2nd August 2012
Stephen Benson and pals were riding across Scandinavia on their 60 year old Sunbeam twins, when mechanical mishaps started to happen...
Our group of Sunbeam riders had made it to Sweden before mechanical mishap affected one of the bikes. Instead of arriving at the Britti Rally, we paused overnight en route to haul the engine out and fix it.
We whipped the engine out of Chris's bike and laid it crossways in the frame to remove the gearbox to get at the clutch. We found our initial prognosis was correct and the rivets had indeed sheared. No one had any rivets, or even nuts and bolts, of the correct 3/16 or 4.7mm diameter. 4mm was too small and 5mm was too big to fit through the hardened boss. Where would we find 3/16 bolts in the middle of the Swedish countryside?
The chap who had offered help when we towed the stranded Sunbeam to our campsite turned out to be a motorcycle mechanic. He had his holiday home nearby, with a big vice and a selection of nut and bolts. Two of us went off with our hero, carrying the two-part clutch. They returned 45 minutes later with a whole clutch, having found exactly the right nuts and bolts for the job.
We made a start putting the bike back together then the beer started to take effect and we resolved to finish it in the morning. Our ferry crossing was the following evening so we had 50 miles to do, and all day to do it in. News had got around that five British guys were stripping the engine out of a 60 year old motorcycle, and lots of people came to look at us including a guy on very nice bitsa Hinckley Triumph. Tom Blomquist, the guy who had provided all the help with the bolts, came to check we were OK. We felt a bit like celebrities, but it was not until we got to the Britti rally the next afternoon that we really got a taste of full on Scandinavian hospitality.
We had a few more minor issues with Chris' bike before we set off to the port but we sorted them all with time to spare. We caused a bit of a stir when we joined the ferry. They don't see many British riders, especially on Sunbeams, so we had quite a crowd around us. We drove into the hold of the ship, only to find no straps or brackets. We were told this wasn't necessary, as the 12 hour crossing would be very calm, and only in open water for a single hour…
The crossing was indeed very calm and very picturesque as we sailed between the islands, but it was not so calm on board! It was the night of the England v Sweden game and England were winning, so we debated if we should pretend to be Scottish. However we only experienced good natured jostling so after a good night's sleep and a nice breakfast we arrived in Finland ready for ride to the rally.
Finland is flat, full of fir trees, straight roads and chocolate box houses. Everything is made of wood and brightly painted so the ride to the rally was a quick and enjoyable, trouble-free 200 miles.
We arrived at the rally mid-afternoon. As soon as they understood who we were and where we had come from, everybody started cheering and clapping. It was quite an experience as we were escorted to a clear area that had been saved for us. A crowd soon surrounded us with much shaking of hands and almost everybody we met could speak some English.
Janina and her husband Markus had made the trip over to the UK Sunbeam rally some years before with their Sunbeam S7. They really made us feel welcome - but we needed to get the tents up as rain was expected; the first rain we had seen on the trip so far. A little while later a Rolls Royce turned up with a couple dressed in traditional dress who had just been married on the camp. They were spending their wedding night in a caravan; apparently they had met at a Britti Rally some years before.
The Britti rally is at first sight very much like the Welsh Dragon Rally with a random mix of old, modern, custom motorcycles and of course tents. Look closer and it is totally unique, certainly in my experience. First thing you notice is that all the non-British bikes have to park outside. There's a large streak of rockabilly throughout, with many going to elaborate lengths to achieve a look straight out of the Fifties, or at least a very stylised Finnish view of 1950 Britain. Just like in all of the parts of Scandinavia we have visited nothing was chained up. The locals told us that we need not worry nobody would touch our stuff and of course nothing was touched.
However, there was a huge downside: the mosquitoes. There was an usually large number of them and they devoured Chris and me. We had both declined insect repellent as we had never been bothered by them before: a big mistake. I spent the rest of holiday covered in huge spots and Chris's feet were bitten so badly he couldn't wear his boots.
There was a rockabilly band from the UK which we'd never heard of but the Finns certainly enjoyed. Next day after heavy rain the ground was wet, but the sun was up and it was warm. The English and Finns share an obsession with the weather. All the locals seemed to have weather apps on their phones and these were scrutinised often.
Peter and the others decided to ride to the coast but I felt my bum needed some recovery time so I stayed behind. Looking around the camp, most of the Finns had packed up but had not left. The police had blocked the road and were breathalysing everybody as they left, so people were testing themselves using their own kits until they passed.
Not being a lover of camping for camping's sake I hired a hut as most had left and there were some available. It proved to be a nice base for eating the evening meal and drinking moderate amounts of beer. Tomorrow it was time ride to Turku to catch the ferry back to Sweden. The expected rain never happened. so we had beautiful weather yet again.
The ride back to Turku was pleasant and uneventful, apart from a short stop by a lake. Andy Briggs took the opportunity to go fishing and managed to five or six good size trout, which he put back - no time to cook them!
When we left the ferry everybody was held up by the Swedish police as they breathalysed each rider and driver as they left the port.
We all passed, of course. It was a miserable journey out of Stockholm in driving rain and rush hour traffic. When we got out of the city we stopped and drank coffee until the weather cleared up. Thereafter we had another beautiful day's riding. We really did have good luck with the weather, as we only really had one wet riding day and that was on the last day of the trip.
Riding through Sweden was for me the best part of the trip as I loved the countryside and the roads. We even had time to do some detours and we caught a small ferry across a lake as a short cut. For me, touring does not get much better than this.
We were heading towards the Malmo Bridge and Germany and split the journey into two lots of 300 miles. We stayed in a nice hut that evening, giving us time to give our steeds a bit TLC. Andy Thompson refused to touch his bike with a spanner. as he was certain it would not need it…
We spent the evening on the veranda, drinking and talking to the locals. A good end to a good day.
Next, the final chapter: Denmark, Germany, another rally; deflation, sudden impact and an ambulance adventure…
|Like this page? Share it with these buttons:|
Like what you see here? Then help to make RealClassic.co.uk even betterBack to the Rides menu...
Bikes | Opinion | Events | News | Books | Tech | About | Messages | Classified | Directory
© 2002/2005 The Cosmic Motorcycle Co. Ltd / Redleg Interactive Media
You may download pages from this site for your private use. No other reproduction, re-publication, re-transmission or other re-distribution of any part of this site in any medium is permitted except with the written consent of the copyright owner or in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.