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Participation to the Piston Rally,
Santander, Spain,
29th September - 4th October 2015

Back in 2014, I had plans to join some friends and visit Spain for a week of motorcycling. Because of a very busy period in work I had to cancel these plans. This year it was different. I booked my leave very early this year to avoid any problem. Next, I registered with the Dutch Aermacchi Club for participation to the Piston Rally in Spain. Then you can nearly forget about it, as it is still months away. But, all of a sudden the dates get nearer and nearer. Priority number 1: book a flight, soon as you know how to get in Santander. I searched the internet for cheap flights, but most carriers fly to Madrid and from Madrid to Santander. A time consuming and costly trip. Then I made an on-line visit to the airport of Santander to find out which airline companies are regulars. Of course my 'favourite': Ryanair. I am no fan of this airliner, due to personal experiences from the past. According to their website, their flight starts at Düsseldorf, Germany. The real airport is Weeze, some 80 km's from Düsseldorf, just over the Dutch-German border. Without a car, a rather difficult location if you travel from the West of the Netherlands. As I had no car available I took a train to Eindhoven. At the railwaystation, I took the shuttle bus to the airport. The next morning the shuttle for Weeze would leave at 06.45h and at 12.15h the Ryanair aeroplane landed in Santander. In the terminal I got a map of the city and useful information how to get to the hotel. A taxi would set you back €25, but the citybus would take you there for €2.50.

Logo of Moto Club Piston

This shield had to be fixed on your bike.

While waiting for the bus, I met George, also a Dutch member of the Aermacchi Club and participant to the Piston Rally. He recognised me because I was wearing my leather motorcycle jacket. Within 30 minutes we arrived at the Santemar hotel. Immediately we saw familiar faces of other clubmembers. First thing to do was to register with the Spanish organisation of the rally. The staff was very friendly and extremely efficient. We got a bag with information on the day trips, the routes, a nice souvenir and a retrostyle Polo shirt. The ladies even helped me pick the correct size! Maps of the routes were not handed out. So most of time, I did not really have an idea where the trips lead us. But that was no problem whatsoever. On strategic locations a bright orange arrow pinpointed us in the right direction. Not once did we get lost. When you missed such an arrow at a roundabout, you just kept on it until it appeared at the 3rd exit. Han had the circle-arrow information in a special holder on the handlebars of his 1972 MV Augusta. He also had a Garmin GPS. He soon found out, the paper information was not 100% correct compared with the GPS data. Obviously, the routes had been planned with either a car or a bike. Tacho of a vehicle can differ up to 10% from GPS data. Well we did not bother too much. Soon as you left the city, you were first riding in a medium-high mountain area, soon to be followed by high mountains with hairpins, the lot. This is exactly what someone of the organisation told us. In one hour you can drive/ride from sealevel (beach) to skiing hights. The ultimate mountain tops in the area peak at over 2.000 meters. Mostly, on our bikes we came as high as 1.200 up to 1.600 meters. It was clearly an area with plenty of snow in the right season. All along the higher roads were poles to guide snowploughs.


Your webmaster on the Kanguro.


Note: Click on the pictures below for larger size.

Outside the hotel Santemar getting prepared for the first trip.

Marija and her husband Jaap rode the trip with 5,000 curves on Friday!

Just over an hour riding and you're at considerable hights.

First brake in the middle of nowhere.

The Piston Rally is really meant for this type of bike.

Picos mountains

In 2007 and 2012 I had joind the fantastic motorcycle Rally Milano-Taranto (MiTa), which takes you from the North in Italy to the very South in 6 stages of roughly 350 km's a day (total 2.000 km's). I could not help it, but to compare this event to the Piston Rally. MiTa is a much bigger event. Also local people join the party. Fantastic routes, fabulous food and some stress because of the classification. The first stage, starting at midnight, is not easy to overcome. In Spain, the routes were also fantastic, but no night trip, no stress and no classification. In other words: a much more relaxed event. During the stops, we received a sandwich, a piece of baguet with a choise of fillings. Not a refined cuisine, but OK. Of course you have to take in mind that participation to the Piston Rally is a lot cheaper, while the MiTa gets more expensive by the year. Aparantly, the Spanish organisation only makes a small profit on this event. This profit is used to visit motorcycle fairs in order to 'recrute' participants for the Rally especially from the United Kingdom. They were very successful as at least half the riders were from the UK on their beautiful classic British bikes such as (oil leaking) AJS, BSA, Norton, Triumph, Velocette models. The only one not leaking are the Vincents. Two Brits rode such a beautiful classic: a 500cc single Comet and a 1.000cc V-twin. Both bikes were original factory racers. From the cilinderheads the downpipes for the burnt fuel gasses did not end in mufflers for sound damping, but were left open. Some may like this, but it can't be much fun riding with such loud noise. Can't be very good for your hearing either. A Dutch participant called Vincent, rode a 1,000cc Vincent with proper silencers. What a beautiful bike! It was more than 60 years old!
Below the participating Vincents

This beauty, a 1,000cc v-twin of Dutch owner Vincent!

Extremely loud Vincent 500cc Comet.

Another loud bike: v-twin of a British owner.

2nd day: a fantastic ride throught the mountains took us to the station of a cable car.

Way above 2,000m. This is Parador de Fuente Dé, roughly 25km's West of Potes.

Way down: the parking area with our bikes.

During the dinner a Group of us would leave the next morning at 09.30u. This trip would end in Potes, some 100 km's south-west of Santander. We would stay 2 days in Potes and then return to Santander. The trip was fantastic. Around lunchtime we stopped at a carpark and walked to a cable car station. It would lift us from 1.200m to 1.850m. We had lunch served on the top of this mountain. Of course we all enjoyed the fantastic view. In Potes we celebrated the birthday of Moto Morini 500 SeiV rider Ton. After funny speeches and singing we all drunk a beer to his good health! As planned, after two days Potes we were back in the Santemar Hotel in Santander. After the daytrip the normal routine was to re-fuel, shower and have a beer outside the hotel bar before dinner. There we would exchange our experiences of the day. After that we would go for dinner, either in the hotel or outside. We soon found out that opposite the hotel the restaurants were excellent. 98 RON petrol did cost €1,26~1,28 per liter. As at least half the day we went up-mountain, I bought my bike (Moto Morini 350 Kanguro) this energydrink. Specially outside the civilised world, some friends were a little worried from time to time if they would find a petrol station in time. My Kanguro has got a non-standard 30 liter (!!) fueltank. I can ride 600~700 km's on one filling, so they had no reason to worry. I could have re-fuelled them both if necessary ;) That huge fueltank was a special item from an Italian dealer and meant for those who wanted to participate in desert races.

Brown bears in this part of Spain.


Riding in Spain was excellent! Not too many cars. Also car drivers seemed to be used to motorcycles on the road. The roads were good too and the routes fantastic. Yet, I registered two scary moments. In both cases it seemed like Joop got his priority, but then the car driver decided to drive off. Fortunately for Joop: he managed to avoid the car. Irritating were the many cow droppings on the road. You would find all sorts of them along the road: fresh, flat, warm, steaming, or flat-out like a brown carpet. This caused me a scary moment. Uphill in a nice bend to the right, there was a huge fresh dropping. I could hardly avoid it as it was in my ideal line. As I saw it quite late, there was no other option then to go straight through it. The front tyre lost grip and moved sideways. I managed to keep the bike in control and got away with it. Compared to the number of droppings on the road, there was not so much cattle on the road. Yet, you had to be aware of cattle all the time. Next, I was riding a straight road with meadows left and right. All of a sudden a pony was running alongside. It seemed clear that the animal was startled. The horse would not slow down. I did not want to stop either, as it would probably block the road for me and others. I did not go faster either, to prevent the horse running wild. After trotting along for a while, the animal fortunately chose for a meadow instead. As said previously, the routes in this thinly populated area were fantastic. On many occasions we ourselves decided where to stop for a coffee or a non-alcoholic drink. Other groups did the same and you would see them sitting along the route on another terrace. On Friday the "trip of 5,000 curves" would take place. Nearly 500 km's in one day. At the end of a relaxed week, it was just too much for me. Also others decided to not join this trip. So Joop, Jeannette, Theo, Han, Mariëtte and myself planned to visit the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao instead. The luxery cruiseliner (bus) had to be booked at the ticket window of the bus company. We got hold of the last 6 cruiseliner tickets. After a 90 minute comfortable ride, we arrived in Bilbao. Like Santander a very nice and clean city. We took the tram to the museum. Upon arrival, it seemed difficult to find the entrance of the building. Talking of the building: most of it is covered with titanium plates. There were two main exhibitions: first of Basquiat, an Afro-American artist who created a number of paintings or graffitis. Some of them were allright, others seemed to be made after the artist woke up from a nightmare. Not my cup of tea to put it mildly. A second exhibition was of the art of Richard Serra an American minimalist/sculptor. All sorts of huge cilindrical, eliptical or wavy shapes of up to 3 meters high and upto 15 meters long. All made of 5cm's thick corten steel. That makes you wonder how a sculptor can get this thick steel into shape? Perhaps the work was done on a shipyard?

Visit of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao

Graffiti art of Basquiat.

Richard Serra's work.

'Untitled' by Basquiat

In 2017 a press release stated the following: -- "At an auction in New York, a painting by the American graffiti artist Jean-Michel Basquiat delivered a record amount. A Japanese collector offered $ 110.5 million for the canvas called 'Untitled'. The work of Basquiat never before raised this kind of money. The new owner plans to hang the painting in his own museum in Chiba, Japan. The 1982 painting presents a face in the shape of a skull, a recurring theme in the work of Basquiat, an American with Haitian and Puertorian roots. He died in 1988 at the age of 27 after an overdose of heroin".--
Arrival of the participants of the 5,000 curves tour.

Arrival of Ton on his 500 Sei-V

Marija on her Gilera

Last day with bbq and a visit to an estate with private collection of classic cars

A 1940 Lancia Aprilia 1486cc

Suzuki RE5 Wankel

My 350cc Kanguro

Saturday was our last day of riding. During lunch all riders enjoyed a bbq party on a large square in a small town. Later that afternoon we made stop at a castle of a 'loaded local'. We were told we were on the premises of a Spanish earl. Although we did not see the noble man, we did see his classic car collection or private museum! There were 7 of 8 small buildings all loaded with Rolls Royces and other exclusive classic vehicles. A very special and impressive private collection. After this welcoming reception we 'mounted' our bikes for the last stage which would lead us through dense woods, back to Santander. Upon arrival at the hotel, the bikes were parked and fastened in the special containers for the transport back to Amsterdam. On Sunday I flew back North with Ryanair :-( Thanks to a lift of Vincent (thanks again!), the owner of the beautiful Vincent motorbike, I made it back home much faster than planned. My conclusion: it was a fantastic week. Nice and relaxed atmosphere. Great participants. The very friendly and efficient members of Moto Club Piston made sure we had an excellent week of riding in the beautiful surroundings of North-West Spain. Would I join again? Yes, please!! But next time I'll try to avoid flying Ryanair ;-)

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