Demon Tweeks recently took part in the 61st Dragon Rally, an event which is one of the UK’s most enduring meets.
Dave, our resident sidecar enthusiast, went to the event to see how it got its name and why nearly 5000 bikers attended the rally at one point.
Dave works on the motorsport team and is a massive fan of cars but also has a passion for motorcycles, especially the rather niche sidecars. The saying goes “if you have to explain you probably won’t understand” is perhaps correct. Sidecars suit Dave’s biking adventures, and they are great for camping trips. These vehicles have the benefit of using car and bike parts, which he can get from work which helps a lot as he can get everything he needs for the trip ahead!
Continue reading for an inside look at the event and what it entails – so you can attend the 62nd Dragon Rally with confidence you know what to expect!
Preparing for the rally
Early February means it is time for the yearly Dragon Rally. This year’s rally was the 61st running of the event. Dave also went to the 60th on his ST1100 as a solo but did not take many photos as it was very wet and very windy – which is usually the case at this time in the UK!
The tickets this year were done online by bank transfer and sent to your e-mail; this is quite high tech for the older rallyists! But easy enough to understand, it worked very well although Dave printed the wrong pages! but luckily, they were on his phone – bear this in mind when you get your tickets.
This year Dave wanted to be back on a sidecar so decided to build his own, (but you don’t have to do this!) The event is open to all bikes. First thing was for Dave to decide the type of bike he was going to use. Initially the types available were either too expensive or not the type he wanted. The previous Ural sidecar which was attached worked but was lacking in luggage space and his wife found it rather lowdown for sightseeing. The subframe worked well but gave very little ground clearance so he completely reworked this at the same time. As with everything and everyone nowadays, things were left to the last minute and Dave finished the new sidecar the morning of the rally (no pressure but don’t copy Dave here!)
The chassis was finished but the luggage box was just a rectangular frame wrapped in tarpaulins which most would agree wasn’t the best to look at, but it worked very well, carrying everything needed for camping. This is all you need if you are considering going yourself.
The event itself
First ran in 1962 in the UK, the rally is usually eventful from start to finish, whether it be the rain or mud to your bike malfunctioning! As Dave found out the hard way… he was notified by email of the place for collection of the rally ticket as the Conwy motorcycle club’s own clubhouse next to Conwy castle. Very scenic! The first ride to Conwy went well, the new sidecar drove very straight with no pulling or head shake and cornered better than the Ural sidecar as the new shock was more suited to the weight. However, nothing is simple on the Dragon Rally, when getting near Conwy, the steering on Dave’s bike became heavier, and when parked up he found that the lean out had moved and become lean in, not good! But nothing could be done until getting to the rally site.
Once arriving in Conwy, the car park was full of bikes and lots of sidecars. The variety is incredible, bikes you never see the rest of the year. Bikes from France and Germany, big and small including monkey bikes, it’s great to just see the different engineering on show.
The rally ticket, wristband, and headlight sticker to enter the rally site was obtained at the clubhouse, Dave then found out the rally camp site was on the Welsh island of Anglesey (Ynys Mon in Welsh).
In previous years there has been everything from strong winds to snow meaning it can be a treacherous endeavour to complete the journey to the camp site, with many people calling it quits when the weather is truly poor. But complete the journey and you get the coveted pin.
Arriving at the camp site
The trip to the site was 27 miles but was made very hard work with the lean in, Dave had to stop just 1 mile away from the camp site as the strain from the lean in was exhausting! The site was very flat with a great layout and plenty of room to set your bike and tent up for the evening. The view of the Welsh mountains on the mainland was fantastic, and even if you’re not making the journey for the Dragon Rally you should come and visit. The grass was dry at the camp site which was unusual for the Dragon Rally as traditionally the worst weekend for weather is chosen to make the journey that much more enduring.
Camping in February
Companionship makes every event more enjoyable; Dave found his friend Alan Hill with his 2wd Ural already set up with a tarpaulin to keep the wind off. Dave had brought his wood burner, and it turned out Alan had to, so the camp had two fires!
Dave’s French army tent took just minutes to put up, so camp was soon in place, we advise getting something just as easy to put up should you decide to go on the rally yourself. The sidecar also meant Dave could bring a wood supply, chair and all the camping gear to make the stay comfortable. After a few Dragon Rally’s you know what to bring and what to leave behind. But by reading this you’ll be just as clued up for your first Dragon Rally.
It’s good to be prepared beforehand with regards to food. The wood burner has a cooking surface so chilli con carne with extra Silesian sausage was soon on the go, with a nice cup of tea (it is the UK!) It doesn’t get any better than biking and camping with good food and a great bunch of people! Once settled it was time to have a look around as there is always lots of interesting bikes to look at. There are often bikes here that you never see any other time of the year.
The types of bikes on the Dragon Rally
There was lots of non-sidecars at the rally for the 61st running. For example, friends from the MZ club turned up on 250 ETZ all modified for trail riding. There was also three custom chopper Lambretta scooters which attracted a lot of attention, they looked very cool. There was even a monkey bike towing a trailer! Have a look at “Monkey Dix Adventures” on YouTube, a very entertaining channel.
Entertainment and getting your head down
The evening went fast as there was a large shed with two bands on, also like the year before there was someone walking around playing the bagpipes! The weather being very mild meant the night was the first time that you could sleep and be warm in your tent. A good sleep was had which is not usual for the Dragon Rally!
Once packed up in the morning the mission was to correct the lean out, first with logs not used in the fire, these were used like props in a coal mine! Which turned out not to work very well. Riding was hard work with a heavy pull to the left, but he then tried a scissor jack, and this corrected the lean out back to the original. This was like fitting power steering – it felt like a different bike on the way home.
All this adds to the adventure. A new design of the top mounts is in progress, and he is already looking forward to next year’s rally!
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