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Horsham Motorcycle Group

Laurence Biegstraaten greets motorcyclists at the Sussex Barn, with staff from Billy’s Motorcycles in Pulborough (©AAH/Alan Wright)

Published 1st November 2022

The Horsham Motorcycle Group organised a special ride-out on Saturday 22 October, to celebrate its 1,000th member. AAH met riders at the Sussex Barn in North Heath Lane, Horsham, to find out how the group has become an important social hub for local motorcyclists…


Horsham Motorcycle Group (HMG) was founded by Gary Rollingson, who lives in the town. At weekends, Gary was riding for up to an hour to meet fellow motorcyclists from work. So, he decided to look for a group closer to home. When he couldn’t find one, he started his own on Facebook. ‘I thought that if half a dozen people joined, that would be great!’ said Gary. ‘On the first day, 45 signed up, so there was interest from the beginning. A lot of people were riding alone and wanted to be part of a group. From the outset, the group was open to everyone. It wasn’t about owning a certain bike or following a scene. Nothing was predetermined. We have everything from 125cc bikes to Harley Davidsons, and motocross to superbikes. The important thing is to promote a good riding spirit.’


One of the most unusual bikes in the group is owned by Tess Fenter, a grandmother from Handcross. Tess is unable to operate a manual gearbox since she underwent a back operation, so now gets her riding kicks aboard an eye-catching trike. It was bought with manual gears and a 1 litre engine, but husband Nigel customised it into a 1.3 litre, automatic trike cruiser. Tess says: ‘I love the trike, as it has kept me on the road. I started riding a moped as a teenager and although I took a break to raise a family, returned to riding when I could, as it’s part of who I am. Wherever I go, the trike raises a smile and people always want to talk about it. This year, I rode it to the Isle of Man, towing a trailer! I went around the TT course, which was an amazing experience and something I’ve always wanted to do. For me, the social side of HMG is what makes it such a special group. They have given me the chance to get out at weekends. I often sit at the back as the “tail-end Charlie”, but always know the route so I catch up with the others eventually!’



About 100 members met at the Sussex Barn for an event to celebrate the Facebook page registering its 1,000 member. However, that number could be higher, as Gary and his committed admin team have turned down requests from all over the world, as they want ‘friends’ of the page to be able to participate in rides and events. The group’s popularity has been driven by the frequency and variation of rides, which are posted on the events section of the page. In the summer, there will often by several rides suited to different riders. ‘We have established four groups,’ said Gary. ‘The Easy Rider group is for those building their confidence, and the Inbetweeners is for those who are perhaps looking to be more progressive. The Great Escape group is for more experienced motorcyclists, and finally there’s the Top Gun. Across the four groups, people can find the one that most suits them and have an enjoyable ride. Members post their events and it’s up to people to sign up if they want to, without commitment. New sub-groups are now being established within the main group, which is a dynamic I always hoped would happen, as it means friendships have been formed. Certainly, this is one of the most relaxed and inclusive groups around and people have come on board with the concept from the beginning. That is all down to the great work of the admin team, past and present, who put so much effort in behind the scenes. Special mentions must go to James Faulkes, Simon Clarke, Stewie Roberts, Briony Booker, Suzanne Ratcliffe, Jarrod Furlonger and Nigel Pithers.’



The get-together was supported by local motorcycle businesses, including Public Enemy Custom Bikes in Slinfold, Moto War (a motocross shop in Rudgwick), Cycle Sprays in Cowfold, and Billy’s Motorcycles in Pulborough, which donated a signed Valentino Rossi T-shirt, which was auctioned to raise funds for the group’s charity, the Air Ambulance. Prizes were donated for bikes in four categories: Best in Show, Muddiest Ride, Most Coordinated Bike and Laurence’s Award. Laurence Biegstraaten, 19, is an honorary member of the group and selected his favourite bike for a special award. During the pandemic, Laurence, who has had cerebral palsy since birth, became a familiar face to many, as he was often seen waving to motorists at the roundabout by the Highwood estate, off the A24. 
Dad Machiel said: ‘It started at the beginning of COVID, when we lived near Bury Hill. Laurence enjoyed waving at motorists, and some would wave back or toot their horn. When we moved to Highwood, we started waving from the bridge over the dual carriageway, but it wasn’t giving him the same satisfaction, so we moved to the roundabout. Laurence loves it and drivers enjoy it too. On two occasions, the motorcycle group have arranged a drive-by so that Laurence can see the bikes. One day, Gary stopped and presented Laurence with an HMG jumper, declaring him an honorary member. It was a very touching gesture, as he loves fast cars and bikes and gets very excited when they approach the roundabout.’



As friendships have developed within HMG, social events have been organised too. These have included golf days, go-karting, and bowling nights, while the admin team are now planning a Christmas celebration. There have also been rides to scenic destinations, including the Lake District and Wales. Michelle O’Neill from Littlehampton joined the group as she was looking for a friendly and social riding experience. She has since enjoyed tours to Wales and the Isle of Wight. ‘Wales is renowned for being wet, but the weather was perfect for the entire trip,’ says Michelle. ‘We rode through Snowdonia, which was beautiful, and organised a stop to Velocity 2, the fastest zip wire in the world. Gary, Simon, and the rest of the team do a fantastic job of organising the routes so that they include tourist attractions, as well as pleasant scenery. But the best part of the trips is getting to know new people and bonding as a group.’


Some riders have ventured even further afield. There have already been two trips abroad, to the Pyrenees and the Alps, with further trips to Romania and the Arctic Circle of Norway pencilled in the diary. For Broadbridge Heath rider Paul Harding, riding through the Alps was an unforgettable experience. Paul says: ‘It has long been on my bucket list, but I never really thought I’d get to do it as it’s not the sort something you want to do alone. We rode through France, Germany and Austria, then down into Italy and Switzerland, so we circumnavigated the entire Alps. The organisers must’ve spent ages planning the route, as it was incredible.’ ‘There was about a dozen riders and most of us didn’t know each other that well beforehand, yet suddenly, we were lodging and eating together every day. But it was one of the best holidays I’ve ever had.  We all had different riding traits and experience, so if someone was tired and didn’t want to take a winding, scenic route around the mountains, they could stick to the highway and meet us at the day’s destination. The group generally has a relaxed approach, and as we all have work or family commitments, people can join rides whenever they like. It doesn’t matter if you’re not on the scene for a few months. I personally go out when I can, as riding is good for your mental health and I enjoy riding to a café and being part of a social group. We’ve also established an off-road sub-group and organise our own rides around the Surrey Hills. So, the group has made a big difference to people and brought many riders, who might otherwise have been quite isolated, together.’