British Diesel Motorcycle Rally 2020


Well, what can we say about 2020?! Like everyone I suspect, we were aghast as the Covid 19 pandemic laid waste to the years events calendar. Seeing our usual venue close along with everywhere else left us no choice but to cancel the 2020 Big Knock. As the weeks and months passed and venues gradually began to re-open, we began to entertain the prospect that it may indeed be possible to put on a small show, even if none of our friends from the continent could join us.

Visitors and diesel motorcycless together.

The problem was that with foreign travel restricted, the great British public had re-discovered their love of camping and The Bat & Ball was looking more busy by the day. If we were to salvage and organise something from 2020 we figured it would be best to self isolate the rally and do it away from Joe public. As luck would have it, we knew a man who not only had a private field on his campsite but was also a biker too. And not only that but he rides a new Royal Enfield Himilayan and had an old Diesel engine within an Aixam Mega Truck that was increasingly looking as if it might end up in a two wheeled machine!
So, with myself struggling with the website milarky, the fact that nobody may turn up and the very real prospect that we may have another Lockdown, we took the site owner Kevin up on his hosting offer and proposed date and decided to go for it. I will add here that the entrance to the site is at the exact point where an old railway line used to cross the A281 and although it affords an excellent and close by attraction, care must be take when turning into the site.

A big thanks to Chris for the marquee lender.

With several key British contributors isolating still, we managed to borrow a couple of marquees from them and, after figuring how two of us would get three diesel motorcycles and a van onto the site, posted the date sharpish and started putting the word out.
At this stage we were unsure as to T shirt production and design and so decided to go for a post rally production run rather than a pre-rally printing. As I type this report I have a few drawing ideas buzzing around my head with the knowledge that those that did make it along will be up for a shirt, posted to them after the event. Our usual printer is doing a deal on small numbers so we’ll be able to get those out free of charge.
So, come the Thursday beforehand, we took the loaded van & the M1030M1 over to the site and returned, 2 up on my Honda Grom to get the remaining two bikes, the Ruggerfield & the Track T800. I will mention at this point that the weather forecast for the weekend was probably the worse I’ve ever seen for a rally with thunderstorms predicted most days following the hot spell we’d had. It was no surprise then that on returning to the Riverside Farm venue, we got caught in an almighty downpour that soaked us to the skin. But nevermind eh, the rally hadn’t officially started just yet.
After setting up the two marquees and attaching the guttering (in the sun) we experienced another shower before we looked over and saw Diesel Dave trundling into the field in his camper van with his Kubota Enfield on a trailer.

Jeff gets the barby underway.

With the sun now shining and the air heavy with humidity, it wasn’t long before Mouse arrived on his giant 1.9 litre VW motorcycle, making the trip over from South Wales. He immediately made the mistake of pitching up under an oak tree and spent the next three nights being bombarded by acorns!
As the sun set it wasn’t long before beer cans began being cracked open and the sound and smell of sizzling burger meat envoloped those present. We passed the time by watching Dave expertly press out some beef burgers from some top grade beef mince.

One Friday morning we decided to go for a breakfast run to our usual Café, the Chalet. Being that we were now at a different venue, this made for a run down that was a bit different from our normal slog over on the A272 although we did end up doing most of the run on it. After observing the social distancing rules at the café we piled back onto the bikes and headed West to The Motorcycle Workshop at Bolney to see and share some banter with owner and mechanic, Tony.

After buying some chain lube, a tour of the garage during which the condition of several old bikes was discussed, we posed for a few photos & jumped on the bikes and headed back towards Horsham on some C roads through Maplehurst way before calling in at PD Customs & Public Enemy Customs. Surprisingly, the weather was good and we didn’t get rained on!

Parked up at The Chalet Cafe.

Back at the site we had a few visitors during the afternoon & prepared for the evening bbq & fire.
Before long were joined by Matt Flower riding his bike, Harley Dieselson, a Kubota CVT driven chopper style bike originally built by Whiskers. And then Steve & his missus rolled in from Somerset in his campervan with his own Royal Enfield Kubota in tow. Steve has been a regular from the early days and was in fine form throughout!

We stopped off at P & D Customs and Public Enemy Customs on our first runout.

There have been times in the past where Kubota based bikes were in the majority and although numbers were way down this year, it was looking as if the little Kubota Z482 was again going to be the most populous engine on site. This was well handy because site owner Kevin was eager to pick a few brains regarding his own engine (in the hedge) and we had enough experts on site now to give him a few pointers.
It was Saturday that we all marched over to the Aixiam in the hedge & offered some advice. Given that it was from a Mega Truck, some had speculated that it may possibly be a 600cc variant but, because the truck was old model, it turned out to be a Z482.

Kubota Z482. Lovely!

As we all settled in round the fire and the night closed in, another van pulled in and came to a stop close by. I suspected it was Jo & Steve from up North & was proved right on approaching and offering directions to the loos etc. I had had some previous contact with Jo after she had purchased a Greaves diesel Enfield with running problems. They’d had a long journey down from Cheshire & Lincolnshire & didn’t make the bbq the first night but we watched on as their motorcycle was unloaded, knowing that it would be the centre of attention come Saturday afternoon. Our time round the fire was made all the more interesting when Mouse unfurled an LED light strip programmed with countless colour patterns & routines. We laughed & joked into the small hours bathed in all the flashing colours of the rainbow.

Socially distanced round the fire - with LED's as well!

Saturday morning saw us eyeing the weather and planning a rather scaled down breakfast run. With a heavy, misty atmosphere (that wasn’t quite rain) in the air, we set off for the Tote Café after originally intending to go to the Kirdford village shop eatery. Our thinking there was that the Tote has better undercover facilities for diners and so it was proved.

About to pull away for Saturdays runout.

The run over took us through some different country lanes with Jeff leading on his Ruggerfield. There was only six bikes on this reduced run, myself on the M1030M1, Jeff on the Ruggerfield of course, Matt on the Dieselson, Mouse on his huge VW machine with Dave and Steve on their Kubota Z482 Enfields. Pillion passengers came along too with Steve & Mouse accompanied by their partners.
The ride there & back was ok, if a little moist, with the only incident involving the Ruggerfield when Jeff hit a slippery patch & almost lost the front wheel.

Light drizzle at the Tote cafe was the only rain we had on the rally.

Riding back onto the site I was pleasantly surprised to see Alex Lee who’s visited us on a previousl year riding his chopper. This time he’d come on something rather special, a huge machine constructed around a Ford 1.8 litre van engine. In an understated way he gestured to his machine and I almost didn’t clock it’s significance straight away, being that it was parked away from the centre of things. It wasn’t long before we had him fire it up & move it up the field always to line up with the other machines there.
With more than one person saying it was worthy of a place in a Mad Max film, Alex ran through some of the registration issues he’d had & went onto say that the Q plate chassis was constructed from 4mm walled boxed tubing. The front suspension was homemade and uses springs from a Fiesta.

Alex displays his amazing diesel outfit for the first time.

Len from Chichester had also arrived wearing a black, 10th anniversary T shirt and It was good to catch up after 12 or was it now 14 months?! He didn’t have his Enfield diesel this time so I assumed he’d been successful in selling it although I was distracted enough not to ask the question.
After Jo & Steve returned from their walk, exploring the abandoned railway track now bridleway nearby, Dave got permission to investigate their Enfield. After cracking a few fuel lines to let out some air, a swift few kicks had the bike roaring into life in a cloud of smoke and I think it’s an understatement to say it’s owners were more than just a bit happy!

Jo and Steve's Royal Enfield diesel is about to get a good seeing too!

Steve gets the bike into position.

Next up Dave had the primary cover off for adjustment & then the gearbox outer cover, exposing the selector mechanism. On closer examination it was clear that the central bracket connecting both gearbox & engine was loose & perhaps in need of packing washers. Some of the longer gearbox retaining bolts had bent ends & were hell for Dave to wind out. Hitchcocks to the rescue we surmised & supplied details & advice of what needed to be done in the future. You can only do so much in the field.

Diesel Dave makes a start.

Starting on the box.

As this was going on, site owner Kevin trundled over in his open backed truck with the now ‘extracted from the hedge’ Z482 & an old Cossack frame on the tale board. Matt lost no time getting his hands dirty ripping out all the unnecessary wiring & leaving the essentials in place. Yours truly took a wire brush to it and made sure it turned ok. We figured the Aixam Mega truck had probably ended up where it had, not due to engine trouble, but because the CVT drive had somehow let go. These can be notoriously hard to set up unless you know what you are doing.

The Enfield gearbox gets a seeing too.

Good advice was on offer regarding this lump as many there had ridden in on bikes powered by it. And even those who hadn’t ridden in on those bikes had previously built bikes using said engine so Kevin was all ears as details on various sumps & waterpump refurbishment procedures were spoken of. In short, the Kubota Z482 is a multipurpose engine used throughout industry in many different guises and is ideal for a diesel motorcycle project.
Dave, Steve and Matt has bikes powered by these blue in colour engines & Mouse had also used it before back in the days he’d towed a trailer cunningly constructed from a old oil drum.
As the evening came in, various people rode out to the local Co-Op shop at Rudgwick to get supplies, most of which consisted of both burgers & beer. The village is only about one mile away from the site & after cautiously negotiating the entrance anyone going could be back in no time at all.

Steve's bike and the dieselson.

This time, with others swelling our small numbers, we managed quite a group round the fire. Again we were illuminated by the LED strip lighting draped this time from an Enfield to my M1030M1 Kawasaki. And we also were joined by friends & rally regulars, Chris, Mike and Michael and I suspect, like all of us, they were pleased to be able to get out & socialise having been locked down for so long due to Covid-19.
During the evening various future projects were discussed and they weren’t all diesel. Mouse is contemplating a large, electric machine and, in keeping with the spirit of the event, explained that previously expensive electronic parts were now becoming ever cheaper and increasingly within reach of the everyday bike builder. And people like Damien McGuire were working closely with others to make electronics cheaper and more readily available & accessible.

Tim's bike.

Sunday saw the arrival of Tim on his Z482 powered Honda and I lost no time in offering him a blast about the field on my Military Kawasaki. I think he was impressed and I went into detail my trials regarding the sprocket ratios in an effort to make the bike (slightly) more road oriented and bring it away from its off-road origins.

Matt now owns the Dieselson built by Whiskers.

But back to Tim’s diesel Honda. This bike positively bristles with interesting things such as the turbo & front mounted inter cooler. Down below the Honda’s gearbox and clutch had been lovingly grafted to the Kubota twin. It was Mouse who pointed out the gas bottle arrangement inside & below the rear top box. When reaching a hill, Tim simply reaches back to turn on the gas for extra boost. The explosive substance was routed the length of the bike & directly into the front of the turbo as far as I could see. As we both looked under the rear box our nostrils were assaulted by the smell of this arrangement and reeling back in unison we questioned whether a leak was responsible?


Glancing around in those quieter moments at the meeting, it’s satisfying to see interactions happening between all the attendees and hearing ideas being discussed and future builds being talked about. Bringing and making cheaper and fun methods of transport more attainable to the average biker is what it’s all about and that can only be a good thing as the ideas for the construction of these machines is brought to a wider audience via rallies such as these.

Kevin's Kubota Z482 was hauled from the hedge & put near it's Russian frame.

As the rally winds down the site owner Kevin pulls up a seat and joins the thong. He tells me he has just read an article I’d published to regarding the purchase of the Ruggerfield at auction. I promise him a copy of an unrelated text I’d published previously on the local town of Horsham and, as of writing this, have yet to drop it off to him. He also wants a few patches and has expressed an interest in the Srocket, Britain’s biggest diesel motorcycle built by Whiskers & Brian. As of writing I hear that he is to go over and view this gigantic machine in Newick with a view to possibly purchasing.

Good to see Mike again, visiting on his classic with the project diesel back in the shed.

With everything up in the air this year because of Covid -19, the business of getting a commemorative T Shirt printed just didn’t happen beforehand. But I’ve since asked about and those that attended expressed an interest in having one so I had a chat with Esther & quick as you like, a couple of little designs appeared. These were then forwarded off to the printer and I now look forward to receiving 25 black shirts next week. For the first time I’m going to send these out for free saying get me a pint at the next Big Knock. This years rally so nearly didn’t happen that I felt we should make an effort and get something to remember the event by. The images will be small and printed on the left breast and right shoulder rather than emblazoned across the front. I feel it’s probably right to have something understated in these troubled times rather than a shirt that shouts ‘We did it!’

If anyone noticed that the Dieselbike website was a little slower than usual in posting dates changes and updates it’s because my licence expired on the webpage software so I hope to have this posted up soon by any method that I can use!
I’ll finish this report by saying a big thank you to everyone that made the effort to attend and saying we missed all our friends from the continent that normally travel over to make the Big Knock what it normally is. In the end, I think we just about pulled it off against all the odds and, although reduced in size, gave all an enjoyable memorable if small event. And, not least, a big thank you to Riverside Farm Camping for taking us in at such short notice.
It’s not lost on me that I’m penning these lines at a time when we’d normally be arriving in Hamm for the international rally there, sadly cancelled this year. No doubt, we’ll make up for it next year when the anniversary year of that event will happen and, as planned in this year, it will happen over an extended period beginning Thursday rather than the usual Friday. Do make an effort to attend this one.

Post script. Our community isn't that big and sadly, after the second wave of covid, we lost Tuen Luigjes and Reinhard Hotger in the latter half of 2020. May they long be remembered. RiP.






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