Severn View to Chepstow was not very long and I think we had a continuous line from start to finish. But this had the potential to become a mini Daytona!
Hoggin’ 7 now involved a scenic ride around the welsh countryside to enable it to be a ride of some substance before we got to Chepstow but this brought loads of people out of their houses on route to cheer us on. The weather this year was kind to the ride but the rain started just as everyone got to Chepstow so unfortunately a lot people were soon on their way home.
Hoggin’ 8 was the first big ride for my 11 year old grand son so we joined the mass ride up from Taunton that must have been over 100 bikes. The weather was good and after a breakfast of coffee and do-nuts we went out on the ride. He enjoyed every second and I am already booked for next year. The formula was the same as ‘7’ and this seems to be about as good as it gets as the crowds of people were larger and everyone is so enthusiastic, it is without doubt a great day out.
I have not gone into the charity side of this ride as I do not have all the figures but the amount of money that has been raised is unbelievable and has made a difference to so many that we could not been able to help without the participation of all involved both in the organisation and the riders themselves. It’s not much good arranging a ride if no one turns up.