British Diesel Motorcycle Rally 2019

Two HDT Diesel KLR's in the foreground with a petrol model at the rear.

The 2019 Big Knock Rally started like many of the recent events I’ve held at the Bat and Ball, with bikers in the field from as early as the Tuesday beforehand. It’s never a big rally of course, because there just aren’t that many diesel motorcycles out there, but the early starts have become something of a regularity in recent years and I’ve come to look upon them as the calm before the storm as it were. Not that there ever is much activity come our main days of Friday and Saturday but the smaller run-outs are far more personal and enjoyable for me with little or no worries of how to keep 25 or 30 diesel bikers from getting separated on the way to our various destinations. And the air is a good deal less smelly of course!

My brother Jeff was the first to arrive with a van full of essential kit such as beer, Rally T-Shirts and, er, more beer, along with tents, chairs, food and a small Honda Grom. This bike allowed him to return home and collect his Track T800cdi diesel bike. I would later bring over the trusty Ruggerfield, our 850cc twin cylinder Enfield conversion which this year, sports Indian made wheels as opposed to the English ones which rather expired and/or needed to be replaced since the last gathering.

Two Track T800cdi bikes attended this years rally.

Not long after Jeff had settled in, our mate Chris turned up with the essential marques and spare chairs before Matt, fresh off the boat the Germany rode through the gate on his Honda NC750s. Rudi, Thomas, Sönke, Bodo and Nazifa were the next to arrive signifying that the rally was well on the way.

Another early arrival was Mouse who came along on his huge monster of a machine. Splitting his time between us and the Rat and Survival show he lost no time in breaking out what is I think our first electric motorcycle. Now, we’ve seen a few homemade electric and hybrid bikes in Hamm down the years but never one here I think? But this machine was so small you could reasonably argue that it barely constituted a scooter let alone a motorbike or motorcycle!

Mouse brings his Golf bike s well as a tiny electric machine. See bottom of page.

Before long, everyone was taking turns squatting on the thing and doing bumpy laps of the field. It has a range of approximately eleven miles and, as we soon found out, didn’t hang about! At least one nameless person fell off it and I succeeded in grazing a knee at speed when I hurtled by a white marker post. We were all impressed by the power delivery of the tiny machine and debated what was to come.
I later talked with visitor Nick who said he’s seen an Enfield complete with a Nissan Leaf electric motor up at John o’ Groats one time. Apparently the bike had come up from Lands End on some kind of endurance run but had to be charged up every 50 miles or so. We’d like to see this bike in person and anymore self built electric motorcycles, so if you have constructed one, do bring it to the next rally please!

It was nice to see Abel Josselin return to the Big Knock, this time on his magnificent creation, a machine I’d last seen in Hamm back in 2016. Anyone who’s read the report of that particular rally will know his bike sports a 1.6d Mk2 Golf engine. Gearbox is a later Mk4 unit. Full details here.

Abel's master creation last seen in Hamm.

We also saw Mike visit the British meeting for the first. He rides his remarkably well made and clean combination to Hamm every year and is a well known figure on the scene over there.

Mike's diesel outfit last seen in Hamm.

Also over was Andre, the diesel racer I’d last seen gunning his Silver Enfield up the twisty road at the Gaschney Classic Hill in France. That event saw us celebrating his success together in a huge beer tent as a large screen down one end showed France emphatically winning the world cup.

Andre's Centaurus, last seen racing in the hills at Gaschney.

And without fail, rally regulars Teun and Ammy arrived before long, this time in Teun’s red sidecar diesel outfit. Anyone wanting to visit the Big Knock in future should consider phoning ahead and booking one of the traditional style caravans situated in the rear field. These offer a degree of luxury far above that of a tent!

Teun's outfit.

Good to see Ken again and also Mike P (along with family) who is something of a regular at Hamm these days too. We always have a laugh with him as he describes his epic red bull and pro-plus fuelled drives out to Poland in his motor and it’s on the return legs that he joins us at Brauhof Wilshaus.
It was Mike who received a message from Tony’s family telling us he wasn’t well enough to attend this years event. This was a shame as Tony is something of a fixture on our run-outs, the smell of burning oil from his exhaust reminding us of a fish and chip shop! We all wish Tony is well enough to perhaps attend Hamm as I know he scoped it out with us last year in preparation for a run over to the Continent on his diesel trike.

I’d learned that we were unlikely to see any Track T800s over from the Netherlands this year but that didn’t mean Jeff’s bike was going to be the only Smart car engined Dutch diesel on site! After getting a text and subsequently chatting with Phil from Market Weighton, I learned that a second British Track was heading our way and it was long before Phil and Mandy rode through the gate and introduced themselves in person. Phil had a friend bid on the Track at auction and picked it up for a reasonable price. Compared to my brothers machine there were subtle variations such as added panniers etc but they were both grey in colour and the most modern looking Dieselbike’s on site.

Phil and Mandy came along from Market Weighton on this Track T800.

T-shirts this year displayed a picture of Mike’s diesel chopper with Kevin’s trusty Enfield in the background. The shoulder flash displays the molecular structure of Diesel. Unfortunately Mike couldn’t make this years event but Kev is taking him a shirt back as he passes his place on the way down. Having sold his trusty Harley Dieselson to Matt earlier in the year, Whiskers and Sally made it over from East Sussex to see his old motorcycle once again. It tugged at my old heart strings said Whiskers as Matt rode out on it come the end of the event.

Matt arrives on the Dieselcon, a bike built by Whiskers.

Pleased to say that Steve again came up from Somerset with his trusty Kubota Enfield. Tim also rode up from that part of the West Country but due to time constraints couldn’t stay the night and rode his machine back the very same day, Saturday. That has to say something about man and machine doesn’t it?

Steve's Trusty Kubota twin cylinder Enfield.

Tim arrives Saturday.

I was very pleased to see a completely new bike to my eyes when Reg from Aldershot arrived on his creation. This bike also used a Kubota engine and had several Caller Gas bottles incorporated into the frame!

Thanks to Reg for bringing his creation over from Aldershot. It too uses a Kubota engine.

The ride-outs are a big feature of our little event and we take a bit of time picking destinations and routes which we hope will give our guys something to remember. Having had the rally at the same location for most of its existence we have, of course, pretty much runout of new locations to take the guys but somehow, we still manage to find something or somewhere that is different.
We have, in recent years, started our rides after a slap up breakfast at the Chalet cafe but that is quite a way from the site so this year we headed in the opposite direction to Kirdford and the village store there. This was not our main run you understand because this establishment does not cater for large parties and so early on, with lesser numbers, we descended in our normal noisy and smoky way to consume a small number of full, English breakfasts before riding on.

Various Enfield Diesel conversions lined up at Kirdford Village Store.

After leaving Kirdford Store we turned right and rode through Balls Cross and onto Petworth town centre before heading out West on the A272. After a short way we turned right at Tillington and headed North through Upperton on a small road which runs the entire length of the Petworth estate and ultimately ends near Lurgashall. This road is a favourite of mine being that it’s tree lined with a few twisty turns, tight bridge crossings and a few ups and downs thrown in for fun. The right side is defined by the old estate wall which seems to run almost the entire length of the road and has at least one folly style gate house on it. I can imagine it must’ve been some undertaking to build that wall!
At the top of this road we turned left and rode by the Noah’s Ark Inn on Dial Green Lane before hitting Jobson’s Lane and stopping off at the Blackdown Distillery. Here we were told all about the distilling process and offered a few samples. We walked away with a few bottles of their finest spirits and needless to say, these were sampled again back at the camping site.

Blackdown Distillery. You really must visit here.

Our return leg took us North from the distillery until we turned right onto the Shillinglee Road and the the Dunsfold road back to Plaistow, Kirdford and The Bat and Ball.
It was probably a good thing my bro wasn’t leading this particular ride as he was stung on the face by a wasp!

We had been offered a breakfast option by the pub on Saturday and so Friday saw me going tent to tent and taking names as to who wanted to partake before the run-out. As it was about fifteen of us entered the pub at 9.30 Saturday morning and down to be served a full English with coffee and fresh orange juice.

Dave's 'Sluggy the 2nd' creation.

There followed one of those periods when things really should have moved faster but, with bellys full and the morning sun blazing down, it took a little longer than expected to get everyone primed for the ride. Things were also slightly delayed when a party of passing European bikers bobbed their heads up over the hedge and then began turning back to visit the pub. I wish we’d had longer to chat with them and introduce them to the joys of diesel biking (and sell them a few T shirts too!) but it wasn’t long before they had to stand aside as everyone fired up their machines and the ‘Big Knock’ sound filled everyones ears.

Saturdays main ride-out followed Jeff on the Track T800 and took us down many tree covered and sunken roads south of the A272. We wound our way through the Sutton and Barlavington areas before looping round on roads near Duncton and finally finishing up at Whiteway’s Cafe on Bury Hill. I’d been texting with Alan up until this point and finally got to meet him and see his diesel Enfield on this most scorching of days. The tarmac was jammed full of motorcycles which was somewhat unusual for a Saturday but we al managed to park up successfully and certainly gave the other bikers something to see!

Bodo and Mikes outfits at Bury Hill.

Almost from getting off the Ruggerfield, I’d been getting messages about who was where and doing what and so, as last year, I was first to head off back to the rally pub to connect up with guests.

Sometime before the rally, I’d contacted ‘Hummer’ Mark regarding his brace of Army Diesel KLR’s and asked if he was able to bring them along to this years event. As luck would have it, he’d already found time in his busy schedule to do just that and was planning on coming Saturday. I lost no time in putting the word out that these rarest of motorcycles were due to make an appearance and sure enough, come the main Saturday, Mark arrived whilst we were halfway through our runout and set up the bikes by his van.

The latest spec HDT diesel KLR. Great to see these at the show.

As I arrived back ahead of the main pack I looked over the hedge and well, the sight of these bikes was just gorgeous. There, lined up across the centre of the field and lit up in the bright, midday sunshine were the three, lime green Kawasaki KLR motorcycles, two diesel and one petrol.
Straight away I was torn between meeting more visitors and viewing the Military machines but managed to do both in the preceding minutes.
Ruth had unexpectedly visited in an old German sidecar outfit so Chris and I looked that over along with some of the other visitors bikes that were now lined up on the corner of the gravel carpark.

I suspect the sight of the KLRs had the same effect on the other guys who returned soon after and lost no time in coming over to see the machines close up. When Mark came over from the pub he fired up the earlier of the two diesel KLR models he’d brought and let anyone who wanted ride about the field. Rudi, Bernt, Mike Steve and myself took turns to circle the field and weave between the tents and guy-ropes as everyone else looked on.

Bernt was one of many who got to ride these rare machines.

Having ridden one of these machines after they first came into existence I can say that the motorcycles present seemed far more refined than the bike I had ridden. The lightened flywheels spun up more freely as you would expect them to on a motorcycle and the tick-over seemed not nearly as slow as it was on the original bikes. It was great to get to ride one of these bikes again after so many years and I’m sure the others also enjoyed the experience - or should I save privilege?! A big thanks to Mark for making that happen.

An earlier model diesel KLR from HDT.

The history of the U.S. Military’s Diesel KLR is pretty chequered but, I was glad to see the bikes finally where they belonged, centre stage at The Big Knock. We have an old webpage dedicated to press releases issued from HDT regarding the KLR (in it’s many proposed guises!) and that page can be seen by clicking this link. These older pages were designed to be viewed with older browsers and therefore do not display as intended these days.

As we’ve done before, Jeff and I (and others actually) took turns in riding to the local supermarkets to buy burgers, rolls and cheese for the BBQ. Each night we’d cook them up and invite anyone and everyone over to have their fill. The pub hire out large fire pits these days and wood is available onsite to buy as fuel so there were no shortage of hot places to wander to after dark.

Each night saw us gathered round these fires talking the night away whilst listening to music played from Bodo’s Bose Soundlink Mini 2 bluetooth speaker set up. I supplied the sounds from my iPhone as the others music library had somehow been corrupted.
At one stage early on, the fire was seemingly reluctant to start so Andre pulled out his mattress inflater gun like a pistol and gave the embers a prolonged blast of air which, to the amusement of all, soon had the fire burning ferociously!

I believe in fires at midnight...

Having done the rally for the thick part of twenty years now, part of me was looking to perhaps take a backseat in future but these things have a life of their own and with people coming up to me saying this event was part of their life, well, it doesn’t seem right to change things because of other pressures. So we are already booked in for next year so put the 29th and 30th May 2020 in your diary now!

Apart from sampling the wares at the Blackdown Distillery and the Pub, I’m pleased to say that our German visitors also contributed in no small way to the alcoholic drinks supplied. Bernt had packed a crate of Einbecker beer on his K100 diesel conversion and Andre had brought along several bottles of Moritz Fiege Bernstein beer for Jeff and I. He’d also brought along something a touch more lethal, a bottle of single malt Decavo Hand crafted Whiskey. At 58.3% this liquor ripped our heads off. There was also a similar bottle of Decavo doing the rounds marked up as 47.3% but as Jeff remarked, this was for the kids. Not to be outdone, I did contribute a bottle of Black spiced Rum called Kraken but that only weighed in at a mere 40%. Strong enough anyway for a certain Dutchman to start a fire with it!

Gotta love German beer.

Incidentally, The Einbecker beer wasn’t at all easy to get hold of I’m told and was a couple of percentage points stronger than your average drink. Brewed by monks to be consumed more as a food than a drink (because they fasted a lot) I can personally testify that it did indeed make a very good substitute for food whilst I found myself too busy to cook.

Parked up in a field just after the Milland Country Show.

As a few of the guys over from the continent were leaving later this year we decided to have a smaller runout similar to those that had preceded the main event. Starting again from the Kirdford Village store, we headed firstly North, back to the Shillinglee Road, before heading West in the general direction of the Distillery. After dropping South at the ‘White House’ we avoided one closed road and turned West up Quell Lane and steadily climbed up and over that ridge of hills before dropping down to the main road South of Haselmere. We rode this South before turning West again at Kingsley Green and heading up and over the hills to drop down onto the road heading for the Milland Village store.

Checking out the Steam at Milland!

It only at this point that we realised we were missing Dave and Brenda! After a few frantic phone calls we discovered he’d suffered some sort of battery malfunction but had managed to secure the lone of a spare from a house along the way, the owner being into vintage vehicles himself.
I had originally intended all to grab refreshments here at Milland but seeing as there was a country fair on I decided to introduce our chaps the steam engines, wood carving and ferret racing that was on offer. Our stay was longer than expected due to us waiting for the arrival of Dave and Brenda but I think everyone enjoyed seeing something a little different.

Thanks to the guy who kindly lent Dave a battery!

The ride back saw us drop down to Midhurst Via Fernhurst on the scenic A286 before we headed back East on the A272. Taking the same road we’d ridden days earlier we headed up through Tillington and Upperton before turning right towards the A283 and North to Northchapel. Here we took Pipers Lane which lead us back towards Kirdford, Wisborough Green and the Bat and Ball.

A visitor's diesel Enfield.

Jeff and I stayed on for Sunday night cooking up more burgers and enjoying the fabulous food prepared by Bodo’s better half before, like everyone else, settling round the fire pit situated across the field.
The last night for us ended to the sounds of much debate, laughter and music from bands such as Jethro Tull and Dorking’s very own, The Prognosis. Slowly, one by one, everyone retired to their tents until I myself turned in around 2am.

As always, I’d like to thank Richard at The Bat and Ball for having us again, everyone who helped out and all those that rode great distances to attend the Big Knock this year. You make it what it is and it wouldn’t be half the rally it is without your being there.
Thank you all again and see you next year!

Additional images from the 2019 rally:

Mr Panzer's Daihatsu K series dieselbike over from Germany,



The mystery Football. Who posted it to us mid season from Germany??

Kev's diesel enfield.

Rudi's Sommer diesel bike.

#Sommer #Hatz #diesel motorcycle by Jochen Sommer.

Messing with a De-Blasi.

A visitors WW2 sidecar outfit.

Tom's bike at Bury Hill.

The breakfast run to the Chalet.

Our first electric bike?

Visitor bike owned by John.




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