British Diesel Motorcycle Rally 2017

Tony's Innova outside the Bat and Ball.

We arrived on site a tad early this year, mainly because the weather looked so good and we were eager to get set up to welcome any other 'early birds'. This was the first time we'd dealt with Richard, the new landlord of the Bat & Ball and it was an absolute pleasure to deal with someone who has such a hands on approach. Despite our early appearance, he lost no time it sorting the field out by cutting the grass & moving out a couple of black sheep that had been penned in along the roadside hedge. I couldn't help but think that there'd be a few dozen more 'black sheep' of a different variety turning up very soon!
The centre of the field was also a place that we needed to be mindful off as it was undergoing some work as a previous bonfire had destroyed the grass which had been re-sowed. We taped this area off to help Richard here and a few of the lads later emptied their excess water on the scorched grass seed which helped I hope.

The rally field

Before long the bikes started rolling in through the gate and everyone followed last year’s routine of either setting up centrally or around the edge of the field. Access these days is through the new pub car park in the bottom of field one before getting to field two, the rally site.
Matt, Sönke, Alex and Bodo were some of the first to arrive along with John from up north and Anton on his modified Innova. Anton is something of a legend on the Innova forums and has travelled the length & breadth of Europe on it. Complete with its BMW fairing, his machine cannot be easily mistaken for any other! Matt, I was pleased to learn, had, like many of us, decided to quit smoking and I must say he looked the better for it.
Mike too turned up early with his 400cc Yanmar Enfield conversion strapped down safely in the back of his van. It didn't take long before his uncompromising way of putting things had me in stitches.
"I'll not be riding to Brighton again," he said plainly. "Last time there I hadn't even got off the bike before I had my arse felt."

Diesel Dave takes Mike's chopper for a spin.

I promised him that we were indeed going elsewhere and had a chat with my bruv Jeff regarding runout destinations. This is always a hot topic between us and being brothers you can imagine that there is always a degree of disagreement on this subject. Each of us always hammers out the pros and cons of the route and destination with me stressing to keep it simple and scenic. Jeff's approach has always been more spontaneous and 'spur of the moment', as some of the more seasoned 'Big Knockers' will know. There's nothing worse than the line of bikes getting broken up, usually by excess cars traffic at junctions. To cater for the worst case scenario we have riders who will assume the lead until order has been restored and this did indeed happen a few times this year. We always seem to muddle through.
Before the rally kicked off I thought it wise to put out a list of likely destinations on the Dieselbike Facebook page and was heartened when some of the guys punched this data into their satnavs and navigation devices. I've been steadily adding to this list and It'll probably see the light of day again soon in a much modified state.

We were aiming to take the guys to several new places but parking issues cropped up about a week beforehand and so this year’s locations were decided upon almost as a spur of the moment thing (!).
Of course, the local Chalet Café has become a firm favourite and so both runs started with a relatively straight ride East down the A272. Once in the Cowfold area of West Sussex we turned right towards Henfield and made our way to the transport Café where we all tucked into a large breakfast.
Everything went smoothly until I noticed Mike eyeing up the prices.
"£7 for a fooking omelette," he exclaimed. "I can get one for £3 in Withersoons."
As you can imagine, the counter staff were not impressed by this and told him where to go! Thankfully, a cheaper solution was found on the menu and a potential flashpoint was avoided.
On the following day I asked Mike to keep his head down as far as the lady behind the counter was concerned and he said, "Don't you worry, lad. Just you watch, she'll be all over me like a rash."

Teun gets a lift from Landlord Richard!

There's always a little mechanical drama of one sort or another at The Big Knock and this year it was supplied by Edwin who got a flat tyre 40 miles out from Dover.
I first knew of this when I received a call from Edwin as I was chatting with Anton in the pub. He was trying to contact Matt who didn't have his phone on and so after Anton had partly translated for me I went in search of him.
Sönke also helped out here telling Edwin that his breakdown cover would be honoured in Britain but that it would take a few hours for confirmation between the various services.
As it was, we later heard that he had been collected by our AA only to have that particular drivers shift end before he had been brought to the Bat & Ball. Consequently, he had been off loaded and had to wait for another driver who had to come down from North London!
He eventually arrived on site, the AA van also being followed by his son on another diesel Enfield, way after darkness had fallen.

A flat tyre caused this breakdown vehicle to come to the rescue.

The driver thus unloaded the bike surrounded by twenty odd blokes all of whom were very interested in the methodology of it all. That fact that they had been drinking heavily also added to the fun!
The following day we supplied Edwin with a spare inner tube from the Ruggerfield’s tool kit. We also had a decent pump on hand to inflate the tyre after Diesel Dave had given those present a quick lesson on how to do it. Incidentally, the spare inner tube that we supplied had been to the Hamm rally and back more times than I could remember so it was perhaps fitting that this time it was going back to Germany to stay.

How to change a tube!

For our Friday runout we settled on taking the boys north to Verralls Motorcycle Shop in Handscross. It was an easy and scenic route up from the Café and from past experience. I knew it would be of interest to any and all motorcyclists. Its location was also a little different, it being situated off the high street and up a very quaint and very small Cul de sac. And the motorcycles on sale here are some of the most sought after on the market.
I'd phoned Verralls the day before to check it was ok to bring the chaps along but hadn't managed to get through. But I phoned again from the Café and they were only too happy for our little party to drop by as long as we didn't crowd out the maintenance men working on a nearby house.

Many thanks to Verralls for allowing us along. We must return!

When we did arrive, less than half an hour later, I think we'd made the right choice because the cameras came out and the boys started snapping away at the vintage bikes big time.
Verralls is the complete opposite of a modern motorcycle dealer. They do things the old way and entering the workshop and showroom is like stepping back in time. This is living motorcycle history before your very eyes and I think everyone was blown away by the Brough Superiors, classic Indians and other machines that lined up down the showroom.
I neglected to mention earlier that this year, rather than bring one of his two diesel motorcycles over, Sönke had decided to use an old DKW for the trip. It so happens that we know John, a local restorer of classic bikes who has a similar machine and so we arranged a meet up at the shop.

So many classics at Verralls. Do checkout the website above.

After some close inspection, It turned out that both DKW's had very similar frame and engine numbers which lead the lads to surmise that the bikes were probably stored in the same building after manufacturing back in 1940!
Sönke even produced laminated paperwork showing first registration dates, official stamps and like. And the bike, having covered less than 10,000km, was technically still under guarantee! Chris was joking that we were still within our rights to go knocking on Aldi's door if we had a problem!

Two very similar DKW motorcycles!

We thanked Verralls for their hospitality and promised that we'd definitely return. This place, after all, was akin to hallowed ground as far as motorcyclists are concerned. Verralls in return said that it was great to see so many foreign plates lined up outside the shop. It's likely that this will be the main Saturday runout destination in 2018 because those guys who arrived Saturday missed out on this.

Preparing to leave Verralls

Next, with everyone firing up their bikes, the quiet, little Cul de sac instantly became the noisiest little Cul de sac before Jeff lead the way out and over to Pease Pottage Services where several of the chaps re-fuels their machines.
From there were rode the back lanes North of Horsham going through, Faygate, Rusper and Ockley before picking up the old Roman road, Stane Street and returning to the Bat & Ball.

The Zeus once again at the Bat and Ball.

Saturday’s runout again took us straight to the Chalet Café where there was an increased wait for food as numbers were up.The weather was again excellent and so Jeff settled on taking us all to a local beauty spot on the South Downs, range of hills stretching along the Sussex coast.
This entailed us riding directly South to the Poynings mini roundabout and then up the wooded hill. We couldn't help but see that one of our guys had stopped to chat up a pretty hiker halfway up but I'll not mention no names!
We took a slightly longer route to the popular viewing point because the short cut was situated just before the main road disappeared over a brow and Jeff figured this would not be a great place to have our chaps peeling off in ones and twos against faster vehicles approaching unseen.

Line up at the Chalet cafe.

I was worried about parking at Devil's Dyke but needn't have been because as I rode in from the rear of the pack I could see everyone parking up along the road right opposite the pub. The fact that the road was lined with double yellow lines didn't bother anyone so I guess it didn't bother me either!
We certainly picked the right day for it because the views were pretty breath-taking. Looking North across the Weald we could see the Northern range of hills and down below all manner of activity. Before us, looking like little white specs, we could just make out a game of cricket being played and above, the paragliders were floating about without a care in the world.

Mikes bike at Devil's Dyke.

I heard Sam commenting on why the British were so fascinated by the game of Cricket. He said that we only liked it because, when the old licensing laws were in place, it was the only place a bloke could get a bloody drink!
The route back took us down the hill in a northerly direction before we turned off left to wind our way along the foot of the Downs hills and through Poynings village. These tree covered roads are a firm favourite with everyone I think and Jeff led us back to the rally site along more than a few of them.

Great day at Devil'd Dyke. Here looking North to the North Downs.

The afternoons on both Friday and Saturday were laid back affairs with everyone taking in the sun and the bikes. A steady stream of bikers would come and go, some going out for supplies whilst others exchanged rides and tested each other's bikes up and down the local roads.

Early on there was some discussion about getting supplies for the BBQ and our German guests started referring to cheese as either analogue or digital. This tickled us Brits somewhat and I made sure to buy some purely analogue slices in the shop that same day as I'm not a fan of the processed crap. When I later proclaimed my healthy purchase I was told that I had in fact misunderstood and that whereas digital described cheese straight from the cow, analogue actually meant it was processed! I gave up trying to understand the logic of it all at this point!

Looking after the field and growing the grass back.

At one stage Mike P and family kindly gave us some excess fresh bread and cheese. Being ravenously hungry at the time and not having a knife to hand, I'd simply taken a huge bite from the yellow stuff and re-wrapped it up meaning to polish it off later. This came back to haunt me though when Jeff was methodically making preparations to feed the 'five thousand' that evening. Sitting about the BBQ, he'd carefully unfurled the cheese only to reveal my incriminating teeth marks in it and holding it up for all to see. I sheepishly admitted my guilt to a chorus of good humoured derision.

Preparing to leave the cafe.

Understanding everybody's languages can often be a source of confusion and hilarity in the same measure. When northern Mike sat down before the sizzling BBQ pork meat and enquired as to whether he could have a 'widow's memory', this caused more than a few puzzled looks to pass between our foreign guests. Much laughter followed when it was discovered that he was on the scrounge for a sausage!

BBQ's were had almost every night.

Given that I was doing the rounds some, I didn't hear all the conversations that took place about our BBQ's and fires but I was privy to a few over the course of the rally.
Topics were plentiful and wide ranging, focusing on anything from the fuel & housing costs associated to living in various countries to British and German tongue twisters.
Two that will remain with me from one particular night were the home-grown:

'I’m not the pheasant plucker, I’m the pheasant plucker’s son, And I’m only plucking pheasants 'til the pheasant plucker’s come.'

And the equally hard to repeat, German tongue twister:

'Blaukraut bleibt Blaukraut und Brautkleid bleibt Brautkleid!'

I'm grateful to Peter Seltzer for spelling out that for me and I challenge you all to repeat it after a few beers!

Of course, everyone was exchanging ideas regarding the bikes and passing on wisdom and lessons learned. I picked up some good advice on K100 bikes from James Mather after he'd fitted a Smart engine to such a bike.
Points such as the instrument relay condition and tank corrosion were cited as things to check before purchasing such a bike. It was interesting too to hear first-hand the problems he experienced whilst fitting the Smart engine. It should be noted by anyone looking to build similar that injector wiring was not as indicated on the drawings, cylinders 1 & 3 being reversed. I think I got the numbers correct there?

James brings his Smart bike build to the rally for the first time.

Sam Brumby, builder of three diesel motorcycles enlightened me to several things over the course of the rally but perhaps the most interesting was regarding as the cause of an unusual form of steering wobble sometimes experienced by diesel bikers alone. I was much interested to hear this having been troubled by such a thing at incredibly slow speeds on various Enfields I ridden. It puzzled me greatly at the time it happened because it got dangerously violent the slower the bike went until I was almost at a standstill. Then it was a case of the bike being loaded up which related directory to the then incorrect tyre pressure I guess.

A closeup of the smart engine.

I'm told that with your front tyre down a little and the slower revving diesel hitting the lower harmonic frequency, it's no wonder the resulting 'wobble' can be so epic. In fact it's probably more accurate to call it bouncing!
That's a better description of course, because it would be incorrect to term this 'speed wobble', given that it can occur when travelling at such a low rate of knots. But the forces present within a diesel engine go a long way to explaining why it can be so violent!

Sam also educated some of us as to the centrifugal nature of gear selection on early Kawasaki, siting that you had to achieve a speed in excess of 6mph before you could successfully change gears.
Obviously, this inbuilt mechanism potentially means more to those chopping boxes out to use on slower machines. And while that's not at all a common occurrence, even on our scene, it's something that should be noted by prospective diesel bike builders. I will add that those who have gone to the trouble of using standard Japanese boxes usually use Honda (because of the bike) or Yamaha - as seen at Hamm.

Tim loves his turbos!

Tim and his son made their annual pilgrimage up to the Big Knock again on this year on Super Dreams, a bike much favoured by him. I did over hear him talking about running the clutches dry and how it's important to know that oil is supposed to feed through a small hole to lubricate Honda shafts relating to said clutch and gearbox.
We also saw Fergus again this year on his Kubota Super dream. He has now fitted an Audi water pump to circulate the cooling fluids better to the rear mounted radiator.

Was good to see one of the original rally goers come to the Big Knock again in the form of Peter Seltzer, he of the laser cut primarily cased Enfield.
Pete told me he had actually intended to come a few years back but had lighting problems on the way when a fuse kept tripping out. After re-setting it many times he did it one last time and turned back for home. Of course, the problem went away then, never to return!

Peter's plaque! Have we really been doing this since 2005?!

Always good to see newcomers arriving on site and a few of us passed on some information and advice that I hope will be of use to these guys like Tristan. And always a little surprising when guys from the same motorcycle club miles away turn up independently and unknowingly pitch tents a stone’s throw from each other. This happened with James and Mike this year, both being members of the MZ club in their area.

The Rally wouldn't be the same without Steve coming up from Somerset on his Kubota powered Enfield. I've spoken before about the reliability of the Z482 engine and his bike just keeps going. He tells me that just like my own Daihatsu based project, it's taking some time for him to get finished on his other project with other things taking precedence.

Also sporting this Kubota engine was the Harley Dieselson, a bike put together by rally regular, Whiskers. This machine uses the CVT mechanism that you'll find attached to the engine in the Axiam car. If you're considering building a bike as a twist and go then you might want to consider this option.

Whiskers Kubota Harley Dieselson, a firm regular at the rally.

There was also a fair amount of information exchanged between the guys regarding camping and motorcycling products. I learnt that a rather expensive high backed chair ideal for touring was now available from Amazon at a knock down price and lost no time in trying out the one present.
I've found out over the years that it's really not wise to spend too much money on this kind of gear but of course, you can't spend too little either. Buy cheap, buy twice etc..

So, checking that it wasn't made from some rare form of 'Chineseium', I decided there and then to plum for one. I'd bought a lower chair for traveling a few years back but it was impossible to get out from whilst preparing food and was starting to bend in all the wrong places.
Gore-Tex is a firm favourite with bikers these days but others prefer waterproofing plain leather the traditional way with beeswax. I'd always warmed it up before application but was amused to learn that some of our visitors always warm their boots in the oven first. And I've learned that the aforementioned beeswax is known abroad as Artic Wax or Sno-seal.

Mike's diesel chopper recently featured in BSH magazine.

Was good to finally meet Ken who'd recently purchased a Track T800cdi from the Netherlands. Seeing as we too have such a bike, we'd exchanged various messages on the Dieselbike Facebook page regarding the fitting of U.K. Legal dip beam lights etc.
I also remember we discussed the importance of good tyres on such bikes given the extra weigh and stresses that will be experienced riding them. Even more important when Ken said he wasn't going to compromise his riding style for anything.

Ken attends his first rally with his Track T800cdi smart bike.

If there's anyone that can be guaranteed to be modifying his bike in between events then it must be Mike B. His chopper uses a Ruggerini engine similar to our very own Enfield and this time I was interested to see he'd routed air normally destined to cool the originally stationary engine straight into the intake. This was a seismic shift for Mike as he'd previously gone down the route of lightening flywheels by removing the air fins.
Now our Enfield routes air in a small way anyway but Mike had gone the whole hog and routed the lot in, apparently to good effect. It's the equivalent of a basic blower being fitted and makes use of ducted air otherwise being wasted.
Mikes diesel chopper can be seen in the April 2017 396 edition of BSH magazine.

Always a pleasure to see the organisers of the Hamm rally make it over and this year it was hugs all round when Rafael rolled through the gate on his BMW boxer.

Fergus displays his Kubota Honda with additional Audi water pump.

If you're new to reading these pages then you may well ask yourself why do we do it? Well, pushing alternative and homemade motorcycles to their limit across half of Europe is probably one of the biggest challenges going. The alternative scene is populated solely by diesel fuelled machines at present and we await the day when a home built electric machine comes along that can tackle such a journey without refuelling. Some of the Tiger based diesel bikes have a range of 550 miles on a single tank and there isn't anything out there on two wheels that will match them for speed and economy.

Peter's laser cut primary always catches the eye.

For those incapable of seeing the diesel motorcycles in any other light other than as being inferior to their petrol powered counterparts I would just like to say this.
I personally see the scene as a celebration of all things motoring, not just motorcycles. This is because early transport pioneers did not possess computer aided design packages to determine injection or flow patterns. They went out and bought ex War Dept Norton, disassembled them and rebuilt them to test the validity of their injection and piston designs. After successfully covering hundreds of miles on these diesel bikes they'd then extrapolate out these components to four cylinder car engines, a prime example of which is the Freeman Sanders Diesel Norton. Lessons learned from this bike made their way into the first London taxi cabs and cars. So next time you get behind the wheel of your car or truck, just remember where it all started and tip your hat to those people out there trying to keep our motoring history alive.

A classic diesel Enfield.

After the main days the rally started to wind down with some guys leaving early to catch their Ferries. Jeff made yet another run to the Chalet Café, this time with the two Smart engined bikes coming along before slowly working his way back to the site. I then had a few hours off site showing Chris the roads down to Bignor Roman Palace, a place he'd missed visiting the previous year. Afterwards we rode back via Sutton and the back roads north of the A272 section stretching between Petworth & Wisborough Green.
The good weather continued on into Monday and Sönke and friends stayed on, being the last to leave the site days later when unfortunately, the weather broke!

Once again I'd like to thank everyone that attended this year’s event. I hope you all enjoyed it, saw some interesting engineering and took away some good memories.
I'll give a quick shout out to my bruv Jeff here now because he did all the heavy work for me in setting up the tents etc. after I had sustained a shoulder injury weeks earlier. This was why my diesel Tiger didn't make it to the show this year.
I'd also like to thank our photographer, Chris Taylor for ferrying Jeff back to collect the Ruggerfield and for doing numerous trips to the supermarket to buy beef burgers I was aiming to feature his shots here but . Essential side stand wood and jump start services came curtesy of Chris the Coat and his huge Range Rover. Sometimes there is no substitute for having a vehicle like this close at hand!

Additional pictures from the rally.

#Sommer #Hatz #diesel motorcycle by Jochen Sommer.

The DKW ridden over by Sonke.

Original 1940's paperwork!

Thanks again to everybody for coming along and hope to see you all in Hamm!




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