A couple of friends of mine went to the F.I.M. in Russia, sort of unintentionaly. Jim Bowen had appeared on television and announced that he was going to ride a motorcycle across America. A bit of a rash statement for a married man with a young family. So the plan was to save face he would do the F.I.M. instead on a vintage motorcycle.
Now to go 3000 miles on a 1930 Sunbeam 500cc recently purchased for £25 would be a bit daunting especialy for a man with no practical ability. So a mechanic would be required and no better a person was his friend, the late, John "Wishbone" Williams, who was using a 1939 Triumph Speed Twin as day to day transport. John was a little reluctant to go but the silver tongued Jim managed to cajole him into going.
On the morning of departure Jim called around to John's house to find him not packed or ready and Jim had to talk John around again. Soon they were on their way to the ferry to the continent. The long and drawn out journey had begun. Maximum speed would have been around the 55mph mark and it would have been hard on the body to ride all day on a girder forked bike with a solid back end and the worst was yet to come with the cobbled roads of east Germany and Poland. The plan was that if either bike was to breakdown to the point of not being able to get it mobile again then it was to be jettisoned at the roadside and they would continue on the other.
They took the road towards Berlin and out to Frankfurt am der Oder where they crossed the border into Poland, finding cheap accommodation or camping on route.They had been given a choice of two routes to travel in Russia to Moscow and, as Jim told me, they really didn't need a map as at every point that they could have left the route was either a policeman or armed guards!
On reaching the rally they found other English people there along with bike riders from many other countries. Events had been laid on and there were many things do and see; the tourist things like Red Square, Lenin's tomb, the underground, St Basil's church and the state circus. One unfortunate Vincent owner had an engine failure of the worst type and, as I've been told, it took him three years to get his bike back home!
The above photo has been stitched. See note below from Alistair Hill.
With the rally over the return trip was a re-tracing of steps. Both bikes made it with just one problem, a broken footrest that needed welding at a roadside blacksmiths in Poland. Jim's bike needed a set of new valves and guides, well they are exposed to all the dirt on that model.
Jim's bike is still in the family. He gave it to his son David on his 21st birthday. John's Speed Twin was sold about 1972.
An epic event by two brave lads.
- Les Hobbs
So many memories from that rally. Travelling out in exceedingly wet weather, long waits at border crossings sometimes two to three hours, and then a three hundred mile journey to our hotel and not being able to eat in the hotel in Minsk until our Intourist courier arrived with the necessary paperwork. He had met us at the border announcing that he was going to ride in our car, where upon thirty five bike riders fell about laughing but he declined the helmet and pillion seat offered and had the last laugh by travelling by train. This meant he was always last arriving and we had to wait for our food. Exciting times when you are younger and don't worry too much about things but I wouldn't have missed them.
- Barry McNamara
No memories I'm afraid, far too young belive it or not, but two very good friends, Alan and Cynthia Dean, made the trip in 1967 I believe and they're both still riding and still, occasionally, going to the FIM Rallies.
- Graham Butler
Good to hear of the Deans again. Please invite the group to contribute to LPMCC.net or send a link to their own websites.
I was on the Vincent Comet with the dustbin fairing on the 1967 Moscow Rally.
- Roger Henderson
I am Willie Ramsay’s great nephew and found Roger Henderson's photo of him fixing the Vincent while trying to find out something about the header board, which he and his brother George had on display in the garage. The picture captures Uncle Willie in his element, exactly as I remember him (if a fair bit younger)!
- Alistair Hill
The extra right hand section has been stitched into the panoramic photo almost perfectly.