Monday, 12 July 2010

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.

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