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Indian International Rally - England 2004


Well, I guess most of us know the feeling on every Club meeting. Once the AGM comes to the point where there are jobs to be distributed, every one has the sudden urge to inspect the polish of his/her boots. The last one to do so gets the job. Well, I did pretty well (must be my army training) so far, until…. Well someone had to write this report. So here is my personal account of the International Indian Rally 2004, Horsham, UK.

Anxiously watching the weather forecast before the Indian rally, the day was coming closer, and still no rain predicted. Quick re-assuring check in the club magazine, yes it is the correct weekend. Packed all the stuff on the Sport Scout on Wednesday, ready to leave work early on Thursday evening. Some last minute preparations, including the realisation that I still have not done anything about that air cleaner that I lost back from the club meet in Billing. Well, I’d got a brass plate I hacked up some time ago for another project that never got any further, a few screws, cable ties (how did they ride Indians before the invention of cable ties?) and some stainless steel pan scrubbers, hei ho, ready is the personalised Indian air cleaner (don’t care about your comments folks - it kept the grass and the flies out of the engine).

Getting from Royston to Horsham, either involves the traffic jams of London, or driving via the biggest car park in Europe, otherwise known as the M25. I decided that the later one was the lesser of two evils, and made my way down the A10 followed by the M25 (obviously packed). The third leg of the journey led through what is actually quite pretty countryside, with due to the late hour, relatively empty roads leading through forests. I have never really been to this part of the UK, and must say it really was a quite decent setting for the rally. I did the 100 miles journey in just under 3 hours, and after booking in found my self pitching the tent, I still had daylight left, which was a rather unusual event. Oops I thought that I would try to be there on Thursday evening to give a hand during final preparations. No chance, there where already over 100 people booked in and tents where scattered around the field. The rally organising team has done such a brilliant job that there was nothing left to do, other than going straight to quench the thirst after the dusty road.

OK, so down to the beer, meeting many familiar and unfamiliar faces, failed to convince the European visitors to try the English bitter, rather than lager, and had a good time till late.

I spent most of Friday walking around the field looking at Indians, chatting to people. During a ride to the petrol station I came across this hand waving Chief rider. Guessing that he is lost, slow down to let him turn around and catch up with me. On the traffic lights “Hello I am Thomas from Germany”, “Hallo, Frank, auch von Deutschland”…. “But, you have an English number plate..?”. Just having an English number plate still does not make me a Brit, does it? OK, fair enough it is a bit misleading…. Delivering him straight to the rally site, I made my way back into town in order to get a few things from the shops. Suddenly there was a couple in a Land Rover frantically waving at me. Is it my silly hat day or what? Well, the German number plates suggested that they also might be in search for the Indian rally site. With that one in-tow I passed another off road vehicle, with I believe Belgian number plates, with four lost looking people, wearing Indian hats. I guess the signing was not quite up to European expectations. Returning to the rally site, it was suggested that I make a round every half hour and pick up all the lost foreigners….. but somehow the beer was more attractive…

Is it actually true, that the English took down all road signs during the war, so in case the invasion happens all there will be are lost looking Germans? If so they did a rather lousy job putting ‘em back up after the war.

Friday evening I was again walking around having a look at the many Indians that arrived, having the odd beer here and there, whilst listening to the music and chatting to people. Isn’t it great? As soon as you got a common hobby, language barriers just simply disappear and so with my voltmeter and sign language I could help a Dutch guy to re-wire his ignition switch, so that it actually worked.

Saturday morning we parked all 140 something Indians in front of the globe. I then received a yellow high visibility jacked, and I magically transformed into a marshal, occupying street corners on the ride out and pointing people into the right direction. This meant also to have the pleasure seeing all those Indians in action. After that, the pleasure of using the Sport Scout the way it was intended, overtaking the complete ride out (dreaming of Ed Kretz) in order to be ready to repeat the game on another street corner. It was a Great ride out and a well-picked place to stop for refreshments and have another talk about the old motorbikes. The only unfortunate thing to happen was that the lead vehicle was the first one to break down. Luckily Eddy gave him the four cylinder he was riding, so we could continue after a very short break.

Watched Carl doing what he seems to like doing most – fixing bikes on rallies. Just this time not fixing something on the Brave, but taking Pauline’s Harley Trooper apart. He looks really happy with oily arms up to his elbows!.

Coming back from the ride out, I installed the pillion seat, as Lucy had arrived to join for the rest of the rally. Len also arrived Saturday afternoon. It was great fun seeing Len again, who despite his 90 years, it was the first year that he was not camping over. I took him on the back of the bike and did a couple of slow rounds over the rally field so that he could see every thing without walking a too far. “Hey look, there is Len!”, “It’s Len!”…. well, for the last seven years I have been to every UK rally and still people do not seem to recognise me…..

Well,  the rally has been and gone but here are some of our memories.  Photographs kindly supplied by Mark Alexander, Stuart Alexander, Eddie Baines, Bill & Lorraine Herbert & Fred Dufrene
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int053.jpg (225814 bytes) First the "Pink Panther" bike  int054.jpg (108401 bytes) then the man.
int055.jpg (151038 bytes) "the 2005 calendar is not being shot here sir!" int052.jpg (207977 bytes) Donations kindly received for the un-abridged photo?

Had a long talk with Hans from Berlin, who was here with his 101. He used to ride Indians in his family’s Wall of Death back in the 1950s, and was happy to show me some pictures from that time. What a great character. Lucy sat for some time on his 101, trying to accept my suggestion that this would be the bike for her to have. Well I actually would quite like an 101, but then having already an Sport Scout I need a good excuse and so I try to convince Lucy that she actually really, really would like to own her own Indian….I think she seen through that plot for some time and is just playing along to shut me up.

Every Indian with a pillion seat or sidecar was prey to the pack of kids wanting rides. So I spent a few rounds with various children on the back. The original power-plus and sidecar was more impressive, with four children at once, and driving like a maniac! They should learn not to smile when they say that they’ve not had a ride yet!

Saturday night’s food was just absolutely brilliant. Something for every taste. “Please can I have some more Sir Ray”. “What? Nobody ever before asked for more, and you have got already my special tick mark on your ticket, so bu…off”. However, there was loads of food, and once everyone was fed, there was cheese, and pudding, and as many seconds as you could fit.

Carl was still trying to fix the scooter, and in the time in-between had secured the loan of a clutch for the brave to get him home.

Had a little Saturday evening ride out with Lucy on the back. First time she tested her new pillion seat, and despite the fact that it looks pretty shi.., she loves it, as it has adequate suspension and does not give her painful shocks up the spine every time there is a pot hole or man cover on the road. Lucy: Boys, you might not think that having a comfortable pillion seat is important, but if you had to sit on it much, you’d change your mind…

Saturday night continued, with listening to music and finding interesting people to talk to. Some point later on the camp fire, just chatting to another German, we hear the noise of an Indian running around the field. Crash, short silence, motor noise again, and then this Chief steaming pass and straight into the strings, fencing off the rugby field. It was only then we noticed that the rider was, shall we say, rather lightly dressed. He was shouting something about wanting to join the club, so I can only assume he was keen to be on the 2005 calendar.

Suggested a few routes for the “Team Kraut”, which was desperate to go and be disappointed by Stonehenge. I offered them B&B in Royston, as they had to be in Harwich on Monday afternoon.

Sunday was a lazy affair, with yet another few greasy sausages for breakfast. Living in the UK for the last 7 years I have slowly adapted to this strange early morning behaviour… different to most of the rest of the continental lot. Yet another walk along the rally site, saying good bye to some early leavers. Keith and I decided that we have a little ride out back to the pub we stopped on Saturday. Frank Grassy with wife and daughter joined by car and an American couple on a Harley (sorry, I forgot your names) had a quiet pub lunch. Getting the beers in, 6 blokes at the bar were discussing Indian motorcycles, so we were the talk of the town!

Back onto the rally site it was time to pack the bags, bring Lucy to the station and say good bye to every one….saying good bye on an Indian rally can take an awfully long time… but discussing this with Pauline we decided that this is the reason why we come again each year.

I packed up all the stuff, including the spare front forks and handlebar that I bought onto the back of the bike and off I went for another manoeuvring around the biggest car park of Europe, back home.

Sunday night at eleven, after I have heard the rumbling in Royston, “Team Kraut” and a Swede invaded my drive. Seven people on Indians switched quite a few lights on in the neighbourhood. First on the drive was the sidecar Chief, and before the last one stopped the engine, the box was already open and the beer came out. Lucy’s comment was only “Oh that lot!” Their reputation preceded them. Party in my garden until two, when I left them to sleep in the garden, on the living room floor and where ever they found some space in our little house. Continental breakfast with bread, jam and cereals and plenty coffee on Monday. Photo session, with neighbours from half the road present, and off they went. Heard from Bernd on Thursday that they arrived safely back home, but had quite a struggle to deplete the last of the beer from the sidecar, whilst having the last stop over somewhere in the Netherlands.

Summary: It was great, can we do that again next year?.

Complaints: The weather was just not up to English standard and therefore a lot of Europeans brought a lot of waterproofs with them and did not need them. Why did they not close the M25 for any traffic other than Indians that weekend? What is it about the English and their sausages?

Frank Nuber              

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Indian Motocycles - you can't wear them out                                  Indian Motocycles - built to last  
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