If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Denmark Trip Day Five

Last day at MC Touring Camp and the Yamaha Treff, 44 miles

I should spell that 'træf', as it was a Danish one. The usual word is 'treff', from the German for 'meeting', but the Danes spell it their own way, although it is pronounced the same. It's what we would call in English a rally - a meeting of like-minded people in a field somewhere, with food, drink, perhaps a band or two and a good time. I've been to plenty of meetings of Land Rover enthusiasts in the UK which I now realise were 'treffs' of a kind, but this was the first one for me on two wheels and out of the UK.

We spent a lazy morning on the campsite and I packed up all my gear and loaded the bike. An unexpected treat was the offer to 'have a go' on Alice's sidecar outfit. In all the years I have been a motorcyclist, I had never once ridden a 'chariot', as we used to call them. I had only been a passenger in one once, when I was given a spin round the block by someone's older brother with (I think) an old BSA with a Watsonian sidecar. The chair was sagging on its frame and touched the ground on occasions, but it was fun. So I approached Alice's Beemer with a degree of caution. It is set up properly for sidecar use, with leading-link forks, car-type tyres and the brakes of the sidecar linked to the bike's main braking system. I took two cautious laps of the campsite first, and then set off up the road.

It was quite an experience. The steering was ludicrously quick, like a go-kart, and the outfit had plenty of oomph. Keeping it in a straight line was a bit of a challenge, but the most difficult part was allowing for the extra width on the right-hand side. The riding position, controls and everything else told the brain 'BIKE', but the approach needed to every obstacle was 'CAR'. You would approach (say) a right-hand bend, and all your instincts were telling you to move to the left, shift bodyweight and lean it round. Instead, you had to keep to the middle of the lane, and steer it round on the bars, making sure that the chair wheel didn't go off the road and into the rough, which would have made the handling even more challenging. And that is before you start to consider cornering speeds which, on right-handers (left in the UK), need to be low enough to avoid the chair becoming airborne. I got back after a five-mile spin feeling as if I had done a hundred and five. It was a very interesting experience, and I'm glad I was given the opportunity, but I doubt if a combination will be high on my wish-list this Christmas. Never say never, though - if Anna's back doesn't improve and she still wants to be involved, then it may be a necessity for future years. Unless we consider a trike, of course :)))

I had a sit in the chair for a few minutes, and I have to confess it was very comfy. The luggage capacity compared to a solo is awesome. But Poul's tales of cruising down to Spain in it at 130 km/hr sound a little more heroic than I can manage.

We set off after lunch and did a gentle few miles to the Yamaha Club site. This was situated up a short lane off the main road, and was amazingly well-appointed. There was a hardstanding area (full of bikes in normal times, I would imagine) in front of a clubhouse, and a temporary marquee, with a field adjacent for the camping.

There were several bikes and outfits there already,

and Alice had already arrived and put their tent up. Riding what she called the 'sidebike' over the field was no problem, but the ground was rough and the grass long, and Poul decided, on the sensible grounds of seat height and leg-length, to leave the RF on the lane. Sensible chap.

It says Yamaha Club Århus, and the sign on the main road just read 'YCÅ' - nice and discreet.

Well-organised - a place for everything

And a nice bar. These guys have their priorities right.

I took one look at the field, another look at all the gear I would have to carry, and decided to give it a go. It was a little nerve-wracking, but I got there in the end and set up camp next to them. (I bought a sidestand puck, a plastic disc about 3" across, before I left home. It was £2.99 from Halfords, which I thought was a bit steep, but it was worth its weight in gold on grass and loose surfaces. Imagine stopping on a bit of grass, kicking down the sidestand, and watching the fully-loaded bike take a graceful lie-down as the stand penetrates the soil. That one is staying in the fairing pocket.)

We spent the afternoon sitting in the field at a table, knocking back a few beers and chatting to the folks as they arrived. The highlight for me was the arrival of a tall chap on a Suzuki Hayabusa (for those wot don't know, this is a large and very fast sports bike, capable of 186 mph, and not a likely touring choice). The bike, it must be admitted, was immaculate, just as it had come out of the showroom. The sequence of events for its rider was as follows:
  • Park bike on sidestand
  • Get out cleaning rag
  • Go over the whole bike, wiping away tiny bits of grime from the wheels, exhausts and fairing (the bike was cleaner than mine ever are before he even started)
  • Put away cleaning rag
  • Take off biking gear
  • Put on Suzuki branded t-shirt (fresh out of the cellophane), Suzuki baseball cap, jeans and leather waistcoat
  • Have beer
  • Erect tent.
It seemed just a little obsessive and posed, but each to his own, I suppose.

There were some interesting bikes around by now, from racer-replicas to vintage models. I grabbed a shot of this Nimbus combination, which was beautifully restored and clearly in regular use:

The Danes seem to treat the Nimbus in the same we we think about Norton Commandos and Triumph Bonnevilles - wonderful classics, which fill us with nationalistic pride. The Nimbus was a little - er - different from those, however, with a 750cc in-line four-cylinder engine (set longitudinally, which would have meant serious cooling problems for No. 4, I would have thought) and a frame made of flat bars rather than tubing. The owner of the bike in the picture fired it up at one point, and everyone present fell silent to appreciate the sound. All together ... Ahhhhhhhhhh! It sounded just like an old motorbike to me, but perhaps I don't have the background. Poul insisted that his would be as good as this, or better. It will be worth a trip to see it if he succeeds.

Apparently, attendance at the treff was less than the organisers had anticipated, and therefore there was to be no band, just a disco. When we started to feel hungry, we wandered down to the clubhouse and got something to eat. Entry to the treff was completely free, which was very good, and the food was very reasonable. You bought the basics (in my case, a frankfurter in a roll - and later another exactly the same) in the bar and then filled your plate from the tables outside, where there was everything from pasta salads to the ubiquitous salamis and cheeses.

I had a great time talking to people and eating the food, with a regular supply of Tuborg or Carlsberg (nothing whatsoever like the tap water that goes under those names in the UK) to get the mood right. Later on, it got chilly, and we all repaired to the marquee, where there was a selection of the usual 'rock classics' on a CD player, but played at a volume that allowed conversation. After a while (probably about 10 pm) I felt tired and decided to hit the sack. I went back to the field, which was in total darkness (a headtorch is another thing I will always bring with me in future - mine was more use than the pannier-full of camping kit that never saw the light of day) and got into the sleeping bag again. This time, I seemed to have the inflation pressure of the air mattress just right (not saggily limp, nor bouncily firm) and I drifted to sleep quickly. Usually I find it hard to get to sleep before a big journey - and tomorrow's was going to be big - but I had no difficulty that night. All credit to the manners of the biking fraternity: I didn't hear a single person return to their tent. I had a great night's sleep.

That was typical of the whole trip. I was expecting some noisy nights and irksome behaviour from a few, but in general lights were out (or at least subdued) and silence was kept after 11 pm. I bet Saga Holidays have rowdier nights than this lot.

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