Sidecarland

Viking M/C and S/C Rally Seamer 2017

Lesley and Martin looked at each other and chuckled when I said I was going to the Viking Sidecar Club Rally.  Knowing that I am a relatively inexperienced rallyist, they kindly alerted me of what I should expect to encounter.  It was not exactly a glowing recommendation of the event, more of a heads up on the highs and lows I should brace myself for.

The thrill of riding the sidecar outfit through unfamiliar parts of the UK had caught my imagination.  When I saw the Viking Rally advertised in the Fed Magazine earlier in the year I immediately pencilled it into my diary.  I had visited Scarborough for the first time earlier this year and was blown away by the amazing scenery and the friendly demeanour of the local population.  So, I chose to take the positives from the advice received from Mr and Mrs A. and pushed on with my plans, even extending my stay slightly to a four-day long weekend.  After all, it is a long way to go for one night and there are worse ways to spend an evening than playing bingo and enjoying the karaoke, assuming Martyn’s forecast of the limited local entertainment on offer is correct.

I had been studying the map for weeks.  The plan was to get on the road by 10 O’clock Friday morning with a fully loaded sidecar and follow a leisurely schedule that included plenty of coffee breaks.  Unfortunately, the trusty Triumph hadn’t read the script as a prod of the starter button brought about nothing more than a timid “click” rather than the expected “Chug-Chug-Vroom.”  Note to self; apologise to next door neighbour for introducing their two-year-old who had wandered within ear-shot to some “industrial” language.

Being on good terms with the village car repair shop paid dividends as he was only too happy to lend me some jump leads, but with the proviso that he took no responsibility for what I did with them.  This is a worrying thing for someone with limited mechanically knowledgeable to hear.  But, after a little research, I observed that both the bike and car battery had “12V” on their respective labels so all should be ok.  I went ahead and connected one lead to the black knobbly thingy on my car battery and the other end to the black bit sticking out of the bike battery, repeating the process with the red bits on the opposite ends.  Incredibly, this had the required effect and we were on the road, albeit one and a half hours behind schedule.

My smug sense of satisfaction with getting the bike running was overturned somewhere near Doncaster when I remember that it was my faffing around with the Satnav that almost certainly drained the battery earlier in the day.  I will file the experience under “lessons learned and not to be repeated.”  Not wanting to tempt fate, I completed the last leg of the journey north from the Humber with the satnav replaced by hand-written directions on the back of a discarded piece of scrap paper found in a layby.

Anyway, less about my trials and tribulations and back to the rally.  My experience of Fed affiliated Sidecar Club rallies is limited compared to most but I have to say that the Viking Rally was distinctly different to any other I have attended.  On arrival, I looked around for somewhere to check in and get the lowdown on what was planned for the weekend, as seems to be the norm.  This proved to be a fruitless act and only attracted curious glances from those already on site.  After a while I was directed to a suitable spot on which to pitch my tent, which was right next to a caravan.  This was swiftly followed by an approach from a host club member asking me to sign her a form and hand over £24 for the three nights I planned to stay.   That done, I could now start to unload my camping gear.

To my amusement, all my queries about the location of coffee, toilets, food, bar and activities (in that order) got the same response of “In t’ clubhouse, love.”  This proved to be pretty much the case, although an additional chuckwagon style facility served mainly fried food at breakfast and tea time was also on call.  It was important to remind myself at this point that the terms “dinner time” and “tea time” have different meanings around the UK depending on local customs.

The clubhouse I had been referred to on arrival turned out to be run by the site owner rather than anything exclusive to the sidecar event.  Not knowing the host club members from general campers could have been awkward for me but I committed myself to attending the bingo event advertised as being hosted by “Our Terry” later that night in the clubhouse (obviously).  But first I headed out to explore the village of Seamer.  It has everything a rural village should have, including three pubs serving food and a sizeable village shop, all within a short walk of the campsite.  In addition, Scarborough is only about five miles away.

My comfort levels rose sharply when “Our Lesley” rode past me on her way to the campsite.  She and I were the sole representatives from Tri-Anglia Wheels, which prompted me to think back to Martin’s advice for an explanation of why this should be.  Martin’s predictions of what to expect was become a reality.  Life revolved around t’ clubhouse which, in fairness, had a decent “tea” menu at very cheap rates although the choice of beers was limited.  John Smiths is obviously a local favourite.

Lesley and I chose to watch on rather than get involved with the Bingo.  This was a wise choice as it was all taken a lot more serious than I expected. “Our Terry” seemed to be doing an excellent job as a bingo caller.  He had obviously done it before.  He succeeded in whipping up his audience to a frenzy of excitement when certain numbers came up.  The number 50 was a firm favourite and prompted the congregation to burst into a Snow White/Disney-based song, “Five-O, Five-O, it’s off to work we go.”  I am not sure if this was a gibe at the lack of employment opportunities in the area but it got everyone smiling.

Saturday was a warm day from the word go.  A trip was made to the showering facilities (in t’ clubhouse), which were clean and modern but came at a charge of 50p for six minutes-worth of water.  The plumbing facilities more than met the demands of a nearly full field of campers.  Likewise, the breakfast chef who had a cheerful greeting for anyone passing within earshot.

News reached Lesley that the Saturday ride-out mentioned in the Fed Newsletter was not now going to be happening.  So, Lesley climbed into my sidecar and we set off for Scarborough (yes, I’ll repeat that bit because it sounds so incredible.  Lesley, with a lifetime of sidecar experience, trusted her safety to a comparative novice like me to drive her to Scarborough).  There were some questionable navigating decisions on my part along the way and an aborted attempt to climb the hill up to Scarborough Castle.  However, Lesley had the kind of open-top tour of the town for which others were paying good money to the local bus tour operator.  Due to the unusually hot weather the town was fast becoming inundated with visitors.  As we cruised the promenade, Lesley shouted to me that there is a motorcycle parking bay a bit further along the seafront near the Spa complex.  Revealing my rarely-seen assertive side, I chose to dive into another space before we got that far.  This meant we joined a growing group of frustrated parkers trying to coax a parking meter into spitting out a ticket.  Some minutes later we found Lesley’s motorcycle parking bay.  Another note to self; listen to Lesley.

We got back to the campsite to find not a lot happening, other than an invasion of midges.  There was some debate among the locals as to exactly what they were called but clouds of them were appearing from the surrounding treetops.  One description was “tree bees” but they seemed harmless, that was until they started landing in my beer.  This is when they became regarded as serious pests!  There was food and drink available in t’ clubhouse right up to when the Karaoke got started.  What better reason to head out to the nearest pub for dinner/tea.  Lesley favoured the village fish and chip shop and gave favourable feedback.  The locals seemed to prefer the outdoor hog roast kitchen that had popped up while I was away.

The evening past off relatively quietly given the density of the population on the campsite.  The midges had retreated to the tree-tops to plan their next raid, or perhaps they too were suffering from a lack of sleep due to the stifling temperature overnight.  I finally fell into slumber to the sound of the sea lapping against the shore.  I was quite surprised it could be heard so far inland and thought it must be due to the wind direction.  In the morning, I was informed that what I could hear was not the sea but the water re-cycling plant in the next field and that I should be grateful the wind was not blowing our way!

By the time we gathered on the Sunday morning for the raffle and award of prizes the temperature was already well into the “uncomfortable” zone.  With the formalities completed, most campers were packing up their belongings and heading for home.  But, with 24 hrs of my mini-break still to go, I jumped on the bike and headed back to Scarborough to soak up some more Yorkshire sunshine and ice cream.  A small detour was made to the hills above Scarborough where Oliver’s Mount road racing circuit is hidden away behind the trees and shrubbery.  I had heard it is well worth a visit and it certainly is that.  It is difficult to imagine powerful bikes racing around such narrow lanes and heavens knows how sidecar outfits get around.  The speeds may not be anything like those achieved on the Isle of Man but it must be an amazing site on a race day.  As well as the race track, the hillside is also the site of a very majestic war memorial overlooking the entire town.  The view is absolutely amazing.

The campsite field was almost deserted when I get back.  Just a few stragglers packing up their campervans.  My homeward journey was not until the Monday so I had the entire field and t’ clubhouse almost to myself on the Sunday night.  It was all very peaceful, particularly as the WiFi appeared to have gone down.

Monday was another scorcher but got off to a bad start when the 50p shower token I bought the previous day failed to trigger the shower mechanism.  I was prepared to immediately march round to the site office to register my dissatisfaction but thought it best to put a few clothes back on again first.  I think they turned the showers back on again specially for me.  Duly showered, I packed everything into the sidecar I set off for home, making my first scheduled stop for coffee at a bike shop/cafe just five miles down the road.  GMec is an establishment I saw advertised in Motorcycle Monthly.

It is basically a motorcycle accessory shop with a cafe serving hot drinks and snacks.  Just right for a late breakfast and a chat with another motorcyclist awaiting the results of an MOT test.  Perhaps other rallyists would have used the cafe as an alternative to t’ clubhouse had they been made aware of it.  Caffeine levels topped up, the journey home was back on again in temperatures up around 30C.  So much for the Chilly North!  The 190-mile journey required no less than four stops; two to top up the bike with fuel and two additional stops to top up my own fluid levels.  Blimey, it was hot!

Lesley’s tent and bike completely surrounded and the chairs and table is not hers!

So, what did I make of the Viking Rally?  Martyn’s predictions on what to expect proved to be spot on.  The rally had the bare minimum of requirements to warrant the title given that it took place on a site that was open to all and sundry in their cars and caravans, but it was still a very enjoyable experience.  My memories of the rally itself will probably fade sooner than those I have of the time spent in Scarborough and at the Oliver’s Mount race track.  The ride through North Yorkshire was also a highlight for a variety of reasons.  Seamer itself has more to offer than most villages of its size and Scarborough is a very picturesque seaside town with a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere.  I hear the National Rally is due to be in North Yorkshire in 2018.  I will keep an eye open for further details.

John Payne