Deaf Travel20th November 2013
Living the Dream
Dafydd Eveleigh has long since had an ambition to ride a Motorbike in Europe. Here he tells us of the joy in doing it.
Finally, I have achieved my dream. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to ride a motorbike and travel around Europe. My earliest memory of my involvement with motorbikes was when my dad got a Scooter or a Moped and I was allowed to ride pillion. The freedom that you experience on a motorbike is thrilling. In some ways, I imagine it is close to feeling like a bird soaring through the air with the wind rushing around you.
I wrote the following poem to describe how I feel when riding a motorbike or trike.
Under the birth of the new sun
I smile at my gleaming machine
I clamber aboard and press the scarlet button
The pistons explode into life
I am ready to ride my machine
I bid so long to my darling wife
I now ride my mistress into the light
The wind caresses me
The black river flows below me
The open road here I come
I work my way through the gears
Twisting the throttle propelling me further
With unrestricted spherical views
Down the highway I cruise
Past wondrous eyes and gawping mouths
While I'm riding my sprits soar
The freedom of riding embraces me
Watching the countryside flash by my eyes
Onwards to my destination
The thrill of the ride fails to diminish
Alas all good things must come to past
The journey reaches its terminus
With sadness mixed with relief
The silence quickly returns to earth
Till the next time I ride the highway of freedom
It was only a few years ago that I started to learn to ride a motorbike and successfully completed the Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) and the theory test. My development was progressing nicely and even though I was on a small engine Honda CG 125 motorbike, I enjoyed every moment of it. However, 6 months into my training, disaster struck. An elderly gentleman pulled out of a side road right into my path, the exact scenario they show on the 'Think Bike' motorcycle awareness campaigns. I had no chance of braking or avoiding the car, crashing straight in to the side of the car and being catapulted over the roof. The landing hurt and after being treated to an ambulance ride to the hospital, x-rays showed that I had broken both bones in my lower right leg.
At the time, I thought I would never ride a motorcycle again. If I had been single without children, I would have got straight back on the bike. After all, the accident wasn't my fault and if I had been driving a car I still would have been in an accident. However, as I had a family who were dependent upon me, so I agreed to give up my dream of riding a motorbike around Europe.
Leaving for Germany
Fast forward three years and when I attended the Deaf biker rally near Neath, I realised my passion for motor bikes was still there. It was at this event where I found out that I could use my car driving licence to ride a trike (three wheeled motor bike) without the need for going for a test. My wife agreed that the trike is safer than a motorbike and two weeks later I had sold my Mazda MX 5 and bought a Yamaha V-Max Trike with 1200cc engine and 145 bhp.
With help from Paul Pycroft, the Chair of UK Deaf Bikers, I quickly arranged to travel to Germany on my trike and meet other European Deaf Bikers. This is the story of my European adventure. While you are reading this story, remember that I had less than 200 miles experience of riding the trike and I have never driven a vehicle in Europe. So it was a big jump from being a learner to taking part in a long ride.
I left my home in South Wales at 8am and rode to Reading Services, where I had agreed to meet Paul. It was at the Services that I started to experience what biker culture means. My trike is unique and a few people came up to me. When they talked I gestured to say I am Deaf, but that doesn't matter in biker culture. Through gestures we were able to talk about bikes, something I have rarely experienced anywhere else. Usually, if I indicate that I am Deaf, people look at me as though I am something out of a horror movie!
Paul arrived and we headed off to a hotel near Colchester. The traffic was smooth and it was great to see people's faces as I drove past. Another biker culture I experienced on the road is how bikers generally acknowledge each other, by either a wave of the hand as they overtake or a quick nod of the head as they travel in the opposite direction. All these things made me feel good to be part of the biker culture.
The following day we left the hotel to go to the port of Harwich. The journey was wet, it was raining heavily all the way, but fortunately, I had invested in good quality waterproofs and did not get wet. I must confess though that riding in the rain with water spray coming from everywhere was a nerve racking experience, but thrilling at the same time. We arrived at the port safely and met Raymond from Northern Ireland. It was his first time riding in Europe as well. It surprised me how quickly you can become friends in the biker world.
The ferry crossing was quiet and enjoyable; the food was great and better still the price for trikes or motorbikes on the ferry can be up to two thirds cheaper than cars.
The adventure begins
On our arrival at the Hook of Holland, I started having trouble with my clutch, which made it difficult to change gears. Once we got through passport control I told Paul and he said it was not far to Amersfoort, so the best thing was to get there, then sort it out because there is nothing much in the Hook of Holland. I agreed to carry on and began to enjoy the surrounding areas that were absolutely stunning. I wish I could have taken photos, but riding and taking photos at the same time is not recommended and we needed to get to the hotel before it got dark.
For me, this is where the fun started, but it was also accompanied by some stress. Changing gears was a nightmare and progressively got worse, however, through playing around with the throttle and the clutch I managed to get it to work in my favour. Changing down was a different story as it is hard to apply the throttle and press the brakes and clutch all at the same time. All the time this was happening, I had to remember to stay on the right side of the road, not the left.
Once we got on the highway it became easier to relax and enjoy the ride. The weather & scenery were beautiful and the roads were smooth, however, Paul's GPS navigation unit was out of date which meant we ended up in the wrong place a couple of times. It was a huge challenge for me given I had problems with the clutch. When slowing down the revs would go out of control and the trike would make a tremendous amount of noise. It felt embarrassing when we were traveling through small quiet residential areas and there was me like a bat out of hell revving my trike out of control. This was not the biker culture I wanted to impose of these lovely people!
As we neared our hotel, it become increasingly difficult to control the trike. Occasionally it was impossible to slow down due to the clutch failing to disconnect properly. At one roundabout Paul and Raymond were going slow to try and spot the hotel. I couldn’t take the risk of stalling my trike on a busy roundabout so sped off to find a safe location to stop. In the process I lost Paul and Raymond. When I came to a stop the trike stalled and I struggled to get it going again. Fortunately, when I looked around me I found I had stalled behind the hotel where we were staying and I was able to meet up with Paul and Raymond again.
The Town of Amersfoort
In the evening we took a taxi into town to have a relaxing look around. The journey in the taxi allowed me to look around and the Town was beautiful. When we arrived in the main square it was packed with bicycles and people enjoying a warm evening. The Netherlands seems to be a very calm place and everybody uses bicycles to get around. The cycle paths around the town are spacious and very bicycle friendly. I have been informed that the law in the Netherlands is that if there is a collision between a motor vehicle and a bicycle, it doesn’t matter whose fault it is, blame automatically moves to the motor vehicles. It means that the car drivers get around using extra care.
One thing that struck me about the people of Amersfoort is that no-one seemed to be overweight. Everybody looked healthy and happy! It was an enjoyable evening but it was too short. I would love to visit the town again and explore the area properly.
Repairing the Trike
The next day I emailed the garage that usually serviced my trike to ask for advice on what to do with the clutch. They suggested bleeding the clutch to get rid of all the air in the tubes. Paul knew how to do it, but we needed a bleeder kit. We first visited a Volvo garage, but they didn’t have one, but they did direct us to the Harley Davison garage. This was the most awesome garage I have ever seen; it was two storeys of Harley Davison motorbikes and accessories. The Harley Davison bikes are one of my favourites and my mouth dropped open when I saw the machines they had in stock. More importantly, they didn’t have a bleeder kit either! We got directions to a local shop similar to Halfords and Screwfix. When we got there we were gob-smacked. The whole shop was immaculate. The floor was spotless and all the products were on the shelves in a very precise tidy manner. The guys behind the counter were very smart and wore ties and their shoes were very well polished. It was amazingly clean and tidy and makes Halfords in UK look very scruffy. Annoyingly, they didn’t have a bleeder kit!
During this small run around between shops, the trike seemed to be working smoothly so we decided to carry on to Germany where we woud be able to get some help from the German Deaf bikers.
Amersfoort to Germany
The weather was really beautiful and now the trike had decided it was going to run smoothly again, I could watch the landscape fly by. The other drivers on the highway were very considerate of other road users and nearly always moved out of the way for faster traffic. At one point a group of bike riders from the UK caught up with us and we rode with them for a bit. It was an awesome experience to ride with complete strangers, but have a shared passion for bikes.
Between the Netherlands and Germany there were no border controls and we rode straight into Germany, with only a small sign to welcome you to Germany. The Deaf Biker rally was only a short ride from the border.
It was a fantastic feeling of accomplishment to have travelled from my home to Germany despite the problems I had with the trike. It was a relief to have arrived on a glorious day and to have arrived safely and without a single incident or close shave.
Deaf Biker Rally - Germany
The venue itself was a proper biker café which bikers use on a regular basis. We met with the German Bikers who were very friendly and welcomed us with open arms. Although I have never used German Sign Language before, I was able to make basic conversion using iconic signs. Luckily, I knew some international sign language and one-handed finger spelling which helped with the conversions.
As the day wore on and as the beers flowed, I became better and better at having conversations with European Deaf Bikers. By now there were bikers from Austria, Belgium, Netherlands, Finland, Norway, and of course bikers from all over Germany.
Germany has a very strong biker culture and the Deaf bikers have over 13 different different Clubs. The whole weekend was about talking about bikes, but we also discussed politics and the state of the Euro and whether the Euro was a good or bad thing.
The hearing bikers, who visited the café, were friendly as well. If I understood things correctly, there was one biker who was the 2012 champion for his concept of a bike of the future. It was an amazing bike with some weird features, some parts looked like they were upside down. There was also clear tubing so you could see the oil and petrol being pumped around the bike. The bike itself was like it came out of the film Mad Max.
Raymond showed the guy his Honda CB1000R and he quickly spotted that there was a problem. The rear mudguards that go over the rear wheel were lose and a hole had appeared due to the wheel rubbing against the mudguard. In a flash this guy grabbed his tool bag and used the spare parts to quickly tighten up the mud guards for free. This is another great aspect of biker culture, everybody is always willing to help each other in any way they can.
On the Saturday we had fun and games and more deaf bikers arrived. We didn’t drink too much beer this time, as we were aware we had a big journey the next day. The fun and games were a great way of getting to know each other and was a tremendous amount of fun. The evening was for speeches and welcoming of international friends. Gifts were exchanged to thank people for their time and helping out. Awards were also given out for the winners of the games and information was shared about future events.
After the awards, one of the bikers gave a demonstration of his bike, all the lights at the café were turned off and the biker started revving his bike very loud. Due to the revving of the bike the exhaust pipe become red hot, then flames were thrown out of the back. It was a proper adrenaline rush watching these flames coming out of the bike.
Towards the end of the evening, goodbyes were exchanged, as some people had planned to leave early before everyone else was awake. While this was the end of the rally, it wasn’t the end of our journey. We still had to ride home.
The journey home
We packed and left at 8am. As we got onto the highway there was a dusting of fog on the ground that gave a ghostly feel to the start of our journey. The weather was beautiful and as it was a Sunday morning the roads were relatively quiet. I was worried the problems with my clutch would return, but my trike behaved and ran smoothly.
We arrived at the Hook of Holland with plenty of time to spare. The ferry back to Harwich was smooth and uneventful. Arriving in Harwich, we said goodbye to Raymond as Paul and I headed for South Wales. I felt I had made a new good friend in Raymond and will keep in touch with him through Facebook. Hopefully, one day I will be able to ride and meet him in Northern Ireland.
Riding back in the UK was a shock. Riding through the Netherlands where everybody was so friendly to each other on the roads, it felt like the UK motorways were cut throat and aggressive. It was annoying seeing people just driving in the middle lane without overtaking, making the traffic worse behind them.
We rode hard as we wanted to get home to our families and decided to ride through the night. At the M4, Paul and I parted ways as he had a faster and smoother bike than mine. The roads were quiet at 10pm in the night and it was a different experience to riding in the day. The highlight of the trip was when I arrived at the Severn Bridge and was allowed to cross for free. I am easily pleased!
I arrived home at 1am, feeling proud that I had lived my dream. Since I have been to Germany I have been to the Ace Café in London to meet other UK Deaf Bikers and I am planning my next European Biker Trip. I am hoping to go to Netherlands in August 2014 with my wife as my pillion passenger. It will be a shorter journey and I hope we might be able to visit Amsterdam.
I am also looking forward to the next UK Deaf biker event, which will be near Great Yarmouth in June 2015. The event is open to everyone so it doesn’t matter if you are a biker or not It is expected this will be the biggest Biker UK event ever. If you are interested in motorbikes and want to know more. Contact Paul Pycoft the Chair for Deaf Bikers UK.
Total Distance travelled: 1050 miles
Model: Yamaha V-Max Engine:1200cc 140bhp
Model: Honda CB1000r Engine: 998cc 130bhp
Model: BMW R1150GS Engine:1130cc 85bhp
Deaf Bikers UK always have a monthly meeting in the Ace Cafe in London on the first Sunday of every month. They will be planning for ride-outs any pther activities so check on their Facebook closed group or visit their website at: www.deafbikers.org.uk
You can also email them on: firstname.lastname@example.org
Photographs by Dafydd Eveleigh and Paul Pycroft
Article by Dafydd Eveleigh
posted in Deaf Lifestyle / Deaf Travel
20th November 2013