Screw It, Let’s Ride

23rd European H.O.G. Rally, Biograd, Croatia. 12-15 June 2014.

Biograd, Croatia

The 2014 Rally in Biograd Na Moru had a lot to live up to in my eyes. We were unable to attend the 2011 rally and we have had to listen to all those from C&F who were there for what was apparently the ‘best ever’ European H.O.G. rally. We have attended some amazing rallies over the years, so bring it on...

Our usual group, Oliver, Joanna, Ed, Natasha, Terry, Manuella, Kai, Mick, newbie Raj and myself caught the early Eurostar to Calais. We then picked the fastest route to Troyes using our Sanef automatic toll tags to avoid the queues.

The following day the roads improved dramatically and we found ourselves heading toward Italy where Jo had booked us into a fabulous hotel on Lake Sirio. After a wonderful meal and plenty of the local vino whilst heading back to the hotel the guys decided to shuck their clothes and jump into the lake. This was the first of many impromptu cooling down sessions the guys made on our journey to Croatia.

After a wonderful lunch break on Lake Lugano it was back on the beautiful twisting roads when Mick was almost forced off the road by a crazy Italian 6 inches from his back wheel. The idiot was later pulled over by the guys and was given an instructive course on the safety issues involved.

Riding the twisting mountain road in the baking sun had the group divesting themselves of their jackets and riding in their vests. After much deliberation I eventually succumbed only to immediately find myself travelling through a 15km cold, damp tunnel through the Alps in my T shirt. The relief on exiting was momentary as we immediately entered another just as long and equally as cold. My hand signals didn’t work so I followed Mick with my jacket strapped on his rack. Lesson learned.

Biograd, Croatia

I had been looking forward to The Stelvio Pass. I had done this 12 years earlier and was wondering if it matched up to the fond memories I had. The Pass is situated in the Ortler Alps. Our route meant we rode up the western side which had around 27 hairpin bends. The roads were perfect and we had a fantastic ride up through the snow covered mountains. We stopped off at the top in the tiny village of Bormio. We ate in a restaurant overlooking the pass and were able to contemplate its 47 steep hairpin bends whilst watching the antics of our 2 youngest riders trying to out best each other running up a sheer cliff of packed snow...?

On the much anticipated ride down on the second bend, my brakes went. Great. I had to use the gears and pump the brake to slow down. Not happy. I arrived at the bottom safely just after Ed, who had the same problem. Kai and Raj had sped down with Mick in pursuit and were looking very pleased with themselves.

Biograd, Croatia

Day 6 had us riding over The Dolomites, after refuelling at a service station Oliver realised he had a puncture on his rear wheel. It was a searingly hot day, and with no shelter, Kai tried to repair the tyre. The puncture kit was old and after 2 hours it was decided that Ollie and Raj would ride slowly to the nearest Harley dealership. We followed with Jo and their luggage but arrived at the dealership with no Ollie in sight. Different route. The tyre was now flat and with new directions to a small bike garage where the puncture was repaired.

It was then a hot tub and dip in the Adriatic sea with the jelly fish for all who dared. No chance. Day 7 was my best day of riding. Through twisting, gladed forests and wide curling roads we made our way over the border to Croatia to stay at a UNESCO World Heritage Site at The Plitvica Lakes National Park where the resident pony who’s best buddies was a St Bernard dog and a motley trio of goats was a hilarious sight to see. How this pony on speed didn’t plough into the bikes I’ll never know... A few of our group went to explore the famous lakes and waterfalls and got lost. They were rescued hours later by the hotel manager.

Biograd, Croatia

Our last day of travelling, and after beautiful twisties we came upon road works. The worst we had ever seen. No other traffic. Just the whole width of a vast road had been dug up and covered in quarry scalping. Ha, I’m sure even a Land Rover would have looked twice. We struggled keeping the heavily loaded bikes upright. I followed Kai and the path got narrower and higher each side and whilst Kai pulled his bike over the mound of stones, I was stuck with nowhere for my feet to go. With a bit of help from Tashi the stones were moved and my bike was away.

As we approached Biograd, we were pulled over by the local police who wanted to check our driving licences... Bit of a problem, my picture licence, being over 10 years old had run out the previous month and I hadn’t been renewed. Whilst the others showed theirs I chatted to the policeman who was admiring my bike and he forgot to ask me... Phew.

Biograd Na Moru is a coastal town. The whole of the rally was situated next to the sea, 2km long with 2 stages, demo area and many European HD dealerships.The front was lined with bars and restaurants serving the best sea food costing next to nothing. The Pocco Locco bar that C&F were meeting up on the Friday night was brilliant. A huge screen was in front of the bar and we were able to watch the Croatia vs. Brazil match then party. As always it’s great to meet C&F members so far from home and catch up with their adventures.

Biograd, Croatia

And it didn’t matter we didn’t have the time for the Bear Santuary or the cable car up Chamonix. The roads were amazing to ride and I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else but that. So big thanks to Ollie and Jo for planning and booking the route and to Ed and Mick for holding the group together at the rear and Manuella and Tashi for the photos taken on the road. As for the rally, did it live up to it’s reputation? Well, I think 100th Anniversary in Barcelona 2003 was the best ever, maybe because the bands were amazing and Rolling Stones awesome,but you know, Biograd in Croatia is the best site H.O.G. have ever held a rally and the 6 countries and 1,646 miles to get there were pretty amazing.

Nicky Newstead - C&F Member


Photographs by: Chelsea & Fulham’s Photographer Manuela De Castro.