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The Tale of a pair of Sars Poteries virgins

by Paul Witchard

Since becoming members of the NACC we have always been amused and intrigued by the tales of members and their adventures at the Rando Cyclos at Sars Poteries.  We decided that it was about time that we experienced it for ourselves.  The 2000 rally fell the weekend before the 20th HY Team Holland meeting at Eindhoven in Holland so we decided that we could go for the full 'ten days of eccentricity'.  For those of you not familiar with it, a Citroen HY van is the one that looks like a corrugated iron shed on wheels.  The ferry was booked in January in order to qualify for the early booking discount and the die was cast.

Several weeks before the off, Pat announced that she was not going to have me riding pillion on her Mobylette Mastermatic so that meant attempting to carry a VéloSoleX in addition.  This problem was solved by extending a bicycle rack upwards to carry the Solex above the Mobylette which fitted on the motorbike rack.

On the Thursday afternoon the van was loaded and we set off on the 200 mile trip to Dover which was thankfully uneventful around the M25, despite our top speed of about 55mph and left hand drive.  We arrived at a campsite on the Deal road with a pub nearby.  Rising at 4am to catch the 5:15 ferry, madame realised that she had left her handbag containing her purse and our French francs in the pub!  She seemed quite surprised that the landlord failed to answer the door at 4:30!

Pressing on regardless, we joined the throng for the 5:15 SeaFrance Dover to Calais, about 20 vehicles actually, and set off for Sars Poteries.  A refuelling stop, both petrol and wallet at St Omer and good news, a mobile phone call to say that the handbag had been found.  En route there was a twang and a whirring noise followed by no reading on the speedo, the second time this has happened to us in France.  We arrived at Felleries without further incident and set up camp.  The rest of the day was spent exploring and becoming acquainted with some of the other early arrivals on the site.  It was interesting to put faces to names that had appeared in Buzzing.

Saturday morning we set out with Nick Devonport to visit a local army surplus store that had a stock of Solexes.  Leaving Sars Poteries the Mobylette began to misbehave, and a roadside plug change did little to help.  We arrived at the shop just in time for the lunchtime closing, meeting up with Ian MacGregor.  We decided to head for the Parc de Val Joly for lunch.

A couple of miles further on we started to fall further and further behind due to the Mobylette failing to pull, and Nick rode back to the rescue, announcing that he had been talking to a man up the road with a couple of old bikes and a couple of tiny diesel 'sans permis' cars, who would probably be able to help.  The problem was soon diagnosed as a fuel blockage and the fuel tap and carburettor were soon relieved of what appeared to be the contents of a couple of teabags.  Several other cyclemotorists turned up, one of the children made coffee for everyone, and the English then sang 'Happy Birthday' to one of the four children, much to the amusement of the rest of the family, who needless to say understood no English.

The rest of the trip to the Parc and Army surplus shop passed off uneventfully.  The barbecue was a veritable feast as is apparently usual.

Sunday morning started with a browse around the small autojumble and an inspection of some of the assembled machines, before making for the hall for the lunch.  This was extremely impressive and I am sure that many riders put up a pound or two overweight as a result.  The run got under way in the usual cloud of two-stroke and we set off near the front in company with the Yorkshire contingent.  My VéloSoleX soon began to be swallowed up by the pack but I was able to get a good view of most of the rest, albeit from the rear.  The course was quite hilly and with a stiff wind sometimes the Solex seemed to be going backwards, but at least I was going slowly enough to see the arrows painted on the road, judging by the number of times that I was passed by the same people not everyone was able to see them.  There were quite a large number of people watching and offering encouragement, or was it hoots of derision?  The halfway drinks stop was a welcome opportunity to rest weary legs before going through the procedure of being overtaken by the whole field again.

Arriving at the finish and returning to the hall for the speeches, apple tart, wine and raffle we decided that it had been a tremendous event and the announcement of next year's date went straight in the diary, although plans are being laid to ride something with a little more go next year.

We stayed a couple more days at the campsite and then went on to Holland for the H van rally, and a couple more days mopeding, the flat cycle paths of Holland making Solexing much more pleasant.

At the H van rally we met another Solexiste who is the proud possessor of one of the few Solex cars, and he had the photos to prove it, but that is another story.

First published - October 2000

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