The Belgian Oude Klepper Parade 2011
(Click any photo to see a larger picture - then just follow the slide show.)

We set off for Dover at 8pm on the Thursday night and met Terry and Dilys at Membury service station at around 10pm. The idea being to drive to Dover overnight and grab a few hours kip at the port. That way we could be sure of making the ferry and not suffering the vagaries of the M25. We eventually arrived at the campsite in De Haan where Terry had booked into and as it was too early for Jean and I to go to the hotel we retired to the campsite bar for a couple of hours. That evening we had an early meal and went for a walk around the town but found ourselves feeling pretty knackered after the overnight drive on Thursday, so it was early to bed.

Saturday dawned and the social run was to assemble behind the town hall at 2pm for a ride out - where to, we had no idea until Nick arrived with the route instructions. Jean and I had our Triumph there early and the ride from the hotel to the town hall was the first for the re-built motor. If you've read the Anglo-Dutch report then you'll know that there were some problem with the flywheels in the engine and some midnight oil was burnt during the three days that we had at home after the Scottish events and before setting off for the OKP. Anyway, engine re-built, it fired up straight away and ran nicely, although the exhaust note did sound a bit louder than normal. That was down to the fact that I'd cleaned all the carbon out of the exhaust and that the exit holes were now much bigger than they were. All down to 20 years of not decoking the exhaust box.
There was wall to wall sunshine as I stationed myself, avec camera, on the main road from the town centre to get a few action shots of the riders arriving.

Back behind the town hall were:

This 1920's 350cc Sarolea had some interesting items - in particularly the Klaxon horn on the front wheel which was operated by a cable from the handlebars - have a good look at it, it's simple really, although I couldn't see why the owner needed two horns, the other being an electric one mounted beneath that marvellous headlight.
The afternoon run took us out into the countryside and on to Blankenberge a seaside town a bit further along the coast. Pierre had ridden over from Kruishoutem to see us on his Paris/Dakar BMW, which is a lovely bike and he followed us all the way to Blankenberge - probably not getting out of second gear. Anyway, the Triumph ran fine although I did have a few problem with riders who, for some reason or other felt that they just had to pass us, despite our bike being able to keep up with the convoy speed ok. Problem was that after passing, all they did was to slow down in front of us which caused me a few hairy moments, as it's not easy to stop a single speed outfit with one brake. We eventually came to Blankenberge and on entering the town Terry and the Beardmore came to a halt with a broken throttle cable. I stopped to help and in no time we had a new cable installed. On into the town and we found our stop for the afternoon outside a museum in one of the side streets.
I'm not sure how to describe the museum as I wasn't quite sure what it was all about. Not exactly a museum but a bit more like Techniquest in Cardiff Bay with some folk history thrown in. Anyway, it wasn't long before we all retired to a local bar which had a guy playing an electric organ at the entrance. I thought that he was quite good until I watched his fingers playing the keys. It soon became evident that he wasn't playing the organ at all and that it was playing, not just the background but the whole of the tunes for him - but it looked good and the music was ok as we downed a nice cold Leffe.
Back on the road and we were heading straight back to De Haan. On the way the Triumph motor decided to develope a knocking noise and by the time that we reached De Haan, the engine sounded as if the big end had gone in a rather big way. At the hotel I slipped the belt off and the drive pulley could be waggled up and down quite a bit. Obviously my repair had decided not to stay put - so that was the end of the weekend rides for us - or so I thought.
That evening there was the official reception in the Town Hall by which time most knew of the problems with our Triumph engine. Richard Mummery stood up and told everyone about the problem and asked if anyone had a spare bike that could be loaned for me to ride the following day. Nick offered his 1928 Gillet, Johnny Johnson offered his 1920's Hobart and Noel Whittall offered a 1913 Triumph. I must say that I was quite touched by the generosity - but that's part of what our hobby is all about, I suppose. Anyway, after fixing Jean and Dilys up with a ride in Nick's car for the next day I decided to take Noel up on his offer of riding the Triumph. It is a Model C and comes complete with a three speed hub - gosh, gears!! What should I do with those I thought? but I could always ride it as a single speeder, after all I was used to that.

Klepper day:
I arranged to collect the Triumph from the hotel where Noel was staying and after a quick lesson on the bikes foibles I pushed it around to the start area and placed it on the number allocated to our '08 outfit.

This lovely 1920 Gillet caught my eye as it lined up in the assembly area. One of the interesting things about it is that the engine and gearbox are unit construction - but the gearbox is placed in front of the cylinder - have a good look.

Some of the 61 bikes at the start:

What can one say about Ralph Boreham - he's a larger than life character and you can never be sure of what he's going to turn up as. This year it was a chimney sweep - with his 1920 LW Triumph, of course. Ralph did, in fact, win the trophy for 'Klepper personality' at the end of the day.

These two photos of Terry and myself leaving the start are to be credited to Erwin Merckx, who has kindly given permission to use them. Not having ridden Noel's 1913 Triumph before it was case of set all the controls, put the bike in second gear and push off and pray. I needn't have worried as the motor picked up straight away and I was soon off and down the road.
After riding through a red light at the edge of town, the route headed out into the countryside and the one thing that I noticed was that the Triumph was running with the belt up on top of the pulley, which gave a very high gear in top. Triumph motors are quite flexible and I soon had the feel of the bike as it loped lazily along. The lunch stop was in Stene Dorp, as usual, and I found myself arriving with only one other bike getting there before me. Pierre was there to greet me but was on the outlook for a sidecar so I caught him unawares. Soon other bikes began arriving:

Stany Wouters had some problems when the steering column broke on his 1907 Sarolea, but it was welded back together and Stany finished the ride ok. Must say that I do like the use of the helmet as a stand for propping up the motor.

I just had to take a photo of this Motobecane that arrived as it sounded and looked superb. Sorry about the wheelie bin in the background. The bike had a 125cc twin engine and I know no more than that, but it was nice.

Two back on the road photos, again from the camera of Erwin Merckx.

Both the Triumph and the Beardmore made the Ice Cream stop without any hitch - well not quite - I missed the left-hand turn along the canal. Mainly due to there being two cars followed by a bunch of pedal cyclists all wobbling about on the bridge next to the turning. I was so occupied in avoiding the bikes that I just didn't notice the left turn sign and so motored on towards Gistel. Five miles further on and I realised that I'd gone wrong so turned around and headed back to find the route. Funnily enough I passed Wilf Banks and Johnny Johnson going the other way, obviously having missed the left turn sign as I did.
The next stop was in the main square in Wenduine and not up on the front as in the past. It was much easier to get into and out of, I must say. The approach to Wenduine from the countryside ended at a set of traffic lights on the ring road - turn left and then right and I'd be there. However, on approaching the traffic lights, which were on red of course, I had two Belgian riders in front of me and so I kicked the foot clutch out on the Triumph and started to coast up to the lights. Brake!! gee, what brake, it didn't work. Noel did say that the rear hub had a habit of leaking oil onto the brake rim. What a time to find that out for real - as I sailed towards the backend of one of the Belgian riders bikes with absolutely no retardation whatsoever. I moved to the gutter just as the second Belgian rider decided to move to the right. I passed majestically between him and the plastic bollards on the kerb and rolled slowly to a stop. Phew!!.
By this time the bike engine had stalled so I pushed it through the lights and put it on the stand. Then it was just a case of going through the starting routine. Climb aboard, bike in top gear, clutch in, set levers and pedal like hell. That was the easy part, with the motor starting after only a few turns of the pedals. Next bit was to put the clutch out using the foot pedal, put the bike into first gear (there's no neutral) stop the rear wheel turning with the brake and take the bike very slowly off the stand. A sudden jolt and it could have jumped into gear and you can imagine what would have happened if that occured. Clip the stand up, get back on the bike with the engine running and just dump the clutch pedal. Sounds 'orrible, I know, but it works and it's what Noel instructed me to do. The clutch springs and the oil in the hub then just take up the drive gradually - easy really.

Final two photos from Erwin Merckx camera, taken on the run back to the finish in De Haan, a nice straight road which the Triumph loved.

Paul and Dorette had travelled from Brussels to see us and the bikes. Paul had also transported a 1949 Excelsior Autobyk that had been given to me by Jacques Bastiens. Jacques was also a spectator at the Klepper and said that giving a bike away is like giving away one of your dogs, even if old and limping, you want it to go to a good home.....

Back to the Klepper and I returned the Triumph to Noel with heartfelt thanks. The evening then saw the hog roast and Prize presentation take place in the Town hall annex. This year the speeches seemed shorter than usual and I sure wouldn't complain about that. During the proceedings I noticed in the programme that Noel had a small ad for his book - titled 'A stupid thing to do'. It is a humourous account of his end to end on his Model H Triumph. As luck would have it Noel was sitting with us at our table and just happened to have a few copies with him. Both Terry and I bought a copy - they were only a tenner - and the book promised a good read. Noel kindly signed both our copies for us. After the meal and formalities we all retired to the Melrose Cafe for the rest of the evening and spent an enjoyable few hours chatting.

The trip home the next day saw Jean and I managing to get on an early ferry at 12 noon. During the two hour crossing I started on Noel's book and had read half of it by the time we docked in Dover. All I can say is that it would be one of the best ten quids that you could ever spend - do buy a copy. Copies are available from the VMCC at 12 which includes postage, VMCC reference B137. Also available from Amazon.