Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Huntington Beach Concours - 2010

Well, another successful Huntington Beach event has come to a conclusion and it was a great event as usual. This year we managed to get a separate group for the Nimbus, this so it is not lumped in with ‘others’ or as pre/post world war II European bikes. So like standard names like Honda, Suzuki, Harley Davidson and BMW we now have our own category of bikes.

First off I would like to thank this year’s participants, Leif and John Gyldstrand, Dave Jensen, Dave Nelson and last but not least Allan Laugesen that rode his 1953 military Nimbus all the way down from Solvang, 160 miles north of Seal Beach, and back again at 7 am this morning, braving the Los Angeles highway commuter traffic.

Of the 6 Nimbus there 5 were judged, since I was elected to judge our own category I was obviously not eligible to be judged at the event, and as expected Leif took 1st place with his 1949 postal service bike, David Nelson 2nd with his original 1942 solo Nimbus, and Allan 3rd with his Civil Defense military bike.

Also a thanks to Mike Moon, one of the key event board members for the motorcycle section, for giving the Nimbus and their owner one of the shadier spots under the trees at the event, not to mention providing a couple of cool barley style refreshments for the Nimbus crew, thanks Mike.

Besides the standard motorcycle makes and models, of which there seemed a lot more than I previous years, there were some very over the top special ‘guests’ one being Burt Munro’s 1920 Indian Scout, fully assembled as it was presented in the late 1960s when Burt broke the land speed record for this size bike, at almost 200 miles per hour. This event by the way, inspired a movie 40 years later that I personally believe to be one of the best made and well acted motorcycle movies of all time ‘The World’s Fastest Indian’ with Sir Anthony Hopkins in the lead role as Burt Munro. An amazing story about a man who took a 50 year old motorcycle (back then, 90 years old by today’s age) and turned this 56 MPH top speed bike into a screaming eagle at 200 MPH. Absolutely amazing by today’s standards, not to mention almost 40 years ago.

The other fascinating bike was one of only a handful of 1912 Pierce motorcycles left in the world today, and more amazingly it was in running condition, even with the old wooden pulley and flat belt on the rear wheel.

Yet another well organized Concours car & motorcycle show that will see the Nimbus again at their 26th annual event next June. And one that left enough time for a quick cool pit stop at Mother’s in Sunset Beach.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Nimbus Rally 2008 in Thyborøn, Denmark

In the best tradition of H.C. Andersen, Denmark’s own great storyteller and philosopher, the story of the 35th annual Nimbus Rally in Thyborøn, Denmark begins like this.

Once upon a time man found the urge to move at a faster pace, ergo the wheel was invented! Well, let’s not go back that far, but even in today’s day and age we have cavemen on wheeled modes of transportation, the Nimbus motorcycle rider for example. If some of you readers take offence to this statement, well tough, I personally do not know of any bike equal to the age of the Nimbus that is still being ridden like it is a modern day bike. Well, maybe caveman is not the right word; I just thought it would be a good play on words, based on the history of the development of the wheel.

There are many antique motorcycle clubs out there in the world, but as opposed to these old Nimbus motorcycles, I have yet to see 60, 70 and 80 year old bikes, of one manufacture, ride in hordes by the hundreds. But this is exactly what the writer of this little ditty experience in late July in the beautiful countryside of Jutland in Denmark. I fully realize that this is the country and birthplace of this classic ride, but it is still impressive to see 350 plus motorcycles of one manufacture sputtering their way down country roads, especially bikes spanning from 50 to 85 years of age, and I am talking about the age of the bikes, not just their rides.

This years rally, Danish Nimbus Touring’s 35th, was to take place in the small fishing hamlet of Thyborøn, Denmark, also the birthplace of our own club’s founder and president, Niels Kaj Juel Lonberg Pedersen. So, the fact that I was able to attend this years rally in my own hometown, and thereby represent our own small club, was even sweeter.

The town of Thyborøn is situated on the north western parts of the Danish peninsular, Jylland (Jutland) which is attached to the rest of Europe. Which in turn made it way to easy for our German neighbors to the south to come 'knocking' uninvited in spring of 1940. The tell tail of their 5 years in Denmark can still be seen in Thyboron. Hundreds of bunkers, from garages size ones with 15 ft thick walls meant to store Tiger tanks, to smaller sized pill boxes to defend agains allied invation, are littering the beach and entire coastline.

And if one follows the west coast north along the North Sea, until one hits the Limfjord, then you are in Thyborøn, a small fishing community of about 3000 souls. Whereas this community has survived for close to 100 years solely on fishing, it has become evident that other attractions were needed to support the town. The fishing is still the mainstay, but whereas the town used to have 300 plus small and medium sized commercial fishing vessels, like back in the mid to late 70s when I was a marine mechanics apprentice at the port, the port now boast some of the largest commercial fishing vessels in Europe, just a lot fewer in numbers.
So, the younger generations of Thyborønboer have spent the last 10-15 years looking for different ways to make the town a tourist spot along the west coast, and with great success. And because of this the town was able to accommodate the nearly 350 Nimbus motorcycles and 500-600 riders and families that came along for the event. The town lodged some of the rides in summer rentals around town, others rented nice cabins at the campground in town, while the rest had free access to the huge soccer field, next to the campground and the sports complex at the far south west end of town.

Statistics from the 2008 Nimbus Rally in Thyborøn:

340 Nimbus motorcycles were at this year’s event.
207 were with sidecars of all shapes and sizes.
550 people were attached to these old classics.
72 kids and young adults under the age of 18 came along.
240 tents were pitched.
435 people in tents and campers at the campground.
500 people were at the feast Saturday evening.

A dozen or so brought along campers or trailers for sleeping arrangement, but the vast majority simply unloaded their Nimbus at pitched a tent on the soccer field. And these bikes were packed, saddlebags stuffed with spare parts and tools, just in case, passengers on the back and a solid sidecar stuffed with hundreds of pounds of tents, folding tables and chairs, food, drink, pets and kids. It reminded me of the small clown cars at the circus where a dozen of so clowns climb out of this miniature sized Morris Minor. But these brave rides seemed to have brought half their home furnishings along for the trip, all but the kitchen sink.
The planning for the event started off about a year earlier when the current president of the Vestjysk Nimbus Klub, Thorbjørn Strunk, suggested to Dansk Nimbus Touring (from now on referred to as DNT) that their club should arrange this years rally. Now there are many Nimbus rallies in and around Denmark each year, but this one is the Landstraef (country rally) and at the first one of its kind in 1973 there were only 13 members and bikes present. Thorbjorn is also an old friend and classmate of mine, and his father was the local doctor in town until he retired some years back.

And to put it in perspective, not only did Mr. Kaare Strunk make house calls, he also made calls out at sea. If someone was in dire straits at sea, usually due to crushed limbs from getting them caught in cables, or between steel doors and the ship’s sides, Dr. Stunk would get onboard the local 200 plus ft rescue vessel and get underway to meet the vessels with the crewmember in need of assistance.

In many cases the weather was so rough that helicopters could not get off the ground, but the rescue vessel (M/V Vestkysten) always made it, and the doctor had to follow. My father and all of my three brothers were crewmembers onboard the M/V Vestkysten at one time or another, and they have witnessed this as ‘just’ an average day at the office in the life of a North Sea doctor, and more than once were amputation the only lifesaving option for the hurt fisherman. Now take a look at the crap they have on the television today as ‘reality’ shows goes. Now the life and times of a North Sea doctor would have made for a real reality show.

I remember Thorbjørn writing to me last summer saying that he had applied for hosting this years event, so I know not a weekend went by this past year that he and his club did not spend time preparing for the event. And as far as I can tell it was a total success, so kudos to Thorbjørn, the Vestjysk Nimbus Klub as well as all the folks in town that volunteered to help make it a great rally.

The first day of the event, Wednesday the 23rd of July, started by registering all members as they arrived, but the weather the previous few weeks had been rainy and windy with temperatures in the mid to upper 60s, so quite a few members had not pre-registered based on how the weather would turn out. But by Wednesday the wind changed to the east, with light offshore breezes, and temperatures climbing into the 80s, hot day in Denmark, even for July. So by Thursday the 24th about 300 or so bikes had arrived, although ‘only’ about 250 had pre-registered for the event. By Friday morning all but a handful had not arrived, and more than 340 Nimbus’ of all of colors, with sidecars and trailers of all kinds of shapes had pitched tents, lodged themselves in local rentals or unpacked at one of the campground cabins.

One of DNT oldest members (Jens Bjerregaard, 79 years young) put together a solo and a sidecar Nimbus for me to use as long as I wanted while I was in town, and needless to say I got some good use out of the old solo. Jens is in short mechanically and electronically a genius. Not only did he used to work at the Nimbus factory, but he still run his own Nimbus shop out of his house in Moborg, 20-25 miles south east of Thyborøn.
When the Nimbus started to gain notoriety again, during the mid to late 1970s, buyers soon found out that there were not a whole lot of spare parts left from the military and factory surplus. Jens did not waste much time asking what these Nimbus owners might need, or get a guarantee of sales of parts if he had them mass produced. He knew that there were more frames than engines, and he also knew that there were plenty of engine blocks that could be bored up to another size and honed, or in worst case scenario, sleeved. But what he realized pretty quick was that the babbitt connecting rods and spare pistons would be in high demand soon, and he therefore took it upon himself to find a manufacture that could mass produce aluminum pistons and cast iron rings, as well as steel forge rods.

To make a long story short, he went to Ferrari in Italy and asked them if they would help him design new connecting rods based on the old design. He heard nothing back for the longest time; most likely Ferrari’s engineers were still rolling on the floor laughing about the request for them to remanufacture connecting rods for an antique Danish motorcycle from the 1930, with an engine that looked more like something that would be better off in an old farm tractor.

But Jens was not discouraged; he sent them a rod along with his own ideas of change to the design. Shortly thereafter he got a call from the factory in Italy asking him what the concept was behind his design of the new rods. The story goes that when they heard that his design changes were not based on an idea simply pulled out of thin air, but there was a well engineered reason behind it, they agreed to manufacture 400 new rods for Mr. Bjerregaard. So there are Ferrari rods in about 100 Nimbuses out there.

He has since then had hundreds of rods forged at a plant in Germany, and the raw rods were later machined at his own shop in Moborg, his shop is named after his family farm, Lillehoj, or ‘little hill’. And as customers needed rods he would bore them out to the specifications required and add the spun-in babbitt, thereby making each rod specific to size no matter what size the crank journals have been machined to.
Well, back to the Rally,

Friday morning at 11 am plans were to have a 30 mile ride for all who wanted, meaning all but a handful, and already at 9 am folks were lining up to meet and greet before the ride. The great thing about staging everyone at a campground, or in this case a huge soccer field, is visibility, you can always tell who has arrived and where they are located. For most parts folks, if not out on solo or small group rides, were hanging at their tents with a cold beer or glass of vine and the BBQ going. And even if people were not about, you could easily recognize members tent spots by their Nimbus, remember that many of these folks have been at these rallies year after year for the past 15-20 years, and everyone knows what everyone else’s ride looks like.

So at exactly 10.45 Thorbjørn, the foreman for DNT as well as the vice mayor of the almost 800 years old town of Lemvig (15 miles east of Thyborøn) stepped up and officially declared the 35th annual Landsrally for open. With a volunteer motorcycle police officer and the two Nimbus ‘Stovepipes’ a 1923 and a 1924 model, we started the convoy through, and later out of town. Along the way the police officer stayed behind the two 80-plus year old model A Nimbuses, and only when we encountered oncoming traffic on narrow country and gravel roads would he move up front to wave the oncoming traffic aside. Fantastic service.
Part of the trip went through a couple of small local towns where folks had staged themselves with cameras and the latest video technology to capture the spectacle as these more than 300 old classics, serpentine their way through the countryside like a mile and a half long snake. Many kids were out there along the route, hopefully future Nimbus owners, with Danish flags waving them as we made our way through the towns to the gravel road area that ran along the coast.

The halfway stop was at the Bovbjerg lighthouse where we all squeezed together in the parking lot and in and around the lighthouse area. We all stopped for about 25-30 minutes to stretch, get a cup of coffee and a muffin, oddly enough served by a handful of young teenagers that spoke nothing but English. American as a matter of fact, making me think of some type of summer exchange program.

From there we mounted up for the last 15 mile trek, again over gravel roads, through small towns and finally out on the country roads for the last few miles into the city of Lemvig. We all arrived in good order right in the middle of the tourist area on the harbor of this 800 year old town, and after we all parked one could really see how much space 300 plus Nimbi took up. And unbeknownst to the tourists and locals alike, everyone there were all of a sudden introduced to a sight that only other Nimbus owners see, namely this many classic Danish bikes in one place at one time. Some of the local merchants were aware of what was happening since the local pubs and eateries had been forewarned.

Most of us spent the next hour or two checking out the fresh dishes of fish fillets, fish meatballs (fiskefrikadeller) and various types of greens as well as potato salads that were served in a large auction hall on the docks, and with that of course some of Denmark’s finest beer. After Thorbjorn and I were done enjoying late lunch with Thorbjørn’s beautiful wife, and the motorcycle police officer that had escorted us during the trip, we were to meet up with someone from a local on-line newspaper, Lemvig-nu (Lemvig-now) for a short interview about us as local ‘boys’ and our love for these old bikes.

We found the gentleman and spent about 45 minutes to an hour in his office speaking with him about ourselves, where we grew up and how we found a common love for these old motorcycles. After the interview we strolled around a bit to let the food settle and the beer evaporate before we took the 15 mile ride back to Thyborøn and a well deserved break with the rest of the Nimbus rides.

The great thing about these rallies, especially when the weather is as perfect as was the case during those days in July, is the fact that all have a common interest and pretty much everyone camp out in tents with a few in campers and cabins. So on these long summer days and night one can simply walk around on the grounds and hang out with everyone that has shown up for the event. After an early evening trip to the harbor or the beach, everyone simply stokes up the grill and hangs out in lawn chairs with a glass of vine or cold beer and wait for guests to arrive for some company. This while the younger generation is running around playing games, hang at the beach or play soccer in the open field in the middle of the camp ground.

The following day it was up to everyone to do as they pleased, either join in one of the many groups taking off on short or longer rides in the scenic west Jutland nature. But the town of Thyboron had also made sure that there were other events available if one got bored. There were free rides on an old 20 ton fishing vessel, free rides on the old train that run between Thyboron, Lemvig and Holstebro. There was also a tractor pulled tram that would take folks around the town from the harbor to the Sneglehus (Seashell house) at the far end of town. The same weekend there were the annual Fish day that usually attracts between 15-20,000 hungry souls, and some of the finest and freshest seafood one would ever enjoy.

Besides that the town has some very fine beaches, where clothing is optional by the way, and all along the beach are huge bunkers built by the Germans during their 5 year ‘visit’ to Denmark in the early 1940s, many of which have been turned into museums.

The town also has an aquarium and a West Coast Center that is a great place for kids and adults to spend a couple of hours to play and experience things that makes the seas along the coastline of Denmark tick. It teaches you how the current shape of Denmark was formed, and how the entire North Sea area once was. Due to the vast forests between Denmark and the British Isles millions of years ago, Denmark is rich on amber, Denmark’s diamonds as they are sometime referred to. And one of the world’s largest collections is on display in the Seashell House in the old part of town, on Sneglevej, 25 yards away from where I grew up.

Next to the West Coast Center are a couple more interesting stores for experimenting with sweets and nature. One is a rock candy store where kids of all ages can get their fill of the best sweets in the world, and actually see how this special candy is made. Next to that is a glassblowing place where one can see how simple rock and mineral from nature turns into the most elaborate glassware.

Next to these stores is a great new restaurant, Mallemuggen, named after the old fishing vessels that was gutted and turned up-side down and transformed into this fine eatery. During my visit I did not get a chance to eat there, but it will happen the next time I get back in town, hopefully in a couple of years.

So if taking rides in the beautiful natural surrounding area of Thyborøn isn’t enough, or hanging at the beach with family and friends, then there are all these other things one can do. So for a 4 to 5 day visit to this pearl on the west coast of Denmark one would have plenty to see and do.

Saturday evening 500 guests showed up for the dinner feast that was held in the old sports arena, right next to the 1000 square foot beer tent and ‘hang out’ that was set up for the event. I myself was not at the feast since I had my entire family from around Denmark visiting to celebrate a family reunion of sorts, and a belated 50th birthday for my twin sister and myself.

And the event officially ended at midnight Saturday after the dinner, when the local Nimbus club had arranged for an amazing fireworks display that was shown off right atop one of the dikes that surround the town, and only about 100 yards from my house on Sneglevej where we had all gathered after a midnight trip to the beach, sundown about 11 pm. So in many ways this was a Nimbus rally and birthday party that will be very hard to beat.

But at an event such as this it is really key that everyone have a good time, and that the weather gods were on our side really made a huge difference, and so far nothing but positive remarks have been said about this years rally.

This was my first official Nimbus Rally in Denmark, but for sure not the last.

Kaj J. Pedersen
Founder & President, Nimbus Club USA

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Postings from the past.

Now that we have the new website well in hand, thanks to our latest member Mr. David Jensen of Long Beach, we have added to the gallery images from the 2003 Scandinavia Fest and a visit to the Rock Store with Jay Leno. In addition, we would like all interested parties to send us feedback on the site.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Kaj visits with Jay Leno

Hi all,

Finally got a chance and invitation to go see Mr. Jay Leno's shop and hangers where he stores his enormous collection of motorcycles and cars. Also got the chance to take photographs of a bunch of his collection, including his 1952 and 1957 unrestored nimbuses.

Jay stopped by just as we were wrapping up the 90 minute tour. A friendly and very approachable guy for sure!

Just want to wish everyone very happy holidays and a great 2008.

Rgds, kaj.