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1959 Jawa 355 - Part Three
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Phil Speakman had just MoT'd his rebuilt 125cc Jawa. The ink was barely dry on the MoT before he set off on a communist caper, en Continent...

The last day of May saw my Jawa 355, Tony's Jawa 559 and Gary's Voskhod 175 enjoying warm sunshine in south Manchester, all fuelled up and raring to go. We posed briefly for a commemorative setting out photo before we joined the M60 at a steady 50mph, heading eastwards towards Woodhead Pass.

We'd already lost one member of our party even before we'd set out due to a mix up over dates. That's a row that I'm not getting involved in, as I'm quite sure Mr Frost and Tony are big enough and certainly ugly enough to argue the whys and wherefores of that little cock up amongst themselves. So unfortunately on this trip we'd no 175 Bantam Super to grace the roads of Holland, just our little collection of Eastern Bloc continental tourers for the discerning gentlemen.

Cough, cough, cough. Cough. Cough, cough. Cough. Left to right; Phil (Jawa 355), Tony (Jawa 559), Gary (Voshkod 175)

I thought we would be the slowest things on the roads and at times we probably were though we did actually overtake some wagons somewhere en route to Hull, yes I'm pretty sure we did. Tony, riding a monstrously large 250cc single didn't have such power problems as myself and Gary. He just torqued his way up hills in top gear then pottered along the flat parts waiting for us to catch up. Gary and I ended up playing uphill overtaking games with each other, as both engines lost and found their respective power bands (stop giggling at the back) in their own time, both requiring gear changes at different points on the climb. We left a picturesque pale blue haze over the Pennines that afternoon before we entered the un-chartered and lawless regions known as the wild west of Yorkshire.

I generally took the lead as I was on the oldest and slowest bike on the expedition. As we approached Barnsley a furious beeping of Jawa horn signalled that we had encountered our first problem. Tony had snapped his front brake cable, but fortunately a roadside repair utilising a solderless nipple soon had us underway. We hoped that there would be the promised Jawa dealers on site at the 15th Dutch Jawa Treffen to provide him with a new cable.

Pure 1950's styling where the tank and seat nose meet. Nice.

There was a certain relief when we were all checked in for the ferry at Hull, satisfied that we'd done 100 miles or so and the bikes were all running fine. Remember, mine had been a collection of bits in buckets not three weeks previously, so there were bound to be some lingering feelings of apprehension. There were quite a few bikes waiting for the ferry with us, although none quite so old or unusual or inappropriately equipped for long distance continental motorway trips as ours, which always cheers the heart I find.

By 8am the following morning we were on the ferry's car deck, unstrapping our bikes. With a brief carb tickle and a few swings of the dual role gear shift / kick start lever I was away down the ramp followed by Gary and Tony. We left the modern bike riders behind us on the car deck, obviously enjoying our delightful two-stroke atmosphere, doubtless reminiscing over the happy biking memories that aromas often conjure up. At least, I'm pretty sure they were smiling. You don't think they could have been grimacing, do you? Surely not!

With the briefest of customs checks we breezed triumphantly into Holland, proudly astride our valiant steeds ready for anything and everything the low countries could throw at us… until Tony rediscovered his horn button. Gary and myself pulled into the side of the road as Tony overtook, pulled an unorthodox U-turn and growled at us as he rode back in the direction of customs:

'I've left me luggage on the feckin' car deck, I'll be back in a minute…'

'I've left me luggage on the feckin' car deck, I'll be back in a minute…'

Gary and I looked at the rear of Tony's Jawa disappearing into the distance, sans pannier. Gary looked at me, I looked at Gary and we mutually agreed that he was indeed a 'dozy sod'. In the 20 minutes Tony was gone, we broke the world record for 'dropping your mate in it' by texting anyone and everyone we could think of about what he'd done. Hey, what are friends for?

A red-faced Tony returned after being made to run around the ship like an idiot in full biking gear to retrieve his luggage.

'Don't worry Tony, we haven't told anyone.'

'Yer lying bastards. I could see you on your phone as I ran up the gang plank.'

Getting out of Europoort and past Rotterdam is not what you'd call a pleasant ride. We just sat there at a steady 70-75kph and got on with it. I'd recently discovered the joys of riding with my MP3 player, so was enjoying an eclectic mix of music from Al Bowlly and the Ray Noble orchestra through to Frank Zappa, which made the time between petrol stops fairly fly by.

1970's CZ175 trail bike, perhaps?

Just east of Utrecht we were overtaken with a wave by two heavily-laden machines, one a late 80's Jawa 350 twin and the other a bright red Moto Guzzi Nuevo Falcone. Later that afternoon we caught up with them at a service station and as we'd all just about had enough of motorway riding, they kindly offered to lead us to the campsite on the more 125cc-friendly back roads.

By 4pm we pulled into the wonderful camp site at Bourtange and checked in with our hosts, the Jawa Club Netherlands. There was an impressive turn-out of riders already and I couldn't help but feel my little 355 was sort of 'home. It had, apparently, spent much of its life here, of which more later.

We'd sent our camp fees in advance, only to be told we'd overpaid and were due a refund, which was a welcome surprise that enabled us to get a first round in each in the campsite bar whilst we waited for the Jawa club's bar and barbeque to start. We were lucky, in that when we booked we'd managed to secure the last wooden chalet available on site.

A Chalet? Blimey, these Jawas boy know how to rough it...

So no tents for us, proper beds and a stove on which to make gallons of tea and cook our vast supplies of bacon on. Gary and I had shared out the cooking gear, including my brand new frying pan with fold-under handle, the best theTescos could sell (with apologies to Marriot Edgar).

Random Jawa stuff on

Whilst in the campsite bar re-hydrating with alternate glasses of beer and tap water (Gary always seemed to get the water in for some reason) a tall chap walked up to the bar and demanded.

'Who's Phil Speakman?'

Not exactly something that I was expecting in a Dutch bar if I'm honest. I had an eye on the door just in case.

Norman had been following my Jawa rebuild on this website and had also read about my Finland trip on an MZ TS250/1. He claimed that reading about that trip had inspired him to ride back from Sweden on his ex-Swedish Army Jawa 250cc. Their army machines were prepared for service to the same specification as the Jawa factory ISDT machines so I imagine they have a fair bit of poke about them.

If Phil can do it... Ex-Swedish Army Jawa 250

A friend of Norman's had acquired the bike on his behalf and Norman had flown over to Stockholm twice to strip and rebuild the bike and was now riding it home via this rally. His thinking was that if it I could do something similar on my MZ, then there was no reason why he couldn't do it on his Jawa.

He further surprised me by giving me chapter and verse about the history of my own Jawa 355. It had been bought in Holland new in 1959 by an English serviceman whilst stationed either in Holland or Germany and he'd taken it home in bits, to be re-assembled subsequently by the chap I bought it from.

Phil's 1959 Jawa 355, looking very resplendent 1959 Jawa 355

The things you learn on a rally, eh?


NEXT TIME: Phil enjoys the usual highlights of a rally (including alcoholic delights and an unexpected conflagration). Then the little Jawa has to return home. Will it survive the trip…?


The Jawa/CZ Club of the Netherlands:

A Monarch on a Trailer. See also A Queen on a Wheelbarrow and a Baron on a Trolley. Monarch


More Jawas on


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