LINCOLN PARK — Motorcycles and scooters are invading Lincoln Avenue for the “Rip It Up Rally” this Sunday.
Now in its third year, the free rally is organized by WreckLess Chicago, which describes itself as a social club for “greasers, gearheads, backstreet gamblers and midnight ramblers.” Starting at 11 a.m. motorcycles and scooters will line up along Lincoln Avenue, between Diversey and Wrightwood, while their owners hang out at Delilah’s, 2771 N. Lincoln Ave.
Joel Rabb, a member of WreckLess, says about 250 bikes attended last year’s rally. He says the sight of so many bikes and riders in one place often leads to people walking by the event to stop to chat with the riders chilling next to their bikes.
“And we love to engage with pedestrians and casual onlookers. And it’s the same with motorcyclists,” said Rabb. “The rally is on a Sunday afternoon in the middle of summer. So you’d be surprised how many dozens of motorcyclists will ride by Delilah’s, see us and then stop to hang out. A lot of times they had no idea that the event was even taking place. It just snowballs from there.”
Sunday’s event is kind of a throwback to previous motorcycle and scooter rallies that used to be hosted in front of Delilah’s called “Mods vs. Rockers.” That rally, which ran from about 2005 to 2014, was put on by Larry Fletcher’s Ton Up Club and was a tongue and cheek homage to the fights that broke out in U.K. resort towns between teenage scooter and motorcycle riders during the late 1960s.
These riots were dramatized in the 1979 film “Quadrophenia.”
Chicago’s motorcycle and scooter riders have a much more cordial relationship thanks to the shared hardship of having to endure the city’s winters. And even before the ride was formalized into Mods vs. Rockers, motorcycle and scooter owners were meeting up for informal group rides.
“I think I was at the first one, it was actually at Ace Cafe on Roscoe in the late 1990s,” said Bryan Bedell. He’s a member of Chicago’s Mayday Scooter Club and rides a 1965 Vespa 150. “Larry Fletcher was the manager and the first one was pretty small, maybe a dozen motorcycles and four or five scooters. We all rode to the lake, had a smoke and we rode back. And then Larry gave us all ‘Mighty Urban Vintage Rider’ patches.”
Rabb says the various riding groups in the city, regardless of whether they focus on motorcycles or scooters, often are at each other’s events.
“The 1960s British, café racer culture mantle in Chicago has been held by Ton Up and 59 Club for quite some time. My club, WreckLess, I guess it could be best described as the American greaser version from the mid to late 1950s,” said Rabb. “But we’re big supporters of Ton Up and Larry.”
But as Mods vs. Rockers grew in size and popularity, the mobile, group ride aspect became harder to organize. So in 2014 Fletcher’s group moved the rally to Cobra Lounge and changed the format to a three-day festival called Motoblot.
“We’re a huge supporter of Motoblot. But there seemed to be a lot of people who still wanted for that very low key, guerrilla-style event where we just take over the streets and people get to hang out,” said Rabb. “There aren’t vendors. There aren’t sponsors. There aren’t kiosks. It’s just a bunch of people with their scooters and motorcycles hanging out.”