Sunday, May 14, 2017

Riding to the Vintage Revival Montlhery

The start point for the adventure was late night at the Portsmouth Ferry terminal. With all of us riding bikes of various degrees of agedness and decrepitude somewhat remarkably the first stage of the trip, the initial meet up, went smoothly. I had planed to ride my Velocette over but a dodgy back meant that I needed an electric start so my only machine that fitted the bill was the Beemer combination. Dan came down from Bristol on his trusty 350 Bullet and Matt from the Midlands astride his BSA A10 combo with Gary gamely, or possibly foolishly, passengering the 30s style launch chair.

A quick tip here, avoid Brittany Ferries if you have a sidecar. You can't book a sidecar in online but when you turn up with a motorcycle ticket they won't let you on, berate you for not knowing that you should have booked a car ticket for your motorcycle and sidecar and then charge you a huge last minute amendment and re-booking fee. But enough of that for now as it is ongoing...

As usual the overnight crossing was marked by staying up slightly too late, drinking slightly too much and then getting woken up very much too early. The other Dan, confusingly also on a Bullet (though a 625cc beast) had crossed to Caen rather than Le Havre due to some very strange pricing on the ferry tickets and we had arranged a rendezvous where our paths crossed just up the road from Le Havre.

Our rendezvous point in the village of Bourneville was a mere hour or so down the road but we were slightly delayed by a loose rocker on Dan's freshly rebuilt 350 Bullet engine. I had the same problem myself on a French trip several years back, strange how the bike looses power but there is very little mechanical noise from the loose rocker bearing. I ended up (rather daftly with hindsight) heading back home and swapping to a modern bike when it happened to me.

Dan keeping up the fine old bike trip tradition
of roadside spannering.
We met up with other Dan soon enough in the end following our rocker repair interlude. The route towards Paris down the Seine was scenic as soon as we left the dual carriageway that took us out of Le Havre. If you take the none direct route it involves several crossings of the Seine which are accomplished pretty efficiently and are also magnificently free of charge.

Cadging a lift across the Seine.

We chose to camp at Dourdan: it's about half an hour away from the circuit but makes up for it by having a decent municipal camp site that is run by a Royal Enfield enthusiast and is a pretty town with some decent food options. Dourdan is an easy day's ride on back roads from Le Havre, even for old clunkers.

Is that a baguette in your sidecar or...

We met up with the last member of our party, Phil, at the campsite on his 200 quid K100 Beemer which was enjoying it's first cross channel foray. Phil had set off from Southport the night before, taken the Channel Tunnel and against expectations arrived well before the rest of us..

Soggy Saturday at Montlhery.

The ride to Montlhery on Saturday morning was damp to say the least. We followed Dan's sat nav set to a back road route. The extra distance on a rainy day was a collectively made mistake. Dan took a particular like to one set of roundabouts where the required exit was far from clear and we made several laps to the bemusement of car drivers and one lone pedestrian. For a while it seemed like we were caught in some kind of sidecarist's hellish time loop purgatory circulating adverse camber gyratories in driving rain.

In reality the hitch was only a few minutes long and we soon made good our route to the circuit. Parking is inside the circuit for the Vintage Revival, it's good to have your bike in sight and handy with sidecars that you have somewhere to dump all your kit.

Wot no carb?

Sunday we packed down in Dourdan and spent a few more hours at Montlhery before hitting the road. We had tickets booked to go home from Cherbourg, a fair bit further away than Le Havre. The weather for riding was unseasonably cold but at least the rain held off. Finding a campsite proved harder than expected and just as we were pretty much resigned to bedding down roadside the sat nav came up trumps with La Ferme Des Anes, a wonderfully peaceful tent and yurt camp down a country road off the main route between Alencon and Flers.

Not too far to ride the next day, though that ride up the Cherbourg peninsular on an old bike can often drag on. Some superb country roads though and we arrived in good time for our evening ferry to Poole.

In short a great trip. Get out on your old bikes, use them, take them abroad. Quite honestly riding in France is far nicer than riding in the UK and is always a joy. Another two years to the next Vintage Revival but put it in your diary already.

We had to get the spanners out on the way
home for tradition's sake and this time the
other Dan's Bullet obliged. Good tip
though is to check the choke lever before
stripping the carb!

Matt's rapidly shredding sidecar tyre.

The convoy comes to a temporary stop.

La Ferme des Anes. Peace and tranquility broken by six
weary motorcyclists.

Breaking camp.

Saddling up for the last day of riding.

Cherbourg. Cold and weatherbeaten but always game for a
cup of weak cider. Thanks Dan C for the photo.

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