Zund Hard & Lev
Its owner and our mutual friends
The time has come to reveal the bitza of my old friend Pascal Bouculat. To make this pleasure last longer, let's first tell you a little about him since his rich motorcycling history is most noteworthy and definitely very interesting.
Pascal Bouculat: Bitza owner extraordinaire
Pascal 'Bocu' Bouculat
'Bocu', as he is nicknamed among the French rallying community, is an old acquaintance and has figured in the world of motorcycle touring and gatherings since the beginning of the 1970s.
His passion has never waned, despite the advance of the years. He is still extremely active and without doubt one of the most energetic of the many seasoned rallyists I know.
'Bocu' still travels everywhere on two or three wheels and if an event grabs his interest, he is already on his way, wherever it is in the world.
It's not surprising therefore, that over time he has become one of Debonneville's closest friends. It's with him that he shares the unconditional love of riding bikes and vintage motorcycles.
Circa 1980 - At the very first rally in Spain organised especially for combos in the Arenys de Munt area, in Catalonia. The 'Gueux d'Route' were represented at this event by ten of their most eminent members at the time. Gerard Guibert (in the foreground seated in the sidecar); Karine Servanton (seated in the 2nd sidecar); Pascal 'Bocu' Bouculat (white sunglasses); Patrick Servanton and Patrick 'Lynx' Bonin (both with helmet on), yours truly (riding the red MZ combo) and Bernadette 'Dedette' Blanchot (sidecar passenger)
Talking of old vintage machines, his house is full of them. So full is it in fact, that he currently parks two inside his van!
In total, he owns 35, including no less than 4 Velocette models of yesteryear and 3 Nimbus, including one with a sidecar.
Alambic rally 2014 - 'Bocu' had graced our invitation with his presence and arrived in Bourbonnais on one of his Velocettes
Remembering good friends of the past
Just a few days ago in a long phone call between Thailand and the Ardeche region where he lives, unsurprisingly we were talking about motorcycles of the past.
We recalled wonderful memories of the early 1970s, a time that is still alive in our collective younger psyche. There were fond anecdotes and stories of friendships that we both recollected with great clarity, as well as the memory of friends from 50 years ago that we would meet up with at French rallies.
Blois rally early 70s - (left to right): Yann Ber Favennec (Secte Motarde des Huns); Daniel 'Rapha' Raphael (MC Condate); Bruno Husson (Eighteen Club)
Sadly, some of these friends have already left us; for others, we are at a loss to know what happened to them. Whether they have left us, or are still around but out of touch, both 'Bocu' and I remember their names; these insatiable 'eaters of kilometres' who we met at rallies, enjoying their company along the way.
These names hardly ever appear, either on the forums, or on those few French websites devoted to yesterday's rallying but their accomplishments and rallying backgrounds nevertheless deserve to be remembered.
So please allow me to pause here for a while, and allow a brief moment, out of respect, to pay them a short tribute.
I can't name them all as the list would be far too long. I can only cite some of the most illustrious personalities that Bocu and I both remembered when we chatted the other night and mention some of the more memorable anecdotes.
In a rally, look around the crowd for a biker dressed in animal skin furs and wearing a helmet with a pair of horns, you have found the late 'Dada " (arms raised), the president of MC Samourai from Chatellerault
'Dada' had an impressive repertoire of bawdy songs and was the perfect guy to liven up a night out with his rendition of these around a campfire.
We also talked of the Laurain brothers (and the 'Grand Zeu), 'bons vivants' from the Autun region, with their rocky accent that rolls the R on the tongue peculiar to their native Saone-et-Loire. Their group was made up of fanatical devotees of classic British motorcycles; mainly Norton and Triumph.
(left): 'Le Grand Zeu' conversing with yours truly; (right): Pat Laurain (bottom) and yours truly (top)
The Thuiliere brothers, Michel and the late Roland, from Pouilly-sous-Charlieu, also two lovers of classic British bikes, just like Alain 'Le BSA' Chaux, from the area around Thiers.
(left to right): Michel 'Pim' Thuiliere, Alain 'B'SA' Chaux, and yours truly.
The Dubien family from Noiretable, diligent followers of rallies held in central France, who at the time had a large motorcycle shop in their hometown and, with characteristic modesty had amassed a collection of more than 300 vintage motorcycles.
Christian 'Coco' Kozdeba (650 Dresda Triumph) and Jacques Daubigny (750 Laverda), two inseparable friends, pillars of MC Montlucon, whom they represented wherever there were rallies.
Christian 'Coco' Kozdeba (left) and yours truly. There is absolutely no one in the Montlucon area who has rode so many kilometres on a moped, tricycle, and motorcycle. A member of the local FFM-affiliated motorcycle club at the end of the 1960s, he founded two 'pirate' clubs in the mid-1970s: first the Fennecs, then the Baroudeurs. His charisma and very special philosophy of motorcycle touring made him an endearing character and a great leader.
To end the list of those Bocu and I were talking about the other night, two more characters from this era: Yann Ber Favennec, the guiding light behind the Secte Motarde des Huns de Bordeaux, who went from rally to rally, both in France and abroad, on his trusty Twin BSA; and infamous 'Bacchus' from the region of Saint Vallier, in the department of Drome.
La Voulte rally early 70s - (left to right): The infamous 'Bacchus' as we knew him, with his faithful 'taste vin' in hand; Carrier du MC Kiwis de Montlucon and yours truly holding a cup won at this rally
Long distance call for photos
As for the reason behind my call to 'Bocu'… leading us into this long conversation, I know you deserve an explanation.
Today of course, we don't see each other as often as we did. We live on different continents, separated by a distance of 12,500 km. As an expat, living for 35 years in Thailand, the opportunities for me to visit France and to meet up with my motorcycle friends of yesterday is almost non-existent.
The last two occasions we had the chance to meet were firstly in April 2013, at the Gueux d'Route rally in Dordogne; an event initiated by Patrick Servanton to celebrate, the thirty year reunion of the former members of the 'Gueux d' Route'.
Gueux d'Route rally 2013 - Patrick Servanton (left) and yours truly (right)
We then saw each other again the following year, in July 2014, for the 5th meeting of the Alambic rally, organised in Bourbonnais by Patrick Servanton and myself.
Alambic 2015 - The organisers
Very recently, a mutual friend sent me superb black and white photos of a motorcycle event that I had 'apparently' organised in Saint Nectaire in Auvergne for rallyists to celebrate New Year 1981.
I must say that, to my surprise, these photos proved to me that such a meeting had indeed taken place. In truth I had totally forgotten it.
Saint-Nectaire New Year 81 - One of 'Bocu's photographies showing yours truly on stage entertaining buddies
Taken that weekend by my friend 'Bocu', they were remarkable, all the more so since I had never seen them. Without wishing to inflate his ego, it's obvious, (to me at least), that he has an excellent artistic eye; particularly the choice of angles for the shots.
Very few actually know of his passion for photography which has enabled him to build up a collection of images that today number several thousand and I hope he will share some of them with us in due course. Even fewer know that in addition to his professional activities, his hidden talent has allowed him for many years to be a correspondent for his local regional newspaper.
My only problem with these New Year 1981 meeting photos was that they were in a ridiculously small size and therefore unusable for my archives, hence the need to request them from him in a much larger size, since some of them, for obvious personal reasons, were particularly close to my heart.
Saint-Nectaire New Year 81 - 'I'm a bluesman' (photography by 'Bocu)
Not the shots I was expecting
The next day, however, I received an email from him, not with the desired photos, but with a batch of equally superb colour pictures that he had taken during one of his very recent motorcycle outings.
These magnificent winter photos dating from mid-January 2021, showed the combo with which 'Bocu' went to the winter meeting by invitation of the 'Marmottes'. Each year this meeting is held on the heights of Saint Veran, the highest municipality in Europe, at 2040m.
Nothing stops 'Bocu'. Especially not the snow. Even less the threat of COVID-19 ...
I guess you are wondering how this rally could have taken place in the current context of COVID-19? It's very simple. It was a motorcycling rally where in fact… no one gathered.
Since 16 January 2021, a curfew from 6pm to 6am has been in effect throughout France. Any gathering as well as any festive event is prohibited.
As the Marmots meeting was supposed to take place on the second weekend of January 2021, the curfew was not yet in effect. As such, prior to the law taking effect, riding a motorbike to a destination of one's choice was still allowed.
Saint-Veran is the highest village in Europe at 2042 meters above sea level, where it is said that "the rooster pecks the stars and paradise is at hand". Ranked among the Most Beautiful Villages of France, this town is located in the Southern Alps in the heart of the Regional Natural Park of Queyras
Those rallyists accustomed to taking part in this meeting every year had the idea of going there anyway. They knew in advance that no organisation would be in place and that as a precaution they could not gather together.
Nearly 60 rallyists made the trip to reach Saint Veran. The winter conditions were so bad that around 20 of the 60 participants didn't reach the heights of the town.
They spotted each other on the road, greeted each other with a brotherly wave of the hand, and each went their separate ways into the surrounding hotels. A great first in the annals of the rallying world: a gathering where no one gathers!
The snow partially covering his combo did nothing to help identify the make
With the snow partially covering the combo, I had trouble being able to identify the brand of his machine. I was wondering out of curiosity what motorcycle it could be? He has so many that I have a hard time keeping track of what he's riding on these days.
So, I asked him the question by email and of course a lengthy conversation about his combo began.
And although I did not intend in my editorial plans to ever write an article about bitzas, those great combo photos in the snow and the story of his particular machine immediately tickled my desire to relay it to a wider audience.
- Jean-Francois Helias