France, view from the front. :)

View from the front:

Firstly, thanks to Clint for the idea in the first place, and to all the other organisers - a ride this big must have taken a lot of time and trouble, collating names and deciding who does what and when and where.

I was hijacked during the last week to be the chap up front, the ‘Leader’ if you will, as the original chap couldn’t do it. I don’t know why, maybe they imagined that a sensible adult lurked within! At least I was guaranteed not to be able to do wheelies, stoppies or dough nuts…

I have led quite a few group rides before, and this was one of the most enjoyable, from every point of view, even if over twice the size of any previous ones. The backup was tremendous, all was done in a co-operative spirit of fun, the route was decided, all I had to do was ride ahead!

At folkestone, I rode up to the front of the bikes that were boarding, only to find I’d elbowed three ‘Tiger Club’ chaps out of the way. They didn’t seem to mind too much when I explained what was going on, and we exchanged all that we knew about the quite recent changes in French Police attitudes to drivers/riders in the last few months especially in the Pas de Calais. All a bit political in the background, but on the day we only saw one Police van, and they were more likely out for ice-creams than to try to book some Ros-Bifs.

At the fuel-stop in Calais we waited for those who didn’t get booked on in time and had to take the later train. A lesson or two for any other large group rides…

So of we set, and I made an immediate decision not to go straight onto the A16 even for a few hundred metres - unknown (to me) riders, untested cornerman system (for that day at least) and all that, so the first bit was a slow trudge through to Sangatte. Still, it showed we could all stay together and play nicely, which was a reassurance for the roads ahead.

The coast road (D940) was great as usual, marred only by some dawdling Brit drivers. I’m told the view from the rear of a column of 65-odd bikes snaking up down and around was one to savour and remember - something you miss from the front! Next time - all pillions must take cameras!

A couple of bikes who were near the rear apparently had trouble with the inevitable fact that the rear of a group is the fastest place to be as they play catch-up. At the first fuel stop we arranged they should stay tucked in behind me, and I could then match my acceleration to theirs so they didn’t feel so ‘left behind’ all the time. It also meant they only needed to see my bike keeping out on the left-hand side to know it was safe to overtake - this worked well, so folk shouldn’t be shy in telling a group leader they are on slower bikes, as they can easily be accommodated so they have as much fun as everyone else.

At Le Touquet we parked up right beside the sea front (thanks Charly), and wandered off into town for human fuel. Lunch was fun, especially the inevitable mix-up over ‘steak’, and SheWoolf’s inimitable refusal to pay for hers. There was no argument, all sorted amicably.

We also heard of Stem’s off, and had to make the hard decision not to send the van right away, as we still had the majority of the bikes and in any case the van was there to support the main group ride. However it was also immediately decided that as soon as the main group was safely back to Calais the van and a rescue party would go and help. As it turned out what with hospital waits and things I don’t think Stem had to wait too long - at least I hope so, and also hope the mend doesn’t take too long.

Madscientist’s bike had a flattened battery - I thought all Honda riders carried spare regulators! Not this time, so a jump-start had to suffice.

Because we now didn’t want to delay Stem’s rescue more than necessary the next 50 mile stretch was shortened to about 20 miles - I’m sure some of the more minor roads might have been quicker and more fun, but heh-ho we got to Hesdin for the last fuel-stop.

I must apologise to all for the tiny petrol stations we stopped at, next time perhaps there’ll be time for a recce ride to ensure we can get everyone fuelled in shorter order. At least people were in the main sharing the pumps and paying promptly.

Now came arguably the best roads of the trip, with Gertrude (my ‘strict but fair’) GPS getting confused by the blocked road out of Devres - visited twice! While stopped there everyone from grannies to toddlers came out to see the strange sight! Eventually on we went until I realised I’d missed a turn, and it was probably because my concentration wasn’t of the best as I was very aware of needing a pee. Now finding a place to pee isn’t usually a problem - but it is when 65-odd bikes have to stop somewhere behind you! Just as well we did stop, we heard the van was lost and that Lustfish had had an ‘oops’ moment - thankfully nothing but a dinged mirror and wounded pride. Also Madscientist’s bike decided to cut out at the pee-stop having overheated while kept running, and was now a liability for the rest of the journey. So the van was found, MS’s bike loaded up, and we started the last lap with more great roads - but the wind was quite something, twisting everyone’s heads round as they rode along canted over ten degrees!

The Tunnel terminal was reached just after dark, and we stopped well before the check-in so that farewells could be made to those who carried on to find Stem and get him recovered home - bloody well done chaps as I myself was knackered by then yet I ride a sofa on wheels! A huge round of applause from me for one.

Stopped at Maidstone on the way home for nearly a hour warming up and getting some caffeine into the bloodstream ready for the final individual leg home.

Again, huge thanks to everyone on the day, each person present made their own contribution to make it an ‘Event to be Repeated’.

Hey Jim. I for one am glad you stepped in when I asked! It’s no small underaking to lead such a large group Why do you think I went at the back!!!

I think the organisation on the ride worked well - everyone on the team worked well

It was fun at the back and you’re right the view of 60 bikes snaking along the coast is a sight to behold!!!

Top man Jim

brilliant write up Jim

Please see

Hi jim

Just to say thanks and that i never used my sat nav once, i know what it is like to lead 20 bikes to germany, but would not have liked to try 60 like you did [ and did think about it while going along ], i was at the back twice and the view was awesome we did try and take pics but they dont show it to well, i will try getting them over to Jay this week for him to host.

thanks again

Now you need to write the ‘View from the rear’ you promised.

was a great day even in the van!,

Nice write up jim many thanks

well done jim .top man