Rallymans Rally

Courtesy of Ted Trett, here is the report from March 1980 BIKE.

BIKE, March 1980

Go North, young scribe, the big E said. What could I do? He had my contract in his hand, still unsigned. Northwards I went to find out what happens at rallies.
Story Jim Lindsay, Photos Malcolm Birkitt.

WHAT has 900 legs, half that number of mouths all talking, singing or shouting at the same time, 1800 blue fingers, fifty percent of which are clutching 450 bottles of Newcastle Brown and is to be found near Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire in the middle of January?


The Rallyman Rally

Another filthy winter Friday found me loping northwards through rain and freezing fog en route to my first motorcycle rally (more of what happens to novice rallyists later, eh, Alex, sweetheart).

Having been to visit friends in the South of England on Thursday, I dashed up to Northampton to see my sister's new brat on the Friday morning then blasted over to Peterborough to call in at the office before finally crawling through a veritable pea souper to collect the necessary camping equipment from a guy we'll call Big Chris (some say "Fat"), who lives in Leicester. All this and the journey had not even begun properly yet as I swung onto the M1 fully laden to make for Hebden Bridge.

Eventually I arrived at the rally site, or more exactly, the rally site boozer, the Shoulder of Mutton, around midnight having covered 300 odd miles since hitting the road that morning. It was a knockout ride, perhaps due to my totally obdurate and totally biased affection for Triumph twins for which no apologies are forthcoming or needed. I have to confess that it died on me on the outskirts of Halifax thanks to wet electrics, which proved to be a recurring hassle; funny how my old pre-unit didn't used to do that, zzzzzzzzz . . .

I opened the door of the bar and entered. "Hello, I'm from Bike," I said in italics and for twenty minutes open season was declared on my person.

"Where did you park your car? ... Why don't you go straight to your hotel?" and so on. I guess us scribbling bikers are fair game.

Eventually the baiting subsided and Large James Briggs the landlord (drag afficianados will know him from the Pod) thrust a pint into my hand and Teddy Eddyward of the Dean Valley Motorcycle Club (who organise the rally every year) offered me dossing room in his tent for the night. I gratefully accepted. Putting up tents in the dark is not something that I'm particularly good at (not so hot in broad daylight either for that matter).



BIKE, March 1980

At about two in the morning we trudged through the mud to the campsite which turned out to be the most exposed field in Yorkshire and, after hanging around rapping for a while the way that drunkards will, we crawled into our pits and slept until the cheery voice — the disgustingly jovial voice — of Alex Grabowski (a name that occurs a lot in this story) announced that it was time we got up and got out.

It had been quite a warm night, warm for the middle of winter that is, so getting out of bed was not too much of an ordeal. Ted made it before I did and disappeared throught the tent flap muttering something about there being work to do. I yawned, I had a smoke and immediately went back to sleep.

Ted is one of a group of regular rallyists who reckon if they do not manage at least one rally every fortnight, life is not as good as it might be. This hardcore band of maniacs are easily recognised by the cutoffs draped over their shoulders on which every available inch is covered by badges from rallies at home and abroad. They're good people, no bullshit about them and friendly too.

In sharp contrast to to many other motorcycle scenes, the size of the bike that you arrive on has nothing to do with the opinions that people form of you; a CBX 1000 cuts no more ice than a Honda stepthrough with these guys and isn't that just about the way it should be? I reckon so.

Ted and his mate Barry Warrener (also of DVMCC) use Honda XL 125s on the reasoning that the smaller the bike the more effort will be needed to get to the destination and, obviously, the more effort you put in, the more fun you're going to have. Fun is the main point, not ego massaging or that pathetic 'rockier than thou' strutting, just plain old fun and a sense of achievement when it's all over. No room for posers here; stick to the High Street at home, boys.

Every event attracts its quota of shitheads of course and the Rallyman's is no exception, but at least this year they were thin on the ground. No need to name names, you probably know who you are. Anyway, sorry children, no-one was impressed. Some creep(s) ripped a rucksack full of camping gear from the back of a bike on Friday night, shouldn't think that it was anyone from the rally though. If it was, maybe a TIR had them for lunch on the way home and did us all a favour.

By about 10 o'clock on Saturday morning the campsite started to buzz. One or two faces wore that deathly grey pallor, a sure sign of the Newcastle Brown Effect at its most devastating. Those who wanted to cook their own breakfast started to get on with it while those who preferred not to light their stoves headed for the control hut to buy soup, beefburgers and coffee. It was busy there: Barry had sauntered in quite early and then spent the next two hours feeding the five thousand — with no miracles to fall back on either.




BIKE, March 1980

At the other window of the hut people were booking in, collecting their badges and entering their mileage travelled and club names on forms so that the awards could be sorted out later on. Most people arrived on the Saturday and the queue stretched way back, finally disappearing into the fog that had crept up on us. That's the trouble with Yorkshire; it's got some of the most beautiful landscapes in England and some of the most taxing scratching roads, but if you go there in winter the chances are that the weather will stop you taking advantage of either.

Meanwhile I decided to give the Bonnie an off road aptitude test and bring it up the rutted, quaggy track from the pub car park onto the campsite. It's a bit on the heavy side for this, I thought as we bounced and slid up the track, showering the spectating vultures with all manner of rural muck, garbage and dead bears and only just managing to keep upright.

Back at the control hut the rally had claimed its first victim; a blood spattered Barry staggered in claiming the generator had bitten his finger when he was trying to wake it up after it had decided that it had done more than enough work for one day. Marita Tempest, DVMCC secretary, rally administrator, nurse by profession, swathed the assaulted finger in enough absorbent material to staunch the flow of blood from a severed artery and had the hapless Barry hold his arm up in the air to aid the coagulation of the red gravy. What a sight it was too.

Rally people are good peole, easy to go up to and chat with, so that's how I spent the next hour or so — walking round the field and doing just that. Opening time down at the Shoulder was getting close so I zipped into Halifax to do a bit of shopping beforehand. The fog was not so bad on lower ground and for the first time I was able to use the Bonnie in anger.

Bonnies are a beaut on greasy twisty roads, they slide controllably round corners if you let them and never let go completely. The drop down from Blackshaw Head into Hebden Bridge was the best part of the journey. The road is ever so very minor, nastily bending and more pockmarked than Wreckless Eric's face. Typically, Britishly stubborn when it comes to country laning, the Bonneville refuses to budge off line on corners but it's a shame that the years have made the motor so phlegmatic. It has power enough but lacks the responsive crispness of my own late and lamented T120.

Back to the boozer ... They were three deep around the bar and stacked two high along the walls. Pints, chatter, face stuffing and singing filled every available space. Quite a few more folk had turned up since I'd gone. This was the point where the weekend started to really come together. Rallies are a continually shifting, variable geography social club. Even if you've only been to one, at the next one you go to you're pretty sure to see familiar faces. Even if you don't, you'll have no hassle meeting people.




BIKE, March 1980

"Winter rallies are always the best," Barry hollered in my ear as we stood against the bar to make sure that it didn't fall down, "you only get the dedicated riders coming along and none of the posers." I was about to aver that this seemed a fair comment when two bikers swaddled in waxed cotton waded over to us and shouted greetings at Barry from out of their lids. This pair had just arrived from the other side of Manchester and their trip sums up the 'hell or high water' attitude of rallyists to a tee.

Sandra Bailey and Sue Slater had set out on a 350 Trump and a 250 MZ (Sue's Commando being in bits on the garage floor at the time). They'd done about half the distance when Sandra's Triumph started to suffer from a bad stomach upset so they turned round and limped back home, borrowed a YDS5 250 Jamjah for Sandra to ride, then started again from the beginning. That's something like determination and resilience isn't it?

Charley Bulbs wandered over and was introduced about then. You'll see Charley at most rallies; he looks around forty though he may be older and his name comes from his trade in H4 bulbs that he sells at a quid a time (wheredya get them from Mr B?) which has just got to be a good deal.

Another guy you can't miss (unless you're very lucky) is Chris the Piss, so called for obvious reasons. Generally he's loud, drunk and some might say obnoxious but oooooh! 'e don't arf kiss nice though. I heard that he was a bit subdued that weekend. Oh really? I'd hate to see him when he's normal. He hangs around with a roving club called the Dwyle Funkers, an informal band of folks who meet up at rallies through the year. They were the loudest group in the pub at lunchtime, perhaps due to one of their number called Boris who, if he turned his voice down a few thousand watts, would still shatter eardrums after five minutes. Just after I'd been introduced to this gang people began to whisper nasty tales about the initiation of virgin rallymen and pass on that a little ceremony was being planned for me. Later I was wishing I'd litened more attentively.

And so it went on, getting louder and crazier and what else do you expect? If 450 maniacs are crazy enough to ride mile after mile in sub-zero temperatures and then sleep in canvas bags in the same, once they start applying intoxicants to themselves their individual and collective insanity is bound to be amplified.

Saturday evening was wilder still. I cheated a little by disappearing into Halifax to see an ...




BIKE, March 1980

... old buddy and meet his new wife, taking in big eats and a hot bath at the same time before heading back to Blackshaw for nine o'clock. By now they were five deep around the bar and four high along the walls while in the barn out the back, in an atmosphere fetid with sweat, reeking of beer and smoke, the disco was staggering its way through the night. 'Ead banging' music and strange contortions of the human form.

The night before, Alex started telling me around 10.30, some fellah was rash enough to mention that he was at his very first rally. The Bedford Eagles moved in quickly and relieved the virgin of his trousers then, while he was attempting to cover his shameful nakedness, they bathed him in ten pints of bitter. That was some soaked monkey. "That sort of thing happens to all first timers," Alex remarked, throwing in one of his manic cackles for good measure and I guess you know what comes next. That's it, he poured a full bottle of brown (I bought it for him too) right over my head, then it was open day. I'm not sure how many bottles went over my head, it felt like five or six before I beat a retreat to the bog.

The prize for subtlety goes to one Dave Croshaw who came up after the pouring had all but stopped, shook my hand and said "Congratulations, Jim. You've done your first rally." while with his free hand he inserted a bottle between my leathers and my jumper and poured. The insanity of the weekend must have taken hold of me by now because I enjoyed it all and couldn't stop laughing. Thanks are due to Alex for starting it. Alex, you're a real sweetie ... asshole! Still, he did offer to buy me a drink once I had got enough beer out of my eyes to see straight — shame the bar was closed by then.

The bar emptied gradually, line after line of bikers in varying states of alcoholic decay staggered back to the campsite for a cold night's sleep. It was cold enough to freeze the rowlocks off a glass donkey that night and on Sunday morning there was a layer of ice about 2mm thick on the flysheets.

As I said, it was cold on Saturday night and not much warmer on Sunday morning, though a beautiful clear day with no sign of fog. A fair few of the faces around the field had that good old death grey tinge and one sick man was staggering about for two hours, jacket open, boots unzipped — yawning in technicolor all over the grass.

The awards were handed out in the morning. Dave Croshaw got the long distance award having travelled 341 miles from Brighton on a 900 SS Ducati and the Bedford Eagles collected the club turnout prize, about 27 of their bunch having showed up. If there had been a weightiest rider's prize, it's a fair bet that Jock or Fat Rabbit of the same club would have copped that as well.

Apart from the few dipsos left in the boozer for the final soaking of the weekend, that was about it. People and bikes gradually moved off through the morning while Stuart Cox and Barry went gathering garbage round the field. At about 4 o'clock I set off on the Bonnie along with Dave and his Duke to start the gentle lope south — punctuated by a flat tyre on Dave's bike in Huddersfield that held us up for a while. We rode on until Nottingham where, with a hoot and a wave, we parted company and I headed into Sutton-in-Ashfield to spend the night.



BIKE, March 1980

Rallies are about having good times with good people in wild weather conditions — I found plenty of all three and got high on it. If you want to try some of the same, you won't regret it. Motor Cycle Weekly gives a list of forthcoming rallies each week so that's the place to look if you're interested.

Quite a few of the events have to be pre-booked now to avoid ridiculously overcrowded campsites so don't leave it until the last minute. Apart from that, all you need is a good tent, a warm sleeping bag, plenty of warm clothes, a slightly damaged brain, a vast capacity for having fun and anything from a Honda step-though to a Z1300 to get you there.



Start of quotation I went there in 1980 with my older brother on his new (then) 1979 GSX750.

We travelled from Newcastle in freezing conditions. I remember travelling down the A1 past Chester-le-Street and the carbs freezing on the bike at 70mph.

We eventually got to Hebden Bridge at 5pm and put the tent up in the top field in an 80mph gale in full waterproofs and helmets, retired to the pub and promptly got totally lashed and then kipped in the tent blissfully happy.

Great days!!!!

- Anon

Start of quotation I did six Rallymans from 78 to 83, bloody cold and bloody great!!

  End of quotation

- Bingo, Crooked Spire MCC.

Start of quotation Don't ask me what year it was but Rallymans fell on the same day as my birthday. My everloving wife Anita organised a birthday cake for the Saturday. I think I would have been embarrassed, if I had been sober, by a bar full of well pissed bikers singing happy birthday.

I was riding a Norton Commando & was a member of Bedford Eagle MCC. End of quotation

- Mark Mingay

Len Tempest Marita Tempest 3 4 Ted Trett 7 8 9 10 11
Open quote That's just how it was back in the good old days, son. Close quote