A motorcycle parked in front of a tent on a pleasant green campsite

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Northern Ireland Thumper Club Rally

By CrazyFrog (aka Peter Morris)

Every year the Thumper Club (for single cylinder bikes, if the name doesn't make it obvious!) and the Irish Sidecar Club run a joint and informal rally at the Shepherds Rest hotel near to Draperstown in Northern Ireland. My friends in the TC rave about the rally and so this year I was determined to attend. Obviously the best vehicle for a Thumper Club and Irish Sidecar Club rally would be my solo two stroke 350 twin Jawa. Well, I never have been very bright!

A large cream painted pub in the Northern Irish countryside, the Shepherd's Rest Bar

I decided to make a long weekend of it and so booked the Holyhead to Dublin ferry for 2pm on the Thursday afternoon, returning at 2.50pm on the Monday afternoon. The bike was loaded up on the Wednesday night and I set off the next morning at about 9am, figuring I'd left plenty of time to get there, and time to stop for a cuppa on the way. Even the weather seemed to be favourable for once, sunny intervals if slightly cold.

I had a glorious run up through Bridgnorth to Shrewsbury on lovely single track 'A' and 'B' roads that me and the Jawa prefer and had plenty of time in hand for my planned cafe stop in Corwen on the A5, or so I thought. Llangollen was even more grid locked than usual, filtering my way to the front of a four or five mile snail of very slowly moving traffic I found out what the problem was. Two abnormal loads were crawling along the A5 at about 10 to 15 mph, escorted by police outriders who were stopping anybody trying to overtake. There was no traffic at all coming the other way as they had obviously temporarily closed the road in the eastwards direction. 

After well over 20 minutes the load pulled over into a layby, and the police stopped all of us going westwards to let the east bound traffic through. I estimate it added about 40 mins to my journey time, there was certainly no time for a cuppa now. Still, at least I had the A5 completely to myself for the next 20 miles and was able to appreciate what a  brilliant road it is. I eventually made it to the ferry port at about 1.15pm, still in plenty of time. There I met up with Cliff (TDM850), Paul (Enfield Continental GT) and Trev (New Enfield Interceptor).

This was my first time on a ferry and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't concerned about tying the bike down and the possibility of it falling over. I needn't have worried as the Stena Line crew quickly and securely strapped the bikes down. Emerging into the Dublin rush hour traffic at about 5.15pm we decided to pay the 10 Euro toll and get the tunnel out onto the M1 north. 

The trip up to the campsite was uneventful, but we were all getting a bit tired by the time we finally got there at about 9pm. Tents were thrown up in double quick time and we retired to the bar for food and Guinness (when in Ireland etc etc!).

Motorcycles, tents and the campsite as everyone is settling in

The first night was very cold indeed, down to 1 degree C apparently, I was just about OK in my 3 season bag with my jacket thrown over the top for extra warmth. Next morning we all went down to Jim's cafe in Draperstown for breakfast and to meet up with more weary travellers who'd done the overnight ferry from Liverpool to Belfast. I wish I'd taken a picture of the 'full fry' breakfast as it was magnificent, and great value too. 

Fully refreshed we wandered back to the site for the new arrivals to pitch camp and then 3 of us went off for a little ride into the Sperrin mountains, including getting to the summit of Slieve Gallion. We then took a couple of laps of the Cookstown 100 course, though obviously I took it easy as it would have been embarrassing to break the lap record on a Jawa!

2 motorcycles atop of the hill, but all we can really see is mist in the distance

The evening was again spent at the bar eating, drinking and talking nonsense, as usual.

Saturday dawned bright but very cold and the wind was really whipping up. I had to double peg my tent down, several pegs had still blown out later in the day when we returned to camp! Saturday was the main day of the rally with two organised ride outs, one for solo's and one for chairs. The solo's ride was fantastic, exploring more of the Sperrin mountains and the locality. Fantastic scenery, with some of the riding reminding me very strongly of the Scottish Highlands, and there's now't wrong with that!

An exclectic collection of motorcycles stopped at the roadside on a ride through Northern Ireland's Sperrin Mountains

Saturday evening saw all of us, roughly 40, rufty tufty bikers sitting down to a superb meal in the upstairs function room. More Guinness, great food, great company and great value. We then retired to the bar to put the world to rights once more.

After another freezing and stormy night reluctantly gave way to day light and it was off to Jim's cafe again for another breakfast. A lot of folk were heading off today so we hung around the camp saying our farewells before three of us decided to take a trip up to Ballymoney to visit the Joey and Robert Dunlop memorial gardens. We followed that up with a cup of coffee in Joey's Bar and I was happy because I spotted one of Joey's TWO STROKE race bikes on display in a glass cabinet!

Joey Dunlop statue and a wall with records of his victories, the joey dunlop memorial

Sunday night saw the four of us due to go home via Holyhead having a much more subdued night at the bar as we had such a long day ahead of us the following day. Several more Guinness's were of course sampled as it would have been rude not to.

Monday morning was grim. Gale force winds and soaking drizzle. We set off cross country to reach the top of the M1 at Armagh, stopping at Amoy on the way for yet another superb Irish breakfast. A quick thrash down the motorway found us at the ferry terminal in plenty of time. 

We split up at Holyhead, Cliff and Paul heading south down into Wales and myself and Trev hitting the A55 across to Chester. The Jawa disliked this windy dual carriageway almost as much as me, and registered it's displeasure by recording a record low of 45mpg, dropping from the 65mpg I'd recorded over the weekend. Still, it never missed a beat and we arrived back home tired but undefeated at about 10pm after 320 miles on the day.

I'm aware this is small beer compared with those folk who travel the length and breadth of the world on their bikes, but it took me out of my comfort zone and was the furthest away from home I'd been on a bike for about 35 years, so it qualifies as an adventure for me.

Reader's Comments

Ren - The Ed said :-
Thanks CrazyFrog. I think I'll do "a piece" about what qualifies as an adventure. What really surprises me is the fact it was your first time on a ferry - I figure you mean the first time with a bike. I don't feel like I've been away unless there's a ferry. It might only be a 5 minute crossing but I need my ferry fix.

09/05/2019 19:45:40 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
No - I don't need to write anything because I've already written it. I'll add a link.
09/05/2019 19:47:53 UTC
John S said :-
When was this Peter? I've yet to travel on a ferry so I am considering Ireland to be a good opportunity to ride "abroad" without having too much to cope with, such as language and riding on the right. Has anyone any recommendations for a long weekend break?
10/05/2019 18:37:33 UTC
CrazyFrog said :-
John, my trip was on the weekend of the 13/14th April. Yes, Ren is right, it was my 1st time on a ferry with my bike. I've been on ferries many times in my car.

Depending on where you are, the Isle Of Wight may be a good destination to choose for you first ferry trip, as it is relatively cheap, and the Isle itself is well worth a visit.
10/05/2019 19:16:31 UTC
John S said :-
I think I will be brave enough to get to Ireland, the Isle of Wight is only an hour away. I'm not terribly nervous rather just unsure what to expect regarding the ferry. I expect Ireland will not be too different to the UK but greener.
11/05/2019 00:12:43 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
You're right about Ireland John S. My recommendation for Ireland is to get the ferry from South Wales to Rosslare. That puts you straight into some lovely countryside and not the chaos of Dublin. For an easy weekend find a place to stay near there and explore that south east corner.

Actually I quite fancy that myself! Hmmmmm.
11/05/2019 07:03:39 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
Ferries? Can be fun, or can be a nightmare.

My preferred ones are Brittany as it seems as though you're in France as soon as you get aboard. One of the things to watch out for is who straps your bike down. If you do it yourself (which I prefer) make sure you know how to release the ratchet straps - I was stuck for ages once trying to work it out.....

It depends on the bike but my preference is on the prop (side) stand in 1st gear and with something tying the front brake on. Others prefer the centre stand. Put a pair of gloves or something between the greasy strap and the seat. It's a good idea to have the odds & ends you need for the crossing in a small bag ready to make a smart exit from the vehicle deck.

Then (depending on the time of day) a leisurely meal in the full service restaurant or to bed in a reasonably comfortable bunk to dream of traffic-free roads and sunny skies.

The old hovercraft used to be a good service at around 40 minutes crossing but sadly is no more. Why people subject themselves to standing beside their bikes in the cattle truck that is the Chunnel I'll never know.
12/05/2019 16:02:52 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Why would anyone pay more to either strap their own bike down, get it wrong and wreck the bikes around it, or get some heavy handed deck hand to compress the suspension flat, then be seasick for an hour?

Ride into a train, hang out for half a hour then ride off. Quick n simple.
12/05/2019 20:37:02 UTC
Upt'North said :-
+1 Ed, I'm with you, ride on-ride off.
No scrabbling to the poop deck with helmet, gloves, sweating like the proverbial, only to turn round and go back down. Have you ever noticed that bikers talk to each other a lot more on the train too. And CHEAP!

13/05/2019 09:44:16 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
The trouble is, I'd pay extra NOT to have to talk to many of the "bikers" I've come across......

Not those represented here of course.
14/05/2019 11:49:23 UTC
Upt'North said :-
Of course.
14/05/2019 13:18:13 UTC
Upt'North said :-
What we're you doing 50 years ago?
Come on ED, we know you are many years older than you make out, no one can be so wisened at your claimed age. I was sitting in a junior school looking out of the window wondering why my C50 BogSeat wouldn't start and probably trying to look up Jane Smith's skirt.

14/05/2019 13:23:35 UTC
Upt'North said :-
And why was Ronnie Kray at the bike show?
14/05/2019 13:25:23 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
50 years ago I was minus 2.5 years. Of course that is using your standard earth years. Now I have perfected my super - luminal hyperdimensional drive on the CBF125 time is no longer of any consequence. 50 years ago? I seem to recall warning Jane Smith to watch out for dirty little oiks trying to do bad things.

As for the Kray twins, I tried getting them into motorcycling but they were just not having it. Didn't work out so well for them in the long run.
14/05/2019 16:29:55 UTC

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