Dragon RallyReports from MOTOR CYCLE courtesy of Jan Heiland.
I was on the 1965 Dragon Rally.
My bike, a Matchless 650 G12 CSR, had thrown a rod and was off the road again, as it often was.
I managed to borrow a 500 AJS single from a very kind person. The bike needed a bit of sorting out and the two days leading up to the Dragon weekend were very busy getting this old AJS going. It had no lights and no brakes.
At that time I lived just outside Watford and was a regular at the Busy Bee. On the Friday night we all met up at the Bee and left sometime in the early hours of Saturday and rode through the night. It was a pretty uneventful run from what I remember and we arrived in Llanberis sometime during the day on the Saturday.
We collected our soup and badge and found our allocated tent. We settled in our chosen spot, us and the bikes. It was when others started arriving and pointed out that there would be much more room if we parked our bikes outside the tent that we realised that we had no sleeping bags or any other camping gear for that matter. We claimed a spot and made up a mattress of whatever soft undergrowth that we could find.
That night, after the bonfire and stuff, we settled down for the night, in our Barbour suits and with crash helmets on. It was surprisingly cosy actually and it was not a bad nights sleep.
The Sunday, as I remember it, was a bright clear day. I remember finding a chippy open in Llanberis. That was the best fish and chips that I can remember.
Sometime that afternoon we set off for home. It was another good run except for some problems that a couple of the guys had with a sidecar wheel in Shrewsbury. I can't remember if the sidecar wheel had collapsed or if the bearing had gone but the sidecar was not going any further.
After asking around some local garages, it became apparent that we were not going to get this sidecar fixed any time soon. It was now late on Sunday and we all had to be at work on the Monday morning. I suggested that they could unbolt the sidecar and ride the bike home as a solo. They could then make arrangements to get the sidecar fixed and go back again, bolt it back on, and bring it home.
I remember that we unbolted the sidecar and chassis and left them in the yard behind this garage. We then continued home having shared their gear out between us so that each bike had some of their kit.
We got home OK after that. I never heard whether they ever did go back for the sidecar. I do remember that the guy rode the bike as a solo from then on so I guess he never bothered.
This sadly, was the only time I did the Dragon Rally, but what a great weekend.
After some 40 years, I am now a 'born again biker'. I have a 1960 A10 650 BSA and am rebuilding a 1955 DB32 350 Goldie.
Once a 'rocker' always a 'rocker' I guess. I am a member of BSAOC and do classic shows and runs. You are never too old to go biking!
- Geoff King
I came to the '65 Dragon with my mate Mick Collinson from Doncaster. We were both 16. He was on a Bantam with a tuned engine and expansion box exhaust. The noise from that thing drove me mad. I was on a 1938 AJS 250 which, even then, was old enough to get attention.
I remember following a gritter lorry over the Pennines, no motorways then. I had never been so cold. My waterproofs were what I'd worn on a pushbike, seperate leggings for each leg and exposed crotch!
We stopped at a café just before the Horseshoe Pass. I'm sure they told us that it was closed or about to be closed, but we took no notice and carried on anyway.
I remember sleeping in an old concrete building and the headight parade but not a lot more.
The dynamo on the AJS started playing up on the way home and I rode through Sheffield and Rotherham with no lights to get home. The old AJS was on loan from my uncle and is still in his garage to this day, but in a pretty sad state.
Mick Collinson who I came with lives only 100 yards away from me. I'm still riding at 63. I tried to find the rally site once when I was on holiday but couldn't.
I packed in with bikes for a while when I got to 22 or so and I gave all my gear (including a Barbour jacket with the Dragon Rally badge) to my uncle who lent me the AJS. So my mission now is to find out if the badge has survived and hopefully reclaim it.
- Brian Lindley
In 1965 I remember standing outside the pub in the village after walking down from the campsite. I was drinking a pint with mates Andy Bloomfield and Peter Bell. As the pub grounds where full, we where stood on the footpath.
Got arrested by the local pigs for larceny, locked up over night, fingerprints and mugshots taken. Two weeks later I had to appear in Caernarvon court, so another trip through heavy snow on my Goldie from Stockport. Slid off the bike about six times, the weather was so bad.
When I arrived at the court it was full of guys all charged with the same thing, all fined the same amount, £5 and 1/9d cost for the pint pot. Left a bad taste for life. Like most bikers, I have never liked them, don't trust them and I wouldn't want one for a friend.
- Gordon Roberts
Back in 1965 £5 was about four times the going rate for overnight accomodation. Little wonder you have an abiding dislike for them money-grubbing Taffs.
I write with my story about the Dragon Rally in 1965. In this story I would like to offer my sincere thanks to a couple of people I met one on the way to the rally and one on the way home.
My name is Steve Harper in 1965 I was a member of the Velocette owners club based in the West Midlands section. I had a Viper which I had spent the autumn of 1964 rebuilding into Clubman specification.
The stories ...
First, on the way to the rally I had a rear wheel puncture, which when I took the tube out was too bad to repair. I had stopped at a café and petrol station just before Chirk on the A5 (heading North). The garage didn't have a tube suitable for my bike, I was just wondering what to do when a chap on a bike (from memory I think it was a Triumph twin) pulled up and asked if he could help. I told him the situation and he said he knew a shop in Llangollen where I could get a new inner tube and offered to take me there and bring me back. We left my passenger and the bike at the garage/café and went and got a new inner tube. I thanked him for the assistance and he went on his way. We got the new tube fitted to my bike and carried on to the rally.
I'm not sure if he was heading for the Rally but I think he was; so I'd just like to repeat my thanks to him after 50 years.
Second, after having passed a very enjoyable evening and a very cold night at the rally, I ended the night sleeping in the ashes around the bonfire to try to get warm; we set off back to Birmingham on Sunday morning. We intended to stop for a drink and maybe something to eat on the way home. After finding most of the cafés in Llangollen and Chirk full I decided to stop at the café where I had repaired the puncture the day before. As I was waiting to turn into the entrance I was hit from behind by another motorbike which resulted in serious injury to my foot and leg.
As I lay in the road another motorcyclist pulled up, he was a first aider and took control of the situation immediately, getting someone to direct the traffic, someone to get me a drink, calling an ambulance and moving my uninjured leg alongside the injured one to act as a splint. Three of us were injured; my passenger, the chap who ran into us and myself.
I would like to repeat my thanks to that chap for the brilliant control he took of the situation.
Post script. I made a pretty good recovery from my injuries as did the others. I saw them a couple of times following the accident.
- Steve Harper
I was invited by my next door neighbour Merion Jones who was a member of the Conwy Motor Cycle Club to go to the 1965 Dragon Rally. I rode my 1964 Gilera 125 cc Sei Giorini Special from Conwy to the rally, which I still have, and brought it with me when I emigrated to Australia. It must be one of the oldest bikes to attend the Dragon Rally and still be owned by the same rider.
The Gilera spent the next twenty five years in my auntie's coal shed in Llandbedr y cennin before I brought it over to Australia when I visited the UK in 2000.
Only the exhaust rusted. The engine, frame, the tank and the alloy rims and other alloy parts have survived and I'm learning how to re-spoke the wheels after stripping them down to polish the hubs and rims. It's going to take a long time, but all I want to do is ride it and not show it.
I remember been photographed with the members of the Conwy Motor Cycle club. It was cold, but thankfully it didn't rain when I was there.
I regularly check the Web for news of the Dragon Rally.
- Gwynfryn Williams, of Conwy,
now of Perth Australia.
I went to the '65 '66 '67 '70 Dragons with my two brothers and friends. A long ride then from Kent, myself on my newly built Norvin Wessex outfit, brother Ivan in the chair, brother Terry, sadly no longer with us on his BSA A10 Monaco with Fred in the chair.
We remember these times with great fondness, the rain, snow, leaking tents etc & camaraderie.
I still have the Vincent Wessex but at 78 years old now I have trouble starting it.
In 2011 I decided I must go again to the 50th. My wife was surprisingly willing to let me go at 73. I also own a 1200 Yamaha Watsonian outfit so I set out again from Kent. Brother Ivan declined at 80. I wouldn't have missed it for the world the thrill of the badge and the friendship was still the same, so I went again in 2013 but sad to say age is catching up and my knees are shot.
I do envy all of you for this next Dragon rally. My thoughts will be with you all on some cold windy hillside in those wonderful Welsh mountains of Snowdonia. I shall be with you in mind if not in spirit. Ride safe.
- John Geal
The first French rallyist ever to participate in the Dragon rally (he did so in 1965) is none other than the legendary Jean-Marie Debonneville aka 'Le Druide'.
Jean-Marie is at the peak of the greatest French rallyists, alongside Robert Sexe, Simon Moulon (Zorro), Christian Blanchot (Kiki) and Michel Perdrix.
He is the only one of the four to still be alive today. And although his age-related health had forced him to stop riding motorcycles, he remains faithful to his passion and still organizes events mainly for vintage motorcycles.
Jean-Marie Debonneville (seated in the wheelchair) at a French motorcycle eventIn February 1965, Jean-Marie and his partner at the time, Monique, came all the way from Lille, northern France, to take part in the Glyn Padarn meeting.
Dragon 1965 - One of the outfits present and a view of the campsiteAlthough 55 years have already passed since this gathering, miraculously a few photographic documents of the couple taken at the rally have survived time.
Dragon 1965 - Jean-Marie and his then partner MoniqueIn particular a rare photo showing them posing on their outfit with the organizing members of the Conway MCC behind them.
An opportunity to identify the faces of those behind the organization of this February 1965 meeting!
- Jean-Francois Helias