After reading reports in The Independent of club members doing this run on their Mz’s I thought that I would have a go this year as I do know the Ypres area of Belgium through my interest in the Great War. Although I too have an 1993 Saxon Mz it is a bit new for this event so I treated my Bantam 175 to new primary and rear chains and a throttle cable and fitted a rack to take my top box. The hardest thing was planning a route from Lincolnshire to the Channel Tunnel at Folkestone avoiding the M11 and M25 motorways, definitely not to be used at 45-50mph. I did concede to wearing a hi-viz waistcoat and fitted a mirror to the left hand handlebar, I must admit that I felt safer. Setting off at 6.00am I risked the A1 and A14 as far as Huntingdon then took the A road which joined the A10 at Royston, following that as far as the London North Circular, round that then onto the A13 which brings you out just before the Dartford crossing. The A2, M2 and M20 are not too busy so I made it to Maidstone services in four hours, about 150 miles, my odometer either does not work or goes backwards, depending on it’s mood. I topped up with 6.5 litres of petrol which is just over 100mpg, not bad with the weight I was carrying. The Channel tunnel was no problem then I turned off the French motorway as soon as possible and headed off on the small country roads to Poelkapelle, near Ypres. Ideal Bantam roads until I came round a corner to find the road closed. This is the typical French and Belgian system of no advance warning so I had to follow the diversion for a long way but then realised where I was and crossed the Belgian border, arriving at my B&B after about 7 hours riding time, about 240 miles. On the Saturday the local history group were having a commemoration event for a Great War French pilot. This group had built a full size replica of his Morane-Saulnier airplane but using a genuine period Gnome rotary engine which was fired up and run for two minutes only. They dare not run it for longer as they are concerned that should the engine suddenly seize then the plane would turn over! The next day I set off for the Oldtimer event at Gullegem across the Paschendale battlefield of 1917. After passing through five villages I found myself almost back where I had come from after muddling up two similar sounding village names. Back on course I arrived at the gathering point at the same time as a British couple on their bike, soon to be joined by another British Mz contingent. There were two other Bantams, both export models, the D1 having a kph speedo but the D14 had a mph speedo. The D14 owner Ruben is a total enthusiast using his Bantam all year round. The area soon filled up with the most amazing collection of mainly two stroke mopeds, autocycles, sports 50cc bikes and larger bikes, again many two strokes. Possibly the most interesting was a FN split single with the majority being Flandria and Zundapp. Condition ranged from as found but well used to fully restored, most likely at a cost far exceeding their worth. If I dare say it, the future of two stroke preservation in Belgium is more secure than the UK as most of the owners appeared to be in their 20’s and are totally enthusiastic, having regular monthly runs out. The actual run was 55kms along mainly small roads with two police bikes plus local riders on modern bikes closing off road junctions making a very safe event. I would imagine that most of the bikes were being ridden flat out as I had to ride my Bantam quicker than normal to keep up! After returning to the finish I noticed that a lot of the riders took their bikes home then returned so that they could get stuck in at the beer tent, I would imagine that they made a night of it! I settled for delicious chips with mayo, you don’t get vinegar in Belgium. Eventually I had to drag myself away from my new friends, I hope that we will keep in touch. The following day I rode into Northern France again using small country roads, very relaxing. I visited the massive Vimy Ridge Canadian memorial and also the memorial on the Loos battlefield where my local Lincolnshire Regiment and others lost 1308 men in a single day of which 93% have no known grave including my great uncle. The following morning, on my way back to Calais I turned a corner near Bergues and found the road closed at a railway crossing. The workmen had completely removed the road surface between the railway tracks but after the normal French custom of lots of arm waving I was allowed through using my best trials riding over the gravel ballast. After two hours of peaceful lanes I had to use the dual carriage way past Calais to the tunnel terminal, not enjoyable as I ended up in the centre lane as speeding traffic joined from slip roads. The tunnel is very easy on a bike and I was soon running up the M20. Having filled up at Maidstone services I knew that I had enough petrol to get me home. Wrong! Just ten miles from home I ran out so out came my one litre reserve container to get me home. The head wind had made the Bantam drink 8 litres instead of the 6.5 on the outward trip, nearer 85mpg, still not bad. So the Bantam had covered around 750 miles over four days of riding with no problems, totally enjoyable. Next year’s run date for your diary 15th September 2013; I will have to do it again.
Thanks Chris Woolley!
|Chris Woolley and his mighty Bsa Bantam!|