THE BIG KNOCK
Best viewed with the Chrome Browser.
With the pandemic firmly in our rear view mirror, we were able to book the 2022 rally into a pub once again and this time chose to hold the gathering at The Blue Ship. This pub, although quite local to us, is one that I couldn’t remember ever visiting before. It’s situated off a pretty scenic road called The Haven and is quite hard to find if you’re not familiar with the area.
As a result of the aforementioned Pandemic and limited passing traffic, the pub was, at the time of the rally, only open weekends - as was its camping field out back. Though negotiations we had managed to get the field opening extended to cover Thursday through to Monday. It can’t be opened any earlier for Insurance purposes as one early arrivals unfortunately found out to his cost. This meant a £25 a night stay at our old pub, The Bat & Ball before arriving at the rally pub where we’d got it costed for £13 a night for bikes. Hopefully we’ll be able to reduce that a little in 2023 but we have to pay hundreds up front to secure the field and the numbers have to add up.
We’d arrived on site midday Thursday, something that necessitates a couple of round trips as we have to get our small collection of diesel bikes to the field as well as the van. Before long a steady succesion of riders were pulling up at the gate and once manoeuvring through the smaller side entrance, making their way over to the base camp. One thing that immediately started to alarm me was that when greeting the new arrivals at said gate, especially in the twilight of the evening and after the passing of several years, it took me several seconds to recognise old friends. Motorcycle helmets and goggles didn’t help either! Thursday evening saw us cracking open a few tins and firing up the BBQ. As usual, we’d raided the supermarket are bought up as many burgers and buns as we could. Any extra stuff needed was got locally from the Rudgwick village Co-Op.
In the run up to the event I’d been corresponding with Nigel Loller over Facebook and hearing of his trials and tribulations as he made his way over from the Channel Island of Guernsey. As he told us on arrival, recent disruptions to ferry services caused many problems for him and he ended up disembarking near Poole! A lack of data and the hard to find pub meant he spent the night sleeping in the lane just the other side of the pubs hedge and only made it through the gate on sun up.
But we were so glad me made the effort because when he opened the rear doors of his van saw that he had brought along an amazing machine! The description here was gleaned from another Facebook post Nigel had made so I’ll post mainly from that to start with. The build itself took place over a recent prey winter is based around a Deutz single cylinder F1L 210D engine rated at 10kw @ 2800rpm. The frame and forks are hand built with the wheels blanked off with ‘a la moon disk. The front forks were built to look like girders but sliding with single coil over shock whereas the seat is of a sprung cantilever design. Feel free to copy my new fork design here however I would very much appreciate it if they were referred to as the "Loller Fork"!
There is a permanent magnet alternator and a small, vertical header tank for the fuel system that was needed to improve the reliability.
Speaking of fuel, those eagle-eyed amongst you will notice that there is no actual fuel tank! This is because the diesel is stored within the generous proportions of the frame!
Unlike any other diesel motorcycle I’ve ever seen before, this machine, through sheer necessity, uses a wrench driven, mechanical wind up ‘Startwell’ ratchet device that turns the engine over after approximately twenty turns. When ‘Red’ shows in the small window it’s time to release the energy thus turning the huge motor over and for a start. Nigel explained that it was totally unfeasible to use batteries to do the job as two would be needed to supply the needed current.
The bike sports a 100 year old mechanical horn straight from a Bentley and a gearshift lever comprising of an old Indian sword handle with a rather vicious looking blade that extends down to the gearbox.
I’m told this addition alone almost resulted in Nigel being turned away from the ferry after an official spotted it and loudly declared, “You can’t bring that onboard - it’s a f**king dagger!”
Our first arrival from the Continent was Thomas who arrived on his amazing Smart engined Triumph creation. The bike was positively brimming with everything Smart and it was just jaw dropping to gaze over.
Thomas tells me that the Diesel Triumph 800 Smart motorcycle was built between 2018 and 2020. The engine is a 800 Smart Turbodiesel OM660, which I bought as new. The gear box came from a Harley, has five gears and is linked to the engine via a 10 mm aluminium plate.
It was easy to put the engine and gear box into the open Triumph Daytona T300 frame, but it took a long time to implement all the necessary electric parts. Although I bought the control unit for motorcycle use from a small german manufacturer, lots of work had to be done. The control grip for acceleration is electrical and had to be installed together with the control unit manufacturer. After the engine worked, all the parameters for Diesel pressure etc. had to be adjusted.
Unfortunately, at this stage, the gear box was found to be leaking oil and had to be dismantled.
I installed a Triumph Tiger front fork and a new, slightly longer rear shock to put the frame higher.
The quickest part in the building process was the technical acceptance of the German TÜV. It lasted only 30 minutes. The tester just wanted to see the Triumph run autonomously.
The 800 Diesel is a very nice bike to ride. It is quick (110 mls/h), reliable, with low consumption of apprx. 20 mls/1 l. The bike is heavy and its preferred environment is on the highways. Most of the mechanical and electrical work was done by a small company, specialised in building electric cars from oldtimers.
It was a pleasure to see both Steve and John down again from Sheffield on their diesel machines. Steve had, not without some effort, extended the frame of his Honda Shadow American Classic edition to sqeeze in a reliable Kubota 662 engine. I ended up telling him of the woes I’d had recently repairing my brothers Enfield gearbox after bike had stripped several teeth from a 15T cog. And then we got onto primary sides and clutches and Steve recommended I should consider swapping in a clutch from a Constellation (an Enfield twin) because the springs were more favourably positioned over the plates themselves. Oh, and I should use the green springs instead of the yellow as they provide more force. This last bit followed on after swapping stories regarding the type of lubricant best used on the primary side. I favour ATF but with the Constellation clutch and better springs I’m assured there is no clutch slippage.
Many rally goers were taken with John’s Suzuki 600 ‘diesel’ Bandit build. The bike sported a Kubota D600 engine and was so well done you had to look twice in case you missed it. Hearing it start up and watching it to and frowing across the field, we’ll, you couldn’t wish for a nicer sounding diesel motorcycle.
Rather than get shirts printed up in advance (and inevitably have a few left over) we decided to take orders this time round & post them out. Again, sticking with the same image from last year, I was confident that all would be well. I’d previously had problems with the artwork getting corrupted over the email but Rafael was kind enough to sort the issue and, as I type this, I am awaiting their delivery from Paul of ‘Ink Clan Nation’.
As last year, the T Shirts were printed using the new DTF method. I’m not sure what this involves but the end product looks good!
Update! They arrived two days ago and have been posted out. Being as we aren’t in Europe anymore I had to scribble out numerous customs declarations for those packages going abroad and visit several post offices to avoid que jams and annoying other customers.
My brother wasn’t around come Friday morning and so I led those present out on the breakfast run to the Chalet using my M1030M1. It was a rather tight left hand turn directly from the pub and onto the road so I led the group straight on across the front of The Blue Ship before then turning left and back on ourselves to avoid any cars coming round the blind bend and running into us. I had intended to use Jeff’s Ruggerfield and let Chris take the KLR diesel variant but minutes beforehand I’d checked the online maps only to see a massive traffic jam on our intended route. Three way traffic lights and roadworks at Cowfold had the cars backing right up along the A272 so another route was needed. This meant I had to swap back onto the Kawasaki as I had a holder for my Beeline navigation system which I used to plot the alternative route over. As it turned out I think it was a far more scenic journey, it taking in many of the smaller roads round Barns Green. There were many ‘tree tunnels’ and windy roads to I hope please everyone. Nigel, riding his Deutz machine for the first time on the mainland let me know that his sprung seat had a good workout!
We arrived at the Chalet cafe and after getting through the rather long que, enjoyed a slap up breakfast. On leaving, we couldn’t help but notice that Nigel’s bike had become the centre of attraction with other customers asking questions and taking pictures of his unique motorcycle.
Over the course of the weekend we had various motorcyclists and regulars visit the event. It was good to see Len over from Chichester and Michael come over from Cranleigh on his Ruggerini Enfield. Thanks also to Chris T, Kat, Robert, Kevin, Ken, Kevin & Karen and Dan amongst others who swung by for a beer. Tony came along on his trike and we had various guys who’d been before stop by to say hello.
I must thank Nicky and Mike for supporting us and bringing along several tins of cake. The Lemon Drizzle did not last long!
Riders over from the Continent, the first time out after the Pandemic, included Thomas (Triumph diesel), Rudi (Sommer), Bernd, JW (Enfield), Kees (Zeus outfit), Bert (Track), Anthony and Abel (VW diesel)
We also saw Marin and son who came over from Germany after I’d met them at the last rally I’d attended in Hamm. Alex too had arrived from the Netherlands with Englishman Callum in tow. Both were riding Honda Shadows and very quickly got into the swing of things. Just a quick note to say that some guys couldn’t make it over as they were unsure how things would go at the port if they had chosen not to get vaccinated. Probably a wise choice not to risk getting turned away at the dock if they had to make a long ride over. Hopefully we’ll all meet up again in Hamm soon.
From the U.K. we also saw two diesel Enfield rally regulars, Steve who’d come along with his little dog on the bike from Somerset and Kevin from Buxton way. After his journey down, Kev had his motorcycles head steady break on him and so I had to rustle up an M8 nut & bolt for a temporary fix to eliminate the vibration. Temporary because the only fixings I had to hand were stainless (robbed from the Ruggerfields spares stored within its side panel).
We also saw Mouse and Clare come along on his Kubota engined machine. Luckily this event did not cross the Rat & Survival rally and they were able to stay with us the entire weekend.
Karl Burroughs rode over on his TriumFord motorcycle and this year camped over with us for the first time. Beers in hand, I remember we discussed the upgrading process that many of us have been through and the forethought that is required to avoid the traps. How often has something been added or improved on a project only to find the unexpected results and/or knock on affects are not exactly what was expected!
It had been a while since I’d seen Kees but he was touring down from the Lake District and having left the family in London, had come down to join us for the duration. Talk inevitably got onto the newly purchased Zeus from Tuens estate and he showed me that he intended to perform some maintenance on the many couplings that comprise the framework. He has already done some welding on the underside he told me. The Zeus is a firm favourite with the family said Kees and it is great that this rather unique outfit will continue to give pleasure to those who travel with it.
Friday evening saw us all leave the rear field for the now open pub. We fully intended to have a beer before returning to cook up the remaining burgers but the atmosphere was so good that well, most of us ended up returning at gone midnight. There was the predicable chaos with burnt burgers spilling into the grass!
We were blessed with excellent weather which lasted the entire weekend except for a few spits on Sunday and Monday. I will thank, Chris here for again supplying two marquees in case of inclement weather. As it turned out they were used mainly to shelter from the sun!
The Saturday morning runout was the main event with more bikes in attendance. Jeff was back on site and so led the group to the Toat Cafe for breakfast. Again, with more riders in attendance, the wait for food was quite long and so after discussions we may well arrange next years proceedings slightly differently. Probably the best way forward will be to have the pub itself do the breakfasts on at least one of the days, perhaps using a staggered booking system to avoid long waits. Then, hopefully, we can proceed to our chosen destination. I had pencilled in somewhere for this year, a working Mill, but on a recent visit it was found to not be working so I abandoned that Idea fairly late on. But I already have somewhere motorcycle related in mind for 2023 so stay tuned.
During breakfast I noticed that Alex (forum admin) had turned up from London on his Honda Superdream diesel but I never got a chance to engage before we left on the run. Of course he’d disappeared back to ‘the smoke’ before we got back to the site so we never talked on the day.
After breakfast we headed back to The Blue Ship via some southerly country lanes that went by the Bignor Roman Villa site, somewhere we had visited on previous occasions.
After the runout there was the usual ‘comparing of notes’ between riders. We’d lost a few tail-enders but they’d apparently regrouped at Whiteways, Bury hill where they’d seen many other motorcyclists.
Back at the site I saw Jeff and Bert swap Track bikes and go back out briefly to compare setups.
Having missed out of pub food Friday, the kitchen being somewhat overwhelmed with orders, some of us had taken the opportunity to book meals ahead for the Saturday night instead. Along with Chris, I’d ordered a pizza and wasn’t disappointed to receive a delicious stone baked affair along with a cold larger.
As we sat out front of the pub in the evening sun with local farm dogs lolloping about the place, I was rather amused to hear the Germans and Bavarians poking fun at each other over the latters inclusion within the German Republic as a whole.
After the rideout I’d had an enquiry from Bernd as to the availability of Daihatsu pistons in the U.K. Thomas had helped with translation but after much searching recently, I’ve turned up very little information. The supplied part number is in part Toyota with the second part higher than the Daihatsu number. Good luck finding those said the bloke on the other end of the phone.
Seeing all our friends from the continent back where they belong, camped up round the field, drinking, cooking burgers and discussing their motorcycles was just the best thing about the 2022 Big Knock Rally. But it’s impossible not to feel sad for those cruelly taken from us before their time. No getting away from it but there were mixed emotions when familiar machines roll in through the gate with new owners. Ultimately I think everyone is happy to see the bikes still in use as it’s surely what the original owners would have wanted. I dedicate this years event to those riders we have lost. We all know you were with us in spirit on those rideouts.
Last meals from the pub were available up until 4pm on Sunday and after that it was back to the depleted stock of burgers. I rode with Steve to the local shops where we bought more supplies and headed back to the site.
Almost before you realise it, the rally wind down is underway. I woke Sunday to find some unwanted (but most welcome) peanuts left besides my tent and the camp table was lined with Lldls beer of some description.
I had a panicked message from Bernd who’d left early rather too quickly and had left his rucksack behind. It contained all his clothes and waterproofing! God only knows what went through his mind when he suddenly realised he had none of the essentials on his back! He has since received the bag via the Post Office after I spent fifteen minutes trying to stuff it into several massive, plastic envelopes.
By Monday, Jeff and I had started packing all the black sacks full of beer cans & bottles. We’d not paid the extra £100 for the rubbish bins and spent a few days back home crushing cans and sorting rotting food into the appropriate recycling bins. Other items included broken Chinese seats and even a pair of old training shoes!
As we always do, the final few hours in the field were spent walking the turf and making sure we left it as we found it. I’m pleased to say we left on good terms and expect to return next year when we’ve been told the pubs hours may well have been extended.
Thanks to everyone to came and contributed. It will never be the same with our old friends missing but we want to keep it going for their sake and to continue to keep showcasing arguabley some of the more complex and mechanically interesting motorcycles out there.
Let’s do it again in 2023!
Additional rally shots: