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Last Updated:
08 Feb 07

European Tour 1986:

This wasn't actually organised by Empress Motorcycle Club, but there were enough EMCC members there to make it worthy of mention... Anyhow, I've got photos, so that's decided.. its IN!!

The European Tour was actually organised by Ray Thomas (EMCC Patron and Owner of SRT Motorcycles in Birkenhead) and Marty Evans (Ray's pal from sidecar racing days).

I wasn't actually planning to go on the tour... I had bought a house late the previous year and funds had been so tight that I had sold my GT750A to another EMCC member - Paul Whetnall.  My other "project" GT750, wasn't complete (and wouldn't be until 1989), so I was without "wheels"...

On hearing of my interest in the tour, Ray offered to loan me his VF750FD - a "damaged recoverable" - on the condition that I assisted with it's rebuild... What could I say..?

Eleven of us went on the tour... Me; accompanied by Brian Dandy ("The Great Dandino"), Ray with my sister; Janette, Marty with his girlfriend; Lesley, Paul Whetnall, Jon Boyles with his girlfriend; (?) and a bloke with a GS1000 and his girlfriend... (?) for both!)

Everyone, with the exception of Brian and myself, had arranged to take the overnight ferry from Hull to Ostend... Brian and I rode to Dover and made the ferry crossing... We camped in Blankenberg and met the group the following morning...

The plan was to make for Switzerland with all haste... As I was only part of the convoy, I don't recall the exact route.... Except that we crossed from France into Switzerland via Basil and from there we headed for Lucerne...  We camped on the lakeside and dined nearby...

Everyone who had salad spent the next day very, VERY sick... Paul was sick even though he'd only eaten some bread he'd dipped into the salad dressing...  Blurgh!

The tour continued with exciting events like taking the "Simon Templar" train from Brigg to Kanderstag - I don't have any photos from this 'cos my Dixon's special went all to cock and I threw it out of the train window..!  We had all 6 bikes stowed in a single carriage of the train...

Using Lucerne as a base, we spent some time on day trips, occasionally heading quite far a field.  One day we headed further South... We ended up as far South as Turin, in Northern Italy... We saw areas where the scenery and roads were incredibly beautiful and villages where the middle of the roads served as the local rubbish tip and where kids were playing in and out of the trash with no shoes on...  They seemed right 'appy though..!

On the way back from Turin, we decided to traverse the Saint Bernard pass...  The start of the pass has a multi-level switch-back road, taking you higher and higher up the mountainside with each level...  The Italian authorities had paid lip-service to "Road Safety" by adding 1m wide blocks of stone along the open edge of the roadway... They also left a 1m gap between each block and the next in line, allowing direct access to an ever-increasing sheer drop..!!   As we were progressing up the mountainside... I noticed that Paul, who had been following me, was no longer appearing in my mirrors... I signalled the others to stop and we waited a few minutes...  Eventually we turned around (no mean feat on that road...) and returned back down a couple of levels...

It turned out that Paul had nearly been hit by a car, speeding down the mountain, as it went wide out of a corner... He avoided the car, but not the brick lying in the road; which sent him rocketing into the corner of one of the stones..!!!  From there, he fell back onto the roadway... Had he fell the other way, we were about 60 metres up by that point and he'd have stood no chance... No chance at all..!

Following that, we pulled Paul's bike apart at the roadside... The forks were so bent that the mudguard had hit the centre exhaust and the bike couldn't be steered... The wheel was actually heart shaped..! (I had thought that only happened in cartoons..!!) and the generator cover was smashed...

The local Services (at the Saint Bernard Tunnel) had some good workshop facilities and they allowed Brian and I to take the wheel in and batter seven bells out of it with some seriously large hammers... It took some work with a welding torch too before it would come back "into shape", but we got it in the end...

Back at the bike, the other guys had pulled off the forks and swapped them around so that the bend pointed forwards instead of back... They'd panel beaten the mudguard and found and old gear-lever gaiter that fitted over the generator... We refitted the tyre with a new tube, banged in the wheel and were away again..!!

After his "Close Call", Paul seemed to feel he was "bullet-proof"...  He was almost uncatchable on the battered old Suzuki and I take my hat off to his riding during the following days...  The generator was the only thing slowing him down as the rotor shaft had been slightly bent by the fall and wore the brushes down to now't within a few hundred miles...  Fortunately, the convoy had five bikes with the same battery, so we just swapped them about, making sure that Paul always had a fully charged one aboard...

On the return leg through Germany, I learned a lesson about tiredness and riding not mixing too well...  I had been leading the convoy for most of the day and we had covered about 450 miles... We were on back-roads, looking for the campsite, when I was called to stop by the guys following me...  I had missed the campsite gateway... I stopped and turned around, following the other bikes into the site... Marty was waiting by the gateway and noticed that I was entering the site on the wrong side of the road, and that there was a car coming the other way..!!  He sounded his horn to warn me and I cacked myself..!!  I hit the brakes big-time and the front wheel locked on the gravel pathway... We went down like a sack of spuds and neatly snapped off the radiator cap and filler neck from the VF's radiator...  That night, the others enjoyed a fine meal in the campsite restaurant, while I spent a few unhappy hours straightening the filler neck and Aralditing it back into place...  The Araldite worked wonders, but the cap was beyond repair and I had a constantly wet & warm left knee for the remainder of the journey home...

An eventful journey, that I remember fondly... Anyone else out there remember this trip, or (better still) have more photos..?

 

 

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