Whilst there are any number of better and more enjoyable roads to ride on, the North Circular does redeem itself given that it takes you to one of the most iconic locations in British motorcycling history – the Ace Café, the spiritual home of the “café racer” motorcycle, and much, much more besides.
Originally opened as a transport café in 1938 on the newly created A406, it served generations of petrol-heads of all varieties before its closure in 1969. In that time it accommodated countless hordes of Teddy Boys, mods and rockers, witnessed the birth of the 59 Club started by Bill Shergold (known as the “motorcycling Priest”) and even survived a World War II air raid. Perhaps most notably of all, the Ace Café (and many others like it) gave birth to and influenced the bikes we know today as “Café racers”.
By 1969, the expansion of the motorway network and changes in biking culture meant that the Ace’s days were numbered, and it remained closed until 1997 when part of it reopened on a part time basis. In 2001, a grand re-opening was held with many of the period features you will see today – walls festooned with biking memorabilia and an unmistakable feeling that you have travelled back in time.
Since then the Ace Café has gone from strength to strength, and has even opened branches in Finland, Spain, the USA, Switzerland and China. Today the Ace Café remains an iconic bikers haunt, and is well worth a visit. Aside from the fantastic food there are a range of regular events including themed bike nights for different manufacturers or types of bike, as well as monthly bike nights where there is an opportunity to see many rare machines.