An Old School event on some Belgian ring road

With me being from The Continent, I live a bit of a different life than most of our members, as about 90% of you, are from the UK. In the UK there’s a racetrack, an abandoned airfield or a drag strip usually not more than an hour away from wherever you are, at legal speeds even.

For us, it’s quite the opposite; from my house, the closest proper racetrack is 2 and half hours away. The fact that the track in question is the legendary Spa Francorchamps circuit does quite make up for it though. Zolder is closer, but that’s not really to my liking and Assen is another hour further the other way.

Yup, Spa is my home track, so to speak and every year since 2012 I’ve been making the trek to the Biker’s Classics held there yearly the first weekend of July. It’s a festival of everything Not New on 2 wheels; super-rare superbikes of days gone by, proper GP stuff from the 60’s and 70’s, etc.

Most of these bikes are not static, not by a long way. Championship races are held, track sessions for those that want to use his/her outdated bike for what it was actually meant and there’s the obligatory parade laps which usually end up in a few ex-World champions redoing some of their old battles, just for the hell of it.

Since we’ve been coming, we’ve also been shouting; “We need to have a go” Last year, I did and this year, we were out in force. As members of OSS, our little Dutch based“race team” (with lack of a better word) called #Team Banana; 3 bikes on track, 3 bikes as support vehicles, easily the biggest plot in the paddock and full catering and management; we clearly don’t do things by half.

Anyway, this is all beside the point; the 2017 Classics will mostly and sadly be remembered for appalling weather, which has quite the effect on the whole gathering. I myself have been out on track in pretty much every session available as most chose to keep their irreplaceable bikes in their respective pit boxes and tents, as to not write them off, which is very understandable. My bike was cheap (and not very fast) and I had full-wet tyres with me, as did Leblowski, so we were safe, doing many sessions with 5 or 6 bikes on track, instead of 50.


For the public and our supporting crew, it was quite different. It was cold, wet and miserable and that doesn’t make for a good day’s watching rare bikes, either static or racing which was sad as there is so much to be seen, it boggles the mind.

Next to our own little paddock with 2 Slingshots and 2 Slabbies, there were so many bikes from our school of thought, built solely for this yearly event; if there was nothing else to be seen, we’d all still have a field day. GSXR750RK with a bigbore 1100 motor with superbike running gear? Naturally. An as-new 1100ET? Sure thing. GSX1000S Katana on track? Totally normal. This bike was also blagged from the owner for the event, with the rider having pretty much his first ride on the bike and on a racetrack; very brave. These are just a few bikes run by like minded gentlemen doing the track sessions; no racing, just fast as you like down the racetrack. No ego’s, nothing to be won, just roundy-roundy riding for fun.

Then, in the proper pit lane and it’s adjoining paddocks is where the real bikes are. If you don’t know about the CSBK championship, I suggest you get yourself informed because the bikes used are awe inspiring, as is the riding. Some Dutch guys even do quite a good job on a bunch of Slabbies. Then there’s the French/Belgian Pro-classic series of which the grid is downright comical; from weedy early 90’s 600’s though to Y2K and later litre bikes, it all makes for interesting racing, the level is pretty high.

And then the Show piece of the event; the 4 hour Classic Endurance race. Some of you that were attending the earlier gathering at Donington may have had a feel of what this all is about, but at Spa, it all goes up a notch. For starters; the flag drops at 8pm and they ride into the night finishing at midnight. Thus, in the dark, on a blinding fast racetrack with utterly awful lights on most bikes. How some of these guys keep up the speeds that they do, I will never know. It doesn’t help that I’m night blind, so I best not ever enter myself.

The grid for this race is getting bigger and better every year. Some teams have budgets so high, it’s not really an amateur effort any more, with new bikes being built every year; Bakker/Harris/Moto Martin, it’s normal (almost), as are 170+ Bhp air-cooled motors.



Like Donington, at Spa, Suzuki themselves also entered, showing the factory interest for this type of motor sport, again with the blue Katana we’ve all seen been built at the NEC, this time the riders would be Pete Boast and non other than Guy Martin, with another (privately entered but twinned) Katana entered for good measure, finishing a respectable 7th and 22nd respectively. Our very own Sweatshop Phase One, of Mark Foggy fame ended up 3rd on the podium only seconds behind the Team Taurus GSX1100 and 1 lap behind a bike of a brand we shall not speak of. All of this after nearly 4 hours racing in the dark and wet out of a field of 47 starters; not half bad.

As a spectator, to witness this all, is a bit special. It’s not an everyday thing seeing and hearing these bikes of old tear through the night and the whole paddock itself is so open, you get the feeling you’re doing something naughty going your way around, only to be welcomed to have a look around everything and from very up close, just as long as you don’t get in the way. In this day of barriers and tight security, it is truly a breath of fresh air.

In the end, for me, it was another very good meeting; I was very reluctant at first to enter again next year due to the cost and the fact that communicating with the organisers is a nightmare; it all goes away the first time you plunge down from La Source into Raidillon with the throttle WFO for 75% of the time, all the way round. It’s quite something and I can’t wait to go again. The rain may have slowed the whole show down a bit, but if that didn’t bother you, there was so much to see, do and learn, there’s few thing like it.

I urge everyone with a remote interest in these bikes and racing (which, if you made it this far, should be the case) to make the pilgrimage to this event and see it all for yourself. I cannot make any promises about the weather, but I will promise that there will be plenty things to see/hear/smell to make it worth the trip from wherever you are. And, if that doesn’t convince you; we have stroopwafels.

/EFE

Photocredit;

-Jelle Boeijinga
-Marco vd Velde
-Darren Whyte
-Nolan Freebury
-Chris Whitey
-Team Classic Suzuki
-Bikers Classics
-European Classic Series

We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.

711-in-the-sunWhat comes to my mind when someone mentions a motorcycle road trip around Europe? A large capacity sports tourer with hard luggage and a gel seat? Perhaps it’s an adventure bike with unlimited luggage capacity and the finest Gortex multilayer touring gear?

This story is about a motorcycle road trip that is the antithesis of what you might normally associate with motorcycle touring. In contrast to the norm, this story is about toughing it out, without compromise, on a two wheeled, air-cooled weapon of choice.  This story is about an almost Zen like minimalism all wrapped up in a “fuck you” sense of style. The bike and the rider are motorcycle touring nonetheless, because nobody told them they shouldn’t or couldn’t, and if they had,  I don’t think they would have been heard over the sound of one Suzuki’s finest engines being piped through a titanium Racefit growler.

mental

It all starts with a bike you would not normally associate with any kind of long range two wheeled odyssey. A 1230cc EFE powered Suzuki  ET special with a unique, tweaked and braced bare steel frame. It has no room for panniers. It has rear set foot pegs, a high level sub-frame and a single seat unit that comprises of little more than a thin layer of high -density seat foam.

The choice of equipment for the camping tour is both careful and clever. When you can’t carry very much you must choose carefully.

a-house

The choice of clothing consists of one pair of lace up boots, a set of one piece leathers from the 1970’s and a Simpson helmet. Not everyone’s choice of riding gear for such a long trip but now you might be beginning to understand what made this trip so interesting to me.

gear-on-the-bed

Welcome to the strange ways of frame building guru and OSS stalwart Alan (Strangewayz) Caven.  Alan called this trip Air-cooled, steel framed Anarchy! I think the trip sums up the uncompromising, meticulous, unique, creative and thoroughly considered approach that Mr Stragewayz brings to most things that he does.

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I had followed Alan’s trip over the summer through social media updates and I loved every instalment. There was very little narrative in his updates, mostly just pictures and one-liners but despite that the whole idea really appealed to me so I asked Alan if I could stitch it all together and get some background behind his motives for the trip. Here’s what he told me:

I went through a phase of not finishing any of my own builds due to always working on other people’s stuff, along the way I got tagged by a few people as falling into the category of enjoying building a bike more than actually riding it.

Nothing could be further from the truth; I don’t actually see the point in building something if it isn’t going to get some proper use. It’s the ultimate test of workmanship, seeing if the design, choice of components and execution were good enough.

Some people live for the dragstrip, track days or weekend ride outs… For me it’s all about a road trip, which has to be overseas and on something home built because that combination makes things edgier, takes you out of daily life home country comfort zones, tests both the bike and yourself physically and mentally (I broke both my elbows, right wrist and left ankle in a crash years ago so have a few war wounds to deal with).

I nailed my colours to the mast years ago – Air-cooled – Steel framed – Muscle bikes! Un-faired and loud is the way to roll.

Those of us that know Alan know that his unique take on Suzuki’s GSX 1100 ET was built as tribute to his late wife, who he tragically lost to cancer back in 2010.  Alan lost his last  remaining link to his wife when, not long ago, he also lost their dog Ozzy.  Alan explained that the bike and the trip were an important part of his climb out a pretty dark place.

gsx-tank

Whilst I built the 711 out of 7-Nov Rip Mrs Strangewayz with the intent to hit European streets with it, the real catalyst for this actual trip was when I also lost Ozzy – my Dobermann. The last link with my wife,as he’d been ours. He got me through some tough times he was always there for me. In that moment life was pretty shit, my whole world had gone and life didn’t actually make much sense – what was the point of it all if that was what was served up? I knew needed something positive to concentrate on.

The Provisional MotoGP calendar for 2016 came out with Austria GP & Czech Republic on consecutive weekends; that was it! I knew that by planning to travel minimal and mostly camp it would occupy my mind with how to actually do that. The easy route would be to leave mid-week and roll from Germany straight into Austria…. but that was too easy !!

Heard about Tavullia (Rossi’s home town) seemed a cool place, the man had a bar and pizza place so hey rock up over the alps and drop down into Italy before heading back up to Austria.

I just need an excuse to go and then join the dots up, I used (road) racing but as you can see the journey is more important than the destination, as is what you choose to do the trip on (bike).

The Icing on the cake was that the dates would work to end up back in the Isle of Man for the Classic TT Races. Game on!

I knew this was going to be a busy year because I was also going to the NW200 Road Races mid-May and the TT Races start of June.

Whilst I had some serious reasons for planning the trip, the trip itself was an adventure with a lot of spontaneous stuff going on.

This was how the actual route ended up :

Sat Day 1             Northampton to Bastogne in Belgium

Sun Day 2            Bastogne to Lake Constance (Germany)

Mon Day 3          Lake Constance to Riva Del Garda (Lake Garda – Italy)

Tue Day 4            Riva Del Garda to Tavullia (Rimini near San Marino)

Wed Day 5          Tavullia to Spielburg (Redbull Ring – Austria)

Thur – Fri – Sat – Sun all Moto GP

Mon Day 10        Spielburg to Linz (Austria – OSS Greg Sochor)

Tue Day 11          Linz to Brno (Czech Repb) Chance of a pit pass J

Wed Day 12        Brno to Prague (Czech Repb) no pit pass lol..

Thur Day 13        Prague to Brno (loose keys….)

Fri – Sat – Sun     all Moto GP

Mon Day 17        Brno to Nuremburg (Germany)

Tue Day 18          Nuremburg to Etalle (Belgium)

Wed Day 19        Etalle to Northampton (England !)

Thur Day 20        Northampton to Isle of Man

Fri – Sat – Sun – Mon all Classic TT Races

Tue Day 25          Isle of Man to Northampton

Wed                      Back to work….

map

After speaking to Alan I realised the best way to recount this tale was in the way that I had first experienced it on social media, so I have chosen my favourite updates he made during the trip  below and embedded any words as he used at the time.

 

Early start this morning 4am ish… Neighbours love the sound of a Racefit exhaust clearing it’s throat..

160 miles later it was ferry time, off & the down the road a bit now. Just had a broken English sign language ‘you look like the Stig’ moment…….

Long time since I did a 400 miler, good to be back t it.First night stop over, clues on the bar.

Lol worst camping pitch I ever had, lucky I got a 3/4 Thermarest + Jungle Juice & a Balaclava to survive the midges by Lake Constance as I put tent up in the dark last night. Strangewayz 1 – Midges 0

Think I’m in a different world… The locals are going to love the sound of the 711 clearing it’s throat Racefit style…

Stopped to pull pants out of crack & lovely view of Alps in background

Rocking late 70’s Dainese one piece, genuine retro race gearI scored off Italian eBay last year. Just these & a pair of shorts, non armoured so not as bulky as modern stuff. Looks cool as on the 711

Wasn’t sure but having worn them fucking brilliant, these are the ‘Adventure’ ones, they also do Cruiser or Sport. Have computer designed pads so yeah like posh cycling shorts.

Kriega Hydro 3, wouldn’t be without it. I buy a 1tr bottle of water each day & throw it in. Leaves space for other easy grab gear & so light it’s feels like wearing nothing. Has bladder pocket + 1 other zipped side pocket & the elastic string on the back. The mouth piece is easy to use whilst riding.

Ready to roll, still got the Tavullia cardboard sign to strap somewhere 🙂 Heading north to Czech Repb for their MotoGP race. Stopping off today to see Oldschool Suzuki Greg Sochor in Linz some 200km away. Prague on Weds then back to Brno Thurs ready for the racing. Austria MotoGP was awesome event 215,000 people over the 3 days. Great racing, atmosphere & the sun came out to play.

Side of the road rain gear & visor change, car travel this isn’t haha… Strangewayz keeping it real !

US Urban battle Goretex, gaiters & Red Wing boots – oh yeah & no quick shifter lol

Wrong sport but if your into VW’s this is the famous She’ll garage (now Eri) outside Velden which is ‘The’ place to hangout at the annual Worthersee show. I will be back out this was in my Mk1 Golf in a few years when it’s done. My stupid idea was to get here then find somewhere to wild camp. At silly am it was hard trying to find anywhere as built up with resorts & posh hotels. In the end pushed 100km onto the Red Bull Ring running low on fuel (all shut), IPhone battery (Google maps) & energy. But I did it & I love my bike, 711 was awesome, better than me !!

Definitely regard it as a badge of honour when, so far I am the only motorcycle on the campsite for a bike race ! Especially when I had to move my tent this morning being considered in the way of the the blue awning the couple are putting up who just arrived this morning in their van from up the road (Austria). Hey who knows maybe they will share their beer with me later hahahah….

Road trip shite Austria MotoGP Not really on the piss, that’s when riding solo parked up for a few days is hardest. English speakers thin on the ground but I’m in a good place. Side of a mountain, village part of the track, cool shit, locals love the visitors, bit Euro beat/pop 24/7 sausage feast – why the fuck do you want to dance on a table with your mate – that’s for girls to show off haha… but didn’t do this to feel like I was down the local. General admission ticket (grass) but shite, Isle of Man has spoiled me, but found a good spot with the boys leaving rubber. Dovi & the Maniac at each other all day, Vin what a boy! Cru at times top Honda. MotoGP app excellent with live sector times & a track graphic showing rider positions. Good times, memories lots, ride your bike & go do shit.

It’s all about Suzuki, rockin’ Rizzla T today

T shirt drying, would make a good paint job…

Ahh tent life, big grin, chilling out, road tripping again in the morning, good times rolling.

Fuck yes, tent up at Brno circuit, beer going down hatch.very pretty bar maid, could get to like this haha !! Too you sir that will e£1.20 a pint woo hoo hell yeah

Hanging around feeling lucky…

Czech MotoGP pit pass gig didn’t fall into place, hung around for 2 hours & can you believe as I was riding out along the back lanes the wagon rolled past in a group of 3 ! Turned round asap but by the time I caught them up the guys were already through the barrier. Had a cool time hanging out & wasn’t meant to be. On way to Prague & seriously the main motorway from Brno up is the worst piece of shit road I’ve been on. Bone shaker of a road with a nasty split/crack between lanes 1 & 2. Pulled over for a coffee to check out other routes ! Still smiling though 🙂

85km away form Prague river campsite, needed chocolate so hey park under 3 cameras. Girl too right was seriously sexy….

 

The Girls are Pretty & the Roads are Shitty. Czech roads are the worst piece of crap I’ve been on, might be different in ya cars guys but on a bike you get hammered, Garmin satnav plastic mount just broke because of it, will be on the hunt for cable ties & duct tape 🙂

Ffs we have lost key, Hotwire plan… seriously no photo setup, but still smiling !

Look it’s all about priorities, sweat talking the bar maid to get…… the Suzuki pics from her calendar haha go Vin !!!

Hmm describe Al in a pic ! Yeah beers going down well…….

Seriously impressed the Dunlop Q3 is keeping it’s profile, had to do some serious straight line miles in 30 deg air temps with all the gear on the back & it hasn’t got a shite flat section yet. Too many UK cars showing up around Brno, keep it on 2 wheels guys !!!

After yesterday’s Hotwire after loosing keys on trip 5km away to local atm…. got 3 days parked up as track is walking distance. Re checked my spares kit & lucky boy I did pack a few goodies, should be able to do something ok to last the 1500km trip home 🙂

Having a shite time as you can see whoo hooo

Err so it’s not 8am & sat by the side of the road drinking beer with a dude from Panama also called Alan lol either that or it’s all a weird dream. I only stopped for an espresso because the girl was pretty but the machine wasn’t warmed up……….

Brno MotoGP !

Suzuki out spotting, MotoGP Fp3

Cup say “100% energie” hope it works 🙂

Agh the moment the sugar rush hit whoo hooo caking my way through Germany….

Pffff not impressed my Oberon mirror has fallen apart on me again ffs. I like the gear but for what it cost I don’t expect to have to hold it up on my knuckles whilst waiting for a foreign motorway services to pull over & take if off. Fail 🙁

Hmmm choices choices ok both !!

Chasing the sat nav down, got a good number on it that gets me on the ferry. Fuel stops only, cake later !

Time to roll again 🙂

Sitting at the Creg taking in all the wonderful sounds from the different classes out practicing. Fantastic views in the background which is why I didn’t bother taking a picture of the pub !! Awesome to see 250cc two strokes back racing on the island with their own class.

Ready to roll again, off to watch the Superbike Race & then will be on the ferry home…..

Still going strong – Aircooled forever !

Any day I ride the 711 is a good day just some are sadder than others.

So if you’re reading this and you still don’t understand and or admire the sheer insane and inspirational brilliance of  this road trip then you are probably on the wrong website. Alan, OSS salutes you sir. Here’s to building  them, riding them , and smugly enjoying what you have carved out using your hands, your ingenuity and your imagination and here’s to never letting anyone tell you that you can’t.

This is Alan’s story, so it’s only right that he should get the last word.

What an awesome bike! Still riding it every day to work, need to pull it off road soon as brake discs, pads, rear sprocket almost shot – had to put some winter tyres on (Michelin Pilot Road 4’s) as the Dunlop q3’s which I had on for the trip & did everything I wanted but won’t grip below 5 degrees.

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