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First time at the 'National'

by Andy Hart

The decision to visit the NACC National Rally was taken during our stint manning the club's stand at the Stafford ICBS in 1996.  We thought it would be a good idea to go to something else as well as Stafford.  Soon after returning home from the show, I received a phone call from a friend asking if we wanted to go narrow boating for two weeks.  I, of course, asked how much this was going to cost - only to be told that it wouldn't cost anything: it was a big boat and they needed the extra hands.  The only snag was that the middle weekend of the holiday was the weekend of the 1996 NACC National rally.

The 1997 rally was to be held in our area so I decided that I would do my best to ride the Quickly to the event.  There was a snag in that the last time I used it the small-end bush had disintegrated.  This was the second one fitted: the first had given up because when it was fitted the oil holes had not been lined up and it had been running dry.  I had removed the head and given it a decoke in preparation for a Coast to Coast ride (Lyme Regis to Weston Super Mare) but, as there were no signs of anything amiss, I had not removed the piston and had not seen that the oil holes were not aligned.  It completed the ride but, the next time I went out, the rattle got so bad that I thought I ought to investigate.

I work for a light engineering firm so I machined a bush from a bit of Oilite we had left over from a job for an aircraft company.  If it was good enough for an aircraft it should be OK for a Quickly.  Wrong.  The aircraft used it under rotational load only; in the Quickly it also had heat and shock loading.  I made 25 miles on a run at Christmas before it gave up.

Plan B: a bit of research revealed that we had some more suitable material - except that the only bit available was 1½" square.  Eventually I made a suitable bush and, after flushing out the remains of the old one, it was fitted and normal service was resumed.

By this time the National Rally was approaching; I had also been rebuilding a 500 BSA so it was a bit of a panic to get the Quickly ready but it was up and running with a couple of weeks to spare.  After a 15 mile test ride it was put back in the corner while I finished the BSA.

The bad news was that when I took the Quickly for its MoT test we discovered that the rear wheel bearings had had it.  Of course, my luck dictates that I have the model with non-adjustable bearings and there was not enough time to get new bearings, fit them, take the bike for a retest and go to work before the rally.

Plan C: I would ride the Maxi that I use daily for the trip to and from work.  At least that was ready to go, so it was given a good service and general check over.  I got out the maps as I had to plan a route to the rally avoiding the motorway and, if at all possible, the centre of Bristol.  The route took the A38 to the outskirts of Bristol, under Clifton Suspension Bridge, through Westbury on Trym, under junction 17 of the M5, along a B-road to Almonsbury and then back on the A38 to Tockington.

I was going to travel up on the Friday night until I realised that it was Friday the thirteenth - This never used to worry me until I lost a front wheel of the van on this date.  I set of from home at 11 o'clock on the Saturday morning.  I got three miles before the plug whiskered (it has been suggested that I should put some razor blades in the tank!)  I cleaned the plug, checked the security of my tent and luggage on the carrier, and set off again.  Thirty-odd miles later I stopped in a lay-by for a cup of tea and a slice.  Setting off again, the southern face of the Mendips was climbed without recourse to LPA, much to my surprise.  I think this was assisted by the strong wind that was now following instead of blowing me about as it had done going past High Bridge.  It didn't work on the climb to Lulgate bottom passing Bristol Airport so I had to apply the LPA when the speed dropped.

After another brief stop before doing battle with the city traffic, I passed under the suspension bridge and on along the Portway before turning off along what was the ring road in pre-motorway days.  I was pleased to see that the old-style road signs with 'diamond' studded markers on a yellow background and a red triangle of top still marked the way.  The Maxi went onto reserve just before I went under the motorway: 63 miles on a tank-full.  I decided that as I must be close to the rally I would carry on.  I found the site easily and checked in with Bob at five past two, just over three hours - including the stops - for the 68 miles.

I found a spot and put up the tent.  Half an hour later, the other members there decided to set off on Bob's run to Severn Beach and to view the 'new' Severn Bridge.  It would have been nice to go out over the old bridge and back on the new but, alas, the new bridge does not have a cycle path or foot-way.  The weather could have been a bit better but at least it wasn't raining.  After all the riders had gathered and swapped a yarn or two.  it was decided that a cup of tea might be a nice idea.  Bob carefully explained the way to a local café - only to be asked if it might be better to visit the one we could see from where we were standing!  I'm not quite sure what the proprietors thought of all the 'awesome' machinery that parked outside their café, but they did serve a good cup of tea and egg sarnie.  The old Seeburg juke box and the pin table added a nice touch.

I tried to hang back a bit as we left en masse; the Maxi was almost embarrassingly fast compared to others on the run.  I arrived back at the site just in time for a cup of tea made by my wife, Di.  She had arrived at the site along with our friend Snowy just as the run was leaving.  They were in conversation with some others that we knew from sharing duties at Stafford.  They must have turned up & smelled the teapot.  I was reprimanded for having the nerve to turn up on something as modern as the Maxi.  I pointed out that it was 23 years old and I had ridden it all the way to the rally, fully laden with camping gear.

After tea we all helped to get the bonfire going; demolishing several pallets relieved many of the stresses of the week.  By the time this was done the barbecue was ready so we demolished several pieces of chicken, burgers, sausages, etc ... along with one or two (or three or four) bottles of falling-down-water, and spent the evening chatting until bedtime.  We thought better of putting out the fire in the time-honoured way as there were ladies present.

On Sunday morning we were up in time for the AGM, carried out as well as could be expected for this type of thing.  It was nice to put faces to the names that appear in the mag.  After this the riders set off for a run to a local steam rally.  Bob had not been able to arrange free admission but, seeing the size of the event, I can understand the organisers not wanting to issue passes.  After dinner and a look round the time had crept on to ten past three.  I was 83 miles from home so I thought it was about time I started making tracks; it had taken three hours to reach the rally site and I had an extra 15 miles to go home from the steam rally.  I topped up my calibrated oil bottle as I knew I would have to fill the tank on the journey and it is impossible to find a garage with a two-stroke pump nowadays, so I carry a small plastic bottle marked up with the right measure for 2½ litres of fuel.

I returned along the main road rather than the lanes we had used on the run.  Some of this was downhill and I did manage to get the speedo up to 40mph but, even so, I was surprised that I managed to travel eight miles before my wife passed me in the car.  I found out later that they had missed the first turning.  I passed a few stragglers from the run on the way back down the A38.  I didn't turn back into Tockington Park but kept going for home.  I turned off in Almondsbury, getting a good view of the Severn Bridge in the sun as I did so.  The one-way system at Ashton Gate in Bristol was a bit hairy - all I can say is that it is a good job I knew my way through.  I ran on to reserve passing Bristol Airport so I refuelled at Churchill.  I had covered 38 miles when I reached the motorway bridge so I stopped for a rest.  While leaning on the bridge rail, Di and Snowy passed underneath with the car and trailer.  They had been back to the rally site to pick up the tent & trailer, and to say the good-byes.

I pressed on to Bridgewater where, as it looked as if it was about to p--- down with rain, I thought a detour to MacDonalds was called for.  I don't particularly like them but there is little else open at Sunday tea-time.  It did rain when I was there but, by the time I left, it was dry again.  On the final leg from here to home it cam over black again.  I thought that if I stopped and put my leggings on it wouldn't actually rain.  That worked and I got home in the dry at ten to seven - just in time for a cup of tea.  I had clocked up 6 miles short of 200 on the Maxi over the weekend.

Finally, my thanks to Bob Wayte for organising the weekend, to the member who donated the stock for the barbie, to Snowy for my back-up, and to all the other club members who added to the enjoyment of the weekend.

First published - October 1997

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