The Velocette Owners Club of North America is notorious among one-make motorcycle clubs for its cheek in actually riding their old motorcycles for long distances every year, just for the hell of it.  Their annual Summer Rally has been a calendar fixture for 40 years now, with the first ride in BC Canada dubbed the ‘submarine rally’ because it rained so hard every single day.  The 40th anniversary of that first ride was named the 2 Million Mile Rally, as an approximation of the total miles ridden for the participating Velocettes over that span.  As a risky possible repeat of the first rally, this year’s ride was organized on Vancouver Island, but was an example of how much the global climate has shifted, with the weather sunny and warm, the province in deep drought, and Canada’s central forestlands on fire since May.  Luckily the wind blows eastward from the Pacific coast, so while the Midwest and East Coast are reading Canada’s smoke signals, and the air on Vancouver Island was clear.

Indigenous carved totem poles were rare on our route, but are always worth examining. Debbie Macdonald, Paul d’Orléans, JP Defaut, Kim Young, and Melissa Guerrero at Hyde Creek. [Leanna Abulencia-Shapli]
The demographics of the rally ridership skewed under-60 for the first time in years, and a fresh wave of relative youngsters responded to the clarion call of a fun week on old bikes in a beautiful place, with the route and venues sorted, and helpful elders around to pitch in.  A spirit of mutual aid prevailed, with clutch cables, spark plugs, tools, carburetor jets, and advice shared freely.  Among the 40-odd bikes present, only one was truly hors de combat by the end of the week, with a suspected broken crank, but the Thruxton in question was newish to the owner, who has a hard right hand, but suspected a hasty build by the previous owner.  Riding a Thruxton to the limit is generally no cause for concern (hey, a Venom was the first motorcycle to do 100mph for 24hours, in 1961), as this is exactly how I’ve treated my own bike – VMT260 ‘Courgette’ –  but it’s still disappointing, and crankshaft demons rearing their ugly heads on a Velo rally are very rare…hence the willingness of so many to risk high mileages.

Velocette Rally veteran Larry Luce with his 1933 MOV 250cc, a rare first-year example of a rare model, that he intends to ride on the Cannonball this September. [Paul d’Orléans]
I rode my 1960 Venom Clubman this year, which has sat in my warehouse since the last Wheels & Waves California rally I organized in 2018.  Inconceivable! It took many hours to bring that neglected beauty to full, smooth functionality, making sure nothing was going to fall off, and nothing did. In fact, mechanically my week was perfectly boring, with only a change of main jet on my TT carburetor required, as she was running too rich at 70mph, and getting hot.  My magneto’s condenser is slowly failing, just as it was failing five years ago, with hot kickstarts a burden…but blessedly Vancouver Island is hilly, and a quick rolling bump fired her up every time.  OK, the mag is coming off next week for a refurbish, finally.

Terrible place, Vancouver Island. Paul d’Orléans’ 1960 Venom Clubman beside Campbell Lake in Strathcona Provincial Park. [Paul d’Orléans]
The 2 Million Mile Rally was notable for two firsts: there were more rigid-frame Velocette ridden than swingarm-frame bikes, and there were more women riders (seven total) than at any previous rally.  These are both Very Good Things…and interestingly related, as four women rode rigid MSS, MAC, and KSS models.  The oldest bike on the rally was, once again, Kim Young’s 1930 350cc KSS, a rally veteran and a surprisingly fast tourer for a 93-year old machine.  Next oldest was Larry Luce’s 1933 250cc MOV, which he plans to ride on the Motorcycle Cannonball in September, this 1000-mile, 5-day rally being a shake-down cruise for that 3600-mile, 17-day rally.  The MOV did just fine, and I have no doubt Larry will conquer the USA with the little gem.

Stopping for a swim in the ocean, because it’s summer, dammit. JP Defaut’s Viper blocks the path, for a moment, but we braved a dip in the Pacific. Refreshing! Mark Stephensin, Simon Peters, and Derek Dorresteyn crowd the dock. [Paul d’Orléans]
Most of the rigid bikes present would fall into the bob-job category, with 1940s MSS (500cc) and MAC (350cc) models sporting no front fender, an abbreviated rear fender, cowhorn handlebars, and no muffler at all, which is exactly as they were ridden in the 1940s and 50s.  In fact, at least one of the bikes was an original barn-find bob-job, the rest being of more recent construction and mild customization.  They all did just fine on the rally, although one MSS proved a bit oily on its first proper 1k mile test run…sumping issues, traceable back to one or the other known causes.  There are few tricks a Velo can play that haven’t been solved in the past 2 million miles, helpful tips having been collected in xerox binders and on email tech forums for decades.  Still, a couple of the first-time rallyists remarked on the daily maintenance required for their borrowed steeds…which was usually due to the bikes being recently built, and the bugs still making their way out into the open.  An old hack like my 25-year owned Venom gave no particular trouble, the mandatory look-over after the day’s ride taking 15 minutes or so, which is typical for Velocettes in regular use.

Witch queen Kim Young with her 1930 KSS, and an ally. [Paul d’Orléans]
Vancouver Island is enormous – about 500 miles long, with a limited number of roads exploring the various mountains, bays, and fjords.  It’s a dramatic landscape, as lovely meadows or farms had mountains as a backdrop, a few of which still held snow.  Finding ‘technical’ roads was a matter of getting off the A roads and onto dead-end runs past lakes and into mountains, which meant a two-way ride through the twisties.  Our rigid riders had a time of it, with the number of frost heaves, cracks, and road slumps corresponding exactly to the level of interest a road offered to a sporting rider. But, at the end of those roads, one never knew what was in store: a few of our gang spotted a couple of sea planes docked at the turnaround point of our day, and inquired about a ride, which was offered and quickly accepted, for a modest fee.   They shortly discovered how little of the island is accessible by road, with abandoned indigenous villages and farms surrounded by old-growth forests, reachable only by boat, and currently unsustainable.  But, stunning.

If you see a seaplane, take it. Blaise Descollonges, Kim Young, Mark Stephenson, Derek Dorresteyn, Scottie Sharpe. [Blaise Descollonges]
The motorbikes are fun and we love them, but of course what matters is the people, and one does make friends over a week of riding, or many years of such weeks.  This was my 34th year of rallying, and I’ve organized 8 of them, a responsibility afforded the title of President of the club.  This year the organizer of that first rally 40 years ago, Cory Padula, reprised his role, and we had a superb time of it.  Our next President is The Vintagent’s own Kim Young, who is already scouting roads in Idaho for July 2024.  I remain as Chairman, with a mandate to increase our membership and bring younger riders in, which seems to be happening. It’s a funny thing to do, tour with an old machine on an extended rally, but the idea has definitely spread, with the Australian Velocette club taking up the gauntlet for 20 years now, and for 13 years now, the Cannonball and Chase cross-country vintage rallies.  Apparently we’re not the only ones who think this is exactly the sort of madness required today.  Long may it wave.

The Vintagent’s ‘Mistress of Minutiae’, Debbie Macdonald, rode the 350cc MAC that her husband had purchased in high school, but had lain in pieces for decades. After 33 years of joining the ride on ‘other’ bikes, she rode the whole week on the MAC for the first time. Brava! [Paul d’Orléans]
Lots of rivers means lots of bridges… [Paul d’Orléans]
Scottie Sharpe is a BMW restorer in the California Gold Country, so naturally brought along an R69S for the rally. You don’t have to ride a Velocette to ride the rally…[Paul d’Orléans]
Lunch stop in Gold River. The scenery though…simply amazing. [Paul d’Orléans]
We spotted many dragsters headed towards Port McNeil, and found them at the local airport. Wade Lahaise is known for wheelying his 59 Chevy pickup. [Paul d’Orléans]
Though I’ve invited him for 35 years to join the Velo rally, it took this long for Derek Dorresteyn to join the fray on his BSA DBD34 Gold Star. Derek is motorcycle royalty; his father and uncle both raced in the 50s/60s, his uncle was on the cover of issued #1 of Cycle World and is in the AMA Hall of Fame. After racing speedway professionally, Derek had a fabrication shop (Moss Machine) and taught at university, then founded Alta Motors, and now is CTO at Damon Motorcycles. [Blaise Descollanges]
At the end of the day, what do you want but a martini offered by a beautiful comrade? Leanna Abulencia-Shapli brought the kit, and had time for mixology as she rode a vintage Honda SL350 on the rally. Shaken, not stirred. [Blaise Descollanges]
This 1970 Thruxton was a one-owner machine until this gent persuaded him to part with it. Original everything, and a solid runner, as you would expect. [Paul d’Orléans]
Like dad, like daughter. Tony and Maddie Macneill joined us on vintage Japanese machines: a Honda CBX and Yamaha XS650 Special. [Paul d’Orléans]
Other riders, other styles. Adam Cecchini on his Bimota DB1 aviated half the rally, and was only pulled over twice! “$85 – it was worth it.” Indeed. [Blaise Descollanges]
Engine room of the littlest Velocette: Larry Luces’ 1933 MOV 250cc, the first year model for pushrod Velocettes. “It was cosmetically as you see it, but internally it was totally worn out,” Larry explained.  Who better than to bring it back to life?  Note the oiling mods on the pushrod tube: “I brought the oiling system up to the last iteration of the MOV, so it drains the valve cups.” [Paul d’Orléans]
Melissa Guerrero aboard Carl Greenlund’s 1948 MSS bob-job with stock Dowty Oleomatic air forks (upside down!). Carl built Melissa’s MSS too, and it was oiling up, so they swapped bikes to sort the issue on the road. [Paul d’Orléans]
Paul d’Orléans painted this jacket in 1985, after purchasing it from Derek Dorresteyn when he worked at Cycle Gear… Still fits! Scuffing on the ‘e’ is from his sole getoff on a swingarm Velocette, in Montana 2008, when a trapped front brake led to a high-side crash. Same Venom Clubman, same rider, different brake cable (and headlamp…). [Paul d’Orléans]
Blaise Descollanges’ Thruxton on a lonely road, definitely off-route, but taking time to enjoy the scenery. [Blaise Descollanges]
Many rivers to cross. The variety of bridges was intriguing: this one connected two gravel roads over a gorgeous green river. [Paul d’Orléans]
The Rigid Ladies: Debbie MacDonald, Kim Young, Melissa Guerrero. [Paul d’Orléans]
Such a pretty motor: the MkII KSS overhead-camshaft, built from 1935-1948. [Paul d’Orléans]
Farkin’ windy on the sea that day, but strangely calm one block inland. Blaise demonstrates. [Blaise Descollonges]
Telegraph Bay, and old logging town turned into a hotel: every cabin is now a room! A lovely spot for whale watching and kayaking. [Blaise Descollanges]
The OGs…John Ray and Cory Padula were the only veterans of the Submarine Rally 40 years ago who were present at this year’s ride, although several OGs are still active in the club. Note a couple of the perennial prizes: play vintage games, get vintage prizes! The Eddie Arnold Trophy is for the most meritorious performance in the rally, and was given to Russell Blow. The ‘Phishtail Phil’ award for services to the Club was given to Carl Greenlund for providing several riders with bikes this year, all rigid-frame specials. [Paul d’Orleans]
…aand then there’s the Crock of Shit award, given by the Chairman (yours truly) to a worthy recipient, whose bike had the most spectacular failure. This year, the only bike with such was Blaise Descollonges’ Thruxton, which quickly developed 1/4″ of play in its big end, and sounded like a mechanical hammer. Ouch. He’s already pulled the crank! [Kim Young]
First-time rallyist Melissa Guerrero was game to ride a rigid ’48 MSS all week, but liked the idea of something faster too…like a Thruxton. [Blaise Descollanges]
Carl Greenlund’s 1939 MSS 500cc, which he discovered in this bob-job condition, with no front fender, an abbreviated rear fender with Crocker taillight, Bates solo seat, and no muffler. How they rode them in the day. [Paul d’Orléans]
How to haul trees: rusting examples of forestry from earlier in the 20th Century: a 1950s Ford pickup flanked by a solid-tire tractor and steam engine sledge used to pull down trees, six at a time, using steel cables. The sledge was towed to a convenient location, and the trees were trimmed after felling and dragged to the nearest river for transport, which was never far away. Regardless these ‘modern’ forestry methods, quite a bit of Vancouver Island retains its old-growth forests, in remoter regions. [Paul d’Orléans]


Paul d’Orléans is the founder of He is an author, photographer, filmmaker, museum curator, event organizer, and public speaker. Check out his Author Page, Instagram, and Facebook.


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