The 2012 International Diesel Motorcycle Rally, Hamm.

The 2012 rally at Brauhof Wilhaus was well attended again this year with the main field pretty much full come late evening Friday. As always there was a good mix of motorcycles and something for everyone. The weather was hot and dry which made for a great event. What follows were the highlights for me...
Whilst the motorcycles on show at these rallies aren't always, how can I say, practical, they are, nevertheless, always fascinating. Some of us (especially myself) would expect (and hope) to see the majority of constructors at these events heading in one direction, that is to say, tackling and overcoming the problems associated with the construction of a thoroughly modern and very capable touring or commuting diesel motorcycle. Instead we are sometimes confronted with machines which are wholly unexpected and which, it seems, are built more for show than anything else. So, while I didn't see too many new motorcycles pushing at the boundaries of what is technically possible these days, I did see some machines that were, if nothing else, very pleasing on the eye.
First up has to be this off road style machine debuting for the first time. The MZ frame lends itself very well to the minimalist look here giving a very open feel to the bike and making a grand feature of the engine hanging perilously (to my mind anyway) from a single suspension point . As well as finding this an attractive looking machine I was also interested to see how the bike's builder had overcome various problems associated with the transmission. A jack shaft (interesting in itself) straddles the rear of the engine enabling things to work as they should whilst the rear foot brake lever exhibits a unique design all of it's very own.

Probably one of the best styled bikes I saw at Hamm 2012. I think others thought so too.

Probably the most striking and distinctive fear is the mounting of the licence plate. An almost prehistoric looking 'tail' arches out from the back of the motorcycle in place of a standard mudguard and probably succeeds in getting more attention than the item it supports. But perhaps that's the aim?!

All in all it's the kind of bike you just wouldn't expect to be built, let alone see exhibited and it's a refreshing sight for that reason alone. It's not going to go anywhere fast with a 10hp engine but perhaps the bike is more an example of what the owner wishes he had? It's also worth pointing out that bike is painted in the same colour's as the 2011 & 2012 Hamm Rally T-shirts - now that is one way to get a favourable reception!

I also spotted this R45 converted to take perhaps one of the smallest engines on site - a 210cc, 4.8ps Rotek. Again, another example of an interesting bike built more for show than riding. I must say that, regardless of what engines guys choose to use, the method by which the BMW/Guzzi style gearboxes are mated with engines has improved considerably since the early rallies. It wasn't that far back that guys were chopping the tops from old gas bottles but as you can see here, things are progressing in the right direction.

The R45 was a neat looking bike.

Engineering mating parts has come on a pace since the early rallies.

There was some unrelated talk of how shaft drive (petrol) bikes suffer at the best of times with shaft breakages and several guys mentioned that running a single or twin cylinder diesel onto a shaft drive bike would be even more likely to cause such damage. I must say I've not seen any direct evidence of this but can certainly see the logic in it. With diesel engines being more solidly built and running at nearly twice the compression it makes perfect sense that other components in the drive train such as gears and shafts should be beefed up. It's a good argument too for using a smoother running diesel such as a three cylinder unit.
Diesel Ross
Of course, we've seen the Diesel Ross motorcycle before but, despite having only been in existence for a few short years, it is a motorcycle which is, I'm sure you'll agree, aging beautifully (if a little, artificially).

A close inspection of it's finish reveals a multitude of fine abrasion lines, a carefully cultivated patina of barely visible rust, all preserved lovingly by the finest of oils. It's almost as if the the motorcycle had come straight from a Turkish harem where countless slaves have been employed to rub exotic lubricants and lotions into it's very being. One could almost imagine the bike itself to have come straight from the pages of some Manga, Steam-Punk novel, such is its look. Indeed, you could glance up from inspecting the incredibly authentic looking finish and not be at all surprised to see Flash Gordon himself sitting astride such a fantastic looking machine..

Attention to detail makes this bike a piece of rolling Steam punk art.

Brass, steel, copper - the only thing missing is the red velvet. Steam punk at its best.

For the first time we saw the Track T800CDi motorcycle at Hamm.

Over 40 bikes came on the runout, 31 of which were diesel powered. I was a little late off the mark, a van blocked my view of the site entrance and I didn't see the lead bikes pull away at the start. Fortunately I had one of the faster bikes on site and was able to set off at a pace and catch the pack before too long. The final destination was as last year, a local, high class hotel complete with viewing tower. While I visibly deliberated whether to tackle the punishing climb to the top, the others, smokers mainly, tried to hand their cameras to me to take aloft. I eventually found my way to the top up the rickety staircase and was joined by Will Ruehl who had made it over from the UK but who actually comes from the U.S of A. We caught our breath and took in the great view and chatted with a few of the other guys before descending back down the rather precarious stairway.

A very good show of bikes on the runout this year.

The climb killed my legs but it was worth it in the end. Riding to and from the hotel I could see that several riders and pillion passengers were filming and taking photos all the way along and so the pressure was on to not screw up on the awkward turn into the slip-road leading up to the tower. On the final stretch of the ride back to the rally site I found myself alongside Erik on his T800 CDi Track bike, both of us began teasing each other by opening our throttles as much as we dare on such a narrow road. I was later told that on the several occasions that the convoy was stopped by traffic lights, riders were see to reach over to the bike next to them and blip the throttles - mainly to check if there was any vibration present on that particular machine. You wouldn't understand - it's a diesel thing...
It was Ingle who first mentioned to me that the Kipor engines were probably better quality clones than most others and I was present when the only three Kipor bikes on site were wheeled together for a group shot. The so called 'LEGO' bike (not my naming I might add!) had visited the U.K. rally, The Big Knock, earlier in the year. But I was later told they were a little late leaving the Hamm rally after they mislaid their ignition keys. Surely you can start a diesel without the ignition? ;-)


Allan and friends had visited the Hamm rally on two previous occasions but this time chose to make the long trip from Denmark on two diesel motorcycles of their own creation. Both are small capacity machines with CVT arrangement transmission. As Allan later told me, it was a long journey on motorcycles of that size and they suffered for their passion! Ah, but they are not the only ones! Well done for making the trip and good to see guys from other countries building bikes and getting involved.

All the way from Denmark.

Here we see the CVT side - ridden hard from Denmark I think.

It wouldn't be a motorcycle rally without the spanners coming out would it? I'm glad to say that when I twice reached for mine is was to help others and not to use them myself. Our man Dan was seen wielding a spanner or two underneath his (standard) Vstrom at one point and at the same time, just across the roadway, Hans too had his tools out. He, it turned out, was engaged in finding an alternative method of anchoring his throttle cable and finding nothing suitable had decided to cable tie a large ring spanner in place to fix to. I thought this rather ingenious but surely the use of white cable ties on a black ratbike was a little uncalled for? Han's later lost what looked like an M4x40 screw in the grass. Yours truly put a smile back on his face by finding it.

A great use for an old ring spanner - and fault finding an alternator coil.

After trying for several years to get to Hamm, Ian eventually made it over on his Ruggerini chopper but not before another incident threatened to interrupt his trip. He has more of a trek than most of us in that he hails from Plymouth but made it nonetheless despite suffering charging problems after his alternator coil failed. Diesel Dave later came to the rescue and furnished Ian with an low current LED rear light from his Tiger (they have two) so that he could get home without being crashed into from behind. Dave also suffered though as a small quantity of brake fluid was seen dripping dripping ominously from his front calipers just after he arrived from the U.K. Ola suffered similarly too when brake fluid began seeping from the inspection window of his handlebar mounted reservoir. The lid was secured rather too well with old and burred screws and so Landlord Willy kindly supplied a battery powered drill for their removal before new stainless screws were found in a box of bits.

Ola was not best pleased to be fitting stainless components to his ratbike but, like Hans before him, needs must! A large part of the ethos behind these rallies is about fixing stuff yourself and scrounging old parts from rubbish piles to keep your machines on the road. I stepped into the middle of one conversation only hear how a head gasket had been miraculously recovered from a bin and used to get a bike back on the road in record time. This is all a good argument for cheaper rather than more expensive diesel motorcycles I think!

Another great bike - The Oldimo sidecar outfit. The frame was extensively modified we were told.

T Shirts
These were again a big success with almost the entire run of around 120(?) selling out. Here we see Allan of the Danish Diesel Vikings holding one up for size. Looking about the crowds these days the T shirts are a really good barometer of who's been where and when. It was very gratifying to see U.K. rally shirts about the place and 'vintage' shirts from earlier Hamm gatherings.

Allan checks out a T shirt while rally organiser, Rafael wears the only green shirt, printed with more rally Information. We all wanted that shirt ;-)

I'll pass on some talk I heard on possible projects because you never know, one of these bikes might just make it onto the scene! Despite long advocating the Kipor engine Ingle says he is gathering parts before starting his build. And traveling engineer Will seemed enthused saying he would like to base something around a BMW K series bike because they were plentiful and cheap back in the States. He tells me the electronics wouldn't be a problem and that he would most likely be looking to use a 3 cylinder automotive engine from a VW. I wish him well and was happy to hear that he may release any drawings associated with his build (should it happen) for the benefit of the greater community. Will had traveled to Germany to see Karl's BMW build but unfortunately he couldn't make it. Although Mouse did not attend the Hamm rally this year he informs me that he too is contemplating another car engine based project. I even hear that Sönke may produce another bike for Sam? All I can say folks is 'Watch this space!'.

The Diesel Wiesel is a popular diesel motorcycle over here.

This Lombardini/MZ I spotted parked up on the entrance road was a rather interesting looking machine. The builder had obviously lavished plenty of time and attention on this build because it bristled with all manner of things. The most striking feature was the up and over arrangement drive going down the far side to access the Yamaha gearbox. So there you have it folks - the proof that Yamaha gearboxes are so good that some guys will just go to any lengths to use one. Ok, so it may not exactly be efficient but who cares? Yeah, we can do that. Look carefully for other things like the exhaust flapper, chain oiler etc.

The Diesel motorcycle rally crowd love to see motorcycles like this.

Access through the top. Some say Yamaha gearboxes are the best.

Spot the exhaust flapper and the pump thingy which oils the chain. Better shot of crossover (save as larger pic).

As you can well imagine, many bike builder's at these kind of rallies are always on the lookout for a decent and separate gearbox. For years the older Royal Enfield's has been a big favourite on the scene because of their pre-unit construction but in recent years we have seen the Ultima box used as well as some Japanese units. Of course, the Japanese boxes have to be either used as is (up righted engine minus the crank -Sam Brumby style) or just plain chopped in half. It seems like a crime to even mention it as the Yamaha RD engine is held in such high esteem, but I've seen a few of these engines used in diesel bike build's before because many say they are the best. And this year I couldn't help but notice that the Diesel Wiesel crew had looked at this problem and had displayed one of their very own for all to see. I assume this is from the original Suzuki Marauder? Looks like a nice little package, complete with clutch and ideal for a smaller motorcycle build.

Displayed by the Diesel Wiesel Crew.

It seems CVT transmission diesel motorcycles (both old and new), are beginning to experience the same kind of issues experienced previously by those guys in the snow mobile community. Stuffing high amounts of power through these devices, (whether with high revving petrol engines or, as some are finding out, torqueyer diesels), causes critically placed, plastic rollers to wear out faster than intended. This subject is coming more and more to the fore with every passing month as some owners are putting some serious mileage onto their machines. The common solution (as told to me over a beer) seems to be to replace said rollers with much sturdier examples, often constructed from brass. This subject has also come up on our forum recently and I suspect it's a topic which will run and run - unlike the rollers in question.

A bike has to have character right? Our bikes have it by the bucketfull!

Diesel Vespa.
At gatherings like these we occasionally see things which really shouldn't exist (even in our darkest nightmares) and what's more, we nearly get run over by them. In making such unlikely contraptions the builder's often find that they've presented themselves with many more problems than perhaps they had anticipated. The easy way out is, of course, to start over, but where's the fun in that? Why not just plough on ahead and build yourself out of any tight corners you might have inadvertently backed yourself into? Try creating a diesel Vespa and you'll likely end up with an extraordinary machine the like of which would have any self respecting Mod running for cover. Dangle your prize Parker coat anywhere near the gearing on this scoot and you'd be lucky to escape with your Fox tail. It's not enough that the self respecting biker has to be aware that other road users are out to maim or kill him when his own machine presents a substantially bigger threat.

The Diesel Vespa - proof that you can fit a diesel engine into a scooter - but you'd have to be mad to ride it.

It's a good job Mod's don't wear flared trousers because they'd lose a leg riding this.

A forward facing oil level window cunningly fitted to the rear hub and yes, it is rideable!

The venue.
The camping layout seems to change every year at Brauhof Wilhaus. The field boundaries are changed on a pretty regular basis to accommodate everything from Rallies to wedding receptions. In past years it's not been unusual to be woken at 7am by pseudo Scotsman, hurling imitation sheep high into the morning sky. Yes, you've guessed it, this place is also the location for the German 'Highland Games' and it is not unusual to see very competitive locals dressed in kilts, grunting and cursing in top class German as they take out their frustrations on large pieces of wood. Thankfully, we saw none of this malarkey in 2012.

The outside seating area within the courtyard is now covered - but there was no rain this year!

The Landlord told me that the nearby pigs had lodged a complaint concerning the antics of the bikers. I don't believe it for a moment. In reality things were a good deal more civilized than in previous years at Hamm. No drunken bikers staggered into the pig pens (that I heard of) and no pigs found their way onto the menu either. Well, they probably did but not while the sightseers were showing them to their kids they didn't. Gone are the days when the poor things were dragged off kicking and screaming whilst everybody present averted their gaze and shuffled about in a rather uncomfortable fashion.

A shot from the runout.

There is no getting away from this so, in the interests of accuracy and good reporting, I'm just going to have to come out and say it. Myself and Rafael run these Diesel Motorcycle websites to encourage the coming together of like minded motorcyclists and bike builder's. Imagine our surprise when we also found ourselves helping people come together on a more, how can I say, romantic level. Well, one thing lead to another and we even saw a Diesel Dating web page at one stage but enough of that! Chance meetings, emails from admiring ladies enquiring after hunky Diesel bikers, you wouldn't believe it but it's all true, folks! And mentioning no names, this tradition has been alive and well this year as in past years and we wish all concerned the very best! So, there you have it, the secret is out. Build a half decent looking diesel motorcycle, get photographed wielding a big spanner (or something) and you might very well get lucky. Believe me, some have!

The first time over from England for this bike - Ian's machine all the way from Plymouth.

Market conditions.
The economic turmoil hasn't been so good for those aiming at the top end of the market recently but I'm told that diesel motorcycle builders who are targeting the middle ground (such as Sommer) are doing very well indeed. Plenty of their newly designed machines were present at Hamm along with the company director himself. One such motorcycle arrived from the U.K. after covering 6935 miles (11161km) through nine countries after coming in from the North Cape route. Ian refueled 27 times using 230.08 litres, giving an overall figure of 137.02mpg (Imperial) (2.06lt/100km).

The Sommer diesel bike (in the background) is an attractive & popular machine.

Absent friends.
There were quite a few absent regulars this year, none more missed than Tom (Blue NSU/Hatz sidecar outfit). We heard he is in hospital and we pass on our very best wishes to him, his family and friends. My brother and Matt purchased a card in town and got all the guys to sign it for Tom. Hopefully he has received it by now. Get well soon!

Diesel Triumph on the runout.

A few words on the future.
There is no doubt in my mind that the complexity of the modern diesel engine management system is a huge stumbling block to the private diesel motorcycle builder. The community sits poised at a crossroads with many mechanically gifted individuals wanting to build bigger, better and faster bikes that can only ever materialize from an understanding of software and electronics. Down the ages motorcycles have often been used as test beds for new, smaller engine designs and, at our rallies, it is now possible to directly compare the best of the old engines with the best of the new. And after owning two of the old type I now own one of the new type and I know what I prefer!

Looking like new: This was once owned & taken to Russia by Dieter. Now it's been totally refurbished. Great job!

Personal Rally blog.
My brother and I arrived around 5pm on the Thursday and rode straight into the courtyard to be greeted by other 'early birds'. Close in behind us was Sönke and Sam and it wasn't long before we'd all set up our tents - ours being to the right side of the access road whereas Sönke chose the field opposite. Before long we were joined by fellow Brit Martin James who'd attended previous Big Knock's and then Ian came in on his Ruggerini Chopper! Later Dan, Dave and Will arrived from the UK and it all becomes a bit of a blur thereafter. No sooner have you said hello to someone than a faint and distant knocking impressed itself on your ear and before you know it, another bike, many of which are always Enfield's of one description or another, comes rolling up the entrance road. After our trip we were some of the first to try out the new shower/toilet container and it was probably an improvement on the old setup. I met Mr Wooli again who runs the shop and we got talking about his health etc. Looks like he won't be making too many more trips to India, if any at all. I wish him well for the future. Soon after this an old pony-tailed rocker set up his tent next to mine and other tents began to spring up all over the place. I later sat with Henry Price and a mate who'd made it over and talked with others who'd come to the UK rally.

My Smart Tiger - achieved 115mpg through Germany carrying 30KG in those panniers.

The weather was hot and sunny which made for good everything. I strolled between the bikes taking loads of pictures with some familiar faces saying, 'What? you want more pictures of my bike?' It does get a bit like that with the regulars but we always have a laugh about it. Anyone who reads these reports, even if they know the bikes, likes to know who attended each year so I do my best to record it. All through Saturday I saw plenty of visitors arrive to view our bikes. I saw some hardcore looking guys from France which is quite unusual and several others who took a keen interesting in my own Smart Tiger. It was one of only two Smart bikes there, the other of which belonged to Andreas and is based on a BMW. We ended up talking about our favourite DVD's and TV series and his home brew wine which he makes from many different plants including nettles and prickly shrubs. Later that night, the conversation again got round to the manufacture of wine, this time in England, and through a mistranslation, my brother was asked if there were many 'prick's' in Britain? He readily replied that there were lots of pricks in Britain and then expressed a wish to order 50 cases of wine!
Saturday night saw another of the wedding receptions held on site and, as usual, the cars had a job squeezing down the road past the bikes. The warm evening saw most sitting outside under cover while the new staff did there best to keep up with the orders. Various comment, some favourable, some not, was again passed on the homebrew beer whilst others rode out to the local supermarket to get more supplies. Everyone seemed to crash out pretty early this year which left some of us wondering whether to start drag racing our bikes up and down the entranceway in an effort to wake a few souls. It never happened of course and I went back to my tent only to hear that the rocker next to me was snoring loudly and had left his radio turned on. I went to my Metal Mule panniers and dug out some earplugs I had purchased especially for such an occasion only to find they were next to useless as I could hear everything through the foam that I'd crushed into my ears.
As the rally came to a close and everyone rode out waving their goodbyes, we all agreed amongst ourselves that it had been another great event. I'd like to thank the organiser's and the landlord for their hospitality to everyone concerned and say a big thanks to all the bikers who came along and shared their amazing motorcycles with us all.

Always plenty to see at the Diesel motorcycle rallies.

Return to the German Rally index

Return to Rally index


SJS © Copyright All Rights Reserved