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10th March 2004
Daisy's Diary: The Albion Rally, Island of Fyn, Denmark
Graham Ham and his 1948 Triumph Speed Twin continue their tour of the Continent. This time it's Denmark and a long haul by autobahn, and the start of a mysterious misfire...
It was four o'clock on a hazy Thursday afternoon in July, and we were off to the 25th Albion Rally in Denmark. We'd heard that it's well worth the trek to this event, which is an annual affair hosted by the Albion British Motorcycle Club. They do things in style, these Scandinavians, or so I'm told, and we were looking forward to comparing the reality to the stories. Just getting there was going to be an endurance test, even by Daisy's standards. It's just about 750-800 miles from Calais to the rally site and, with Chris riding pillion plus a full compliment of camping gear, Daisy was, as usual, heavily loaded.
Most of our forays happen with the minimum of planning or preparation, but this time I'd put some effort into making sure everything was just so. Daisy sported spare throttle and clutch cables, freshly taped to the existing ones for easy replacement, as well as spare fuel pipe similarly attached. She had fresh oil in all places, tyres checked and pressure adjusted and both primary and final drive chains had been fettled. I was amazed as I checked over nuts and bolts to find that nothing appeared to have come loose since I last checked, weeks ago. I very nearly cleaned her as well, but well, you know how it is...
The route was mostly main roads and we hatched the rather ambitious plan to ride Daisy quite hard all through the night, to hopefully arrive at the rally around lunchtime the following day. Despite the plan, we weren't sure exactly how long our backsides could hold out but, as the weather was both warm and dry, Plan B said that we'd just collapse in a heap in a lay-by if we got too tired - just get the sleeping bags out and catch some zzzs right there in the open.
So at 4.30pm we rolled off the ferry and we were off, joining the E40 at Calais and heading towards Gent in Belgium, where we peeled off towards Antwerp and into Holland. We settled at a steady 70mph, and we duly turned north onto the A14 some hour and three quarters later. Past Antwerp we went, heading for the Dutch border and onwards to Breda, arriving there just after 7.30 in the evening.
We missed the connecting road we needed, and we only realised this when Rotterdam appeared on the horizon. I knew this was wrong, and we pulled up at the next services to work out where we were. A new route was planned to get us back on track, but I reckoned we'd added a good 40km to our journey. We eventually arrived at the German border at just gone 10pm. We were nearly an hour behind schedule, but we needed a rest here as Daisy's seating arrangements were making themselves very painfully apparent. We'd been on the road for five and a half hours with very few stops but we're British, don'cha know, and a cup of tea soon restored our resolve!
The journey proceeded without incident, with Osnabruck and Bremen duly passed, until at 4.30 am we reached Hamburg. Once again we missed our junction and ended up in the middle of the city, hopelessly lost. We were tired and Daisy had started to vibrate badly, so we stopped in the entrance to a YMCA building and collapsed in a heap on their steps. We rested for about half an hour, and then I got the spanners out to go over Daisy's engine and gearbox mountings. I found a couple loose, checked the chain tensions, and generally fiddled about until I was happy with everything. It was a quarter to six by the time we got under way again, only marginally refreshed from the rest, and after 7am before we got out of Hamburg and picked up the correct road to Kiel.
We entered Denmark some two and a half hours later, at Flensburg, but were slowing down due to the need for more frequent stops. The last 100 miles can only be described as 'murderous' and at our final stop, just 30 miles from the rally, Chris promptly went to sleep complete with back-pack and helmet still on. He'd done tremendously well, had the lad, so I waited for 20 minutes before waking him, and we knocked off the last bit to arrive at the rally site just after 12.30 on the Friday - hurrah!
That's twenty and a half hours after setting off, and we were both in pieces as a result. Daisy had handled the run in exemplary fashion, and the only sign of her mammoth journey was the alternator working loose again, but that could wait. We were rather early for the rally, and there were only a few of the organisers from the Albion MCC actually present. They were setting up and sorting out the site, but still gave us a warm friendly welcome and a beer each whilst we made a very disjointed introduction.
It took us about three times the normal time to get Daisy unpacked, tents up and change out of our road gear and into shorts and T-shirt, but once that was all done we settled down to bimbling about the site, exploring, chatting to the Danes and generally relaxing. In that weird way of over-tiredness, neither of us felt like sleeping so we spent the rest of the afternoon watching the steady arrival of Rally-goers on a wide variety of British machinery. There was hardly anything later than about 1980, and I didn't seen ANY non-British offerings (I discovered later that entry is gained only by those riding British machines, with anything else marshalled to the 'Swine-Stein' or 'Pig-Sty', a roped off area outside the rally site). The other noticeable thing was that EVERY machine was ridden in, with no trailers at all - hurrah again!
As the evening wore on, Chris cooked up a handsome spaghetti bol, and as we finished this off we picked up a 'chaperone' for the evening, a local Albion club member named Christian. He took us in hand, explained the weekend agenda, showed us where to get beer (at a quid a go) and generally made sure we weren't left alone. He explained that we were the only British attendees thus far and therefore held an almost celebrity status. What a nice man!
We settled down for the evening and got chatting in earnest to Christian. I asked him about the site, which is clearly a well maintained and well kitted-out venue, with a lodge containing kitchens, dining room, shower block, toilet block and several bunk rooms for those who don't fancy canvas. The rear courtyard backs onto a pine forest and lakes, with a stream fed by a natural spring, with camping on the other side. Seating is arranged in the courtyard, and this is where the band set up. The final touch is a delightful log-built, open-sided round shelter, with a large hole in the middle of the circular roof . More logs were arranged in a circle for seating, and there was an open fire in the middle. This was where we spent the evening listening to the band and chatting with Christian and a few of his friends.
Christian explained that these sites (or 'Molles' as they are known in Viking-speak), are owned, run and subsidised by the Danish government, as a way of encouraging social and cultural gatherings. Any club or association can rent the whole lot for a weekend, very cheaply. Albion have booked the site for a weekend for the next five years for their rally, so I won't have trouble finding it in the future! What a shame there's nothing like this in the UK.
Chris and I didn't last much longer than 10.30 that evening, and stumbled off to bed to sleep the sleep of the just. I was up at 8.30 on the Saturday, leaving Chris to sleep off his fatigue, and went in search of breakfast. Ah. Continentals don't see it our way, do they? There's strange local bread, that thin soapy cheese and funny meats, or if you were feeling brave; roll-mop herrings -- yurrgh! Christian and his friends were amused by my obviously unenthusiastic look, and took pains to convince me that this was good healthy stuff and that we English should change our ways.
'Bugger that', said I and went off to find a supermarket where I hoped to get the ingredients of a proper breakfast. I tootled off on Daisy and returned 20 minutes later with bacon, eggs, sausages (or something close) and normal bread. Down by the stream, I set up the stoves and cooked up a proper job. I soon became aware that I had an amused audience. A few of the Danes gathered to watch the crazy Englishman indulging his eccentric tastes. I clearly hit the heights of their ultimate expectation when I got out the kettle and brewed up the morning cuppa! I reckon a few of 'em started to look a bit envious as the smell of bacon drifted across - hah!
I gave Chris a prod and he appeared in time to sit by the stream with me and scoff the grub. We felt like the seals at London zoo, with the Danes watching us from the other side. If I'd had a ball, I'd have balanced it on my nose for 'em!
We cleared up just in time for the run out. As we were preparing to leave, Tim Britton arrived at the entrance, all in one piece but looking tired. There hadn't been any trouble with the '61 Trophy he rode, but he'd taken his time coming up, stopping off for the night along the way. Tim was the only other Brit to attend this weekend. We chatted for a while before I set off on the organised run-out, which took a leisurely amble through the back-roads to a nice little harbour on the southern coast of the island.
There, waiting for us, was a pick-up truck full of beer. Chris and I also got some chips and we spent a happy hour just chilling out. There were about 40 bikes on the run, of all shapes and sizes, but with one thing in common - they were all British, they were all classics and they are all used! Daisy, however, developed a problem after the run near the site. Daisy began misfiring, and then set up a series of backfires and ferocious carb-spits before promptly stopping dead.
I couldn't find anything wrong, and after ten minutes or so of fiddling, started her up again. She got us to town, but promptly started the same nonsense again. We limped back to the site and discovered that, once the revs were up, she settled down fine.
I couldn't put my finger on the problem, other than to think that it was heat related - she was very hot after the run out. But she had come all the way from Calais with no problems! Perhaps if allowed to cool down, the problem would go away - we tried this and she was absolutely fine. I just hoped this wasn't a sign of trouble to come on the long journey home.
We chatted away with various people, once again sitting in the open-sided log hut. We tried various local Danish beers before getting stuck into roast boar for dinner. An Irish folk band entertained us that evening until the awards, where Daisy won the longest distance award. And so, eventually, to bed. We had been well looked after and thoroughly enjoyed the rally but all good things must end, especially with the monumental ride facing us.
We were up at 6.30 and packed up ready to go by eight o'clock. We'd learned about a ferry which goes across to Fensburg and costs just ten quid but shaves a full 200km off the ride. It doesn't save much actual time, but sure is easier on the backside. We had a guide who was going home that way, and we all set off at shortly after 8am. The weather had broken overnight and was bloody awful - heavy rain was falling and looked set for the day. Boo!
We threaded through the lanes to the ferry, getting thoroughly soaked in the process, but were soon on board where I was faced with more roll-mops and strange bread for breakfast. We duly arrive on t'other side and set off towards Fensburg, where we turned south into Germany. At Hamburg I eased Daisy up to 75mph and settled down for the long ride back. Daisy began to muck about -- again only after stopping - and I started to suspect that we'd picked up bad fuel in Denmark when filling up on the Friday. She soon settled down again each time, once the revs came up.
The thought of long, featureless roads through Germany and Holland got to us, and on one of the stops we decided that we couldn't face another 20-hour run, so resolved to take a risk and push Daisy much harder. I must confess, somewhat guiltily, that I actually took the throttle to its stop on the Autobahns for extended periods of time. I can only heap praise on Daisy for the fact that she took this abuse in her stride without any sign of trouble. It's impossible to say what speed we maintained, as her speedo needle was all over the place! We made the ferry at around 11pm, shaving a full five hours off our time going the other way...
We collapsed in a heap and it was really hard to drag ourselves back upright on our arrival at Dover. We eventually got home on the Monday morning at around 2am, absolutely exhausted but fully satisfied with our weekend. Daisy clocked some 1750 miles that weekend and it was the hardest ride I have asked her to complete to date. It was a spanking good do though, we've made some new friends on the continent and without doubt The Albion Rally definitely gets the Daisy seal of approval.
After all this high-speed riding, Daisy needs some TLC. You can read all about her winter rebuild in the RealClassic magazine, starting in issue three. Here's how to get hold of it!
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