If you like the company of fellow motorcyclists in an atmosphere of live music, real ale and no-fuss British food, lots of rideouts and bike gatherings throughout the year, the Victoria Bikers’ Pub could be just the place for you.
The minute you open the door of the Victoria Bikers’ Pub in Coalville, Leicestershire, the cosy but well-worn surroundings shout out: “Make yourself at home”.
In one corner, surrounded by racks of second-hand motorcycle clothing for sale, is proprietor John Commons’ ‘open-plan’ office – basically a table and chair strewn with papers so that he can keep an eye on the bar – along with his maroon 250cc BSA C15 and, curled up by a window, his well-petted (by everyone!) ginger cat Helen.
When this feature was compiled, early arrivals Pat and Rick, who’d just turned up on their 1941 BSA M20 and 750cc Ural outfit, were staying overnight at the Vic while on their way from Sawbridgeworth, Herts, to the Dragon Rally, and many tales were regaled as the hours ticked by.
All kinds of people walk through the door – bikers of every description, rock music lovers, truckers, three-wheeler and vintage car fans… even members of the so-called ‘Old Age Pensioners MCC’ that was set up as a joke but now enjoys a large membership!
As late afternoon turned to early evening, a steady stream of regulars swelled the numbers until the pub was alive with cheerful banter.
The Victoria started life as a 19th century ‘pit pub’ for the miners of Coalville, and it was the black stuff that kept the town alive for 150 years.
However the Vic’s grass-roots clientele steadily dwindled after Snibston Colliery, whose roots went right back to George Stephenson, was closed down in December 1983 despite achieving a record-breaking output.
After Shipstone’s Brewery modernised and enlarged the pub, the new landlords asked John, who was running a number of rock venues including The Rock House at Shepshed, to organise a bit of live music, and in 1993 John suggested starting a bike night.
The first of these, on January 5, 1994, attracted five motorcyclists, “but by the end of summer you could stick a few noughts on the end” said John.
“When the landlords left in 1999 they asked if I’d consider taking the pub on. I didn’t want the commitment at first, but after a lot of negotiating I did, and it became a music venue and bikers’ pub.”
Thursday is always the Vic’s big bike night, and in the summer particularly there’s an abundance of machinery from Harley-Davidsons to Lambrettas, from vintage to modern, with classic rock sounds drifting into the car park and the smell of fried onions from the pub’s own burger van adding to the atmosphere.
Each year, always on the nearest Saturday to Midsummer’s Day, the Vic puts on a Moxters of Rock tribute event, and this year’s theme will be Thin Lizzy, to mark the 30th anniversary of the death of vocalist Phil Lynott, who became the first black Irishman to achieve rock music success. Among Thin Lizzy’s hits were Whiskey in the Jar, Jailbreak and The Boys are Back in Town.
An unusual aspect of The Victoria Bikers’ Pub is its wall of remembrance, with small wooden crosses in memory of motorcycle racers (including Karl Harris, Marco Simoncelli and Barry Sheene) as well as ordinary friends and those from the music industry.
The pub features three live stages, has simple accommodation for overnight stays, and organises many music and motorcycling events in and around the pub, including the garden, where a large marquee is sometimes erected.
Famous visitors to the Vic have included James Toseland, who’s performed there with his old rock band Crash, the Hairy Bikers, Niall Mackenzie, Colin Edwards, James Whitham and Randy Mamola.
In fact there’s so much going on at The Vic that you really must visit the website at www.vicbikerspub.co.uk