Wednesday, August 8, 2012

European Motorbike Holiday aboard British Classics - 1953

The below story is told by Paul Gander whose father took part in an epic multi-country European tour in 1953.  Not only did they ride fantastic British bikes such as the Brough Superior SS100 and a couple of Triumphs and Sunbeams - they documented the trip incredibly well. 

“We think of old bikes as being unreliable, but my father and his friends were keen riders and engineers and completed the trip without much more than a puncture."  - Paul Gander 
Here is the story as told by Paul:
The bikes that took part in the trip were: GAU 856 Brough Superior SS100 with fuel in the loop sidecar, AHC 650 Triumph Thunderbird. He bought this one on 22nd July 1950 for £219 16 9 and by the day they set off in July 53 it had done 24,900 miles. KBY 571 Sunbeam. VMM 871 Sunbeam. AHC 963 Triumph.  When we cross from England to France now we have a ferry or the tunnel. For this trip they choose to fly the bikes from Lympne Airport in Kent, UK over to Le Touquet, France. They were all smartly dressed bikers and whilst helmets were not required, a jacket and tie certainly was. The bikes were swiftly loaded at the English end, it took a while for the French to unload the bikes.
So what do you do just a few minutes into France as an Englishman… of course you brew tea whilst you wait. My Father stands on the right of this picture, clearly dressed for a motorcycle ride! Customs at Le Touquet, France.
A stop in Northern France for a smoke.
Ken gets a puncture in St Quentin, France.  A stop at Bar le Duc, France for essential supplies…
And shortly after a roadside stop for a picnic and another stop for a coffee in Saverne, France.
Entering Germany at Kehl and about 600-700 miles into the trip. My father was 18 when War was declared and having listened to the radio broadcast with his mother, had a cup of tea and then rode his motorcycle down to the recruiting office and signed up for the RAF. I assume that his friends were in the war and wonder what their banter was as they crossed into Germany.
A stop by Lake Constance, Germany, and the weather is looking excellent. About 800-900 miles into the trip.
Into Bavaria although I am not sure where, with the Bavarian Alps in the background and naturally they have brewed some tea.
They continued on via Steingaden, Garmisch and Walchen and on towards Austria. Then, crossing the border (below) into Austria at Ursprung.
And on past Kufstein and into Kitzbuhel where they seem to have stayed for a few days walking in the mountains.
Then on the road from Kitzbuhel to Brock. The picture above was taken on the way to Bruck and is my personal favorite
Getting closer to Bruck and the scenery and weather look fantastic
They had to stop and pay to enter the Grossglockner Pass. This was a very well visited tourist road with over 90,000 vehicles using it in 1952. It has a beautiful selection of bends that must have been wonderful on the bikes. Soon after a stop for tea is required. The Tunnel at the top of the Grossglockner Pass. The road peaks at 6,400ft.
At the top of the Franz Joseph Glacier reentering Germany on the way to Salzburg in Austria
They stopped for a while in Salzburg and then took the Inn Valley to Rattenburg where the picture above was taken. If you have ever wondered if Germans really did walk about in leather shorts …. They must be about 1300 miles into the trip now.
After Rattenburg they head for Innsbruck and after that Steinach in Austria and then onto the Brenner Pass. The Brenner Pass is one of the principal passes of the Alps and will take them from Austria into Italy. It peaks at 4,500 ft.  After the joys of the Brenner Pass they continued on to the Giovo Pass into Italy. The Giovo is very small and twisty and splendid on a bike, except when they did it the road was just dirt and gravel with no safety barriers. The traffic jam has been caused as two coaches have become stuck.
And then on over other spectacular roads and into Switzerland at Mustair, above.
Then onto Zernez and onto St Moritz with around 1,600 miles completed.
After St Moritz they head past Chur and Frick as they start to head westward and home. Then through Zurich and leave Switzerland at Basel. Then, a stop at Basel Customs
After the lovely twisty roads of the previous week, they are back onto the arrow straight French roads and it seems a bit cooler by the riding gear. It must have been tempting to open the bikes up on this straight. And on to Langres for a stop. I have ridden some of the roads between Troyes and Basel and they are excellent, fast sweeping undulating roads.
And back to Le Touquet with over 2,000 miles covered
And the final picture in this album they have entitled “England in 20 Minutes” My father kept detailed logs for all his bikes and I still have most of them.”

All images © Paul Gander
For Paul's original posting go here

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