Dragon Rally

Reports from MOTOR CYCLE courtesy of Jan Heiland.



THE DRAGON RALLY, that great gathering of 100 per-cent enthusiasts, is with us again. Date? Four weeks hence, Saturday and Sunday, February 13-14. Place? Somewhere new, somewhere exciting - Glyn Padarn, deep in the heart of Snowdonia.

The cavalcade of riders will plunge into the North Wales mountains, climb the famous Llanberis Pass, then, just on the far side of Llanberis itself, glimpse the beacon fire high above the still waters of Llyn Padarn.

And this, the fourth Dragon Rally, could surely prove the best of them all. We have 360 acres of valley and stream and mountainside all to ourselves, enough undercover accommodation for 2,000 people, camping space for that many more. There are hard floors to sleep on, toilets, fresh water, firm standing for the bikes, hot soup and nothing more.

Nothing, that is, except the happiest, warmest welcome any motor cyclist could hope for. The wonderful sort of fellowship Dragonists cheerfully brave hundreds of miles of wintry road for. As usual, a large contingent of our German friends veterans of their own great Elephant Rally, will be making the trek to Wales.


The Dragon Rally makes no conditions.

Simply, you ride a motor cycle and you're keen to come. There are no prizes, no entertainment save the stimulating fun of meeting kindred spirits on an unforgettable weekend, the people for whom two wheels and an engine are the most wonderful things in the world.

Glyn Padarn offers the usual Dragon attractions: Castrol film show, headlight parade, sing-song, celebration bonfire. It has other advantages. Employing some 60 separate buildings instead of a hall and marquees means that a club or a group of friends can spend the night under the same roof. (If you want to stay as a party, say so on the form.)

As usual, organization is in the very capable hands of the Conway Club. But even their great-hearted enthusiasm must have the weight of numbers. So in view of Glyn Padarn's many acres, extra marshals will be needed. Want to lend a hand? Then write to Lawrence Veivat.

One final word. It's going to be solos and sidecars only at Glyn Padarn. Cars, vans even three wheelers will make the journey in vain!

If you want to make sure of spending the night under a roof, see that the entry form (right) is in the hands of the Conway Club by February 7. The entry fee of 10/- per person pays for admission to Glyn Padarn, a bowl of home-made soup, film show, sleeping or camping space, and a commemorative badge.




NEXT SATURDAY is the great day. As dawn breaks over the mountains of Snowdonia, a steady stream of riders will he already climbing the famed Llanberis Pass.

Farther back - beyond Capel Curig, beyond Llangollen, down A5 into the heart of England - thousands more bring their bikes to life and head westward towards the snow-flecked Welsh hills, until the stream becomes a torrent and the torrent a flood.

This is the day of the Dragon. The Dragon Rally, when all the great-hearted enthusiasts who are proud to call themselves motor cyclists forgather in their thousands for one magnificent weekend.

There are riders from the most distant corners of England and Scotland, over the water from the Isle of Man and Ireland, breaking the barriers of language from France, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Sweden - above all, Germany where the great Elefantentreffen has lighted an answering beacon in the depths of the North Wales hills.

This year, the red-dragon banner floats over Glyn Padarn, Llanberis, at the foot of Snowdon. Shadows lengthen across the still waters of Glyn Padarn, the blaze of the winter sunset dies away behind sharp-edged mountains and a welcoming beacon fire breaks out high above the tents.

Focus for a thousand camp fires, target for the procession of converging headlamps!

There are few entertainments and no luxurics here. Smiling faces, a warm handshake, a cheery welcome have brought this host to such a wild and remote spot. Yet the reward is beyond price.

The Dragon Rally gives two unforgettable days that no true-hearted enthusiast would willingly miss. The camp fires die to embers, the riders melt away to the far corners of Europe. But the flame of friendship, kindled in the North Wales mountains, burns steadily and undimmed - spirit of motor cycling, the greatest game in the world.





YES, but have you remembered to bring the bare necessities? Life may prove uncomfortible without them. Mug and irons; can and bottle openers; flashlamp; candle; matches (outdoor lighting is limited at Glyn Padarn); groundsheet, camp bed or sleeping mat; sufficient blankets - it's cold in them thar hills!

Campers will find a water carrier highly convenient, also a tent lantern. Are your cooking arrangements up to scratch? A cheap solid-fuel stove and a couple of saucepans are infinitely better than nothing at all.


THE bare minimum to keep body and soul togother. If you've got accommodation booked the floors are dry and the roofs don't leak - but that's your lot.

Few buildings boast stoves, fewer still electric light. However, water points are plentiful and flush toilets are working.

Apart from the free bowl of soup dispensed by the Conway Club, sandwiches and hot pies are on sale. Bring your own bread, milk and other groceries.

Unlike previous Dragon sites, camping space at Glyn Padarn is broken up into small plots spread about terraced hillsides. It will help if earlycomers are thrifty with camping space. Hint for tent pegs: the ground is stony.


BY post each Dragon Rally entrant has been sent provisional instructions with his receipt. After collecting your ticket at the main gate of Glyn Padarn (on the left of A4086 going one mile north of Llanberis) proceed into the site where you will be given a song sheet, programme, brooch type badge and a howl of home-made soup. Events are as follow:


From 2 pm - Castrol film show, in hall on north side of main entrance.

6.30 - Headlight parade. Assemble back from North Gate along signposted site road. Route is similar to that in 1962. Turn left on to A4086, left at the Glyn Twrog Inn, then left again through Bryn Bras Castle gate. Re-enter Glyn Padarn at the top entrance.

7.00 - Bonfire lighted, behind the generator house.

7.30 - Addresses of welcome, delivered from the roof of the generator house.

8.15 - Community singing at the bonfire.


9.30 - Interdenominational service in the cinema.

11.00 - Booking-in close down. The last moment for that badge!



Bigger-than-ever DRAGON RALLY

AS ever, the 1965 Dragon Rally was an unparalleled success. Over 6,000 enthusiasts poured across the North Wales mountains from all Britain and the far corners of Europe to join together in this great mid-winter adventure.

The same Dragon, the same cheery faces of the Conway Club to welcome us at journey's end. Yet this year, it was different. This year we had a new site, Glyn Padarn, where thousands of tents perched high on the steep hillside. Instead of a mock-Gothic castle as a backcloth, we had the incomparable Snowdon, highest peak in Wales.

And what magnificent riding! Longer, colder than last year, but climbing through some of the wildest, most awe-inspiring scenery in Britain.

As usual, this Dragon Rally brought countless stories, some comic, some scarcely less than heroic. Here's one - only one, yet oh-so typical of the Dragonists' enthusiasm.

Saturday morning, Tony Norman set off on his Vincent from Fulham. Within 20 miles his gear box suddenly shed all its cogs.

So he abandoned everything at a friendly garage - bike, camping gear, food - and set out to hitchhike north. More than 12 hours after leaving home, at last he reached Glyn Padarn.

Without a sleeping bag, without blankets, he spent the night in the open curled up in front of the bonfire.

Next morning he must leave at dawn to make the journey home to London. We discovered him, halfway back, along A5.

"Why didn't you give up?" we asked him. "Why didn't you go home when you were still so near?"

"What!" he cried. "Miss getting my badge? Miss the Dragon? Not on your life, mate!"

LUCKY LADS, those who tet out in Friday's daylight. They had a mild dry run to Glyn Padarn. But while the early birds lay snug in their tents that night, their friends were fighting their way through belts of torrential, icy rain.




By Saturday morning all was clear. The wind had shifted; one could smell the ozone blowing in from the sea. Light snow melted quickly from round the tents. The sun came out and brought a sparkle to the whitened flanks of the mountains that reared up all around us. Dragon weather, indeed!

DESPITE its enormous area, much of the Glyn Padarn site is too steep for pitching tents. A record number of campers arrived. But to the relief of the Conway Club they all fitted comfortably into place and without the guyline tripping over so prevalent last year at Gwrych.

Many Dragonists spoke enthusiastically of the snug mateyness of Glyn Padarn's terraces, with clumps of birch trees to give shelter. Others missed the togetherness of the Gwrych frontage.

Of those without tents, pretty well everybody got shelter of a sort - though by late afternoon Saturday they were already hunting for dry corners in abandoned air-raid shelters and tumbledown barns.

IT'S ALWAYS a wild ride to Wales from the North-East. Geordie and North-Yorkshire types always have lurid stories of fighting their way over the midwinter Pennines.

Dragon songsmith Bill Hume met rain so cold, on the Friday night, that his 1963 Matchless big twin began to suffer from ice in the carburettor.

When he was on M6 the moon came out, but beyond Corwen he met "snow and hail like a sandblaster."

At first light, vintage enthusiast Hume discovered a filling station open, stopped for petrol and spotted a 1929 Coventry-Eagle Flying 8 abandoned and cobwebby in the back.

"I'm going back to see about buying it before I go home," he told us. "Then all I'll need is someone to tiller the device at the far end of my tow-rope!"

RIGHT in the middle of Harry Louis' speech of welcome the generator went on the blink, no public-address system, no music from the brass band, no lights. But everyone took the mishap in good part and the power came on about an hour later.

This little episode gives some idea of how much the Conway Club put into the Dragon. Little jobs like wiring a site, generating the juice, laying males water supplies...




MUCH-MISSED: Ernst Leverkus' speech of welcome. The father of the elephant rally has been on the sick for many months npw and he is still not fit enough to travel. But, said wife Inge who deputized for him at the microphone, he should certainly be in the Island for the Six Days and is furiously arguing with his doctor about going to the TT.

Inge by the way, came to Glyn Padarn under her own steam, driving a BMW outfit the whole way. In the sidecar she brought her mother who soon became Omar (Granny) to her fellow Dragonists.

FOR NEARLY half an hour a party of "stokers" worked like slaves to get the ceremonial bonfire going. It was reluctant to take but when it did it was the biggest, most fiery ever.

So good in fact that wind borne sparks set two tents alight!

Old tyres proved superb fuel. One was hooked on the top of the long tree trunk that jutted like a spire from the pile, 45ft above the ground.

As this tyre burned it broke away into three rings of fire - the tread and two walls - but they somehow remained hooked together like the rings of the Olympic symbol.

THE LOUD laugh of Colin "Lefty" Bembridge was much in evidence. Although his right arm is still out of commission, he had driven up from London with his Ariel Four sidecar outfit.

Midnight, just outside Llangollen, his throttle cable broke. With characteristic determination, Colin tied (one-handed) the inner cable to the chinstrap of his helmet and carried on that way, raising his head for more steam and vice versa to shut off.

PLENTY of supporters turned up but someone different was in charge. We're talking about the Sunday morning service which, in the absence of Father Bill Shergold, was taken by his curate, Graham Hullett.

As might be expected, Father Hullett is as keen a motor cyclist as they come. He rides a BSA Road Rocket.

FIRST to call on Sunday at the Oxfordshire Sidecar Club's brew-up, in its usual spot on the northern approach to the city, were Inge Leverkus and her mother with their BMW outfit.

All through the afternoon and evening groups of homeward Dragonists enjoyed the soup and hot-dogs, and warmed their frozen hands in front of the sizzling braziers.

This Oxford stop has become a Dragon highlight. Many enthusiasts deviate quite a few miles from their shortest route to call in. It's the last chance for real Dragon atmosphere and for the final "See you next year."

Thanks, lads and lasses of the Oxfordshire Sidecar Club.







WAS there ever a wintertime run so marvellous as that scamper back home from the Dragon? It's on such clear sunshiny mornings, when the air is so crisp you can almost hear it crackle, when the roads are bone dry and you've a high-spirited motor cycle between your knees, that you really do make whoopee with the gods.

Almost devoid of non-Dragon traffic that Sunday morning, the top end of the A5 showed itself for what it can be - one of the finest fast rides anywhere in the British Isles. I had a BSA A65-Monza outfit, with enough camping gear battened down in the sidecar to keep the third

wheel in place on left-handers yet not be too much of a nuisance for nipping along.

And what a superb outfit that BSA was! The A65 engine has just the right characteristics for sports sidecar work, the brakes were on the top line, the sidecar nicely aligned. Even after I'd acquired a heavy pillionist, the model still managed an occasional 75 mph on the speedo.

It seemed almost a cruelty when I got back to the lorry-ridden Midland undulations beyond Wellington. Do you know, I'd covered the first 100 miles from Glyn Padarn in two hours ten minutes of riding time





WHICH brings me to the other side of the coin. I checked my riding time against a stopwatch - but the actual journey took two hours 45 minutes. The extra 35 minutes was somehow gobbled up by a fuel stop, cup-of-tea stop, and a halt to pick up the pillionist. And that was before I'd stopped for serious midday eating.

For obvious though the point seems, nothing plays greater havoc with averages than a succession of short halts.

No matter how brief you try to be, the mere acts of slowing down, taking off riding gloves, putting them back on again, starting up, just eat away the minutes.

And if you were travelling in a party, what happens when everyone wants to buy petrol, drink tea, have a smoke, each at different times? No wonder some people took ten hours and more to get from London to Glyn Padarn!

This sort of thing is what made the team award in the ACU National Rally a prize worth winning

If you're a long-distance touring this summer with chums the experience of ganging up to go to the Dragon will bring you to make more realistic estimates of possible average speeds.


WHERE did my pillionist come from, you may ask. His name is Mark Folley. The rear chain of his Norton-Vincent special had suddenly decided to do a big tooth extraction job on the light alloy rear sprocket.

So, because chains won't function as belts, Mark and his three passengers had been forced to abandon ship and seek singleton lifts from fellow Dragonists bound for London.

Of the troubles that beset so many unfortunates en route to the Dragon one could write a full-length article (we might do, someday); but I noticed in particular how many were beset with tyre troubles.

Now, why? In theory, a tyre which serves round the houses at home should do just as well on a long run. But I suppose that overloading and lifting patvhes did their gloomy work.

A tyre responds well to regular maintenance. One fears that too many people are prone to run the tread down to the last few thou. Apart from uneven wear, underinflation often spells something even more insidious - walls cracking internally, fatally weak and nip-nipping the inner tube at every flex and bump. False economy to play Shylock with the tyre companies!


Start of quotation I attended the Dragon Rallies from 1965 to 1970.

I went on several of them with a group of friends from Whittington in Shropshire.

I rode up to the first Rally on my Royal Enfield Continental GT.

As I remember it, it was quite wet and we had booked a room in one of the buildings on the site.

The next Rally 1966 ... End of quotation

Steve Phillips - Phil

Start of quotation 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! End of quotation

- Geoff King

Start of quotation 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. End of quotation

- Brian Lindley

Start of quotation 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. End of quotation

- 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. End of quotation

- 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. End of quotation

- Gwynfryn Williams, of Conwy,
now of Perth Australia.

Start of quotation 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. End of quotation

- John Geal

Start of quotation 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 event

In 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 campsite

Although 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 Monique

In 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!

Let's add a humorous touch to this page with a cartoon published in an issue of Motor Cycle on the occasion of the 4th Dragon rally, in February 1965.

End of quotation

- Jean-Francois Helias