2018 Camping Weekend Report



It’s all about the bike

Following a day trip to the AGM at Donington this year, which blew the cobwebs off my 650SS, my first camping weekend for the 2018 season was the Shenstone branch camping weekend held at the New Broom near Stoke. In total there would have been about 30 bikes there, mostly Commandos, and as a Dommie rider (I was on my old 88) mine was probably the oldest bike there.

Sandy and Dave were the ever-genial hosts and made sure everyone felt welcome and were looked after. The pub was incredible value – breakfast, for £7, was enough to choke a donkey, there was nothing wrong with the Marstons Pedigree, and they were doing two steaks on a two for one deal for £14 in the evening. You couldn’t say fairer than that, and the camp site, to cap it all, was attached to the pub. The weather, for the entire weekend, was glorious. This is unusual, in my experience, as NOC camping trips usually feature rain, and lots of it.

On Saturday the ride out was to a rock feature up on the moors called The Winking Man, near a pub of the same name, where we stopped for a drink. Well worth a look, and somewhere you might never happen across if not part of a ride-out.

This was one of the largest group rides I have taken part in and it is a practical challenge keeping so many riders together in one group, especially dragging through little industrial hamlets like Leek. The FUBAR motorcycle club did a very effective job at shepherding the club members through the traffic, and the group did for the most part stay as one for the ride. There is something about the sound of 20-odd Nortons all firing up at the same time which puts a broad grin on everyone’s face.

It surprises, me, though, having done a bit of this, why more members don’t attend rallies with their Nortons.

I recall a discussion at an NOC AGM about 20 years ago – it was the one held at York Railway Museum – about whether people should be allowed to attend NOC rallies on non-Nortons. Being a tree-hugging liberal, I piped up for people whose bikes were in bits, the inclusive nature of the club, the importance of spreading the word about Nortons, these being the places where people can get advice about their bike, and so on. One older club member who was there made the point that his old Dommie did over 2000 miles every year, on the continent. “They will do it”, he said. “They were designed to do it”. My response at the time was to ask whether he would come and have a look at my Dominator, because in those days neither of my Dommies was especially reliable, having vibrated bits loose all over North Wales, and leaving me stranded now and again through a double-dose of hot-mag syndrome. I wanted to get both bikes to the point where they could do multi-day tours. Talking to a couple of blokes at Shenstone from the Yorkshire branch who had been adding go faster bits for years, they had come to the conclusion that reliability was the thing. I agree.

These trips help shake a bike down. My first camping rally was Kendal in 2016. Despite having been a club member for over 20 years, I hadn’t been to a club rally in that time. Partly because I didn’t really believe the bikes were up to it. You hear people saying things like “British bikes blow themselves to pieces on the motorway” – no, they don’t. Keep it to 60-65 and they’ll go all day- even an old 500, like my 88.


Part of these trips for me is seeing what the bike will do. In 2016 I rode the 88 to the Longest Member rally in Banbury, then in 2017 Applecross, over the Bealach na Ba in the far north west Highlands, took the A7 cross pennine route to Town Yetholm on the Northumbria/Scottish border, and dragged through the Bristol traffic to the National at Weston near Bristol. The 88 never missed a beat.


The bikes will stand it: these days, the question is, on a long trip, whether I can. Having had rain and hail coming sideways at me over Shap Fell on the way back from one of the Scottish trips, I was reminded of an 88 at Town Yetholm that had an Avon fairing fitted. This bike had been across Canada, two up, with luggage (there is a write up on the Real Classic web site). I located a fairing with the featherbed fittings, through the club, and fitted it. Shenstone was its first proper trip, and was really a shakedown for Austria in August. I’m happy to report that nothing fell off. Loctite works wonders. I now have some weather protection, and with some streamlining in place, the old motor seems to be doing less work.

An active branch is a fine thing, and my hat’s off to those who do the organising for these trips and the hard work to keep a branch going. Branch rallies provide a focus for the bike, something to aim for, and in my experience club members are very welcoming of new faces at rallies, especially if they turn up on a Norton. Most bikes have a story, and most members are keen to hear it. In turn, the members can be a mine of useful information, although it may need to be filtered, sometimes. In Shenstone there was talk of insurance reporting requirements and gudgeon pin circlips coming loose. Some fit PTFE plugs instead these days, apparently. Useful to know.


My bike was examined by a bloke wearing a hat, and declared to be “bits of all sorts”, which I knew already. My wideline bike’s rear swinging arm was said to be off a slimline, which is true, and the tank was said to be off an International, which ain’t so. I was able to help another club member with what to look for as he was going to look at a Dominator the next week, and he didn’t know much about them. There were stories of old Nortons, present at the rally, looking in some cases well-worn, and in others immaculate, having done incredibly high mileages without the heads being lifted. Again, good to know.

These rallies are a good opportunity to come across parts that people have for sale. Most people will generally have something lying around which they don’t need but you do, and not everyone can be fagged with putting stuff up for sale. Other club members can be a source of parts that could help keep your bike on the road. A club member supplied my fairing, and another fabricated a spare windscreen for it. There are parts and expertise out there, and rallies are a good way of finding both.

I suppose one thing that puts people off rallies is camping. Maybe people don’t have the kit, or they don’t have panniers, or they worry about bike security, or think they are going to get wet. The last bit is usually true, in my experience, especially in Scotland. Camping kit nowadays, though, is cheap, and very good, certainly good enough for a couple of nights. Throw-over panniers are easily sourced and security isn’t something I’ve ever worried about. Bike covers help, cable locks are quite light, and a deterrent. I once heard someone say that nothing had ever been reported stolen at a NOC National rally in all the years they’ve been held. I can believe it.

On the Sunday attendance at the Shenstone camping weekend started to thin out as people started their treks home to avoid the Monday bank holiday traffic. I was fried after the sun on Saturday, and packed up to avoid further sun-stroke, so missed the Sunday ride-out which was a charity event at which the Nortons were to be the star attraction.

Work commitments mean that my next trip will be Austria and then Town Yetholm in September, which I would strongly recommend not only for the craic and the place itself, with great camping facilities, but also for the A7, probably the best trans-pennine route there is, a little-known gem of a road.

Another Shenstone trip is planned for later September, at £10 camping for the entire weekend, great food and great company. Early booking is advised. Thanks again to Sandy and Dave.

Upcoming Events
7:45 pm Social Evening @ Clifford Arms
Social Evening @ Clifford Arms
Mar 5 @ 7:45 pm – 10:00 pm
Social Evening @ Clifford Arms | Great Haywood | England | United Kingdom
An informal social evening at the Clifford Arms in Great Haywood Ready for the Saturday ride out.
10:00 am Club Ride Outs @ Clifford Arms
Club Ride Outs @ Clifford Arms
Mar 9 @ 10:00 am – 3:00 pm
Club Ride Outs @ Clifford Arms | Great Haywood | England | United Kingdom
Ride outs are arranged for the second Saturday of every month, these usually start from the Clifford Arms pub in Great Haywood near Stafford. The Clifford has its own classic car and bike club of all[...]
6:45 pm Social Evening @ Clifford Arms
Social Evening @ Clifford Arms
Apr 2 @ 6:45 pm – 9:00 pm
Social Evening @ Clifford Arms | Great Haywood | England | United Kingdom
An informal social evening at the Clifford Arms in Great Haywood Ready for the Saturday ride out.