British Diesel Motorcycle Rally 2015

As has happened before, most of the rally planning was taken up with concerns over whether the pub venue would actually be open in time for the event. Refurbishment had started some weeks before the rally and I was constantly riding to The Wisborough (as it is now called) to check on the progress. We need not have feared though because it opened slightly ahead of schedule and had some much appreciated new facilities to offer. For years we (and probably anyone else who stayed there) had been asking for a better toilet and shower block and now we had it! It was so new that things were being added as we set up! Other additions included new toilets upstairs within the pub, a restaurant, courtyard with electric roof out back and much landscaping about the place in general. All this means the pub will certainly be open for a few more years at least so the future looks bright for everybody concerned.

The first run to the Chalet Cafe, early in the week. Four diesel motorcycles rumble into life.

My brother and I had arrived in the field Tuesday beforehand just in case any early birds showed up. As it was we had to wait a day or so before the first arrivals rolled in. We heard the unmistakable ‘knock, knock, knock’ and a toot of a horn as Matt flew past on the B2133 just the far side of the hedgerow with Edwin in tow and turned in at the access road. I’d only seen the unique M*A*S*H diesel motorcycle in Hamm before and it was great to see it roll in through the gate in England. It was this small band of diesel bikers that ventured out the next day on the A272 over to the Chalet Café for what was to be a regular ride for the guys.

First time at the English rally - the M*A*SH* diesel motorcycle.

Soon after Arno arrived and later rode to collect his partner who had flown into Gatwick. Later Sonke arrived with AC/DC beer for Jeff (who plays in a tribute band)

Sonke sporting a strange addition to his bike which I'm told produces hydrogen?

It was unseasonably cold this year at the rally. We had a bright, sunny rain free day on Saturday, our main day, but other days were punctuated by some heavy downpours which saw bikers taking shelter in tents and under the porch of the new shower block. Friday was one such day. Others, of course, sensibly chose the pub! Much of the work done on The Wisborough included digging up the fields to put in decent drainage and this seemed to have helped keep things good in the field. At one stage I ventured out into the pouring rain on hearing the unmistakable sound of approaching Diesel engines. It was Uwe in his sidecar outfit with another behind, both thoroughly drenched after their ride over from Germany. We laughed, shook hands and I motioned them to go anywhere in the field, stepping back as they both roared away past me, mud flying into the air.

Uwe's Diesel sidecar outfit over from Germany. He arrived as the rain poured down Friday.

Earlier Friday we had abandoned any idea of riding out in the damp weather and walked on mass to the nearby Fishers farm for a breakfast. I took the opportunity to talk about things technical with Russ over my double egg on toast fortified with coffee and a spare pot of tea that was going free.

The weather was changable either side of Saturday but sunny on the day that mattered. Phew.

Top marks to my brother Jeff for taking a turn on the BBQ again this year. Several trips to the shops were required to get burgers and baps for rally goers. Long after the food had been consumed the fires burned on, this time fuelled mainly by some specially compressed wood logs that really did chuck out the heat and a lot less embers. Not long before the rally I had been surprised to see that Steve (Kubota Enfield), another rally regular, had unveiled a Daihatsu based project not dissimilar to my own. He had been lucky enough to snap this unfinished affair up on eBay and is in the process of fitting a sidecar to it. We discussed the merits of the little Daihatsu 1 litre engine and the fact that I had managed to acquire two of them in recent months! I seem to remember the demise of the Honda CG125 being spoken of wistfully too! A bullet and idiot proof bike if ever there was one! Standing round the blazing remains of the BBQ late into the night, beers in hand, discussing motorcycles old and new is what it's all about. I wasn't the only one to feel like my legs were about to drop off with fatigue! Note to self: Must provide more seats next year!
We welcomed our clothes seller Paul back again this year and he set up by our tents again. He sells a variety of biker jackets and clothes and he helps with T shirt sales too. I hope it was worth it for him this year.
In the top corner of the field Chris and Al were holding court and dishing out supplies. They had bought some milk and I handed out several cartons to the guys for their tea and coffee. As last year, Chris used his woodman’s Kelly Kettle to constantly heat water for everyone in the immediate vicinity. Unfortunately the rather gusty wind blew hot embers over the blow up sofa being used and it went pop. Diesel Dave supplied a puncture kit and anyone using it on subsequent nights did their fair share of patching and praying!

The best bit about the rally - sitting round a fire talking motorcycles.

Every year I look for a subject or theme to explore when it comes to writing up the event. It has to be something blindingly obvious, something that just gets everybody’s attention and just can’t be ignored. This year was thankfully easy because of the preponderance of Kubota twin diesels about the field had everyone talking. Now we'd always seen Steve up from Somerset on his homemade Enfield Kubota machine and of late, Russell had been favouring this engine too. But this year Mick had brought along a Kawasaki in blue that had a Kubota twin at its heart, Whiskers had given up on the Chinese Punsen V that powered the Harley Dieselson & fitted the Kubota from his old Aixam car and Tim had begun favouring the twin over the Kubota triple!
Everybody but everybody was seeking reliability, cheapness and availability and the little parallel twin diesel had shone through every time. Talking to the owners/builders I was told a story or two about the engines steadfastness over distance and even how one machine could pull 70mph which is going some considering.

The Harley Dieselson, now bereft of the unreliable Punsen V twin & using an Kubota Z482 engine.

Obviously, with a field full of heavily modified machines, there was going to be some interesting things to be seen and again, the Kubota engine was before me. Russ delighted in showing me what has to be my favourite innovation at the rally, his water heated handlebars. He was cunningly using the car heater matrix input & output openings of the Kubota Z482 engine to pump hot water North! He tells me that he purchased some small diameter tubing from B&Q, drilled the bikes bars and inserted the rods in from the centre out. The ends were opened up to resemble flower petals and then pulled in before the bar ends themselves were sealed. After they had been brazed into place pipes were then connected sending hot water down the centre of the bars to the ends where it returned against the inner surface of the outer bar thus warming the grips in the process. The whole thing was finished off with a washing machine pipe tap on top to switch the whole thing on and off. I have heard stories of many a biker leaving his electric heated grips switched on and running the battery flat but that could never happen here. Top marks for innovation! I really need this kind of energy saving stuff on my modern bike! Incidentally, Russ had a rather eventful trip to the rally when, having crossed the Seven bridge out of Wales, he lost all his coolant when a washer decided to let go on the engine. He had to crack open a few cans of beer to top up the bike to get him back home fix it. There were smiles all round when we were told that the Police had stopped briefly to see him, beer in hand, at the roadside, fixing his machine.

Checkout the brazed on tubes - they supply hot water that heats the bars. Love the tap!

Russ shared his bike between us and the Rat & Survival bike bash further up country that weekend.

Saturday afternoon saw plenty of sun and plenty of interaction going on across the rally field. Some of the guys were giving their kids a lesson in motorcycle riding and others were taking friends on trips up the road outside. I glanced over down the field and saw Albert doing what I’d seen him do in Hamm, cook his food on the fold down number plate ingeniously fitted to his machine. It was noted that he now had a long range thank fitted – ideal for touring.

Albert using his ingeniously crafted table to cook up.

T shirt sales picked up as the weather did and I eventually sold enough to cover costs. Only one person was disappointed when we ran out but things are underway to rectify that! (I eventually had an image sewn onto a sweatshirt and shipped to Germany as a special one off). Thanks again to David, Stateside, who helped out with the artwork again this year. Our T shirts were supplied by Asylum from Piltdown, East Sussex.
At the last minute the pub had asked my brother to collect camping fees but we had managed to negotiate the price down for bikers to £10 a night which was much more reasonable that the mooted £20 or £15 spoken of earlier. We’d also been instructed to keep four wheeled vehicles out of the Motorcycle even field, something we almost but never did quite achieve.
Things can get pretty lively for an organiser when I get a que of bikers wanting shirts! No time to eat, make a drink and do the other essential things in life and with a few persistent problems not going away, well, it was getting stressful at times.

Saturday’s runout plan went rather square shaped again when Jeff put the feelers out to what or where everyone fancied doing. The word back was ‘breakfast’ and so that was set. And then it was noted that because of the good weather the café might be very busy and so it was decided by common consent that we would leave earlier. For some reason everyone decided to then leave a little earlier still and so the ‘Big Knock’ happened closer to 9.15 am rather than 10am. I later learned that several riders had missed out because of this and another smaller outing was arranged for Box Hill. Apologies if you missed the ride out because of these changes. We have been told that from a legal standpoint it is best not to have planned rides as that makes us liable for things. It will continue to be as random as it always has been in future years I’m sure and I would encourage all to come and camp at the rally so that nobody misses out on the action for whatever reason.

Diesel motorcycles galore. The Chalet Cafe hosted us on more than one occasion this year.

After a hearty breakfast and some chat and photographs over the bikes, we took off for Henfield and the local filling station. Once everyone was tanked up Jeff and Sue on the Ruggerfield headed South to the foot of the South Downs Hills and hugged the sunken roads back West. The side cars amongst us had the hardest time coping with the narrow, tree covered lanes and oncoming cars but scraped through ok. I was feeling the benefit of having a lighter, Lithium battery in the diesel Tiger, the bike being ever so more nimble than on previous tours down tiny roads.
Several times I felt the need to pull out and halt the traffic just to try and keep the pack together and I was aided in this endeavor by the fearless Dutchman, Alex, who did likewise. Partway through the ride we got stuck in traffic at roadworks in Storrington but before long we were off again, this time to somewhere we know well, Bury hill. This turned out to be a short stay only as someone wanted to use the toilets there. I took the opportunity to spread the word about the rally, encouraging some of the many bikers already there to ride over to The Wisborough before we again set off. Heading down the hill we turned left up past Bignor Roman Palace and continued along the foot of the hills until we turned off to Petworth and made our was back to the site via Kirdford.

The very useful Diesel Dave came to the rally on the much modified Sluggy, a venerable old Diesel motorcycle that has had much renewed on her in recent times. She was hardly recognisable with her new tank, seat and engine! I said very useful because Dave again went above and beyond the call and fixed several troublesome motorcycles. The first was Tony's Matchless which sports a Fuji Robin engine and had started blowing fuses and melting wire on the said Saturday breakfast run to the Chalet Café. It transpired that wires had been trapped under the tank and had shorted to the frame. While we were on the second leg of the runout, Dave had returned to camp and was about to fix his second bike. Len had ridden up to the rally from Chichester and broken down just outside Wisborough Green. He'd pushed his bike up the hill and left it by the shops before making his way to The Wisborough Pub only he'd taken a wrong turn and it took him a while to get there! Again Dave came to the rescue and rode out to fix this bike. In his own words: "The problem turned out to be a loose rocker bar which caused a pushrod to jump off its seat - something to watch out for if you have a Yanmar clone engine as that bar is only held by a single large bolt and this is not the first I've heard of it coming loose. Still no harm done and we soon had his bike running once more."

Dave helps locate a fault with Tony's Matchless. Get in there!

Tim is fast turning into something of a serial Dieselbike builder and it was good to see his latest creation at the Big Knock this year. In his own words I’ll let him describe it.
“The latest is a kubota z482 500cc twin with a Chinese cloned turbocharger (RHB 31). The frame is stock and the gearbox is the original Superdream crankcase grafted with the 482 engine where the crank used to be. The engine fitted the opposite way round to sort out the primary tooth belt direction of travel. Good bits being the 6 speed box and the funny noise of the turbo makes if you ride it hard. The bike isn't too heavy and feels well balanced. It’s the fastest diesel I have built so far! It will consistently pull 65 mph and on the way back from the Big Knock heading into Wincanton it peaked at 77 mph and still gave 105 mpg so pretty chuffed about that.
The turbo bit is still at the tinkering stage and currently set to approx. 4psi , with increased fuelling tot it will rise to 14 psi and beyond but I quickly worked out that it would be likely that I would be pushing it home with a piston in my hand. Maybe time to play with the boost pressure when all has settled down as the Big Knock was its first real outing.

The clutch rattles on idle and is something to fix which is annoying rather than a problem.
An interesting fact being is it still retains its original engine number as the grafting is just in front the original engine number, so isn't It just a modified Superdream engine?
Changes for the production of the next bike would be 20 mm primary belt as the 30mm is a pig to mount into the clutch cover and close to the intercooler.”

Tim's latest creation.

Tom also had a problem with his girlfriend’s stock Suzuki SV650 blowing its regulator and subsequently cooking the bikes battery. After phoning about Jeff took Tom out in our back up van to Bol D'or Motorcycles who managed to supply a battery. But the guys had to travel much further down to Wemoto in Shoreham near Brighton to get a new regulator. Incidentally, Tom spotted a vintage Hondamatic 750 at Bol D'or motorcycles and bought it on the spot.

Fixing a petrol motorcycle. The regulator on the SV650 cooked the battery.

There was also a problem with one of the earlier builds made by Tim when a pulley wheel decided to sheer off. I was asked if I had a washer to use as a temporary fix but alas I had none. I gather a repair must have been fashioned though as I think the motorcycle left under its own power.

And so good to see Hubert Tellers BMW Lombardini at the Big Knock for the first time. I've seen this machine at the Hamm rally many times and along with everyone else, I've admired the build quality every time I set eyes on it. I think I'm right in saying the Lombardini LDW602 engine is now available marked as a 702.

Great to see Hubert's Modite1 in the UK for the first time.

A closeup of the Modite1 engine. A very fine job indeed I think you'll agree.

A full view of the Right side.

Talking with Hubert regarding my own BMW based project enlightened me regarding rear axle bevel drive gears and I learned that he was collecting names with the intention of getting more sets cut. I immediately put my name down for some and hope that the numbers increase so that this will become a reality. There was some concern on my part regarding the interchangeability of the bevel gears between his R series bike and my K series but Bernt, owner of a 'K' seems to be in on the deal so we'll see how it goes.
Talking to other guys, they've told me how hard it is to make these kinds of gears. It is a real art and very difficult to temper the metal to the correct harness was the conclusion.

Now our good friend Whiskers is notorious for giving what he perceives as annoying people short shift. If he's been asked the same question regarding his bike, tenfold, then he's very likely to blow a gasket himself if some completely innocent member of the public should pass by and repeat the question for the eleventh time. And so it was with some alarm that I saw big Mick from Ireland approach our hairy friend with the sole purpose of engaging him in conversation. Whiskers, who was sitting resolutely behind a large paperback book, was peering sternly over the top of his tome at anyone who even looked remotely like engaging him. Luckily the questions offered were about spare Aixam car parts, the engine in Whiskers bike having come from one of these vehicles. Gearboxes, doors, etc. were mentioned and I gather some arrangement was agreed upon whereas parts would be sold. This was not the only deal done on site during the rally either. I’m glad someone made something on the day!
I had also collected a dongle that had been purchased by a member of our group and should aid in the remapping of Smart engines. Onward and upward!

Mick's Kawabota diesel motorcycle over from Ireland for the rally.

Later I saw Whiskers riding out with Bert on the back of his machine. They went tearing off up the road and I prayed for their safe return! The Kubota driving through the CVT seemed to be more reliable than the old setup but whether it was as torquey as the Chinese V twin I do not know. Maybe I should have volunteered for a ride on the back of the Dieselson? Maybe not! The belt drive on this bike was rather exposed and I was told that having caught his knee on it once, Whiskers was not about to do it again!

Tom's diesel motorcycle has been to the UK rally on several occasions.

Always great to see the regulars like Dan who this time persuaded his family to come along. We saw those who’d enjoyed the social side of things last year return and promise to venture out to Hamm even. It was good to catch up with Teun and talk about things away from motorcycling. Other regulars included Ian up from Brighton, Paul down from Scotland now he tells us. Rudi,Kevin and Alex, Tony the Triker running on chip oil and Tony on the early Ernie Dorsett Matchless diesel complete with trailer.

Tony, as always, was running on veggie oil! Smell those chips!

I’m also grateful for those who provided support vehicles should we need them. Chris very kindly brought along his 3 Ton Range Rover, a vehicle capable of pulling any, and I do mean any, offending camper van out from the mud. Also very grateful to see Alan, Chris, Andy, John, Debs and Rob come over and take an interest. Thanks to Kat for the weather flashes via text. Also grateful to the regular who bought along a couple of engraved glasses. We handed these out to deserving people! And again, thanks to photographer Chris who again took some wonderful shots of the event.

It was good to see an ecorider at the rally for once. Some lucky people even got a go on it!

I was slightly envious I must say when Chris blagged a ride on an Eco Rider diesel bike that was displayed for a time on Saturday. We’ve never seen one of these at the rally and the owner had it up for sale. And I was very grateful when Russ spotted what could have been a real party pooper for someone when he saw a serrated nail sticking a good 1 inch up out of the wooden planking directly in front of our entrance. He told Chris about this and it was coned this off to prevent punctures galore until we found something to bash it down with.

Sonke and Jeff with his AC/DC beer!

As the Sunday rolled on I awoke to find some guys had left already. We stayed a final night into Monday to make the most of the weekend and I think I’ll do that again next year. Thanks to those who walked the field with me picking up litter. Thankfully there was very little as always and we left the field cleaner than we found it. I’m glad to say that despite a few hiccups we made a good impression on the new owner and have been invited back next year.

Ian's Sommer Hatz diesel motorcycle by Jochen Sommer.

Additional pictures from the rally.

Bernt's Daihatsu K series diesel bike.

Albert & partner, all the way from Austria.

Taken at the Chalet Cafe, Bernt & Edwins bikes.

Mick's Kawabota on a rather wet Friday.

Rudi, joined by Arno & wife, pours out some hot water for a cuppa.

The bikes riding into the Chalet cafe.

The diesel Enfield is and will always be a common sight at the rallies.

Dave's diesel sidecar outfit.

The new shower block gave some good shelter during a shower.


Setting up!

Tony's Matchless dieselbike, an original built by Ernie Dorsett.

Alex is selling this (at the time of typing) so checkout ebay!

The M*A*S*H* T-shirt.

The runout organiser!

A big thank you to everyone who made it what it was and see you all next year!





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