With jobs still scarce in Athens, cheap forms of escapism are all the rage. That’s where the madness of The Rotten Race comes in. Alex King dons his best fancy dress and enters the world of this surreal annual motorcycle bonanza.

A low and throaty grumble of motorbike engines is reverberating around the winding Ottoman-era streets of Athens’ Psyrri neighborhood.

An impressive line of vintage and custom motorbikes is parked in front of a shuttered building that’s covered in layers upon layers of scrappy graffiti. Across the street, the bikes’ owners are decked out in leathers and smoking roll-ups, shooting the breeze on the stoop outside The Real Intellectuals—an accessories shop and hangout spot for the custom motorcycle enthusiasts of Athens.

With the Greek economy still in tatters, people are seeking cheap forms of release. As such, the custom motorcycle scene is booming. After all, once you have two wheels and a full tank of gas, the open road is free.