But today, 15,000 bikers rode through the Wiltshire town of Wootton Bassett, the site of one of Britain's newest traditions, to honour British troops serving in Afghanistan.
Since 2007, when the nearby RAF Lyneham base became the new place where Britain's war dead are flown back to, the town has seen thousands of well-wishers around the country line the streets to pay their respects to deceased soldiers whose bodies pass through in hearses on their way to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxfordshire.
Today, 10,000 bikers, with 5,000 pillion passengers, roared their way through the town, past its war memorial, to raise money for the charity Afghan Heroes. The ride raised £100,000 for the charity.
The event was the idea of 18-year-old biker Elizabeth Stevens.
Roar of respect: 15,000 bikers ride through Wootton Bassett to honour troops serving in Afghanistan
By Daily Mail Reporter
14th March 2010
Around 15,000 bikers roared through Wootton Bassett today to honour troops serving in Afghanistan.
Spectators lined the streets as the riders made their way through the market town that has come to represent the nation in paying respect to fallen soldiers as they are repatriated back to the UK.
Mourners line the high street in silence for each funeral cortege that passes through the town on its way from RAF Lyneham to the coroner in Oxford.
Today's crowds gathered along the High Street to hear the roar of over 10,000 motor bikers with about 5,000 pillion passengers pass the war memorial on route.
The ride, believed to the biggest of its kind, has raised more than £100,000 so far for the charity Afghan Heroes.
Wootton Bassett Mayor Steve Bucknell said: 'The vast majority of the people of the town fully support what the bikers are doing today.
'Too many times the town has had to stand still in silence but today is all about noise and movement.'
The event was the idea of teenage biker Elizabeth Stevens.
The 18-year-old mechanics student had only planned to ride through the town with a few friends but her idea quickly gained momentum.
'Our local bike club was throwing around the idea of a bike run,' she said. 'So I decided to make a Facebook page, and it's just taken off.'
Miss Stevens was today riding pillion on her boyfriend's Harley Davidson Sportster.
Laurence Phillips from the charity Afghan Heroes said: 'It's quite a staggering spectacle and an unbelievable show of support for the troops in Afghanistan and a mark of respect for the town of Wootton Bassett.
'I would imagine it is the biggest bike ride of its kind.
'The bikes have been coming in since 8am this morning.'
The bikers set off from Hullavington Airfield, Wiltshire in waves of 500 to Wootton Bassett via the M4.
The police, Ministry of Defence and local authorities joined forces to make sure it passed smoothly.
Opera singer Tim Pitman performed Fields of Green, a song written for Afghan Heroes.
Each biker paid £5 to take part, with some raising more including one biker who handed over £750.
Wootton Bassett was founded around the year 681AD, when it was known as Wodeton, Anglo-Saxon (old English) for "settlement in the wood."
The land was granted in 681 AD to Malmesbury Abbey. The town was destroyed by the Danes in 1015, whereupon the survivors moved the town to its present location.
Wootton Bassett is mentioned in the Domesday Book where it was noted that Miles Crispin held the rights and these included "land for 12 ploughs...a mill...and 24 acres (97,000 m2) of meadow...33 acres of pasture and woodland which is two leagues by a league". It was said to be worth £9.
The town's curious Town Hall, which is an upper storey supported on 15 pillars, was built at the end of the 17th century, a gift from the Hyde family (Earls of Clarendon). Edward Hyde, later Earl of Clarendon, was elected to Parliament as MP for Wootton Bassett in 1640, which was also the year he became adviser and secretary to Charles I. He helped run Charles I's Government in Oxford, where it had re-located during the Civil War. This loyalty won him high office, as Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1643 and Lord Chancellor in 1658. He became Earl of Clarendon in 1661. Edward helped draw up the anti-Catholic Clarendon Code.
Edward's daughter, Anne Hyde, married King Charles II's brother, James, Duke of York, who later became King James II. Thus Mary was the mother of the future Queen Mary II and Queen Anne.
Wootton Bassett's other royal connection is that Katherine Parr, sixth and last wife of Henry VIII, owned the town's Vastern Manor and lived there until her death in 1548. It is said that Henry VIII kept a mistress at the manor, and that he personally ordered that all the town's births were registered at the parish church.