Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Sand Dancers Rally June 2010

I like lists, yes I know that those of you who don’t know me are now building a mental picture and that some part of that picture includes the description ‘sad tw*t’, but I can’t help it; I really, really do like lists.
I write lots of lists, shopping lists, things to do lists, and places to go lists. I enjoy the ‘Pavlovian’ way it can make me salivate before the event.

It’s Sunday evening, June 6th 2010, and as I relax on the settee after a great curry and a few beers at John and Christine’s house my attention is drawn to a discarded piece of paper on the lounge floor. It’s a list! Headed “Thursday Prep for Weekend”, it starts with ‘cut grass’ before progressing to ‘check tent out’, ‘wash and pack bike’, ‘pick up tickets’, ‘plan route’, etc but at no point does it say ‘break clutch cable, crash two bikes, loose riders, visit hospital, throw tools down the road or soak myself in beer ‘, it should have done really because by now I have enough experience of rally weekends to know that these are all possible and often probable at some point in proceedings. I should have put them all on the list!

Lets take a step back then to Thursday evening and Manny, Buckles and myself are in ‘Bluecoat’ downing pints of Abbots Ale, I know this is o.k. because the last thing that was written on the list was ‘7.30 meet Manny for beer’, so I’m prepared. What I’m not prepared for though is the absinth depth charge that Steve the manager of ‘SNAFU’ puts in my lager or the tequila’s that we drink in abundance for the rest of the evening.

I’m woken on Friday morning at 6 a.m. by the sun pouring through the curtains, this is a good sign, then I realise it’s because I’ve passed out on the sofa surrounded by left over pizza and not even shut the curtains, not a good sign. I struggle upstairs and manage to grab a couple of hours in a proper bed before raising Manny from the spare room where he had collapsed, at some point, fully clothed. After pouring strong coffee down us both we head out to the garage.

It’s 9.30 am and the sun beats down from a clear blue sky as Kathryn and I load up Bertha, my BMW R1150GS, Manny pulls his stripped down Moto Guzzi from the garage

and we await the arrival of Simon, my boss, who is making ‘Sand Dancers’ his first ever rally on his B.M.W. R1150GSA, Kevin and his son Ollie are next to pull in, he’s borrowed my Dad’s K100LT for the weekend, as his Ural isn’t quite back together yet , and it’s quite strange to see someone else aboard the old B.M.W.

At John and Christine’s house, 20 minutes later, it looks like we have our half of the team together. We are joined by Buckles and Diane together with Brian and Sharon, both on BMW R1200 Adventures. For Brian this is his first bike after passing his test and with full luggage, top box and tent it looks a handful.

John is aboard his Kawumph (Kawasaki W650)

and Christine is aboard her new Guzzi Breva now showing all of 350 miles on the Speedo.

I hate riding with this many people, you know you can never please the riding styles of all the group and given that the route is only in my head, I know it’s going to take a lot of mirror work to try and keep us all together.

We all head off north around 10.30 taking a route through Hemsworth, Ackworth and Pontefract before a breakfast stop at Squires Milk Bar at Newthorpe. It’s only 11.15 am on a Friday morning but there is already a nice selection of bikes and riders filling the car park. With bacon butties or full English stuffed away we remount and carry on to Tadcaster before Wetherby and then picking up the Roman road at Walton to Boroughbridge. It’s not far along here when I see Simon looming in my mirror, I pull over.

‘Manny’s stalled at the last junction, I think it’s a broken clutch cable ‘

Before I even have time to roll and smoke a cig, Manny’s Guzzi trundles into view, a clutch cable change to put a Formula One team to shame shows the benefits of routing a spare cable alongside the operational one but I should have put that on my list.

At Asenby just by the A168 I pull over again, the group have got spread out and I realise I’ve been getting a bit heavy handed with the throttle through the twists and turns of the last few miles. Slowly bikes come into view but no sign of John or Simon who were bringing up the rear, we wait a good ten minutes and Buck leads an expeditionary force to retrace our steps, he returns five minutes later with no sightings. I manage to get a signal on my phone. John answers straight away, never a good sign when you’re supposed to be riding a bike.

‘Where are you? ‘I enquire.

‘ Aaahh, Mmm, I’ve had a bit of an accident !, I’ve run up the arse end of Simon at the junction near Cundall, were both ok at the moment, but he may hit me fairly shortly !‘.

We all remount and head back, both bikes are parked on the junction, John is on his hand and knees trying to straighten the foot pegs and gear lever.

With a dented headlamp shell and crumpled front mudguard the Kawumph looks decidedly second hand.

It appears John had made the mistake of thinking Simon had gone when the fact that a large bright silver R1150GS Adventure BMW with full luggage was directly in front of him clearly shows he hadn’t. John had pushed Simon into the middle of the road but luckily Simon had stayed on board and no other vehicles were coming, John unfortunately hadn’t stayed on and ended up pinned under his bike. I think it took a while for Simon to decide that he really should pull him out. After a bit of work both bikes are rideable, the BMW looks hardly marked but closer examination reveals, bent pannier mounts, damaged exhaust system and a twisted rear subframe.

Oh well, these things happen and should be put on the list.

I decide that after Northallerton we should pick up the A19 through to Sunderland, really just to give people a bit of a rest, it’s a straight dual carriageway and should give both John and Simon a chance to check out their bikes without needing to throw them around the twisties.

At our next coffee stop the temperature is still rising and we take shade under the trees in the car park,

John is quiet and I go over and have a word, he’s just feeling a bit down and is pulling him self apart over his error but I guess he should cheer up coz Simon still hasn’t hit him yet !.

We carry on northward but given the different cruising speeds and the straight route to our destination I realise it is easier for everyone to push on at their own pace and meet up at the rally site. I sit at a steady 85mph before turning through Sunderland and there I notice a sudden drop in temperature as we pick up the coast road through Roker I’ve lost quite a few of the group on the A road blast and am surprised to see Simon, John, Brian and Sharon pull out at a junction just ahead of me at Whitburn, Simon’s GPS had kept him on the A19 a few junctions past the one I had turned off on. Only a mile or two further on we see the light house at Souter Point. It is here, in the grounds of this National Trust property, that the Tyne Phoenix MCC holds the Sand Dancers Rally. It’s a great venue on the flat bowling green length grass that surrounds the lighthouse with stunning views over the North Sea and up the coast past Marsden Grotto, the mouth of the Tyne and away north to Blyth. The edge of the field is a well fenced off cliff with a drop of a couple of hundred feet to the shingle beach and breakers below. I really hope the guys who put it up know there job, especially as the camping area is a slightly different layout to last year, when I enquire as to why I’m informed by one of the marshals that quite a large bit of the cliff has disappeared and a large area of the field we are in has been undermined by the wave action.

As we arrive I see Baggy ( BMW R1150R ) is already there with his tent up, he’s had a steady ride over from his home near Settle then a little further down the field we spot Tim ( Triumph Tiger ) and Tony, The Codfather on his Honda Pan European and surprise ,surprise there’s Pete Wheeler on his R1150 Adventure. Baggy pulls out his tent pegs and carries his tent over to the rest of us, were still missing Manny and Christine but as we start to unpack our tents Manny rolls onto the field alone and John’s phone rings.

While he is in conversation I check my phone, I’ve one answer phone message and it’s from Christine,

‘I’ve had an accident, don’t worry though I’m o.k. but I’m in an ambulance on my way to North Teesside hospital ‘

Well they say things happen in threes, I must add this to the list.

John’s call was from the paramedic who was dealing with Christine, once Kathryn, she’s a rehomed Geordie, had translated the Tyneside twang; it appears that Christine is slightly battered and a bit confused with the most likely explanation being concussion but how anyone could diagnose that, knowing what she’s like normally is quite beyond me.

John jumps back on the battered Kawumph and heads off to the hospital while the rest of us erect tents and carry out a post mortem on the day’s eventful ride.

I decide to hold off my usual post ride binge to see if I’m needed and it’s a good job too as a couple of hours later, after I’ve made a food and beer run to Morrison’s, John calls and asks if I can ride down and meet him at the hospital. They are keeping Christine in and as there is little he can do there he decides to join us at least for one night.
I leave the rest of the team huddled round the tents sheltering from a cold north wind and very noticeable dip in temperature

and blast the thirty or so miles to Stockton on Tees to find John with a pile of luggage at the hospital doorway. The police have take him to the garage were Christine’s new Breva was recovered to and he has collected the tent and some perishables from the panniers. From eye witness accounts, as Christine remembers very little, it appears that a white van had side swiped her in the fast lane of the A19, luckily the traffic was slow moving, around 65 mph and all the traffic behind had come to a stop. The bike and Chris has slid some considerable distance but it’s thought Christine had knocked herself out in the first impact hence going limp and not having had contact with anything else on the slide down the road had saved her from more serious injuries. The van had f*cked off though, possibly not even knowing they’d hit her.

John and I make our way back to the rally site by which time we had been joined by a few more of the Rotherham contingency who had ridden up after work and Brian had just arrived down from Bigger in the Scottish boarders , on his 220 bhp supercharged Rocket 3. We unpack John’s tent and although scraped and battered the major holes appeared to be on the groundsheet. Somewhat relieved that Kathryn and I were not going to have to share our tent with him it was finally time for a beer or five.

Over at the marquee Manny has already found a ridiculous scrumpy

which he tempts me with and all too soon we are all laid around the marquee, enjoying a smoke in the strictly no smoking area.

What rebels eh ?
Simon and John even have a bonding moment.

Enough to say I don’t remember getting back to the tent and neither does Kathryn !

As I lie in my tent around 6am on Saturday morning I hear the distinctive note of a BMW being started, next to my ear! It’s Baggy who has decided to nip back to Settle to pick up a lady friend, he gets back around 10 am whilst Buckles and Di decide to have a Saturday morning lie in.

John packs up and heads back to the hospital to check on Christine’s recovery whilst myself, Kathryn, Simon and Baggy, who is now joined by Jan on pillion, decide to head north and explore the Northumberland Coastal Trail. Closure of the Tyne Tunnel results in very heavy traffic as we pass through Gateshead and over the Tyne Bridge, from here we pick up the coast road to Tynemouth. We head through Whitley Bay in gorgeous sun and then on to Amble and Warkworth. Reaching Alnwick around noon we had just parked up when we are joined by Tim, Daz, Kevin and some more of the Rotherham riders. An hour is spent wandering round the town with lunch taken in a very continental setting, at outside tables in the market square under a picture postcard blue sky. In an effort to avoid the grid lock of the Tyne Tunnel closure we return to South Shields via the A1.

John has called and both he and Christine are back home, she was released sometime after lunch but had to endure a train journey via Doncaster and Rotherham before finally getting a taxi home carrying all her bike gear, panniers, etc whilst nursing two cracked ribs, gravel rash and a big headache.

After restocking with beer at the supermarket we leave the bikes back at the tents and walk the half mile or so to the Marsden Grotto pub.

Built into the cliff at beach level, access is gained by a rather claustrophobic lift or a very long and winding set of steps. It’s an interesting little place with lots of tales of smugglers and duty men, well worth calling in for a pint, tall crumbling sea stacks fill the bay and the views out to the open water of the North Sea are stunning.

It appears that on this visit we have just made it in time as Baggy tries to order food.

‘I’m sorry sir, there is no food available, we only serve food until 6pm tonight as there is a private function on ‘says the barman.

‘That’s o.k.’ says Baggy ‘it’s only 5.15, I’ll order now ‘

‘Ah no, there’s no food on now and we are shutting the bar at 6 pm’ was the response.

We shift a couple of pints and given the price it’s a good job we can’t stay longer.

Back at the tents there’s time for a few beers round the tents while Tim prepares a barbeque

and then it’s time to wander back to the marquee for the evening bands.

The evening passes with a repeat of Friday’s overindulgence

and with Kathryn already in her bed I wander off for some food. Walking back to the tent I now notice that I appear to have lost control of my bladder, mmm now that’s odd, I think, as a very cold liquid runs down my leg. I suss out that whilst getting a bag of chips and trying to balance a curry I’ve put an open can of beer in the centre pocket of my jumper, it just happens to now be upside down and emptying its contents all over me. I’m soaked but just decide to carry on walking. Need that one putting on my list.

Sunday most of us are up early, there’s a sea fret in with low cloud and accompanying drizzle. Packed we wait another hour or so for Buck to rise.

A couple of us use this down time constructively to run up and down a damp field pushing ‘Spuds’ Honda Goldwing Aspancade, the fact that the bike is a late 1980’s model and still appears to have the original battery fitted together with enough lights to illuminate most of Blackpool makes it even more surprising when the bike does actually start. For those who are wondering ‘ Spud ‘ gets his nickname from being a potato dealer who supplies ‘The Codfather’ who believe it or not owns a fish and chip shop !!!!..

Half the group head back down the A19 and A1 just wanting to try and out run the weather. I lead the scenic run back, first following the coast towards Hartlepool, we join a short section of the A19 and as I check my mirrors there’s only Pete Wheelers spotlights behind, we seem to have lost Simon, Manny, Buck and Diane. After a few minutes Pete and I decide to spin round but this entails a further three miles south bound before we can loop and retrace the route. As was always going to happen we are heading north as the rest come towards us heading south. Pete and I get a bit of a squirt on and we meet them pulled over in a lay by.

‘What happened to you lot?’ I enquire

Buck describes what happened as ‘like being at the circus’, apparently Manny was ahead of the rest when ‘All of a sudden his tool roll came undone, spanners and screwdrivers were bouncing off the road and coming at me and Simon like a bloody knife thrower’ Buck explained.

On pulling over Simon is heard to say

‘Is it because I’m Shaggy’s boss? Has he put a contract out on me? Everywhere I go this weekend someone is trying to kill me’

It appears, from Manny’s later account, that the forced stop had come at just the right moment for some as whilst he was repacking his tool roll, Buck was seen quickly removing his helmet before falling to his knees and creating a pavement pizza, kids and beer !.

Should have had all of that on my list!

By the time we reach Middlesbrough the drizzle had started to build to a deluge and the usually fantastic road through Stokesley and on to Helmsley is a flowing river. Added to the soaking roads I also start noticing increasingly large and more frequent patches of fresh diesel on every bend. This increases over the next mile or two until rounding a bend we come across the culprits, a line of over thirty vintage tractors!!. I think about covering my ‘diesel kills’ sticker and slow to walking pace as we pass, another secret’s out, show me a nice green John Deere or a well tyred little Massey and I go weak at the knees.

The rain continues and the fog thickens and as we pass the view point at Newgate Bank, the view is oh about 25 metres! A pause for coffee and pasties in Helmsley see’s Buck deciding to push on through, he still carries red eyes and I think his bed is calling. We are now down to myself and Kathryn, Simon, Pete and Manny, with Manny being the next to drop off as he turns to head west towards the Pennines, we push on and pick up the motorway just past York.

Sitting around three figure speeds the boredom of the motorway is despatched as quickly as possible and after Pete has cut off to Doncaster and Simon back to Sheffield we arrive in sunny ( for that read wet ) Rotherham around 3pm.

With just enough time to unload a few bits from Bertha we order a taxi to meet John and Christine in ‘ The Ship ‘ at Greasborough, for Chris this is purely medicinal to wean her off the painkillers of course. She’s battered and fairly bruised especially across her hands and shoulders but is in good spirits. The insurance company are picking up the Moto Guzzi on Monday and returning it to the dealers at Loughborough hopefully for a full rebuild and not to be written off, John’s Kawumph is being collected to be taken for repair and Simons BMW is in at Rainbow Motorcycles next week for an estimate.

Me. well I’m off to the ‘Simmer Dim’ rally in the Shetland Islands in two weeks time so I guess with so much to plan I think I’d better start writing the list now.

P.S. July 18th 2010
Christine’s Guzzi is back and A1 , cost £3700 + VAT
Johns Kawumph back tomorrow, cost unknown
Simons BMW in for repair next Saturday £1750 + VAT + labour

Monday, 12 July 2010

Into the Valley Rally - May 2010

It’s wet; I mean it’s very, very wet. The black cloud I had been following since leaving Goole had finally decided to hang around and wait and as I rode into it things got biblical, soil and gravel decided to move from the surrounding farm land into the middle of the single track road, water bubbled up from drains and my visor took on the waterfall effect, inside and out. It was the sort of weather that reminds you just why you ride a GS. With my wife Kathryn on the pillion, fully loaded Metal Mule panniers and a large tent stuck on the back, Bertha just soaks it all up, I think the Wilbers shocks were a worthwhile investment as potholes and broken surfaces pass almost undetected. 65,000 miles on the standard BMW shock absorbers had recently led to a noticeable deterioration in handling in general and these have provided a very definite improvement.
I’d been checking my mirrors regularly for the last few miles and with no sign of John on his Kawumph ( Kawasaki W650 ) or his wife Christine on her Guzzi I spin Bertha round and retrace my route, a mile or so back I come across the pair having a small domestic in a farm entrance. Well I guess you couldn’t blame them. Christine had picked up her new Moto Guzzi Breva 1100 from Loughborough that very morning and the clock was now showing just over 120 miles,

the gorgeous black and chrome bike had taken on a red mud hue and the thought of riding on the gravel strewn roads followed by a muddy rally site entrance and a further ride through a rutted field on her new pride and joy was bringing thoughts of a return to sunny Rotherham to the front of Christine’s mind. I used my best persuasive chat, you know the thing,
“Hey, it’s only a couple more miles now” followed by
“Well you knew it would get dirty sometime” led onto
“Do you really want to ride all the way back home in this, by yourself! ‘
I set off with the pair following and slowed down the pace, only to be past a few miles later by Buckles on his R1200 Adv, the bald rear TKC tyre covering me in a plume of spray as he sailed by.
We stop a few miles later and wait at a road junction, Buck lifts his visor,
“It’s aquaplaning a bit!” he shouts, I take another look at his back tyre, I’m not surprised.
A few miles later and we are at the entrance to the new rally site for the 12th Motorcycle Action Group ‘Into the Valley’ rally situated just north of Beverley at South Dalton. The entrance was muddy as expected but the well organised marshals slowed down our approach, apparently in the few minutes prior to our arrival a number of bikes had used a touch too much front brake with obvious consequences.
Tickets are exchanged for wrist bands and I lead off up through the rows of traders marquees towards the top camp site, thinking that if the weather stays like this high ground would be the logical place to camp. With no sign of the Wheeler brothers or their entourage I make a call.
“You’re where? In the very bottom corner of the first field! By the drainage ditch!! “
I turn Bertha round and follow the rutted path for about 500 yards until I spot three 1150 GSA’s lined up together with Baggy’s R1150R.

The rain’s starts to abate as the tents go up so I guess it’s time to start getting wet on the inside. Pete (Laughing Gas) has had the presence of mind to bring a tarp which forms our bar for the early evening.

Terry Scholes wanders over to join us, I hold the guy in awe, I first met him when I sold him a bike (K75 basic, low seat, if memory serves me right) in the early 90’s, when I worked at Rainbow M/C.

Here he is in his late 70’s still riding regularly, camping and partying with the rest of us. I’d be happy to be doing the same at 50!!
A few hours of Hobgoblin Ale and the obligatory bottle of Port and we decide to move on up to the marquees, real ale is on tap so for me it’s a few more pints of Theakstons OP and a chance to catch up with old friends before retiring, leaving Buckles and a few others to explore the music tent.

The next morning dawns dry and sunny and after breakfast, Buckles, Baggy, Kathryn and myself opt to join the ‘Riders are Voters’ demo ride from Beverley through Hull to the Humber Bridge.
I ask Tickhill Chris (Black R1150GSA) if he’s joining us on the ride, he says he’ll pass on this one as he’s only just woken up from a night spent asleep under his bike.
“I just got the munchies and decided to get some food out of my panniers, last thing I remember was putting the lid back on! “ he explains.
It’s 10am and as we ride off the rally site the rest of the crew are just pulling their first ring pull of the day.
From the Riverside Cafe in Beverley, after checking out bikes and canal boats, the ride out leaves at 11.30am. Led by a well organised team of MAG marshal’s we join the front of the ride and head into Hull. Mmm, nice, makes me realise how cosmopolitan Rotherham is!! It’s first gear work most of the way through the town centre, passersby stop and wave and motorist sound their horns, people shout to their friends in shops who come running out to watch us ride through. I still get a bit of a buzz from that feeling of rebellion you get from being part of a big motorcycle motorcade that brings the centre of a town to a standstill. We ride surrounded by race reps, scooters, streetfighters, custom Harleys, big trailies and L plated machines, people in full race leathers, some wearing club colours, others in day glow bibs. After an hour we find ourselves at the Humber Bridge car park where the ‘Riders are Voters’ organisation has arranged for candidates from the leading political parties to outline their views on motorcycling and take part in a short question and answer session.

We park up intending to stay a while but all too soon Buck’s stomach starts chanting “food”, my brain joins in with a chant for “alcohol” and the thought of Baggy being picked out to be interviewed by one of the television crews present fills us all with a fear that motorcycling may suffer an immediate ban. We decide to mount up and leave before the speeches start.
Calling at Morrison’s in Beverley, we stock up on beer and food before trying to find our way back to the rally site. After a quick tour of Beverley’s town centre, for the second time in fifteen minutes we line up three abreast at a set of traffic lights. I think a right turn makes sense, Buckles fancies straight ahead and Baggy wants to turn left. We look at each other and start giggling; Buck spots a map in my tank bag
“You’re the one with the fu**ing map “he shouts over
“I ain’t got my glasses on though “I reply.
Kathryn leans over my shoulder to try and read the map and offer directions just as the lights turn to green, we grab the hole shot and head straight over the junction, luckily followed by the other two bikes. Were still lost but being male we take the option of carrying on regardless and after a few miles we pick up the Driffield road and eventually get back on track.
Back on the site, the Wheeler boy’s are starting to show signs of a long day at the bar. While I open a bottle Buckles and Baggy unpack the panniers and lay out a new table cloth, napkins and a nice bottle of rose, two small stoves produce a full dinner with steak pies being steamed over seasonal vegetables.

The rest of the evening follows in much the same vain as the previous one, beers round the tents to start

but as the temperature drops we head for the beer tent,

once again the music marquee is packed so we opt to check out the custom bike show and listen to rather than see the bands. All too early in proceedings half of the crew head back to the tents already showing the signs of being full. About an hour passes before my phone goes the txt reads ‘ I would clean your bike seat if I was you ‘ and underneath is a rather too graphic photo of Baggy naked on Bertha’s saddle. Now luckily for you I haven’t sussed out how to download photos from my phone yet but I do have a feeling someone may be able to supply the picture if required!!
Kathryn and I stay for another hour or three before heading back.
The light is still on in Pete Wheeler’s tent and I wander over, there is Pete, passed out, just his head and shoulders in the tent,

why he spends so much money on technical tents is beyond me when on most occasions he never makes it back to them.
I use the last of my water to make myself a coffee and sit listening to the distant strains of the band ‘DeSilva’ when Kathryn manages to fall off her chair and knock over my cup. Time for bed I guess.
Rain on the tent wakes me around 6.30am, I lay there a while hoping it will stop and after a while it does. Christine and John provide the breakfast

and by 10am we are packed. Baggy is intrigued by the new Garmin Zumo 660 GPS that Martyn has just fitted and following the antics in Beverley the previous afternoon he decides to order one as soon as ( or if ) he gets home.

As we leave the site I slip in behind two of the custom bikes I’d seen the previous evening, one being a bright green full dress Harley appropriately names ‘Kermit the Hog’ and the other being a very tidy chop which I think won the best custom prize. I’m quite stunned that these bikes don’t go straight into a van 100 yards down the road as I’ve seen at other shows and also by how well both are ridden and the fact that off the mark acceleration leaves my GS for dead up to around 60mph. We cruised on at a steady 75mph and as Christine was still running the Guzzi in it made sense to stay behind them. I must admit that heavy cornering was not their strong point but by the time I pulled in for fuel at Goole I had developed an admiration for the performance shown by both machines.A steady ride home with the only excitement being loosing Christine on the outskirts of Doncaster and we were back home by 1pm. A quick wash down of the bike and myself and by 3pm I was in the pub for a Sunday session, well it is a Bank Holiday after all.

Rallyman's Rally Report January 2010

‘ .....continuing falls of heavy snow with strengthening winds across Yorkshire will lead to drifting and with treacherous driving conditions we advise you to travel only if your journey is essential’
Well I never usually believe the weather forecast anyway and I guess it all depends on how you describe essential, for me this journey is essential, essential for my personal wellbeing, both mental and physical. The need to ride a motorbike after two weeks of festive overindulgence, too much food, too much drink ( never thought I’d say that ), crap telly and snow covered roads now can’t be put off any longer and the Rallyman’s Rally, organised by Dean Valley M.C.C. a couple of miles north of Halifax, is just the excuse I need.
It’s still dark outside as I open the curtains around 7am, flurries of snow blow against the window adding to that which had already settled over the past two weeks. I’ve just poured my first coffee when the phone starts to ring, it’s Martyn,
‘the BMW won’t start and I haven’t got a battery charger, I will try and get over on Jan’s Van Van, but the roads are bad in Doncaster and I don’t know if I can make it ’,
Then only two minutes later the phone rings again, this time it’s Buck
‘ the BMW won’t start, I’ve just put the battery on charge, hopefully I’ll be ready to go around 10.30’.
This was not the right time of year for Buck to take his Ural sidecar off the road to fit a diesel engine, was it?
The numbers on this trip look like they are going to continue to fall!, Tim had already dropped out, but I can accept his excuse, he fell off a ladder two days before Christmas and is currently nursing a fractured cheek and smashed knee, then Christine’s Ducati S4R developed electrical problems! It’s winter so no surprise there, next to drop out was John with a ‘heavy cold’ !!!!! and then Jan who can’t get the time off work, but at least his absence from the team means Martyn now has a reserve bike to ride.
After clearing the snow from the blocked door I finally manage to get my B.S.A. out of the garage, I can’t push her up the gentle incline as my boots slip and slide on the underlying ice. I very nearly drop the bike before she has turned a full revolution of the wheels but if I can’t push her then I guess I’d better try and ride her, a quick tickle of the carb and the little Starfire starts second kick. I forgot how quickly a dribble of fuel from the tickler can soak inner gloves and then evaporate taking with it the last trace of warmth from my finger tips.
Starfires are renown for being quite rev happy compared to other British bikes and this combined with the raised gearing I fitted some years ago, for a trip to Le Mans, make clutch slipping necessary as the bike slips and slides, struggling for any grip. I sit back in the saddle to try and gain some traction on the white stuff and with a little persuasion we make it the 100 metres along the back lane from my house.

The main roads have been heavily gritted but as I turn into the side road leading to Buck’s house, I get a nasty surprise as the whole plot moves sideways, God I hope that our route doesn’t involve too many unsalted roads, as its feet down and first gear riding.
Martyn arrives, on the 125cc Van Van, just as Bucks R1200 Adventure lazily churns into life, loaded with a nights winter camping gear that would have put Scott of the Antarctic to shame I very gingerly begin to turn the Starfire round when Buck suddenly dismounts
‘I’ve forgotten my tent! ‘he shouts and runs back towards his house.

By 11.15am we are finally on the way, a bit of a worry as we are suppose to be meeting two more friends north of Huddersfield at 12 noon. We take the M1 for a couple of miles to avoid a road closure, before picking up the A629 at Wortley, it’s not far from here we pass a number of workmen busy infilling large pot holes, in the middle of the carriageway, with cold tar, a sign of bad things to come for summer riding I think, but for now the clouds have cleared and the sun appears in a blue sky, it’s still cold but it’s starting to make all the early effort worthwhile. The little BSA buzzes along happily up to 50 mph, the Van Van keeping pace as we look out over the frozen fields and shivering sheep, with little traffic on the road I start to smile.
We arrive at the M62 junction, our next rendezvous point, at 12.30 and with no sign of our friends, Manny or Paul, we push on, stopping only for fish and chips in Halifax, 20 minutes later we are at the rally site.
I’ve been to the Causeway Foot Inn rally site on a number of occasions, it’s also the venue used for the M.A.G. Headless in Halifax rally, and it’s a venue I like. The field is large and only slightly sloping and with Terry, the landlord and breeder of Weimeranas and Spaniels, offering a warm welcome, open fires and a fine selection of real ales it’s a rally site I return to whenever possible.
Buck and Martyn, equipped with knobblies ride straight onto the field, well for about 20 metres until spinning wheels call a halt to proceedings and this decides on our camping site.

The BSA makes it about a meter from the tarmac and I decide to retreat and park with the other 10 or so bikes that are scattered around the pub carpark.

Someone has kindly provided a snow shovel at the entrance, so my trench spade is left in my pack, and after 15 minutes or so of snow moving we have space to erect a further three tents to join the five already there.

An hour or so later and a distant rubble heralds the arrival of Paul’s Armstrong and Manny’s MZ suspended B.S.A. B40. The forty mile run from Manchester has taken them something approaching five hours and we are regaled with stories of loose carburettor air screws, disintegrating ignition wiring and closing points, all dealt with whilst a chill wind blew across the Pennines and Manny was protected from the adverse conditions by only his W.W.2 despatch riders coat and “piss pot” helmet.

As the sun sinks the temperature drops considerably and we decide the pub is the best place to be.

We sign in and collect prized rally badges, stickers and a voucher for £3 to be spent over the bar, this being a very kind gift from one of the retiring rally organisers. Things get fairly blurry very quickly as I meet old friends and make new ones,

fuelled on Timothy Taylors Landlord, Ram Tam later chased by Black Russians, Brandy and whatever came to hand . Barry, a rally stalwart makes our days adventures pale as he tells us of his ride of 300 plus miles from the south coast the day before. His usually trusty (and rusty) Honda Valkerie replaced, for this trip, by a BMW R1100GS, following a small transmission problem on the usually reliable big six.

I eat a fine ‘trio of sausage on a bed of mash’ from the not cheap but extensive pub menu whilst Buck heads back to the tents to dine alfresco in the snow and moonlight. Another 3 or 4 hours pass in a haze accompanied by the band, who I believe were quite good, but don’t quote me on that. By 1am, after a few minutes of trying to insert a gas canister into Manny’s cooker for a late night food session, sleep took over from the munchies and it was time to dust the ice from my sleeping bag and call it a night.

Following a relatively warm nights kip I wake at 8.30am and, after defrosting some clothes in my sleeping bag, Buck and I return to the pub for a great full breakfast. £5 buying orange juice, tea/coffee, toast and the full works, a breakfast just ain’t a breakfast without black pudding. It appears that the pub are experienced in breakfast preparations as when there are local shoots in the area, either game or clay’s, the pub provides this service to the local gun clubs. Luckily this morning there were no shoots, as a mixture of hung over motorcyclists and fire arms is not, I believe, a good one.
By 10am the tents are down and the bikes loaded for the return run, an uneventful ride sees us back in Rotherham by lunch and the bike is treated to a wash to remove a heavy coating of salt before I treat myself to a well deserved bath.

Sitting in front of a flaming wood burner I decide to check on Manny’s homeward progress,
“Hi Manny, are you home yet? “ I politely enquire
“Home, no, not quite, I’m in f’ing Halifax, waiting for a mate in a van!, bloody distributor”
Oh well at least he is spending the time usefully, trying to decide whether the Pazon Energy booster unit or a complete Boyer Bransden system is going to replace the ignition of Joe Lucas ‘The Prince of Darkness’ and get the BSA B40 to the heart of Snowdonia for the Dragon Rally in early February.
Winter rallies we love them.