Champagne Run

5th-7th June 2015

I thought I would offer to edit the ride-report as a thank you to the Chelsea & Fulham H.O.G. group who rode out recently taking me, rookie pillion with them on the Champagne Ride. Rewriting the authoritative notes Nick supplied (our ride leader), I hope to have captured the flavour or ‘nose’ of the weekend. All facts are courtesy of Nick and any other stuff is added by me so we cannot hold him accountable!

Champagne Run

It was explained that the original idea was to have the town of Reims as a venue for a C&F party weekend where riders met up whenever they arrived however that plan went never went ahead and instead by early into 2015 the list stood at 16 Harley riding members along with 4 pillions. Nick maintains that he drop fed info to the assembled group to keep them bubbling along (bubbling, get it?) and that remains the last joke I am quoting.

Thursday evening - the meet up
Riding into the hotel car park in glorious evening sunshine to see a row of gleaming hogs lined up was the best. A lot of banter and maybe some beer later and our ride leader gave his briefing (he does like to make us all wait) with Les Channing as last man along with roving marshall assistance from road captain duo, DoF and Rob Warr, we were all set. A 7am start meant it was early (ish) to bed and to dream of the open road.

Friday - Folkestone to Reims
We hit the tunnel early and it must have been quiet as we were asked to board early and were waved on like royalty right to the front carriage - result! Just 35 minutes to Calais, then a quick 40 mile blast along the A26 auto-route before exiting J4 in the direction of Hesdin and a planned pit stop. Wide skies, lazy wind farms, agricultural land and loads of space, with the sun warming our backs we felt good. Diversions started just 10 minutes or so later and added a number of miles to re-route around a road closure which added a little time before arriving in the centre-ville where we parked opposite a sleepy café for refreshments. Most of the time it appeared that no one batted an eyelid at the large bunch of Brits descending on their patch, taking over - bad ass bikers eh? Toilets were always a welcome relief scoring well!

Champagne Run

Back in the saddle and riding on towards the lunch destination of Albert (which we didn’t make due to awful stretches of loose, freshly laid chippings and mild panic of paint damage on expensive paintwork). Nick instead pulled up at an immaculately fronted restaurant in the hamlet of Acheux-en-Amienois which he claimed to have remembered from a previous recce. It had a great car park for the bikes and our secret weapon (Jean Facon) was dispatched to speak proper French to the restaurant staff to secure lunch, I was feeling good. Jean explained later that he believed the owners were slightly terrified of us but we had impeccable C&F manners, that and the promise of hard cash must have won them over. A bargain 3 courses later for the princely sum of 13.50 Euros - we needed to get some kilometres behind us now as we had drifted off schedule due to the time taken to cook and eat.

The morning had been hot but now it was getting too hot to handle with the temperature way over 30° - clothes came off, more sun cream went on, water drunk by the gallon (ok, litre) yet it still seemed to be getting hotter and the moment we slowed down the burn was pretty hard to handle. We rode through beautiful villages, crossing the battlefield areas of the Somme. Poppies swayed in the fields, tiny villages with cemeteries full of little white crosses, working people on the land and lots of annoying slow tractors, ok let’s move on! A minor technical issue held us up however Rob made calls back to base (Warr’s 611 KR), waved a magical screwdriver and we were away with ominous black clouds looming in our mirrors and we beat the rain! We eventually arrived in Reims around 5pm to be greeted by a three lane traffic jam on the edge of town - no sweat for C&F as we are Londoners.

We split into the 2 hotels being used on opposite sides of the road and both had great underground secure car parks - we hit the bar but not before a shower. Once we’d caught up with ourselves we headed out to the restaurant just a few hundred yards away, pre-booked by Nick & Jane (his better half). Our waiter advised us after a few minutes that it really would be better to go inside as a storm was heading in, we did then then heard the huge downpour. Dinner and company was great, the bill came to 65 Euros a head including vast quantities of Bolly. My understanding is that some members of the group didn’t leave the bar back at the hotel until gone 3am after being sent to bed - no names mentioned, rookie respect.

Champagne Run

Saturday - ride out time
It had rained all evening which cleared the air for our ride and by the morning it was all dry and sunny again. After a bit of a lie-in our start time was 10am. The riders had a more reasonable temperature in the mid 20s and our first stop was the old race track grandstand at Gueux followed by the inland lighthouse at Verzenay. After this, a refreshment stop near the abbey of Dom Perignon. The villages and vineyards were some of the most beautiful I have seen. The number of champagne houses mind boggling, we all loved the winding roads and stunning scenery. A further ride through the hills and then open countryside to get us back to Reims for a late light lunch and relaxation.

Some made it a shopping and lazy day where Reims proved to be beautiful with a stunning cathedral with amazing glass. There was a medieval pageant taking place with stalls, tents, camels and the locals dressed up in tabards with bows and arrows - a real spectacle. Shopping was good with a Galleries Lafayette department store, café bars and restaurants on the main street buzzing until the early hours. Dinner in the evening was at the hotel, more champers, wine and beer (not necessarily in that order) and great food. Escargot, foie-gras, rather large prawns and langoustine, yes Nick and Rob, we didn’t hold back. The bill was 60 Euros a head then bedtime but at what time?

Sunday - Reims to Blighty
A bit of a lie-in again then time to head home. 10am start, no one admitting to a sore head and all looked remarkably well, and on time - a tight crew. We set off north-east, the morning ride was brilliant with a coffee stop in Montcornet where we found a few other UK riders having drinks in the sun. A long and winding road took us to lunch in Bohain-en-Vermandois with croques-monsieur (we know how to live) for most in a lovely town square - with drinks it added up to 10 Euros a person.

The final ride took us another 30 odd kilometres before the last stretch where we jumped on the auto-route for the last dash to Calais. We crossed slightly ahead of schedule at 6pm where trip rockers were dished out. We streamed off the train into the lovely sun which I’m sure helped us all on the way home. Total mileage from home was approximately 650.

Champagne Run

Summing up
Thanks go to Nick for planning the trip and to the road crew, Les, DoF and Rob. Please get another trip lined up! Further thanks to Steve Graham for my UK leg, Jane Deal (for all the great restaurant tips), Fred Woolcott, Peter Harvey, Johnathan Gooch, James Goldman, Jean Facon, Vince Barber, Andrew Eborn (for letting me ride pillion), Justin and Zoe Webster (the new Mr & Mrs), David and Angela Hogg (happy wedding anniversary), Keith and Susie Jones (life saving lip balm) and Janet Jones for pre-trip advice (is this an Oscars speech asks Nick!).

What a great bunch of riders in general though and as a rookie I learnt a few things:

  • Go with an experienced crew
  • Panniers are everything
  • Earplugs are essential
  • Buy a glide! (thanks Rob)


Words by Nick Deal and messed about by Clare the rookie.