Last week was our final Bike Night of the season. But it wasn’t just the final night of our season, it was also the final bike night in Market Square. Over the past six years, we have built our bike nights into something we are proud of. I would argue that we get the best mix of motorcycles at our events. It goes without saying that this is only the case because of the people who come out to our bike nights. If I’m being honest, I’m still not sure how it has happened but I am grateful to all of those who come out and support us by attending our Monday night socials. To others, wrapping up bike nights in the square might not mean much. But to Lindz and I, it’s the end of an era. It feels like the final goodbye to the first home of Perth County Moto.
Six years ago, we opened our doors at 41 Market Place and announced to our customers that we would be hosting bike nights at our store. Despite some individuals warning us that the city would not permit us to hold bike nights downtown and would shut us down, we decided to approach the city anyway. We proposed hosting one bike night a month in Market Square and were pleasantly surprised when the city quickly granted us permission to use the space. The city only had one request, which was quite reasonable: we were asked not to allow any oil on the new white pavement of Market Square. We understood and respected their request.
"it was a solid group of people and they were bringing out a great mix of motorcycles"
So, on the next Wednesday, we held our very first bike night. Those first few bike nights we used aluminum serving platters, from the dollar store, as drip trays. The trays looked horrible and they had a habit of blowing away if there was even a slight breeze. Lindz and I realized that we needed a new plan. We ordered 75 feet of commercial rubber. We divided it into three twenty-five-foot-long lengths and rolled those out in parallel lines. We thought that this would look better than the drip pans and no one would be singled out for having a leaky motorcycle. It only took one bike night to see why this wouldn't work. Most people did not park over the rubber. Some did but it was a sketchy place to rest a kickstand. When I rolled up these long rubber mats, they were very heavy and a pain to move. However, when rolled out, they proved to be far too light and also blew around in the wind. This made for a tripping hazard for those walking around and even more problems for the motorcycles.
As it turned out, it was good that we only held bike nights once a month that year. Instead of being a relaxed social event, they were awkward and stressful. The next season we knew that we couldn't go back to hosting bike nights in the square. There was just no good way to avoid oil staining the concrete. Our shop was in the heart of a tourist town where parking was already a major issue. We weren’t sure if we were going to be able to host bike nights anymore. Then it occurred to us. Perth County Moto, like all businesses downtown Stratford, was closed on Monday. That was because nothing happened on Mondays in Stratford. We realized that there should be lots of available parking for us to fill with motorcycles. We decided to move bike nights to Mondays and host one every other week. This worked out perfectly! We no longer had to worry about oil stains and we could use all of the parking we wanted. When a car would leave, we would immediately fill that spot with a motorcycle. Making more space for other bikes to pull in.
That second year we would probably get between 20 and 35 bikes to each bike night. It wasn't a huge turnout, but it was a solid group of people and they were bringing out a great mix of motorcycles. We had new and old bikes as well as custom bobbers, choppers, cafe racers, and trackers. When I started taking photos of the bikes and posting them on our social media. The old buildings that make up Market Square made for a great backdrop. They gave our bike nights a unique look and feel. We quickly became known as a bike night for vintage and unique motorcycles. This made more people want to come out and show off their bikes to like-minded people. Everyone intermingled. We didn't end up with segmented parking with one type of motorcycle over here and another type over there. It was exactly what we were hoping for.
". . .we will no longer be downtown Stratford"
In our third year, we made the decision to hold a bike night every Monday, which has become quite popular. We now see upwards of 100 motorcycles at each event, with some antique bikes dating back to 1907. Some attendees even make it a point to ride their new motorcycles from the dealer to our bike night before going anywhere else. One week may see a lot of sports bikes, while the next week may be primarily baggers. We have have nights with more adventure motorcycles and others with more custom bikes. We've seen bikes of every sort, style, and age, including rare ones like the Vincent that made an appearance earlier this year. Our regulars love the variety of motorcycles who regularly attend.
Our bike nights at Perth County Moto have come a long way. Customers have come from hours away, and once even from Germany, to attend. Despite a rocky start, we have found our groove. We started regularly offering coffee and a variety of homemade food, including chili, gumbo, pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers, cookies, and more. Back Corner Studios regularly attends to pinstripe bikes and helmets. Our weekly event has become something to look forward to. Where we were once worried about being shut down, the city and local businesses have embraced our bike nights. We have received support and appreciation for the diversity we bring to downtown Stratford.
As many of you know, we are moving our store and we will no longer be downtown Stratford. We are excited about our new location which will allow us to grow and be better suited for our customers. We now have our own parking lot where we will host weekly bike nights and many other community events. Although we will miss the setting of Market Square for our bike nights, we know that these nights are what they are because of the people who come out to them. The incredible motorcycle community who bring out their unique motorcycles. 2980 Forest Road might be a new location for us, but our bike nights will have the same energy and good vibes they have come to be known for. So, although we are sad to say goodbye to 41 Market Place, we are equally excited to share this new adventure with all of you. Next season our bike nights will have a new home and they will be bigger and better than ever!
Here's to many more Bike Nights ahead!