“Snow. Sub Zero temperatures. 10,000 crazy European bikers and plenty of German Beer”
The Elephant Rally is a motorcycle rally that takes place in the Bavarian Forest of south eastern Germany, not far from Austria, usually on the last weekend of January or first weekend of February. It is organised by the Federal Association of Motorcycle Riders in Germany. 2020’s event marks the 64th anniversary of the rally since it began in 1956. The rally takes place in the harsh German winter, and often draws thousands of bikers every year. It is renowned for the bitter conditions in which you camp in snow and sub zero temperatures.
This is my first winter rally. It seemed a great idea when it was suggested in the summer! With a few weeks to go bike preparation is well under way.
My original plan was to ride the non runner CG 125 I bought for peanuts in the summer. But it had a few issues, one being a heavily rusty fuel tank which kept causing fuel problems. It didn’t fill me with 100% confidence and so I sold it.
I will now be taking my 2016 Honda CRF250L. My decision to take this bike came about as I wanted something reliable incase others dropped like flies before the rally and I ended up going alone. After all, it’s about 800 miles each way from Kent, UK to Solla, Germany where the rally is held. The last thing I want to do is be stranded on something old. That happened to Dave who I am going with. He went years ago (to the 44th), back in the 1990’s on his MZ 250 side car outfit and unfortunately broke down on the way there near the end, and so the bike didn’t make it. He left the bike and managed to visit the rally but didn’t camp. So it would be great for him to succeed this time round.
Also attending the trip from our group is Rob on his well travelled Honda C70. I have a lot of respect for that bike, and Rob! We hope to meet at the rally as he will travel at a slower pace hopefully with company on similar bikes. I have allowed 10 days for the trip. There is no point rushing down on the motorway. Also I’d like to call into Austria as we’re not too far away, then travel a slightly different route home.
I have done a bit of research and spoken to Dave about his previous trip. I am told, the trick is to keep warm. Sounds simple – but sub zero temperatures whilst riding, plus the windchill and then sleeping in a tent when the temperature can reach as low as -20deg. If you get cold you can die. I wish he had never said that bit in front of my other half, cheers Dave!
So, I fitted a set of OXFORD sports premium heated grips to keep my hands warm. I also bought a second hand set OXFORD rain seal muffs to keep the wind and (hopefully not) rain off. My theory is a normal set of winter bike gloves should now keep my hands nice and toasty. If all else fails I have a load of the heat pack hand warmers. I am told they do last for 10 hours to.
As for the seat. I am planning on riding a 200-300 miles a day. It’s not a touring bike. Its a dual sport and so comfort was not really factored in! I purchased a Coleman Mad dog gel seat cover from Amazon. With a little modding, removing the clips I tied it to my seat unit with chord. I have tested it. A 100 mile ride, no problem at all. Well worth £25 delivered from America. The only downside. Once it gets wet, it stays wet. I don’t want a cold wet arse! A lot of the rally veterans use sheep skin seat covers, warm, comfortable and water proof. So, I got one of those and it sits lovely over the top of the gel cover.
The seat is not the only thing that will cause me to take regular breaks. My fuel range is just about 100 miles. It is a small tank on these. I didn’t want to purchase the long range as I guess ill be happy to stop if its cold! I purchased a couple of reserve tanks to give me a few extra litres in an emergency if I can’t reach a fuel station in time.
I don’t own a sat nav. I am planning on using google maps on my iPhone. I use it in the UK, so I can’t see why it won’t be just as good abroad. I fitted a phone holder which also has a USB power supply to keep it charged. Easy to fit and again, cheap on Amazon. I’ve tested it greenlaning and its a good bit of kit. I also first fitted a 12v cigarette lighter socket. I was planning on using it to pump my air bed until I was told, do not use an air bed at the rally due to cold air from the ground making me cold. It makes sense..
I decided as the old tool box was so small and pointless, and I wanted to take a few more bits that I would install one of these tool tubes. Just £10 on Ebay (from China) and really good quality plastic. I remove the old box and side cover and pretty much fitted this in its place with a little modification. It gives me plenty more storage and is easily removable for more serious off roading at home. I hope the Honda reliability won’t need the tool tube lid to open! Fail to prepare – prepare to fail!
I have chosen to stick with the stock tyres as they have enough life left in them for the trip which is going to be mainly tarmac until the last section which will likely be snow and ice on the untreated roads. At the rally, I will probably wish I had new decent nobblys to get around the site but if we arrive early enough I should get a decent spot. Plus I am unsure about 1400 miles on tarmac on new nobbly tyres in the winter!
To carry everything, I have chosen mainly soft luggage. I fitted a rear rack and an aluminium box my mate pinched from work for me. I thought that would give a bit of security and stability to the roll bag and soft panniers. My tent and sleeping back are small hiking ones. The sleeping bag is a -20 deg rated 4 season bag. I used a similar one whilst climbing Kilimanjaro and it was just fine.
Clothing wise, Ive decided on layers. Fleece, down jacket, insulated textile trousers, inner liner gloves, neck warmers, thick socks, carrier bags on feet if required! More feet warmer heat packs. I purchased a Frank Thomas aqua pore two part rain proof. My theory is that will keep me dry and the layers will keep me warm. As for boots I chose some adventure touring style water proof Forma ones. They are dry and comfortable when off roading.
I plan to do a trial run. Load up and go for a day out in the next week or so to double check a few mods, then it will be time!
The rough plan is to go via Ferry to Calais from Dover. Have a nice big Full English breaky on board and then ride through France and Belgium to somewhere on the outskirts of Frankfurt, Germany and stop for the night in a B&B. We both agreed, lets save the camping for the rally when we arrive!
After hopefully a few German beers and a good nights sleep we will continue on as best we can. It is a job to plan as the weather could be freezing, icy and cold or wet and miserable. So we’ve allowed extra time for the journey down. On Day 3 or 4 we should arrive at Solla and pitch the tents. I was advised, get there on the Thursday and get a good spot on the flat. I don’t fancy sleeping on the slope of the mountain. So that’s the plan!
Whilst we are there, Britain is due to leave Europe on the 31st Jan. Iam not sure what complications that will cause for our journey home but we will see. I have followed the government advice and obtained an international driving permit and green card etc along with the essentials like breakdown cover and travel insurance, just incase!
Hopefully the next update will be about the trip!
hours minutes seconds
Departure for the Elefant Rally 2020
See my other posts relating to the fun small bikes bring.