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16th February 2005

The 2005 Dragon Rally

Some people only want to take their classic bikes out in the sunshine. Stephen Benson (aka AJS/BSA) always wanted to be at the Dragon in the snow...

This will be my third Dragon Rally so I am just a beginner really - the rally has been running since the early 60s and in its heyday some 6000 bikers attended, with some of them doing the German Elephant rally as well. Its is always held in February but now it is limited to 1200 people to keep numbers manageable and it is always sold out.

Steve, already looking cold before he's set off.This is not an exclusively old Brit bike rally, and only about 20% of people attending come on old clunkers, so to I look out for BSH magazine in November and the details are normally in the events section.

For the three years I have been attending the process is to send 15 with two stamped, self-addressed envelopes. Your ticket arrives first, then directions to the checkpoint arrive a couple weeks before the rally -- the actual rally site is kept secret until you reach the checkpoint.

This year I left it until January before I started to enquire about a ticket and they had sold out, I knew it would snow if I didn't get a ticket so I ended up paying over the odds on Ebay.

If it's difficult getting in, imagine what it's going to be like getting out...

Can I do the 'man in a field having trouble with his erection' joke now?If you want to do a winter rally then you need better equipment than in the summer. A three season sleeping bag and a good quality Thermarest type air bed is a must.

A small, three season one- or two-man tent is good, because a large, four-man two season tent will probably just be blown flat in the wind.

I normally go to the rally on my own as it is great to look at the bikes, or just people watch, and as there are quite a number of other 'loners' / individuals it is easy enough to strike up a conversation with others in the same boat.

But this year I joined up with five others from the Sunbeam S8/S7 Owners' Fellowship and we met at Llangollen, then we rode in mob handed. I went on my AJS 500cc single that I use for work every day. I just took off the topbox, put on my home made pannier frame and loaded up my gear.

We got the tents up quickly, and then we found out that we not only had all got classic bikes, but some of us were into 'classic camping' as well.

There were tents from the 1970s and strange things called Primus stoves, which had to be fiddled with for various lengths of time before they worked. I thought my excellent dual fuel stove, which works on unleaded petrol, was strange enough but mine was very mundane, compared to the others.

Sumbeam Stuff on

A big barn, last weekend.

I handed in my ticket from the control stop and received a very welcome pack of hot soup, small whiskey, sticker, two chocolate bars, slate coaster, badge and felt very pleased with myself for making the effort. Most of the rest of the afternoon was spent talking with people I had not seen since last year, looking at the bikes, and frequenting the burger van and bar. At the rally there was a old guy whose vest was covered in badges being helped around, I found out later he was 92 and had attended the first rally.

The two on the right are regretting not packing a silly hat.

With everybody drinking in the large barn waiting for the band, it was hard to imagine such a diverse bunch of people. All humanity was there and it was great to feel a part of it. The band was worth waiting for, they played a mixture of Irish, Scottish and English folk music in the classic Anglo Saxon style and were very well received by a group of people who would be very different from their usual audience, I am sure.

Now I remember why I stopped going to rallies.

I woke up to a blizzard which was difficult to stand up in but I still managed to find my way to the breakfast van. The snow did not last long as it cleared in a couple of hours and actually turned quite fine.

I always wanted to be at a Dragon when it snowed and I got my wish.

We loaded up the bikes and made our separate ways home to a hot bath.

Mrs and Mr Janet, regulars of the Message Board, were there somewhere.


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