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7th March 2012

Bremen Classic Biking
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Wolfgang Weckeck went to the event and took the photos: Roy Workman fills in the info and remembers his first trips to Bremen, back in the day...

Way back in 1960 I lived in Rochester, Kent. One day I was working outside on my Panther Model 100 and sidecar when I was approached by a chap called Les Davenport. He was a founder member of the Kent Three Star Sidecar Club and was he was looking for new members for the club. The club grew in size and it eventually became part of the Federation of Sidecar Clubs.

Les then became the Continental Contacts Officer for this organisation. Whilst holding this office he met many riders from Europe, including Ernst and Inga Leverkus who enjoyed staying with Les at his home. Another of these visiting riders was Wolfgang Weckeck; when he came over to England he intended to stay at Les and Rosa's home for just a few days. These few days stretched to three years!

Wolfgang and I became friends and we had many trips together to Germany. As often happens, we then lost touch in the late 1960s.

Through the internet Wolfgang and I met up again after 42 years, and in October 2011 we made the trip to Bremen for a long weekend. I had hoped to visit a motorcycle museum whilst I was there, but as the nearest one was in Berlin we did not have the time to get there. However, Wolfgang mentioned that there is the Bremen Classic Show, usually held in early February. I asked him to go there and take some photos for us all to enjoy.

Best swoopy lines of any bike, ever...

The Bremen Classic Show takes place in some halls close to the railway station, in early February over a weekend, including the Friday. This is an annual event, and I believe that this year was the tenth show. Wolfgang told me that there are six halls in total - one is for motorcycles, another one for parts and autojumble, and the remaining halls were filled with cars. The entrance fee was 14 euros. Wolfgang told me that he had given the halls with cars a miss due to lack of time, but the online photos reveal that there was some nice stuff there. For anyone in the area at the right time, this seems to be a good show to visit.

There appeared to be plenty of space between the machines, enabling visitors to get decent pictures, and Wolfgang confirmed this was the case. At some of the shows that I go to getting a decent picture can be tricky! Most of the bikes at the Bremen event are continental, as you might expect. Wolfgang said that there were some Vincents and similar machines on display. But as we already know what they look like anyway, he did not bother snapping them!

Best double take...

Judging by the photographs there were some nice machines there. One special had two BSA engines fitted into the frame, for instance.

While I was talking to Wolfgang about the show, we got reminiscing about the rides that we had together. Saturday nights usually saw us heading off somewhere.

When Wolfgang first arrived in the UK back in the 1960s he was riding a BMW R51/3 fitted with a Steib sidecar. The motorcycle cost £50 - you could get a lot of bike for that sort of money then. This machine had a great engine and headlight, but the brakes were useless in comparison to my 1952 sprung-hub Speed Twin outfit. I was told to use the gearbox on the BMW more to help it slow down, but this was not a lot of good in an emergency.

On one occasion I was riding the outfit three-up, which stressed the brakes even more. We were on our way to the Dragon Rally when the vehicles in front stopped quickly. The girl in the sidecar screamed as we came close to impact - luckily I managed to slide the outfit left and up onto the pavement and we came safely to a halt…

Best sculpted engine cases...

My first trip to Bremen with Wolfgang was in the middle of winter. We had bought a BSA M20 for £5, and because there was snow and ice around at the time we fitted a sidecar for safety. The sidecar had a seat but no screen or cover. We wore as many clothes as we could; the crash helmets were open-face, but a scarf around the face helped to keep you warm. We were going to see Kurt Lange and his wife Elizabeth who lived in Bremen.

The BSA made the trip with no mechanical problems, although the cruising speed was only 40mph. To make some progress the engine basically did not stop - the person in the sidecar was resting whilst the other one rode the bike. The snow on this trip was terrible. We got a back wheel puncture in the middle of nowhere late at night. Luckily a passing motorist took Wolfgang to a garage and got it fixed. Fortunately he got a lift back again and we replaced the wheel. However, when we went to start the bike it was to find that the cables had frozen up - it was certainly a bit nippy that night! Eventually we managed to get the bike started and rode on.

Best fishtails...

We got to Kurt and Elizabeth's home and warmed up. Saturday saw us out and about meeting other motorcyclists. We pulled out on the Sunday morning, with Elizabeth telling us to come in the summer next time! On the way home a slight mishap occurred. In one town I spotted that a Volkswagen van was stopping in front of us. Unfortunately Wolfgang, who was riding the bike at the time, did not see it in time…

The result was a large hole in the sidecar nose; this provided us with some extra (unwanted) ventilation. The rest of the trip went well but cold. Trips to Bremen became the norm, and we usually did two trips a month there.

The Kent Three Star Club often used to escort foreign riders to Dover Docks. Whilst on 'escort duty' one day I spotted Wolfgang at the docks. He had been home on holiday and had bought an NSU Max outfit, and he was now returning to England with it.

We rode home together. I felt that any British 250cc outfit with a loaded sidecar would have been lucky to reach 60mph, but the Max was a different game. I was riding a 350cc Matchless, and I cruised at 50mph with the Max just behind me. I opened up to 60mph - no change; up again to 70mph and I pulled away from the Max going uphill.

This was a great outfit; it would cruise all day, two up, at 55/60 mph with 80mph on the speedo on a decent downhill stretch.

Sidecar outfits on now...

On another occasion we had the Max outfit in Wales when we spotted a broken down Vincent 1000. The couple were returning from the Motorcycle Show in London. The girl jumped into the sidecar, and with a piece of rope we tied the Vincent to the back and off we went. All went well for a few miles till the rider dropped the bike -- and me -- on the road!

Some of the things that we got up to in those days would be frowned upon today. We rode the length of Gravesend High Street on two wheels with me sitting in the sidecar!

Best red seats...

The Max outfit had a brilliant fixing system - bike to sidecar. It was a three-point fixing system, and all the fixings were thumb screws. It took two minutes to take the sidecar off and four minutes to fix it back on. If the traffic was really bad we would drop the sidecar off in a lay-by and ride solo, and then pick the chair up later.

We attended the Dragon Rally twice, using the BMW outfit. After some hairy riding in Wales, the sidecar wheel broke up, with only half of its spokes left. So we left the sidecar in a ditch near Shrewsbury and carried on home on the solo. We came back the following week, armed with a pocketful of spokes, rebuilt the wheel and re-attached the chair and then rode home.

Best red everything else...

I left Kent to get a job in London in 1967, so Wolfgang and I did not get to ride so much together after that. However you do not forget those trips. Wolfgang had a theory that the more you shook and shivered with the cold on a ride the more you would remember it. He was right!


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