A Geboers for every race

I’d done a bit of research, with a trip out to MC Liile earlier in the year and I’d come across the definite date calendar on Werner Castelyns Kate’s Retro Page . With a MXBota meeting at Oreye on 27.Aug, the bikes (the Three Counties meeting back in May, a wet stubble field , was with a sense of foreboding given the incoming weather.

Getting the track into shape

Signed on, 30 euro to ride with a day license (no need for an international license etc), though you pay to get the van onsite etc as well. Decided to ride the MX250 in the pre77 and it was interesting to see them run the Caterpillar tractor around the track, taking the top 30-50cm off the surface, finding mainly dry soul underneath. The track itself had some tight turns, jumps and was pretty wide in places. No natural climbs or slopes to speak of, but nicely laid out. A lot of people around, as after the classic racing on Saturday, there was a full day of modern racing planned for Sunday.

Everything is done by time and the normal programme for the day is Practice, with then two blocks of racing. The races are longer than the Welsh Championship, and are the 12 (or 15) minute + 1 lap formula, and you get two of them. The racing on the day had the following classic classes, pre-72, pre-77, 80-175cc pre-1980, Twinshock and pre-90 Evo. There was also a Quad race, Mob Cross ( basically Mobilette or moped racingb , and for modern bikes, Loisirs (leisure riders) and Veterans. Total 9 classes, each taking 20 minutes. So for the pre77 class, practice at 09h20, first race 12h00 and second race at 15h40. Good in a way, as plenty of time to fix your bike or drink a coffee or tea, or grab some frites.

In Belgium, it seems its normal for wives, girlfriends and mothers to clean the bikes

I ended up out for two practice sessions, on both bikes, and as normal the MX250 didn’t run as well as it had done before I put it into the van. Your bike is scruitineered, levers, foot-pegs etc prior to practice and you get 15 minutes. The track was still muddy in places for the first session, but the YZ250 came back a lot cleaner as it dried up. Good fun on the bikes, but was getting used to a different type of track, with some modern corners (ie tight) and the jumps. YZ250 was missing a bit, but oh, the suspension on the jumps is a joy. Noticed that there were a lot of wives (and mothers?) at the track and they were they cleaning up bikes after practice with a loyalty that only comes with a life built around motocross. There’s a lot of truth that Motocross, behind cycling, is the #1 Belgian sport.

Proper gates..

First race out was the pre-77 on the MX250. Looking around at the Maico’s and Suzuki’s on the line, there were a lot of laid down shocks and tall looking bikes (there was an XL500 also, take note Alan), as well as two HL 500 Yamaha’s. Healthy line-up, making my MX250 look a bit puny, but no problem. Dreadful start put me at the back but managed to get past a couple of people on the first few corners. Track had dried a lot since practice, so good pace and the lines opening up, with some ruts already beginning to form. The MX250 was running okay, but missing gears all over the place and still lacking power out of the corners. Good fun though and knackered by the 1 lap board came out.

Muddy for practice

Back to the van and decided to take the YZ250 out the first Twinshock race (under the insurance / license system, you are allowed to run in 3 races at a meeting). This was more serious, with some impressive bikes, not just cobbled together YZ’s on the start. A sprinkling of Suzuki’s, Kawasaki’s and plenty of keen looking riders, half of whom seemed to be called Geboers. Better start, but it was a stiff pace and with few expectations, managed to enjoy the jumps and the increasingly rough track as the race went on. With a couple of laps to go, dropped the bike on one the corners and it wouldn’t restart for bit. When it did, that was it. Back to the van and totally knackered, and went on the hunt for drinks whilst Sophie located the sandwiches. Brewed up some tea and settled down in the wind behind the van to recover from 1h15 minutes of track time in the morning.

First race in Belgium

Went for a walk and spoke with Werner Castelyns during the break between races (who should also be referred to as JR, as he learnt english from watching Dallas) and it was good find out how Belgium Classic motocross is organised. As mentioned, he runs the Kate’s Retro Page web site, which has the dates, regs, riding numbers and the latest news on whats happening in Belgian ‘old timer’ or classic motocross. It seems that running bikes in the right classes is a hot topic also and in particular with the pre-77 class. As I’d found out, the Twinshock class is very competitive, so much so some pre77 riders had moved into the older class and there was now some debate on the machinery being used (HT Yamaha’s were mentioned). The Twinshock class in the Welsh Championship has a wide variety of standard of rider and I’m sure if I rode at Twinshock specific meeting, I’d find the same standard and focus; not been to Farleigh so I don’t know.

In the box before the 1st twinshock race

Sophie and I also met up with Tony Hegarty and his wife who were over from Wrexham (I’d been in the same race at him at Pontrilas earlier in the year) and he, like me was testing Belgian racing out for the first time on his CZ. Also enjoy himself, and like me was surprised by the quality of the track after the overnight rain.

After some further bike work on the MX250, went out for the 2nd race and ended up in the pre72 instead of the pre77 (over eagerness and trying to avoid the incoming rain!). Much better away from the gate (no buggering around like there is behind the tape. Lots for start position in race 1 and then result from race 1 governs your position for race 2, makes a lot of sense. Lost the gears round the back of the course, but the bike went well, and again like at Abbeycwmhir, managed to loose parts of the exhaust. Good fun again, but by the end was losing pace as now tired. It was nice to see the chequered flag. Back to the van to load up and change, before heading back over to the track and the beer tent (we are in Belgium after all).

I'm smiling as I've finished my last race

Tim (colleague from work) and a couple of friends came over from nearby Hasselt to watch the races in the afternoon and have a beer, which we followed by frites, saus and a saveloy…excellent. Weather had improved and there was some impressive Twinshock and Evo racing to watch. Also, liked the 80-175cc pre80 class as there are very few classic 125’s out there racing in the UK (had seen a rare YZ125A last year).

After race snack

The route back from Oreye revealed more of the interesting side of Belgium. The N3 / Luikersteenweg
is an interesting 10km strip of lap dancing clubs and other premises of ill repute. The wiggling girls in the window had little attention from the early evening traffic, perhaps wearing motocross kit rather than basques made have an impact on the returning riders. The McDonalds in St Truiden got torched by animal rights groups some time back and some of the local kids have a facebook group campaigning for its return, however the current building with its graffiti isn’t too bad.

Nice graffiti on the burnt out remains of St Truidens McDonalds

About an hour or so back to Lier and a stop in the excellent self-wash to clean bikes, gear and the van. Long day which ended up with me falling asleep on the sofa with an unfinished coffee.

Twinshock race

To finish some notes on riding classic motocross in Belgium :
– best source of information is Werner’s site and he’ll be keen to help out if you want some information
– To ask for the standard beer in Flemish, een pintje alstublieft , un demi s’il vous plait in French, using the right one in the right part of Belgium is the challenge. English usually works in Flanders also….
– If you want to be competitive, you’ll need to remember that the classes are different, with a lot in pre72 and an active thriving pre77 class (with some rule leniency).
– No problem to turn up and ride, but good to let the organisers know if possible. The license system is different.
– Belgium is a small country and most of the tracks are less than 3 hours drive from Calais. The track at Oreye was okay, but will try to race one of the more classic locations next time. You can potentially get a full weekend of racing (Sat and Sun), but a lot of the classic meets are on Saturday (with modern stuff on Sunday).

It was a good, well-run event that even though I was not a regular, was made to feel welcome. Language shouldn’t a problem. Speaking with Sophie on the way back, she commented that in Belgium it seemed to be more about the race, rather than the love of the bikes; it was competitive. This may be the case, especially in the more modern classes, but no problem will turning up and riding. You will be made welcome and I’ll be back for more, probably next year.

End of a long day

A nice video of the racing from Oreye has appeared on youtube

By Bantam in Belgium (for the over 70’s)

The plan was to fit 4 bikes in the van and head over to Belgium with the 3 of the members of the Berkshire Section of the Vintage Motorcycle Club (VMCC), aka the ‘Grumpy Club’; namely Alan (my father), Dave and Roger.

Day 0:

The van was loaded the night before, 3 Bantams and a DT175 ; had to strip the leg shields and front panniers from Dave’s bike in order to fit everything in. Dave’s is a D10/14 hybrid, with Roger’s is an orange (?) D14 (I think?), whilst my Dad’s (Alan) D175 was the one with the original patina. All the bikes had been lovingly prepared and paperwork and needs packed. Roger is used more to going to cruises than bike trips, but soon got into the swing of things.

Three Bantam's and a Yamaha

Really quick run round the M25 for a Monday morning; partly because we were in the van, not on 60’s and 70’s two-strokes and partly because it was holiday season and no traffic. Bit of a wait at Eurotunnel and then off through France and towards Osteende, Brugge, Gent and Antwerpen.

A warm welcome from Sophie in Lier and after a getting sorted in the hotel went for pleasant dinner in town.

Eyeing up a classic.

Day 1:


View Baarle-Nassau in a larger map

After some faff time fitting a new wing mirror (on the correct ‘european’ side ) to Roger’s bike, we set off in rainy conditions on a trip towards Baarle-Hertog (to Belgians, Baarle-Nassau, to the Dutch, more on the enclave situation check out Wikipedia ). Stopped after 3 minutes for Malcolm to find his over trousers.

Preparing the bikes for the Day 1 trip

Good to get on the road and head towards Zandhoven with all the bikes running well, with a range of blue smoke levels billowing forth from the bikes. [[ Two stroke oil and mixture ratios were the main contentious topic of the week. The approach ranged from the cheapest oil (£5 per gallon ??) to Silkolene Comp 2 and the exact mixture and measurement of oil to the more ad hoc methods. ]].

Some navigation issues towards Malle and Zoertsel as well as heavy rain, which saw us take shelter for a coffee and/or beer in a bar in Beerse. Suitably refreshed, we headed off towards Merkplas and then took the back roads up to Baarle Hertog. All bikes going okay (still) and after some suitable pastries and a conversation with a local beauty about the local parking legislation, we climbed back on board and headed back towards Turnhout.

What was clear, that the adventurous approach of using small back roads made navigation all the more difficult. There is no doubt that Belgian road signs and markings are the worst in Europe, both in terms of the inaccuracy and specifically their absence. Therefore, the route back used some bigger roads, in particular a dice with the Ring near Turnhout.

Weather was clearing up a bit as we continued back via Lille, Vorselaar and then Grobbendonk. Time for more beers and coffee before riding the final 20 kilometres or so back into Lier.

One of the main challenges of the trip was to find suitable beer for Dave (that is bitter, no head, ie like a local pint in Berkshire), so the team decamped to a bar near to the hotel to test out some beers (including Ciney and Palm ), which is where I found them over an hour later. Dinner consisted of a home cooked steak (which was ‘paarde’),some wine and beer. A slightly wet but day without major bike incident.

Day 2:
A brighter day and a mission. To the Phillipine..in Holland but really ‘spare’ Belgium.


View Lier to Phillipine in a larger map

The aim was to catch up with Franz, who’d been on the End-to-End run with Dave the previous year. By happy co-incidence he also owns a mussel restaurant, so lunch should be sorted.

Some starting problems with the DT delayed the take-off and needed to adopt the fuel down the plug-hole to get the bike moving. The lack of maintenance (ie none since its arrival from the US) was beginning to take its toll in terms of trip reliability).

Nothing to ambitious for the morning run, through Mortsel and straight through the centre of Antwerp. Traffic not too bad and then through original tunnel under the Schelde and off towards Zeeland….

Except a problem….

Google Maps should be used with caution as despite best plans heading for the E34 towards Brugge. One of the advantages of lightweight bikes is their offroad ability between motorways. Back on track took us through some of the dock areas and then on into the Netherlands via the backroads. After a slight detour, the decision was made that lunch was an important event and we then made good time on bigger roads to get to Phillipine….and Franz’s restaurant.

Great guy, great food and great service, followed by a trip to his house to view his bikes (which was impressive). All in all it meant a later than planned departure back towards Lier, which was 120km away.

Franz's Mussel restaurant in Phillipine

A fuel stop and a failing fuel pipe on the DT delayed us further. Roger sprung some fuel pipe out of his bag and a quick fix saw everyone of their way. For a while, as everyone arrived in Wachtebeke, Dave did so without a clutch. Given that Bantam’s are a relative simple bike, replacing the clutch cable is anything but simple.

Replacing the Clutch cable on Dave's Bantam

There was offer of help from a local guy (Matchless owner) and then from a young lady who had seen Dave pull up on the side of the road. Another British bike enthusiast who distracted some from the repair task at hand. It was past 17h00, with 70km to go to Lier and dinner. A bit of pace was injected, as we headed to Dendermonde, though progress was held up slightly with a closed bridge back across the Schelde at Boom. As the cycle path was open, we decided to walk the bikes across, again another plus point for the nimble two-stroke.

Another 30 minutes and we passed through Rumst and Duffel and were back in Lier by 19h30. A quick aperitif and then pizza for dinner, which ended off a long day in the saddle. One of the positive things about small bikes, you can spend a long time not going very far, but having a lot of fun.

Day 3:


View Zonnebecke circuit with Ieper in a larger map

We left Lier in the morning and headed west over towards Ieper (Ypres in French) for a short day touring around the countryside. We parked the van in Zonnebeke outside the Passchendaele Museum with a nice day weather wise and then headed the short distance up to Tyne Cot cemetery. It’s the largest of the Commonweath cemetery’s with 12000 graves and a memorial to 36000 other soldiers without graves and it is a poignant memorial.

Menin Gate; Ieper

Off then via the back lanes into the centre of Ieper and after avoiding the road works found ourselves in the Grotte Markt where we met up with my sister Louise and family for a relaxed lunch. Took a look at the Menin Gate, before heading off south to Wijtschaete. We went to have a look at Spanbroekmolen crater now the Pool of Peace. This was the site of one of the mines that were exploded at the start of the battle of Messines Ridge in June 1917.

Spanbroekmolen : the pool of peace

Also had a look at the small Lone Tree Cemetery opposite, on a far small scale than Tyne Cot. Back on the bikes and a short tour via Hill 60 before arriving back to Zonnebeke. Packed the van again and then headed back to Calais, when after some delays got back to England and then reading and the end of the trip.

Good fun and some discussion about the next trip. Maybe some better route planning next time, though Belgian back roads are not the easiest to navigate if you are not a local. With route-finding, leading the group, choosing meals etc, I didn’t get enough time to take photo’s, which was areal shame, but a great trip and good fun !

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What applies to bikes, applies to lawnmowers

What applies to classic offroad bikes, should also apply to lawnmowers and I’ve been hankering for an Atco for a while. I’d persevered with the Westwood ride on until it had become unusable, as the rotary cut was carving out chunks from the lawn quicker than the rabbits this year.

Quick eBay session and found an Atco Royale of unknown vintage nearby and the deal was done. Like a bike purchase:

Atco Royale

– there were bits missing (the clutch cover in this case);
– it had a poor restoration job at some point in the past, with a lurid green
– it worked, well do to the front lawn, until the clutch went
– ordered the clutch parts from ebay
– fixed it the following weekend

It does do a nice cut, though years of the rotary mower has taken its toll on the surface of the lawn. It’s not too bad to work on and it seems to get spares for it.

Atco are now owned by Bosch, but their mowers haven’t really changed for a few decades. The spares lists and exploded diagrams are all on the web site and once you navigate the Java app, all is revealed. Very good.

Clutch plates

Some more work to do, including a full oiling of the moving parts and potentially getting the blades sharpened. It’s a very satisfying, comfortable piece of machinery for the shed.

On the road, so head off road !

To celebrate its road worthiness, took the little beauty for a 30 mile tour of the south Herefordshire by-ways, via Kingstone, Vowchurch, Michaelchurch, Llanveynoe, Longtown and Abbeydore. Took in a couple of the ‘older lanes’ on route.

Turnastone

Not really set the bike up for green-laning proper (ie thin traditional tyres, no tyre clamps etc) but why not. After a photo stop at the petrol pumps in Turnastone, heading up to Hermit’s Lane. Stream was low, and some mud after a days rain, with the DT only failing on the ‘step’ near the top.

Impressed and thinking about making a 21″ front rim and getting a 4.00/18 trials tyre on the rear, long distance trial potential ? It’s a small bike and fairly light for a mid-70’s piece of metal work.

Off next to Shawl’s Lane, but tackled this down hill, as there are some steps that would easily defeat the DT’s ground clearance on the way up ! Stream was pretty low at the end, which also was good given the clearance available.

Olchon Valley road

Up a small lane to Llanveynoe just in time to see the clouds coming in across the mountain. Round to the mountain road and up past the sheep to the parking area below the Black Darren. Quick photo stop of the black clouds behind the bike.

Refreshment stop

Off down the hill and into Longtown and a quick stop at the Crown for some refreshment before heading up over the Bryn, to the Trout, over the ford and up the steep hill over the top to Abbeydore.

Hang on....

Cranked up the pace a bit on the way back and a 35 mile round trip which the bike took in its stride. Excellent fun, even the offroad bits !

Restore it, then thrash it

The bike was ready and after checking the bolts one more time, headed the 5 miles down the road to Howton Court and the Pontrilas MX track and one of their practice evenings.

Ready for action

Warm evening and plenty of dust at what is a modern rather than a classic track.

Youtube link to a lap of the track

The bike fired up perfectly and managed an initial three laps before the rear brake disappeared; takes a while to learn the track, lots of dust and deep sand on the outside of corners. The practice session was pretty quiet but even a few bikes (all modern) meant lots of dust.

The rear brake arm needs sorting; its not a solid arm and keeps coming off the spline. May need some new shoes also, front works well (as only one I had for the last 5 laps).

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Good evening, though the dry conditions and the dust literally too some of the shine off it.

Getting there with the YZ

However, some time at home meant time working on the bike (along with other projects, like the DT175 ). I’d got a rolling chassis after getting a new rear wheel rim made up in Belgium and put in the bottom end of the engine.

Graphics done, ready to ride

The piston’s for the YZ250 are indeed the same that I’d used for the MX250 (the later 509 piston, with the cutaway rather than the boost ports)

Nearly there....

The jobs that got done:
– barrel and piston; there is now nowhere in Hereford that can (or wants to) rebore a two stroke piston. Hereford Rebore has retired (he’d checked out a while ago though) and Phoenix Engineering doesn’t have the kit and are also down sizing. Nearest options are Ledbury or Brynmawr. Anyway, stuck with the original Wiseco piston for now as their didn’t seem to be too much noise.
– no spark on reassembly and spent 3-4 hours checking and cleaning connectors; also cleaned up the stator and rotor which had seen some water ingress at some point. Going for a cup of tea and coming back to find a spark was nice and reinforces the ‘take your time and don’t stress approach’.
– fitting the cables; I’d borrowed the ones I’d order for the MX250 as both the clutch and throttle had become a little worn. This turned out to a bit a faff to get the adjustments right and just took longer than expected
– ended up making a new bracket to go under the seat to hold the rear mudguard in place. Some expensive (well I though so) black coated aluminium from B&Q did the trick. Used some nice bolts from the written-off KTM 950 as the fixings (doesn’t this mean its not twinshock eligible now?)
– the carb and air filter box went together okay though the float height still needs doing.
– got the SuperTrap exhaust back off Alan and will use this on the bike for now to see how it goes.

It runs well though

Managed to get in a few laps of the field and the bike seems good. Need to set up the front forks a little better and change the oil, but the fork tops have been mangled in the past, so might be a challenge.

Other jobs:
– get the airfilter to fit; the one I have is from a 78 YZ250 E and needs some modification
– do the plastics, vinyl and numbers.
– iron out any other small items, like the cable routing and ties
– check all the bolts and make sure they are tightened and correct.

Completed bike

PS: ended up getting up at 6am to finish off the bike and now pondering whether to give it an outing at Pontrilas this evening as they have a practice session today

Looking good and a relatively straightforward project that seems to have taken ages.

Otro funeral español !

The MX250 had seen some last minute work (ie another engine change) as after the Chester debacle there was no power at all and wouldn’t run under load. I’d spent the last couple of days also looking at the YZ250 project but had failed to get it finished for the meeting (it would have been a tough ask and enough bits fell of the MX250 as it was.

The SC500 still doesn’t have an ignition as it had failed after Narberth. It’s still work in progress and has proved a little frustrating, and will potentially will look at some alternatives over the next couple of weeks if possible.

The paddock, including the new Metisse

Some discussion whilst walking the track, prompted by Steve’s attire (flip-flops and flowery sun-hat) about team names, and the life and works of Hunter S Thompson . Indeed, the concept that it is the people and their actions that are more important about an event, rather than the event and the result of the event itself is indeed ‘gonzo’ style. [[ Unfortunately, there is already a Gonzo racing team in the US (car desert racing) but given the links to the Mint 400 etc, plenty of scope for next season ]]

Mark and Cappra

Steve had indeed changed machines after seizing his ’76 Maico, following one or two beers too many at the Bonanza he’d acquired a Triumph Mettise. It sounded good at a decibel level that would make it unsuitable for a track day, but had a few teething problems early. Steve also took a while to get used to the bike on the track, but given the competition (it was a British Championship round) and first time out, he seemed to be doing pretty well.

Big entry (over 160) which was nice to see, and some good racing. The venue had seen a lot of action including the motocross special test for the Welsh Two Day Enduro so it was a bit rutted in places.

The ground was hard and grassy, but not dusty. It was a bit rough as my back the following day testified and keeping the 250 two-stroke on song wasn’t easy.

Mark the spectator catches Alan in action

Mark had had to do some last minute changes to the Montesa Cappra as his front forks had cracked by the front spindle clamp and he’d fitted some RM forks. However, some testing and a couple of laps in practice determined that this was not going to work. Even some in paddock modifications meant that it was not the best in terms of confidence building.

Disappearing Chris Storey...

The MX250 struggled in practice in particular up the steeper parts, so time to do some further modifications to the timing. Quick test still meant it wasn’t perfect and in race 1 the bike struggled off the line, all this after it was running well in the field the night before.

The pit mechanic in Graham had arrived on the KTM from Cardiff and following a trip to the burger van contributed to the usual fixing of bikes. The MX also lost an engine mounting bolt during race 1, as well as the exhaust tail pipe ! Not a good reflection of my spannering skills. Race 1 saw me well down the field and struggling a bit with the rough track, but at least the bike finished.

Dan Evans on the 250 Husky

Some tightening of bolts and also tightening the spark plug and time race 2 came around after lunch the bike was performing much better. Managed to get infront of a couple of riders I was behind in race 1, and the bike seemed to be going a lot better. However got a puncture on the last lap and lost a place. It was caused by a broken spoke, so might have picked up a wooden stick etc on the way round. Ah well, but decided to give race 3 a miss, so went up to watch some more races.

Quietly, Alan had an excellent day on the XL350, with good close races with another Honda, a Kramer and a Kawasaki. Good to watch and cheer him on during the last couple of races.

Tredegar 'race van'

One of the issues I have the Mid Wales meeting is the noise, not from the bikes but from an overly efficient PA system. Walking the track to full volume Otis Redding is a bit wierd and whilst the commentary is okay, it does go on all day and sitting down in the pits trying to talk or fix bikes is dominated by the noise. After the meeting in May, we’d parked further away from the speakers in the paddocks. Someone did disable the speaker in the middle of the paddock (wasn’t me) and maybe give people the option next time. Put the speakers up by the start end of the paddock and not further down.

Proper race van

Overall the racing on the day was excellent, both the Championship and club races, with some tight finishes, great close racing on the track and also some great bikes on the track.

All in all a pretty mixed day, but as always good fun. It was nice to get a royal wave from Tim Manton as he was chauffered from the track in the race van equivalent of the PopeMobile. He did ride well on the day, so plaudits all round.