Monday, 13 February 2017

Dragon Rally 2017

After the Elefanttreffen last year our new friend Joe Kuhnie from Stuttgart said he’d be interested in attending the Dragon Rally in Wales, Fi and I have never been so we said ok, we’ll organise tickets. The Dragon Rally is a motorcycle camping rally held annually during winter in North Wales since 1962, making it one of the UK's longest running bike events. In the 1960s the attendance at the Dragon sometimes topped 3,000 riders, this year we were told 1400 attendees were permitted. The rally is famed for its toughness and spartan facilities, i.e a muddy field and not much else but they did have a marquee more of which later. Riders often have to endure miserable riding conditions to attend the rally and, once on site, they are expected to camp without regard to the weather conditions. It is an event held in veneration by large numbers of motorcyclists as a test of stamina and endurance (and gross stupidity) because (in the first two decades at least) it was common to have to endure snow and ice to ride there.

 We secured tickets in October and arranged to meet Joe in a Hotel in Bangor, Wales on the Friday night (the Dragon is a Saturday / Sunday only rally) After some weeks of reasonable weather the temperature dropped (of course) just before the meeting. Fi and I set off down the A702 just after 6am on the Friday, mainly to avoid the chaos of the Edinburgh bypass, this was a good decision, despite the dark and cold we had a good run down to Biggar for our first re fueling stop. The outfit is not great on fuel when fully loaded and ridden at high speeds so fuel stops have to be planned with military precision.

The ride then down the M74 & M6 passed without incident, we stopped at Tebay services for Breakfast and we thought we would get some heat but recently I’ve noticed the services are kept at a temperature to discourage prolonged stays, fine if you are in a car or van but not when you get off a motorbike, arseholes, turn it up a couple of degrees!!

Fi took over as pilot for the stretch down to Manchester and another stop for Fuel at Lymm services where I regained the controls for the last leg into Bangor, en route we passed some Germans on outfits so we were obviously going the right way. We found our Hotel, Joe had been there the night before and had gone for a tour, we booked in and still wearing all our bike gear (it was freezing) took a walk along the pier to the café at the end which was of course closed, we found a place eventually to eat before going back to the hotel and meeting Joe.

 A fine night in the bar (12 year old Glenlivet) was followed by a not so fine morning, breakfast and bikes loaded in the wind and sleet we headed to the checkpoint at the services just outside Bangor. The Dragon format is you go to a checkpoint to have your tickets verified and to be told where the rally is. This seemingly was the first time they have used the services and it was chaos, around 300 bikes blocking the whole place up, we queued for at least and hour to have our tickets verified and witnessed the staff losing patience with all those guys blocking up the whole service station, we just lost the cut when they closed the queue down to assess and come up with a better plan.

We eventually got our tickets stamped and made our way to a muddy, windy and wet field around 3 miles away. Of course my favourite pastime is putting up a tent in the wind and rain so once that was done and the bedding sorted that was the fun over, now just stand the rest of the day in the wind, rain, sleet and watch guys drop their bikes in the mud, drink first tea, then beer, then whisky whilst talking nonsense and waiting for hypothermia to kick in.

Around 5pm after a particularly wet and windy spell we decided to go to the marquee to check it out, we got a beer there but realised soon all those bodies inside a cold tent meant we were constantly showered with condensation from the roof, good thing was it meant your pint never got emptier, bad news was the beer was being replaced with other people’s sweat effectively. We left for a couple of laps of the field, some home cooking in the rain then we spent the night basically sheltering from the weather in the front of our tent drinking and talking nonsense. If we could have had a fire (not allowed) it would have been a more pleasant experience. It was still a good rally though , we met some nice people as always and it was good to see a few “classic” bikes on the field being used rather than polished, sorry i never got any Triumph photos George but you never turned up with the chips.

Sunday we packed up as the snow threatened, said goodbye to Joe and headed home. Similar run home but with gale force winds (Fiona piloted the bit over Shap where it was horrendous) The outfit struggled to do much over 70mph into the wind on a full throttle so that gives you an indication of how bad the winds were. On reflection a good weekend, around 650 miles, the onset of hypothermia delayed, good people BUT we won’t become regulars, got the badge, got the woolly hat (to join my large collection of lost woolly hats) that’ll do us for now. Of course next week more camping, excellent………..

Breakfast at Tebay
Petrol at Lymm
View from the hotel steps was nice
Walk along the pier
Old fisherman's houses were pretty
Bangor Pier
It was windy.......
Yet another dram with Joe
12 year old Glenlivet, (we finished it)
Arrival at the checkpoint
The re organised queue
All sorts of bikes, a group of loonies on step through Hondas
Fi Praying for the rain to stop
Nice, used as it should be Vincent over the fence from us
It got busier
Sheltering from the rain for a while
Very nice, not polished but better for it
Boys with too much time on their hands
Used Guzzi, kinda cool, must stop polishing mines
Atmospheric B/W shot
Really dont know
Still even less clue
Anything goes
The only mighty Norton I saw, an ES2
Another Vincent and an owner with a sense of humour
2017 or 1967, probably some of the same people
Chef Fi cooking dinner in the rain
Eventually the rain was too much so indoor dining and drinking in Casa Rondelli
Fi explaining something technical to Joe
Sunday morning snow on the hills, braw!!!!!!