Chappers Reader
7/15/19 8:22 a.m.

Hi Chaps

This thread is about the past and someone very special to me, my late grandfather. 

Last June my mum came to visit us in Indiana from the U.K. and she’s finally found some old photos of my grandpa’s motorcycle trip through Europe from 1956! 
I was so made up that I had to share them with you guys!

So my grandpa was born in 1935 in Wath Upon Dearne, Yorkshire. 
His dad was a miner and they lived in pretty much poverty, his Mum died in his teens, he and his dad were then looked after by his Auntie until he left home at 21. 

He went to work in the mines after he left school fixing the machines with his dad. But he really had a knack for engineering, so the coal board paid for him to do his engineering degree ( think he did that part time while working full time down’t ‘pit’. )

He also saved up and bought himself a BSA motorcycle sometime around 1954-55. ( Mum and I were trying to remember if it was a shooting star or not)
He had a couple of good friends from the mine, one of them also had a motorcycle (maybe a BSA). 

I understand there really weren’t such things as vacations in England in the 1950s, I think people used to take off a couple of weeks in the summer to go to the seaside if they could afford it! 
Only the really wealthy could afford to travel abroad, to Europe for example. 

However my grandpa (just turned 21) and 3 of his friends from the pit had hatched a plan. They wanted to ride their motorcycles, 2 on each bike, around Europe. 4000 miles. 

None of them had left England before, they would all have to ask permission from their employer to leave for a few weeks (without pay) and hope they would be employed when they returned. 

Folks in Europe at this time didn’t speak English as fluently as they do today of course, and my grandpa and his friends had very thick Yorkshire accents and no foreign language skills! 

Riding 2 BSA’s heavy laden, 2 up, 4,000 miles taking in beautiful cities, mountain passes and probably plenty of hijinks along the way! (See my grandpa’s handmade map of their route) 

They were adventure riding way before adventure riding was a thing! 

He told me about the topless beach they found, and the roadside repairs they had to do. 

Unfortunately my grandpa passed away in 2006, I was heartbroken when he died. He helped me so much with everything and shaped who I am. I ended up being just like him, hands on, a mechanical engineer and a motorcyclist. 

I loved listening to his numerous stories of motorcycle riding as a youth, and he still rode BMWs when he turned 70.

NermalSnert Reader
7/15/19 8:25 a.m.

Keep goin' :)

Chappers Reader
7/15/19 8:33 a.m.

Those last two photographs are particularly important, not just because they are great photos of him and shows just how happy he was to be riding his pride and joy around Europe.  The last photo is on Susten Pass in Switzerland, probably one of the best driving roads in Europe. 

But you can see the registration number plate (license plate) very clearly. Which, perhaps unique to the UK, stays on the vehicle for life as well as the VIN or frame number what have you, you can trace a vehicle by that alpha-numeric number plate. 

Which I did...and came up with this...


Yup, the motorcycle was up for Auction only 1 month after we found these photographs! 

It had been in someone collection for the past 20 years and undergone a fantastic restoration, a little restomodded to a ISDT replica too. Sadly the chap had died and his wife was selling the bike and didn't want to make a deal outside of the auction. So my dad and Uncle would have to go and bid for it.


7/15/19 8:45 a.m.

I have read this story before somewhere, but what has become of the bike?



Chappers Reader
7/15/19 9:40 a.m.

In reply to NOHOME :

We managed to get the bike,

It doesn't even seem real somehow, does it?

Now I'm based in the US, so the plan is for me to ride the bike next year and retrace his European tour from 1956. 

NermalSnert Reader
7/15/19 9:45 a.m.

Wow! That's very cool! What a history! What kind of camping gear did they have with them?

californiamilleghia HalfDork
7/15/19 9:47 a.m.

Cool story .......

Amazing its still around.....

I will have to find the number plate for my old VW 1962 Camper van and check if it still exists......

Chappers Reader
7/15/19 9:58 a.m.

I also have a map of his route, which he made back then.

Plugging in some of these places into Google map and avoiding major roadways, the route and the distance checks out.

I'm planning on taking 3 weeks to do the ride, I'm not into much sightseeing, just the riding and enjoying the scenery along the way.

We also recently found one the guys, Terry, the guy in the middle sat in front of the Trevi Fountain in the photo above. He lives pretty close to my parents, so we are planning to meet up with him and ask him lots of questions about his trip.


stuart in mn
stuart in mn MegaDork
7/15/19 1:39 p.m.

Very cool that you were able to get the bike again.

Were some of those pictures published in Motorcycle Classics magazine?  They sure look familiar, like I've seen them before.

volvoclearinghouse PowerDork
7/15/19 1:45 p.m.

I'm not much into bikes, but when I read that bit about you finding the bike at auction and buying it, a chill went up my spine.


Chappers Reader
7/15/19 1:45 p.m.

In reply to stuart in mn :

Thanks. I hope not as I didn't authorize that, I did post this on ADVrider last year, but I wanted to contribute to GRM forum too. 

I've been thinking of filming the trip next year, but I'm no Youtuber or anything..

californiamilleghia HalfDork
7/15/19 2:03 p.m.

when are you going to do the ride ?

Maybe get in touch with the Vintage BSA club so you have some backup if you need something on the road....

ShawnG PowerDork
7/15/19 2:10 p.m.

Very cool story, thanks for sharing.

The Bristol Freighter in those pics is neat too. The last one in service was operated by a company here in British Columbia.

7/15/19 2:19 p.m.

In reply to Chappers :

Must have been ADVrider where I came across the start of this thread. Probably the only time I was on the site.


Was thinking this might be the biggest case of Deja-Vue I have ever had.


Please continue with the story.



ddavidv PowerDork
7/16/19 6:15 a.m.

Motorcycle Classics would eat your story up. I'd submit it with photos. Generate a modest income for your trip and tell a story all us geezers will really enjoy.

The0retical UberDork
7/16/19 8:22 a.m.

In reply to Chappers :

Man that's a cool story. Please continue to update as you progress with your trip.

Brett_Murphy UltimaDork
7/16/19 9:21 a.m.
Chappers said:

We managed to get the bike,

Best news I've heard in a while!

stuart in mn
stuart in mn MegaDork
7/16/19 5:01 p.m.
Chappers said:

In reply to stuart in mn :

Thanks. I hope not as I didn't authorize that, I did post this on ADVrider last year, but I wanted to contribute to GRM forum too. 

I'm mistaken, then.  They have run similar pictures from other people; as ddavidv said, they would love to hear from you with your story.

Appleseed MegaDork
7/17/19 9:55 p.m.

Hairs on my neck went up when you posted the auction. No lie. Glad you were able to bring her home.

Chappers Reader
7/18/19 9:17 a.m.

In reply to Appleseed :

Thanks man, I do wish we'd found it when he was still alive, how cool would that have been!


I have ridden the bike too, I went to Europe with work last fall and spent a couple of days in the UK. Me and my buddies were able to get it started by bump starting it.

It needs some carb work. 

I'd love to have it here in the US with me to tinker with it to get it ready for the long trip next year, but I'll get over there again before the trip to get it running somewhat reliably. 
Right now the plan is June 2020 for the big trip. 


xflowgolf SuperDork
7/18/19 9:29 a.m.

This is awesome!  

ebonyandivory PowerDork
8/4/19 7:59 a.m.

How does this - assuming this works out for you -  get any better? Seriously cool.

And here I am fantasizing about just riding my build to and over the Kancamaugus in NH and camping for a couple days!



akylekoz SuperDork
8/16/19 12:03 p.m.


Effing amazing story.   Funny thing, my grandpa was a machinist on a sub in WW2, I have his three apprentice books, I'm a machinist.


Floating Doc
Floating Doc SuperDork
8/16/19 12:51 p.m.

This is one of my favorite threads on GRM ever.

My wife, my dad and I were spending the night at a b&b somewhere in the Lincoln area when our host's father found out that I was into cars. This was in 1997, and he was well into his late 70s early 80s.

He took me out to the shed in the back, and showed me the BSA that he had ridden from Cairo back to England in 1946. He said it would do over a hundred, and would take about a quarter-mile to stop.

Your grandfather would be proud!


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