My First Rally - Knights Rally 1979 - Knightriders MCC
When I was 16, I had a 'sports moped'. Well, as it was the Honda SS50 as opposed to the Yamaha FS1-E, that should perhaps be termed a 'pseudo-sports moped'. Either way, I was a keen reader of 'Bike' magazine, through which I imagined riding massively powerful 'proper' bikes in the years to come.
- Phil the Spill
There was, once, an article that puzzled, and at the same time disturbed me, in a way I didn't understand. It was about a strange sub-species of biker, which enjoyed camping in muddy fields in the middle of winter. They described these people as suffering from 'the madness'. I put the article out of my head for a few years, while still retaining sketchy details about the story.
Fast-forward three years and there I am on my first 'real' bike (C70s don't really count, do they?) a Yamaha XS250, and I have recently joined the newly formed Yamaha Owners Club - Surrey Section. One of the guys, a certain Gary Johnson, known as 'Adolf' (he had a moustache, but not a Hitler-style one), one day mentioned that he had just been to something called a 'bike rally' and it had been quite fun. There was another one coming up soon and would we like to go along with him?
Most people seemed enthusiastic, so I agreed, (always a follower, not a leader), and handed over the princely sum of £2.75!
The next few weeks saw me asking friends and family what I would need for camping, having never done it before, managing to borrow a tent from a cousin and a sleeping bag from my Dad.
I had never had so much luggage on the bike as I did that day. Only having a top box for carrying small items didn't help. I just threw things together as best I could, with plenty of bungee cords and stuffing the tent into a rucksack several sizes too small for it. I didn't even have decent waterproofs, either!
Following directions carefully, it wasn't far to East Grinstead, I located a gap in the side of a field and warily made my way in.
I was pleasantly surprised at what I found there. I was welcomed in and given a badge and sheet of instructions. Then I rode around an extremely uneven field until I found those of my club that had already arrived.
I took great care putting up my cousin's tent, and threw everything inside. I found that we had a bonfire already smoking away, even though it was only September. Every group of tents seemed to be grouped around fires, and there were a few piles of wood amongst the trees along the side of the field, which people visited throughout the weekend. We used a selection of large trunk-sized chunks as seats.
Those days, rallies didn't include many facilities. The toilet was the nearest tree and if you wanted food, you had to have brought it with you, or go shopping for it. This, of course, was all we knew in those days. A few sorties to the nearest town provided us with tins of beans and frozen sausages. We found the best way to cook frozen sausages was to impale them on a thin branch and suspend them over the fire. Unfortunately the sticks occasionally burnt through, meaning the fire had nearly as many sausages as we did.
It was this weekend I discovered Heavy Metal, which I still enjoy today, even though I have veered more towards Folk, (with a slight deviation to SteamPunk).
I enjoyed both nights in the marquee, even though I had no idea what was going on most of the time - people climbing poles, falling over quite happily and jumping around to loud music were all new to me.
I DO remember on Sunday morning, after we had burned all the logs on the dozen-or-so bonfires around the field, the owner of the field, who had sawn up the logs, came to collect them. Nobody had told anybody they weren't for our use.
The names of our club who attended (somebody, if you see this, please tell me any I missed):
Myself (Phil the Spill), Catweazle, Spock, P.A.M., Dirty Bertie, Adolf (it's all your fault, Gary!), a friend of his, Paul Holland, and a guy we called Arfur Brain when he was around, or Black Teeth when he wasn't.
After I got home, I suddenly remembered the Bike magazine article with a shudder - I had caught 'the madness'!
Due to various family matters (my sister's wedding) it was nearly a year until my next rally, and I'd replaced my bike by then. Also I managed to sort out most of my own camping equipment, including a light and a small gas-burner, although it wasn't until one weekend in Wales when I couldn't walk in the morning, I realised I needed an airbed as well.
- Phil (the Spill) Drackley