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8th July 2005

The John Bull Rally 2005

RealClassic riders hit the road: Clubman Kent Shaun celebrates owning a troublefree BSA A10 by belting over to Belgium and back for a wild time with the BSAOC...

I've heard of two rallies held over the sea for a few years now, one is the Hot Rod and t'other is the John Bull. Two rallies which I have never been to, even though all the stories have been good. Having a fine, troublefree 1958 BSA A10 in the garage gave me the confidence to venture to the Hot Rod with the BSAOC international secretary Peter Tywman, and we persuaded RealClassic's very own Graham and Daisy to come too (see RC11 for Steve Wilson's magazine report on the Hot Rod rally).

So after this cold adventure (it was held in January on the cold Dutch side of the North Sea), I was looking forward to having a warm trip to the John Bull…

I decided to load the bike up Thursday night, 'won't take much' says I to Janette, my long suffering wife. Just a few hurricane lamps and a couple of Primus stoves, and the paraffin to power them, oh and a pair of the biggest sleeping bags known to man. The tank bag had some clothes of the warm variety, and our wet gear was loaded in such a way as to be accessible in a downpour. By the time that lot was on I needed me kip for the early start Friday morning.

No one wanted to get too close to the mountain of luggage strapped on the purple BSA...

I squeezed onto the bike leaving about three inches for Janette. I'd got one of them communicator things, once that was plugged in she let me know about her lack of space! Thanks to the Message Board I'm now doomed for a life of motorcycle moaning, for it was on there I first heard about these things.

After an uneventful ride down the M20 motorway we made it safe and sound to Pete's house. Here we were joined by Auntie Terrie (Peter's wife) and our Robin, (him wot came to Italy wiv me). So with three A10s and an A65 we ventured south towards Dover and the Norfolk-line ferry. Even though I'm a continental steering wheel attendant I've never been on this particular ferry.

Booking on was simplicity itself, and in a flash there we were waiting for the chap to call us onto the ship. Once aboard a nice sailor man strapped down the bikes with a sponge to protect the paintwork and the seat. I noticed that there were no coaches; just trucks and cars and us. Then we climbed the stairs and into the restaurant for a very large breakfast.

This ferry takes you to Dunkerque, it's a two hour crossing and means that if like us you're going to Belgium, you don't have that horrible ride up on the motorway from Calais, and it was only £34 which for a three day adventure I thought was quite reasonable. So there we were on the road and heading towards the Belgian border. The grey sky didn't look like it would rain… but you never know!

Random BSA A10 Stuff on
The Ijzertower. The perfect place to stop for a drink of Tizer.

Pete said on the ferry that we should visit a Peace Tower, this was at a place called Diksmuide and it only took us about an hour to get there. The tower is dedicated to the 1914-18 war and it's proper name is the Ijzertower. It's 84 meters high and from the top you can get great views of the town. The 22 floors inside house a museum on each level (I'd recommend going up via the lift), then walking down through each floor. After our visit a beer was called for, where we checked the map for the rally site. The place was called Westrozebeke Staden.

Diksmuide. The perfect place for a moody dike?

Peter was in charge of the map reading and leading, and in a blink of an eye we found ourselves in that very town. Exactly 150 miles from where I'd started that morning, the rally site turn out to be a field behind a sports hall. Each John Bull Rally is held in a different part of Belgium every year, so each one is unique although the format is the same. We parked up and walked to a small caravan which had a man and lady inside booking everyone in. A pillion and rider cost €12. This was for the dinner and dance to be held Saturday night, breakfast was €4 each so for two breakfasts and the Saturday night feast we paid €20 or about £13, now that was for the two of us! Marvellous.

Once we'd sorted that lot out we were off into the field, a spongy soft field as it had been heavily raining for a few days before the rally. This made for some interesting off-road riding, what with the bike being fully freighted and all. Up with the tent and off to find the bar.

Through the muddy forest and onto the a spongy soft field for Part II...


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