Assen Run – Review – Pictures of our adventures

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    I had been looking forward to the forums big run of the year…to watch the precociously talented 17 year-old James White of Team After dark competing in the Dutch round of the Ducati 848 challenge.  Hosting the race was the legendary Assen circuit in northern Holland. Throughout March the weather had been glorious, but as April dragged on the rain poured down day after day and the prospect of a long ride through Northern Europe looked ever more daunting.
    But come the morning set off and the weather was playing ball, I met up with Ses on the outskirts of Kidderminster on his CBF1000, his Blade judged a bit too extreme for the long run that lay ahead of us. A quick skirt along the surprisingly fun A448 to Bromsgrove followed; it was the first time that I had ridden the FZ with the topbox loaded and to be honest, I could feel the difference, which did surprise me a little. An uneventful trundle down the M40 followed and we rolled into the delightful Warwick services to meet up with Kat (CBR900RR), Champs (ZX6R) and Thumper (GS1200), who had been delayed a little struggling to remember how to fit his panniers (bless…)
    We picked our way across the busy M25 and had a bit of fun filtering past frustrated account managers in their BMW 3 series and Audi A4s, before stopping at Clackett Lane services to hook with the rest of lads who were joining us: Dave (CBR1100XX), Ian (CBR600), Stuart (Aprillia Shiver 750) and Steve (GS1200 twin cam)

    The nine bikes made for an impressive sight as we rattled off the last hundred miles or so to the Eurotunnel at Folkestone. This was the first time I had travelled on the tunnel and it is amazing how such an incredible engineering feat can be made to see so ordinary. In around thirty minutes you arrive without drama on the other side of the channel untroubled by the weather. Facilities are basic, not even seats…you just stand behind your bike and mill about.
    We quickly settled into a rhythm and France, blended seamlessly into Belgium, but it was with some relief that we made the first stop for fuel as both the Shiver and Blade had been running on fumes for a while. The two BMWs and Ses’s CBF still had enough fuel for ages yet…the joys of owning a sensible bike…
    Having endured 300 miles of dual carriageway already it was here the group split in two for a while. ID had been tipped of about a route that looked more interesting on paper and had the added benefit of missing the choking traffic that can affect the Antwerp ring road. So the Northern group…Thumper, Champs, Ses and I took this option, as the others took the more direct route.
    Well, it must be said that Belgium and Holland seems to be largely bereft of fun roads in way we are used to them in the UK. They are beautifully engineered, well surfaced and by and large…100% straight. However the northern loop over Zeeland peninsular we took allowed us to see a little more of the country side and we were particularly impressed with the huge canal barges that absolutely dwarf the one that ply our tiny waterways. The 6km long Goes tunnel was a particular delight as the lads enjoyed hearing the roar of their exhausts bouncing off the tunnel walls.
    We decided to stop in Ghent for a break and something to eat and found a suitable on the outskirts of the town centre. We were really looking forward to our meal, after already covered well over 300 miles. So when the waitress brought out the meal on the largest white plate that I have ever seen with six neatly arranged chips and the tiniest pork steak for company, I thought that Ses was going to explode! He was about to let loose at the poor waitress with both barrels when she came back with a huge bowl of chips, a pot rammed with the pork in a delicious sauce…that’s more like it!
    It set us up well for the last leg which, to be honest, was actually pretty tough. By the time we rolled into the digs in Bielen we had put on over 500 miles and were to put it politely…f**ked!
    It was not the perhaps the best moment to discover that the digs, as booked by our resident cheapskate Kat, did indeed adhere to his great maxim of life…’things should be cheap, inexpensive and not cost much’.  At €11 a night you can’t expect too much I suppose!! The others had beaten us here and had already headed into village for a drink…so Ses phoned Kat to check exactly which bar they were in…

    ‘We have reached the shiiii….accommodation’ he diplomatically announced

    We picked our way past the derelict fridge and concrete block covering God knows what and dumped off our stuff.
    We walked the 2km into the village and found the lads in lively Bar Isis, where the others had left us some pizzas to polish off. Thumper joined us a bit later having gone off in an unsuccessful search for digs that were a little less, err charming…
    We seemed to of wound up in the youngster’s favourite haunt and some of the ‘cigarette’ smoke was lets’ say…aromatic…
    We promptly demolished their supply of lager; the waitress even asked why the English drank so much. The funny thing is it was by no means a good session…I hate to think if they had seen a real drinking evening! The good thing to see was the group getting on, laughing joking and chatting. People who been strangers a few hours before, becoming friends. We all wondered backed to ‘The Shed’ as it had been christened and hit the sack for the night.

    The next morning some of the lads wondered into town on foot, while Champs, Thumper, Ses and I took the lazy option and rode into town and enjoyed breakfast at a local cafe. The weather looked a little iffy as all nine bikes formed up for the ride to the circuit sure enough the rain came down just as we set off. Thumper was leading as he had satnav, but his didn’t stop us going wrong pretty much immediately as we set off and all 9 bikes had to perform a U turn on a tight, damp country lane much to the bemusement of one local motorist caught up in the middle of it all.
    After a brief, but incredibly slippy ride to the track that included another 9 bike U turn and watching a cycle race at junction we eventually found ourselves at the highly impressive Assen TT Circuit. We were here, but after a prolonged search of the very interesting paddock, where Ducatis of virtually of every type and vintage were being prepped for the weekend’s action there was no sign of Team After dark and James.  After a bit of confusion and Kat looking a little anxious at thought that he just dragged us 500 miles to see a team that wasn’t actually there, we found that the team transporter had died enroute and they had hurriedly had to switch vehicles and had arrived late. Phew! The others teams had made room for them in one of the garages. Not the best preparation for a race weekend!

    Oddly enough Ducati seemed pretty popular in the bike park…

    James had managed a few laps and while still some way down the grid, his lap times were tumbling session by session as he got zoned in and used to a circuit he had only previously ‘ridden’ on his Xbox! It was the first time that I had met him, and while I knew how young he is, I was still taken aback by just how such a young lad was throwing a demanding 135bhp bike about with such obvious talent and confidence…impressive.

    While it was a Ducati run and dominated event there were a smattering of other bikes involved in the action, notably Guzzis, KTMs , BMWs and even solitary Yamaha, Gilera and Triumphs. The noise as the machines were pushed around the demanding and twisty circuit was phenomenal .
    James did ok in practice and we all made our way up into the grandstand to see him start. In a remarkable piece of luck we randomly choose seats directly opposite his starting position on the grid.  Around 40 bikes lined up for the start, the 848 Ducati challenge riders being joined by entrants from the Swedish ‘Battle-of-the Twins’ series.
    The flag dropped and James made a startlingly good launch from the line making up several places in the charge to the first right-hander.  After initially making good progress he got mixed up with a KTM from the other series and lost several places as a result. He battled back well to finish 15th in the end and it was great to cheer him on from the stand. The racing was close and 848s were way better in the bends than the larger capacity bikes from the BoT series. Again James had sent his lap times tumbling, shaving a huge 4 seconds off his best time in practice! All in all, this represented good progress.

    Ready for the off in Race 1

    Back in the pits James, his Dad Tim and the rest of the crew seemed a little disappointed, but his is only natural…every racer wants to win I suppose.
    We left to prepare for the next day’s action and headed back to the shed to get ready for another night in the teeming metropolis that is Beilen! We all walked into town together and headed for a Chinese/Indonesian restaurant that looked good. We all piled in only thirty minutes before it normally closed, but with the prospect of a good earner they happily stayed open later for us. Ses was grumpy at first, muttering darkly about not liking rice ‘with shit in it’ and looking up the dishes on Google via his smart phone! We eventually settled on a huge set meal for 9 and it was excellent. Washed down with a few refreshing beers.  Ses even quite enjoyed the rice with shit in it!
    We then moved onto another of Beilens bars only to be greeted by the Dutch equivalent of the ‘bus-nutter’, who immediately decided to befriend us and loudly talk about being a Jewish, Nazi-saluting, French bulldog owning, Ducati loving Dutch celebrity, asking a rather bemused Champs

    ‘Don’t you know who I am?’ while playfully thumping him in the chest!

    He particularly took to Ian and Steve, the later dealing with him manfully while I backed him up 100%….or not! He did at least pay for most of our beer, so it wasn’t all bad! The whole evening took on even more surreal feel when the juke box started to pump out the umpah mix of the Kings of Leon ‘My Sex is on Fire’! At least our initial unease at the 100% male cliental of the bar was eased when some rather attractive ladies rocked up. We decided to make a sharp exit and headed back the Isis bar we had enjoyed the night before. More beer flowed and another excellent evening was enjoyed by all. Even the shed looked a little better in the dark!

    Day two at the track and action was all racing today, we decided to watch James from further around the track this time. The sun was shining today and it was great to watch the action in the warm. The races came thick and fast and the action was excellent and close. I am no connoisseur of bike racing, but the sounds and smells were just superb. Eventually it was James 2nd and last race. Again he did well, his lap time tumbled again. Again he got well into the mix and shuffled up and down the pack, he seemed really quick through the complex leading into the straight where we watched him from.

    Back in the pits James again seemed a little disappointed with his ride, but I thought for lad on his first foreign race I thought he had performed well…constantly improving his lap times. Factor in all the hassle with the race-truck delaying them and drastically affecting the preparation I thought the whole team put in a shift to be proud of. Tim has invited us all to a later round in the UK for a bar-be-cue on the race evening, and I am really looking forward to that.

    The team decided to head home straight after race two and this seemed a natural break point for us too. So rather than do 500 miles in one hit the next day we decided to pack up, leave our beloved shed and see how far we could get towards the coast. Thumper lead the way again, this time with no U turns, and we decided to stop after 130 miles or so and a town called Breda. We immediately found a hotel and worked a good deal for the night.
    We all got cleaned up and enjoyed the hotel which felt like the Dubai Hilton after The Shed! An excellent meal was washed down with a few more beers, This time we drank them dry of three types of beer!! The bikes were getting a lot of attention in the bike park too, the locals treating as a mini bike show seemingly!

    The next morning the whole group took the route we had taken on the way up, this avoided Antwerp, when some of the lads had got badly snarled up on the way up. The weather was lovely, the pace generally gentle as we wafted through the immaculate Dutch countryside, stopping a few times for petrol and a chill out. The lads enjoyed the tunnel once more, especially Kat, Ian, Champs, Ses and Thumper. The noise was incredible as they all let rip! I don’t think the locals were too impressed! Thumper skilfully led the line on his BMW, with Steve bringing up the rear on his similar model. The last time a column with a BMW at either end swept through Holland, Belgium and France heading towards Dunkirk and Calais, they had a rather more hostile intent! We even passed the Team After dark motor home as they trundled back to dear old blighty.

    The Euro tunnel let us on an earlier crossing and I enjoyed riding the entire length of the train…nearly a quarter of a mile…a strange experience.
    The group split up at Clackett lane services, Ses and I kept each other company back to the midlands and after battling through two sessions of torrential rain had some fun as we let rip on the Bromsgrove to Kidderminster road, venting some of the frustration built up on the wonderfully straight roads of Holland.
    It was a memorable weekend, great to meet some new friends and witness a real racing talent in the early stages of what I hope will be a long and successful career.  Cheers for organising Kat, and too all the lads for a cracking weekend, here’s to the next one! 

    A few pictures for you to get idea of the weekend:

    The groups gets up to full strength at Clascketts Lane Services. Oh the glamour of it all!

    Checking in at the Tunnel

    BMW 1200 GS…oh hang on

    Steve about to take his twin cam, black, wired wheeled GS onto the tunnel

    Inside the Eurotunnel train, there is more room in Ses310’s topbox!

    Just to prove we were in Holland. This stunning windmill was right next to the shed

    Our bikes tucked up in ‘the shed’, over 500 miles in the day for the midland group

    Bar Isis on the 1st night. Champs was a bit ferked by now!

    Kat on his Blade outside his beloved shed

    Thumper considered upgrading his GS

    ZX6R and some admiring chickens

    TT Circuit Assen

    The bikes in the Ducati dominated public bike park

    Some beautiful machines in and around the paddock

    Kat and Dave watching the action, while the forum camera club duo of Champs and Ses capture the action

    One for Pete247

    Rossi and Foggy’s Dukes

    This Paul Smart inspired machine was my favourite and it sounded glorious when it was demonstrated on the track

    Brilliantly silly Ducati powered race bike starter

    Some bikes were quicker than others

    The lad we all came to see race.James White of Team Afterdark


    Tim, James Dad and the driving force of TAD with some of the lads

    After the trouble with the truck some of the other teams in the 848 challenge shuffled up in the Garage to make room for TAD

    Tucking in on the 2nd night in Beilen

    The Dutch, Jewish, Nazi, BMW owning, Ducati and French Bulldog loving bus nutter makes friends with Ian

    We are a colourful lot

    The bikes at the circuit on Day 2 of the racing, we had to park away from the Dukes!

    Watching the action the impressive deck over the pit lane

    James Whites Team After Dark 848 Ducati

    Enjoying a few more beers in the hotel in Breda

    Time for another snack


    Heh, bus nutters and funny fags, I knew it would be eventful. Nice one Radar!


    Great write up again Radar, was a cracking trip and I did have the odd grump or 2 haha…. But lets not forget about your topbox rage!


    Yeah topbox rage was missed from the review. “F**KING DAMMIT!”


    Don’t forget the punching of said topbox!


    1. It is not a topbox…it is an integrated luggage solution
    2. It was asking for it!!


    Top quality write up mate.


    sounds like a cracking trip, James showed plenty of talent at Brands Hatch during the BSB, I am sure the rest of the season will provide opportunities for him to shine again :)

    So what happened with the top-box? :D


    I will let Radar explain it, and then either me or Champs will tell you the truth haha


    never let the truth get in the way of a good story! ;)


    Added a load of pics and then the forum wouldn’t save my update…bugger. Just added a couple for now…will add more on Sunday evening, sorry for the delay!


    Actually saw someone in the paddock wearing these!



    I’m embarrassed to say that I find the dutch word for clogs, Klompen, quite funny  :-[


    AWESOME klompens :D


    I have added  afew pics to the main post but Champs and Ses have the best action shots, could you add a few here chaps!?

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