In 1997 The MZ Riders Club held their National Rally & AGM in Brecon, Wales. This was about 450 miles from my home on the east coast of Scotland. I was going, the only decision I had to make was which of my two bikes I would go on. The BMW R100RS, a serious touring machine which would simply eat up the miles, or the MZ ETZ125, my little runabout which would struggle to maintain 55 mph and which was not even roadworthy. The choice might have seemed obvious. I decided to take the wee 125. It was, after all, an MZ event, so it seemed only proper that I attend on one of their bikes.
This was my report for the club magazine MZ Rider immediately afterwards.
A Very Silly Trip Indeed
Well, no more excuses. Having spent the previous week rebuilding the top-end (easy), sorting out the electrics (difficult) and re-spraying the whole bike (not too bad, actually), I was as ready as I was ever going to get. The bike was taxed and MOT'd and Brecon beckoned (sorry, couldn't resist that one).
Thursday morning I loaded up and set off. Being on an ETZ 125 I had ruled out extended travel on the motorways and I intended to stick to mostly the quieter A-roads. The route looked fairly straightforward, that is if you discount the distances involved. A7 to Carlisle, A6 to Preston, and A49 towards Wales. I say towards Wales because I didn't have a map of Wales, but reckoned that Brecon was big enough that it would be signposted once I got near enough.
The A7/A6 parts of the trip passed without too much incident. I was familiar with the roads having ridden them in the past. Weather-wise things were quite favourable. Cloudy for most of the journey, and not too cold. Traffic was mercifully light. This I put down to most drivers using the motorways and, it being midweek, people were mostly at their work. The only really heavy traffic I encountered was around Wigan at about 5pm as people were, quite reasonably, going home.
If I make this part of the journey sound rather easy, then I have to admit that that was how I found it. I stopped a couple of times for fuel, and once in Shap for a sandwich. Beyond that I just got on with it, Zed numb-bum notwithstanding. I was "in the groove" and the miles were just eaten up. I must confess to enjoying the trip down. At 50mph you can spare the time to look around you. Everything on the roads is faster than you, so you just let them past and keep on going at your own, very slow, pace.
After Wigan I kept my eyes peeled for road signs leading to Wales. I knew that I didn't want to end up heading for Liverpool and in the end headed for Wrexham as it was posted as North Wales. Here I took the A483 towards Oswestry and kept the bike heading south. By now it was getting dark and I was getting tired, so I stopped for a rest and to get some fuel at Llandinod Wells. While here I bought a local map to try and orientate myself and see how much further I had to go. "Bugger", not only was I on the right road but I was only about 35 miles away. I could have saved myself the cost of the map.
Off I set on the final leg of my journey. I have not gone in much for the practice of riding to rallies during the hours of darkness, so the trip through the Welsh hills was....interesting. Top speed swung back and forth between 30mph (going up) and 65mph (going down). At one point I reached a marked 75mph and that is enough to put the wind up anyone on a grossly overloaded 125 in pitch darkness and on unfamiliar roads.
The last edition of MZ Rider contained directions to the campsite. Unfortunately, they assumed everyone would be approaching from the South, I wonder why? Still, I kept alert for campsite signs and spotted one when approximately the right distance from Brecon. I pulled in to investigate and as I sat in the car park a figure loomed out of the darkness. Not to worry, it was a familiar face. Relief, I had arrived.
Ten hours after starting out and just over 400 miles from Edinburgh. Being an experienced Rallyist I hit the bar before setting up the tent. A note of caution here; a long trip, very little to eat and two pints of Flowers Best Bitter can have an amazing effect on you. "Time for bed", said Zebedee.......
On Friday folk began arriving early. It looked like being a good do. I was dragged off to Hay-on-Wye, 'Town of Books', as a sidecar passenger, a novel experience, in a move to make me spend all my money. I'm afraid that I have a weakness for a good bookshop, and here there were hundreds of them. I could have went quite potty except that I wanted to conserve what little money I had, and that I had absolutely no spare room on the bike whatsoever. Oh, all right then, I bought six books. I'd worry about getting them home later.
A rally is a rally. If you've been then you know what I mean. Folk arrive, some you haven't seen for ages, some you've never met before. You wander around looking at the bikes and talking to their owners. You marvel at the modifications on some bikes and file the info away for future projects, and you wonder how some of the heaps made it the length of their streets never mind all the way to Wales. All in the entire turnout was splendid. A plethora of sidecars, a Trophy, a Trophy Sport, and all the usual MZ fodder. I was pleased to note how few non-MZs turned up over the weekend. I think about 78 people had booked in by this point
Remember that I'd said that there was no room at all on the bike then proceeded to buy things? Well, a man turned up in a van and proceeded to sell the contents of his garage. Mucho cheapo. How could I not help him out? I also managed to lay my hands on another dozen really early issues of MZ Rider. The proceeds from the sale were kindly donated to club funds, which was rather generous. That was Friday, more or less. Back to the pub (surprise, surprise), and thence to bed.
On Saturday more folk arrived, and today's expedition was to the Welsh Whisky Centre. Didn't know that the Welsh made whisky did you? Apparently they were one of the biggest exporters of the stuff until the rise of Methodism put an end to the whole trade in the nineteenth century.
Boring pub-quiz type fact, did you know that the Jack Daniels factory was founded by Welsh immigrants? Bet that pisses off a few Harley owners (I always like to insult Harley owners at some point in my little diatribes).
A couple of us toddled along to the visitor centre. I don't know if it's worth £2 to get in, but since we didn't pay (there was no one on the door when we arrived so we just waltzed right on in) the point is somewhat academic. The film show was quite interesting, and when we finished there was a free tasting. I must admit that I didn't hold out high hopes for a wee dram of "Welsh", but I was pleasantly surprised. It wasn't crap at all, in fact it was jolly good. One of my colleagues was rather taken by another of their products, "Taffski Imperial Vodka". Would I lie to you? He pronounced it good stuff. At least that's what I think he said, it came out as "whhrrrrgghhh, yeargh", or something. At least he gave it the old thumbs-up.
And so to the AGM where yours truly scooped a couple of rally awards. Even more stuff to try and get home. 'Best 125/150', for which I am well chuffed after all the work I put into the bike beforehand, and 'Long Distance'. I admit that I'd have been severely pissed off if someone else had got this. If anyone else from Scotland had come down I'm sure that they would have gone home with this. So, there you are, I'm glad nobody did. If I could make it on a 125 you could have been there a slight quicker on a 250 or bigger. I apologise for not taking the details of the other awards, I dare say it will be fully reflected in the next magazine. AGM over, to the bar, and once more to bed, albeit a bit earlier. I had a long day ahead of me tomorrow.
The trip home was pretty much a repeat of the trip down. I was pleasantly surprised at how well the little bike performed over the whole weekend. I arrived home tired and hungry, but with a great sense of achievement.
I did enjoy annoying a few colleagues at work the following week, people who constantly slag off MZs. Picture the scene as I swagger into work and enquire where they've been over the weekend. After listening to their adventures, nobody having travelled further than about a hundred miles, I casually announce that I've just returned from a 900 mile round trip to Wales. On an MZ. Oh, yes, and it was a 125. Great wailing and gnashing of teeth etc. What fun. Should have some peace, at least for about a week. Who needs a sports bike anyway?
My thanks to the organisers for putting on a smashing weekend at such short notice. It's not easy organising one of these as I know to my cost. The awards currently have pride of place on the mantel at home. I've never won anything like these and I'm going to show them off thank you very much.