The Anglo-Dutch reliability Trial - Earnewald, Holland - 2003
(Click any photo to see a larger picture - then just follow the slide show.)

It all started in 1912 when the first trial was held in Holland. Based in Amsterdam the trial was a route of 158 miles and left the aptly named Darracq Palace on the 5th August at 8.ooam. Riders were set off in groups of three on a circular route that went through Apeldoorn, Arnhem, and Utrecht before returning to Amsterdam. Marks were lost for each minute early or late as well as being unable to climb the test hill and for missing a control point.

Entrants were split 50-50 between trade riders and private owners. It’s interesting to note some of the names that rode for England. Riders such as F.A.Applebee aboard a Scott, W.F.Newsome on a Triumph were part of the event whilst the reserves for the trade class had names such as Rex Mundy (Singer), George Brough (Brough) and Hugh Gibson (Bradbury) on the list.The Reliability Trial was won by Holland and it was decided that another such event would be held in 1913 in England. That event took place and was won by the home nation – so – it was agreed that there should be a decider to be held the next year, 1914. However, the Great War prevented the event taking place and it was not until 1989, some 75 years later that the Third England-Holland Reliability Trial eventually took place.

The trials since then have been held on a bi-annual basis and have alternated between Holland and England. Score to date, excluding the 2003 event, was, I believe, 2 wins to Holland and 7 wins to England.

The current series is restricted to veteran machines in order to preserve the spirit of the original events and for this year the trial was to take place in the north of Holland, based at the Hotel Princenhof in Eernewoude, Friesland. Just in case you look at a map for Eernewoude, it is placed about halfway between Leeuwarden and Drachten. The hotel is on the edge of a lake complex that was created in the late eighteenth century by the locals cutting the peat for fuel.

Assembly was scheduled for Monday the 28th July with scrutineering taking place during the late afternoon. During scrutineering a film crew turned up and their film and interviews actually made it onto the Dutch national television that night.

These machines were pictured at the start of the event. The 1905 Auto Fauteuil is certainly an interesting bike - water cooled and no radiator

Tuesday dawned and the sun shone as we set off at minute intervals on the first day’s social run of some 75 miles. Route cards were not issued, instead signs were placed at road junctions with a circle indicating a right turn, a square meaning turn left and a triangle being used for straight on. This was the first time that I’d ridden using these signs and they certainly worked. I found it a lot easier than having to squint at a route card for the next direction. We headed north for the coffee stop before turning west to Franeker for lunch and a visit to the planetarium museum of Eise Eisinga. A very pleasant day was spent riding on the straight roads of the area, although I’m sure that we could all have done without the ‘Drempels’ that were found in each of the villages that we passed through. Drempel is the name for the speed humps that are used widely on the continent now and tend to be placed at road junctions in the towns and villages.

Day two, Wednesday 30th July was also a social run of around 75 miles and this time the weather did not look too good. It was trying to rain as we set off to the northeast towards Veenklooster for the morning coffee stop. We continued northeast to the village of Kloosterburen for lunch whilst the skies tried desperately to squeeze some rain onto us. However, by the time that we arrived at the lunch stop, which was at a small transport museum, the drizzle had stopped. The museum housed a collection of small cars, such as the Gogomobile and Lloyd whilst the two-wheeler offerings included a 1902 Clement and various other small capacity machines. All the time that we were there a one-man band entertained us. The afternoon run back to base was held in dry conditions, thank goodness, as it’s difficult enough trying to stop my single speed outfit on one brake in the dry – and even more difficult with a wet belt rim.

Briefings on the next days riding took place each evening and Wednesday evenings meeting was no different except that the following day, Thursday 31st July, was the official trial day. Two speeds were on offer – 30kmp or 36kph – that took some working out, I can tell you. Being used to 20 or 24 mph it was all a ploy, I reckoned, by the home nation to put us on the back foot. Anyway, after a thunderstorm the night before the day dawned with some nice sunshine. Those on the 30kph schedule were off first and amongst a crowd of people Mike Wills pushed away his ’04 Bradbury. Mike’s foot didn’t make clean contact with the pedal and both bike and rider collapsed in a heap. John Mockett had just got aboard his 1909 Triumph and quickly took avoiding action around Mike and the Bradbury. However, only pride was hurt and Mike soon had the Bradbury on its way. After fifteen minutes of running, my Triumph came to a stop – check plug, magneto, timing, and clean carb float chamber – you know the routine. Just as I was doing this, the camera crew turned up and started filming my mild panic, as I couldn’t find the problem. That made it even worse and I wasn’t thinking straight, however, the problem turned out to be nothing more than the nipple pulling off the cable at the air lever which I eventually found after looking at everything else for 25 minutes. Solderless nipple fitted and we were on our way some forty minutes late. I tried to make up time but in only a few miles we came to the first check and that was that. From then on we were back to our 30 kph schedule.

By the time we got to the morning coffee stop the rest of the field were beginning to leave. Chris Franklin pushed off his 1914 T.D.Cross and missed getting his foot on the pedal. That resulted in him ending up with the bike on top of him in the roadside ditch but that didn’t deter Chris and at the end of the day he had the best overall timekeeping. The lunch stop, situated to the east and near the German border was, again, very good and everyone made it okay. Even Ron Farthing and Sheila, who arrived over an hour late seemed to be enjoying themselves, “We’ve seen parts of Holland that you haven’t” commented Ron as he rode into the parking area.

During the afternoon run I came across Baz and Jenny Staple with their very nice 1913 Rex outfit. The rear of the sidecar chassis had broken – it was probably down to riding over those drempels. Baz managed to tie the loose chassis up with everything that came to hand and the outfit was soon back and running. Of all the problems that the English team suffered they seem to have all happened on the trial day. With the days run finished the machines were garaged for the night and we all cleaned up for the evening meal, whilst Baz and Vincent Belgraver set about welding the Rex sidecar chassis. After dinner everyone was treated to a three-hour boat ride around the lakes. Very leisurely it was, on a particularly balmy evening.

Friday was the last riding day and yet again the weather was dry and sunny. The one-minute intervals between each rider setting off had shortened quite a bit now and it wasn’t long before everyone was on their way. The route took us southwest and after the coffee stop we ended up at the Indian motorcycle museum of Tony Leenes in Lemmer – well worth a visit if you’re in that area.

After the afternoon tea stop we took one of the few small ferries that still operate in Holland, but by this time the welding of the Rex chassis had decided to let go so out came the rope and straps to tie it all up once more. To my knowledge everyone made it back safely and looked forward to the final evening and the announcement of the trial results which were 23 marks lost to the English and 21 lost to the Dutch, thus giving Holland the win.

All in all an excellent week of riding amongst like minded people, and proof, if there was any doubt, that a veteran motorcycle can manage over 300 miles in four days and be relatively trouble free. Special thanks must go to Roel van Maarseveen and Vincent Belgraver who managed the event on behalf of the Veteraan Motoren Club.