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The Dragon Rally

The Dragon Rally is a motorcycle rally that was organised by the Conway and district motorcycle club, it is a non competitive camping event for motorcyclists. It generally takes place in February each year and made a big impression on me, when in 1965, I went for the first time.

The camaraderie has to be seen to be believed... Let me explain...

I had a Frances Barnett 'Plover 78' 150cc two stroke that had a pair of pannier bags. My friend, Eddie Collingham had a 350cc AJS, but his machine was only fitted with a carrier. So I ended up with quite a sizeable proportion of the camping equipment. My family had also loaded me down with extra clothing owing to the fact that it was the middle of February.

To complicate matters further, I was leaving from my home in Leicester and was due to meet Eddie at his term time digs in Birmingham so that we could travel together to the rally.

I left home in good time at about 2:00 PM. I was travelling through Earl Shilton when I had a sudden puncture in the rear wheel. I managed to manhandle the rather heavily loaded bike, on it's flat tyre, to a garage that mended the puncture for me (I was 'green' and not equipped with a puncture kit at that time). I was also given a lecture on overloading the bike and the need to increase the tyre pressure (the cause of the puncture). By this time it was 4:00 PM and I continued my journey until I reached the A5 just the other side of Hinckley. Luckily my friend found me at that point, as he had come to investigate my non-arrival.

We continued along the A5 towards Wales, but the pace was very slow... By this time the evening traffic leaving Birmingham was cutting across our route (there were no Motorways at that time and the A5 was mostly only two lanes). The journey became quite a grind, but we were in good spirits, as by this time we found that every motorcyclist on the road gave a wave of recognition and acknowledgment and had a bedroll on board.

The progress was so slow that it was about 10:00 PM when I had my second puncture. We were half way between Llangollen and Corwen, so I leaned my bike against a wall in a sort of alcove and jumped on the back of my friends bike to go in search of bed and breakfast. This we found in Corwen and were greatly relieved to find the last bed in the Crown Hotel.

The next morning we returned to my bike and found that the valve had pulled completely out of the inner tube (again due to the excess load). There was nothing for it, but to jump back on my friends bike and go to Llangollen to buy a new tube. This was accomplished and we got back to my machine to see a couple of chaps examining it. They had a BMW sidecar outfit that was parked in another alcove a few yards away. They insisted on completing the repair and pumping up the tyre to an incredible 45 lbs per sq. inch to cope with the overweight gear.

The rest of the weekend was reasonably uneventful, but I learned a great deal. I was struck by the comradeship and friendliness and vowed to return to the 'Dragon' every year. I did go several more times, but I have not been since some time in the 1970s. I have my badges of this and other rallies, somewhere, and will post pictures when I locate them.

The following white panel is a facsimile of a press cutting taken from the 'Radio Times' in 1967... Wheelbase was a motoring program shown on BBC 2. It is thought that 'Wheelbase' was later renamed 'Top gear'.


Wheelbase covers the Dragon Rally


IF you drove along the upper reaches of A5 last Saturday you must have spotted an endless procession of determined-look-ing motor cyclists, heading purposefully into the North Wales mountains. Nothing but a travel-stained bike and a bedroll lashed to the luggage grid marked them out as a fraternity, yet each had a smile and cheery thumbs-up sign for his fellow. Who were they? Where were they going?

That weekend was the time of the Dragon Rally at Llanberis, the biggest motor cycle rally in this country.

Over 4,000 riders, many of them teenage boys, from the Continent as well as the farthest corners of the British Isles, braved the midwinter. Some of them made round trips of 1,000 miles and more, through sub-freezing weather and over ice-bound roads. At journey's end, beneath the shadow of Snowdon, they slept rough in tents and ramshackle huts on the bleak mountainside.

Yet no lavish prizes, no entertainments lured them there. The only qualification asked was enthusiasm enough to ride a motor cycle into the heart of the North Wales mountains in Winter's foulest weather.

What is the secret of the Dragon Rally? Why should it capture the imagination of young riders everywhere?

A Wheelbase team followed a party of teenage motor cyclists from their homes in Liverpool to Llanberis, and tonight you can see the adventures that befell these teenagers on the expedition. You'll meet the friends they discovered along the A5 highway, and hear the experiences of the British, French, German, and Belgian enthusiasts who joined together beneath the red dragon flag.


Dragon  Rally picture from the 'Radio Times'

I enjoyed all the 'Dragons' that I went to and would have no hesitation in recommending anyone to go to this event, but pick your camping gear carefully and avoid the excess weight that I carried all those years ago.

 Written... 07 July 2003, Additions... 16 December 2003, Upgrade... 08 November 2005, Correction... 24 February 2006, Update and upgrade... 18 January 2007,
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