The early afternoon downpour on Saturday did little to dampen my mood for the UG Auto Show. When I finally got past the rigorous checkpoint at the entrance to the Independence Grounds at Kololo Airstrip, my eyes beheld what was arguably the biggest bike collection I’ve seen. To one side were the meat roasters and beverage tents, and to the opposite side were tents for the exhibitors, among which included KCB, Lion Assurance, Kia, Suzuki, Ford, to mention but a few. AA Uganda had a booth and some cars where drivers could go test the sharpness of their driving skills, for a prize.
The Bikers were being represented by Uganda Bikers Association and Hot Rod Association. One key difference in these groups was the general style of bikes. UBA typically has standard, sport, touring, scooters and sport-touring bikes while HRA features mainly cruisers. Cruisers are the American-style bikes that remind you of Reno Raines from the ‘Renegade’ series. The most significant trait is that the rider leans back when riding a cruiser. Names like Steed and Harley-Davidson are synonymous with cruisers while Ducati, Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki, BMW are the types you’d find with UBA riders. They all looked very cool, with their shades and leather outfits. Not to mention a bevy of girls in their company. Some of them even broke out folding chairs, coolers and shisha to enjoy themselves. The sun had come out by this time.
The airstrip is such a wide place that for a while, I was wondering just how many cars they expected to be on display. As the afternoon went by, there were still just a handful of cars, both vintage and newer models. It later occurred to me that the space would have another use. There was a handful of bike races, just to entertain the crowds. The darling of the group turned out to be the Honda XL1000V Varadero. Well, it was the quickest and most stable of the lot, boasting a 1000cc engine, which is very powerful for a bike. In comparison, the typical boda boda bike has a 100cc engine. We got to see some tricks I had hitherto only seen in youtube clips. One particular rider seemed to be on a personal mission to prove that he was the best trickster at the show. He favored riding his bike without use of his hands. He also did wheelies, burnouts, donuts… the works. He was my favourite stunt rider. The HRA riders decided to show off their steeds as well. But their bikes are so loud! The cruisers had older riders, their dress style was more of a Western American cowboy style. I couldn’t help thinking that Chuck Norris could be one of them.
See more photos from the show here
The bikers told us how the most economical bike could cost about 8 million shillings. In a way, that was quite encouraging. At some point, the riders wanted to show their wilder side, but the MC kept reminding them to consider safety first.
This time the cars were a sideshow. The attendees had a chance to take rides in the cars on display. Among the cars on display were a vintage Ford F2 and a Chevrolet Impala, which reminded us of those hydraulic bouncing cars we see a lot in rap videos. The modern cars included Mitsubishi FTO, Bentley, Hummer H2, Chrysler 300C and a Lamborghini. The Mitsubishi FTO was a sight to behold, an obvious crowd puller. It was all black, with a matte black paint job, custom bumpers, sideskirts, headlights and taillights, and a black and orange interior.
Judith Heard graced the event, but so did Zari and her guy Ivan. Fortunately, I didn’t witness any of the drama that has come to be expected whenever the two socialites meet.
The day belonged to the bikers, who put up quite a display of speed and stunts. I’ve never been to an auto show where I felt like taking part in the pleasurable activities until that day. I really wished I could ride a motorcycle. But with all the hope I had, for safety reasons, I was not about to get a crash course in motorcycling with some of the most powerful bikes on the market. The Auto Show nearly made a biker out of me. Their passion for bikes is very real.