British Diesel Motorcycle Rally 2013

A diesel taxi like no other! Sean gives the ladies a lift at the 2013 Big Knock!!

Until now, the regularity of our yearly meetings at the Bat & Ball has only been matched by the comings and goings of its Landlords. And, truth be told, it was only going to be a matter of time before these changes of tenancy coincided with our gathering. 2013 was that year and we were informed of it only days after we had done all the rally publicity for that particular venue.
After several talks with the brewery (owners of the site) we were told that it might indeed be possible to just have the field so we decided to await the promised call from the local area manager to confirm this. We were eventually told a date for the pubs re-opening (after refurbishment) but unfortunately, despite us keeping a check on the building, this didn’t start on time. Further prodding of the company produced no results and when we learned that the rented toilets had been returned we decided that we could wait no longer and decided to seek out a new venue.
Several friends had suggested we approach the nearest other venue, the Springbok Estate, a registered charity for Merchant Seamen and War Veterans, so this we did. The staff there were most sympathetic to our plight and luckily had nothing booked in on our date of choice so we booked it there and then.

With a new venue to direct everyone to, I set about contacting all the rally listings, web sites and newspapers we had previously submitted our rally location to. Believe me, it pays to keep a detailed list of these things and even then, other web sites have a habit of copying listings wholesale from one another which makes life difficult to say the least! And then there were the ones that didn’t respond until late and the printed media that had already gone to press. Thank God were avoided the magazines this year as their necessity to print months in advance would have caused us even more of a headache!
Next came the signs. With some visitors likely to see the old venue listed in the press it was imperative to not only put out re-directive signs starting at the Bat & Ball but also signs for the new venue. I decided to stick with the colour we’d used before, Day-Glo Green, and set about eating as many frozen pizzas as I could over the next few days. The reason for this is that the cardboard boxes they come in make Ideal stiff backing for the signs which tend to warp in the damp otherwise. And you can also get drawing pins through it too! Ithink it must have taken about a day, miles of sticky tape (both double & single sided) to create these. The single sided tape also served to be written over with pen again if we needed to change anything literally, in the field. A week before the rally Whiskers informed us that he had been on a scouting mission and his Sat-Nav had taken him to two incorrect entrances to the Estate (off the Bat & Ball road) the B2133. We investigated and sure enough, it was the same road that crossed the land from the correct entrance. More signs were in order!
Finally, with everything set, we departed for the Springbok Estate early on the Wednesday of the rally week itself, determined to make the most of this yearly event. We set up our tents in-between rain showers before returning to collect our other motorcycle. With so much stuff it’s impossible to bring it all on the bikes.
From then on a steady flow of friends and diesel bikers arrived, all determined to make the best of what looked like rather dodgy weather. Luckily the forecast was good for the weekend and so it proved to be. We had hired the giant marquee just in case the weather was bad but in the end it only served to cover a few bikes and riders that had no tents of their own.
The ethos behind the whole diesel motorcycle thing is about biking on the cheap. With limited space on a bike it makes perfect sense to run on a fuel that packs more of a punch, even if our engines have to be a little heavier to use it. But sometimes a diesel motorcycle comes along with an bigger engine than anyone has ever seen in a bike before! Enter 'The Sprocket'.

The Sprocket. Built by Brian Firth and Lindsey 'Whisker's' Baker.

We've seen some interesting diesel motorcycles down the years but never a bike like this! ‘The Sprocket’, an incredible machine that was exclusively unveiled at this year’s Big Knock. Brian Firth and Lindsey ‘Whisker’s’ Baker of Newick, East Sussex have constructed what must be the UK's largest diesel powered motorcycle to date. In man hours we are told it adds up to about three months worth of work but in reality it came together over the last two years, being built mainly during weekends and evenings after work. At its heart is a 2.3 litre OM601 diesel engine from a Mercedes 308 van. This drives into a bevel box from a tractor driven saw bench and then, via a well-supported, 13 tooth Fenner drive cog, goes to the rear. And this, of course, is where the bike gets its name because sitting on the rear wheel is a a 90 tooth 5/8" industrial sprocket from which the UK's biggest diesel motorcycle gets its name.

The Sprocket, the UK's largest diesel motorcycles. The fuse box is located within the vintage brass fire extinguisher.

When The Sprocket was started the engine turned out to be surprisingly quiet. Following the pipe down I could see that the silencer was nestling underneath the rear end between the bevel box and the huge 240/55 R16 Bridgestone rear tyre. And you wouldn't’t know it was there but for the grass being well and truly flattened by the pulses of hot air coming from a cut down Scorpion Race can silencer which started life on a CBR 600. Up top it was hard to know where to begin. We were told that the wing mirror come indicators were beer taps in another life and that the rear indicators were mounted on brass handles that came from a coffin!

Handmade by Brian Firth, the tank makes a feature of the return & breather pipes. It's been described as 'Pure Art' by those that saw it.

The gas tank is something else! Handmade by Brian and pressure tested too, it is secured by two oiled, leather straps complete with brass buckles. Along the top run three copper pipes which perform as a breathers and return feeds required by all diesel engines.

The clutch lever is foot assisted, has a special bearing on the hand lever & locks in place with a pivoted hooking device just seen behind the indicator stem. The bike will do 20mph at it's slowest tickover and 90mph at a fast idle. No doubt the bike will find its way onto a drag strip in the near future!

The frame, I’m told, was the easiest thing to build. It’s a purpose built hard-tail using a GSX 1100 front end complete with rear sprung seating for the rider and passenger. The passenger seat support itself consists of two old spanners for in a tool box! (not visible here).
If anyone thinks this bike could end up with the Steampunk look then they better think again. Whiskers has plans to power-coat the frame in the near future and all we can say for certain is that it will most certainly not be black!

Brian and Whisker's would also like to extend their thanks to friends, wives, girlfriends, local businesses and all who also helped out with this weighty motorcycle.

Checkout the foot assisted clutch dead centre of this shot. A Landrover Master Cylinder is to its right.

The guys behind The Sprocket, the UK's largest diesel motorcycle.

A fantastic turnout of Track T800's from across Europe graced this year's Big Knock, more than had attended any rally to date.

I lost count of how many times Sean took the kids and the ladies for trips around the field. We noted that unlike some fields this drained well and was actually quite firm and that, of course, is ideal for motorcycles on the move. Whisker's also made use of this by running the Sprocket across it on several occasions.

No need for cross air flow when the stationary engine goes mobile! Removing these fins makes a difference I'm told!

The last time we saw Tony and son was back in 2010 and then his Trike had a different back end to it. The whole outfit is based on a Peugeot 405 and now has a Scimitar behind! Running on used cooking oil, Tony is using a couple of filters, one of which is pictured below. He tells me it is from an Audi and has a built in heater - just the thing for thinning out that old oil ready for the engine. Tony has spent the last few years over coming some health problems and it's good to see him fighting fit and back on the scene. He tells the Landlord of the local pub, The Three Compasses thought they were German and was a little taken aback when they ordered up with broad northern accents!

Tony's Trike now has a rather more stylish rear - this time from a Scimitar.

The fuel filter complete with built in heater element. and plenty of fuel for the trip home!

Sönke's 'Mule'. An early breakfast runout found us trying to get petrol for a petrol motorcycle over from Germany. This station had none!

The Springbok Estate proved to be an excellent venue with about 80% saying we should return there next year. I think we will.

The Springbok Estate proved to be a good site and over the weekend we saw quite a few of the residents as well as visitors from the nearby model boat show and those who had seen our advertising in the local press. Some old sailors were quite incredulous that all the motorcycles about them were diesel powered. It was nice to have rather in depth discussions with several of the guys and I soon found out about the deep seat rivalries between the services. I originally thought everyone must be a Merchant Seaman after the charities name but there were all sorts there. Alan, an ex submariner, and his pet cat Shadow, visited us on more than one occasion and raised a smile by declaring, "there were only two types of ships at sea, Submarines and targets!".

Guzzi Ray rides in on his 'Snot Pump' Diesel Chopper. This maybe up for sale soon if you fancy it?

Good to see some old friends and new ones too! There was Martin who camped next to me in Hamm, Chris from the Ducati group at Box Hill and Chris T who insisted on thrusting money at me for putting on the show. He's one guy who will certainly be getting a T shirt when more roll off the press. I also received a phone call from the mother of a guy who asked if she could bring him along to see the beginning of the ride out. They duely arrived and he asked both my brother and I for our autographs and gave us a big hug each saying he also had to the autograph of Barry Sheene no less. I was rather flattered by that! They stayed on to see us all (I won't say roar but) 'knock' our way out of the field as we headed off to Newland's Corner.

Up from Brighton, Ian's Sommer Hatz diesel motorcycle by Jochen Sommer.

Tony (left) talks with Steve over his Fuji Robin Matchless built by the late Ernie Dorsett. It was good to see Tony again as he attended our very first rally on this motorcycle.

Steve Woolcock (above right) told of a magic moment when he incorrectly arrived at the North side of the nearby Dunsfold airfield and had a security guard direct him to go across the airfield itself to reach the Springbok Estate, site of the rally. Halfway across the runway he suddenly realised that the surroundings looked rather familiar and that he was in fact riding on the Top Gear test track! With so many diesel motorcycles in the area I guess at least one was going to find its way onto that famous bit of tarmac. Didn't the Top Gear guys rip into a little diesel Enfieled a few years back on their show? It's a shame they weren't there to see Steve's Kubota go knocking by their studio :-)

This years T shirt artwork

T-shirt artwork was again arranged by artist Owain Bulger after I submitted some diesel technical drawings for him to play with. Sales were going well but took off when Holly & Niamh decided to pitch in. Before I knew it I run out and had to disappoint a few late comers Saturday! The girls then went on to sell tea to whoever crossed their path! If you missed out on a shirt email me as I'm getting a few more done for those unfortunates! After the girls sold all the shirts I tasked them with a harder proposition, trying to sell Arno's Green Ideas book of which he brought along a few copies translated into English. Unfortunately this proved a hard task even after we reduced the cost of the tome. In the end I was the only person to buy an English language version and I look forward to sitting down with it and having a read in a quieter moment.

The Tea ladies! Were you mugged by them? ;-)

If anyone would like Owain’s contact details just drop me a line via the contact page. He’s very reasonable and can supply the artwork in a variety of formats needed by T shirt printers. Our T shirts were supplied by Asylum from Piltdown, East Sussex.

Arno's Book 'Green Ideas' and I'm grateful to Sönke for handing me a rare Neander Brochure!


Friday morning breakfast at a sunny Tote Cafe.

Friday morning we all rode out for pre-rally breakfast at the Tote Café. Afterwards we had to visit a filling station because one of the petrol bikes over from Germany was low on fuel. Would you believe our luck when the station itself had no petrol! Everyone went south looking for petrol and I thought bugger this, it's not what a dieselbike rally should be about, and rode back to the rally site to welcome more diesel bikers.
Erik, owner and builder of the Track T800CDi talks with my brother Jeff.

Runout shots from Newland's Corner.

This years runout left the Springbok Estate at just gone 11am and made its way through the nearby villages of Cranleigh and Shamley Green before climbing up the side of the North Downs to a local biker haunt, Newlands Corner. You can often find older makes of motorcycle here as opposed to say the nearby Box Hill which has more of a mix of machines. The weather was excellent and we soon filled the bike park on this particular hill.

Newland's Corner: A local biker (& hiker) haunt offering good views, coffee, food & an NT information centre. Postcode: GU4 8SE.

My Tiger, Matt's Hatz, Ian's Sommer, Tony's Matchless and Tim's Kubota Honda Dream.

Bernt's Daihatsu BMW conversion. BMW once said diesel motorcycles can't be made. Now we hear that they visited Holland to see the Track CEO Erik and look over his T800CDi motorcycle.

Alan exit's Newland's Corner.

Whisker's with his Harley Dieselson. He's on the lookout for a Yanmar V engine to replace the Chinese clone used on this bike.

Over from Holland for the second year running - Bert exit's Newland's Corner on his Track T800CDi for the run back to Springbok.

General Rally shots:

Jeff gives Sue a ride round the spacious field on the Ruggerfield, an 850cc diesel conversion by Colin Clarke.

Ian's 950cc Ruggerini chopper up from the West Country.How he kick's it over is beyond us!

One of the many Track T800's that attended this year. Many more and they will out number the Enfield's!

Paul is still laughing after finding out his engine is running fine after it suffered some kind of problem on his homeward journey.

Mouse gets stuck in with his oscilloscope thingy.

At one stage I had a chat with Bert about the availability (or not) of the 1.2 diesel Lupo engines in various countries. He's trying to track one down for Will's project & finding it harder than expected. I've phoned a few car breakers in the UK & they only seem to have heard of the Polo lump. Then the subject of fitting rev counters to some of the more modern engines came up and although there are never too many revs to count on a diesel I must admit it would be nice to have such indication on my bike. A little later Mouse too mentioned the subject and even produced what I believe was a pocket oscilloscope and began probing my bike for an appropriate pulse. Unfortunately his meter decided to have a brainstorm about 30 seconds after application and I don't think it ever recovered. Mouse would have come on his own diesel powered bike this year but for problems with the water pump seal. The kubota engine he uses is a different variant from standard and uses a hard to source gasket. The engine is similar to that used by Tim on his Honda Dream conversion - see below.

Tim's Honda Super Dream Kubota conversion.

A group shot of the Track diesel motorcycles over Holland and the UK. Some rally goers test rode these bike out on the open roads. Thanks for coming guys!

Nick's Charnwood Diesel conversion still going strong. He can now start it with the hand pulley after lessons from Tony!

Henry Price of Price Part showed some of his Enfield conversions again this year.

All the way from Germany, Sönke greets Bernt on his arrival.

Most nights consisted of BBQ's and a few beers round the campfire.

Little Joe on the Newland's Corner run.

As far as mechanical issues go we heard that two bikes with Chinese clone engines suffered problems on the homeward journey. My own Tiger stalled and was in need of a new fuel filter while a T800 had Common Rail engine issues on the way over. Dave broke a clutch cable about ten miles out on Sunday and was helped out by a scooter owner who supplied a repair kit just before I arrived with a replacement! Sönke did some work on Sam's C90 as the engine had just about had it and Tony broke a throttle cable on his Trike but managed a repair after hunting down some cable cutters. Whisker's Punsen cracked an injector line on the way to Newland's Corner and Teun's rear tyre was punctured with a rivet. Thanks to Mike for sorting that at his garage, despite being on holiday! Mouse also did some work on a Yamaha V twin petrol machine that had some kind of sparkplug problem. Thanks to the on site motorcycle repair shop that supplied chain lube etc to some of our guys.

Teun Luigjes picked up a rivet on the first day of the rally.

Arild Johanson also came along with Teun only his machine was petrol powered. He is a fellow rally organiser too!

Thanks to everyone for coming along and camping! All the money collected for camping fees went to the Estate which is a registered charity for Merchant Seamen War Memorial Society. We're pleased to say that £855 was raised by the 2013 Big Knock event! And that we've been invited back :-)

The money raised for the venue charity.

And finally a shot showing why we had to move the rally venue a little ways North. The pub is now open again but it was too late for us on the day. We wish the new Landlord all the best and would of course recommend the Bat & Ball as a good event venue.

The Bat and Ball has now re-opened!

As always, thanks to everyone who came along and made it all happen. Thanks to Chris for taking & submitting most of the pictures here and to those that helped out along the way. There were a few things like the bar not opening Friday afternoon and running out of toilet paper one time but we'll try and arrange things better next year on that front. See you all then!

On ward and upward - I think Sönke enjoyed his breakfast!

If you want to stage an event why not book it in at the Springbok Estate ? Check out their web site or call them on 01403 752555. It is an excellent venue set in the beautiful West Sussex Countryside with fields for camping and caravans.



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