8 years of FOS tours European Trips.

They think it’s all over… It is now..


FOS Tours is a Scooter Alliance based in Northeast Lincolnshire. It came about, like a lot of new entities in scootering, when a group of people got fed up with how things were and decided to go out on their own. They didn’t want a club, subs, or a committee, so they decided to form an alliance; one that is still going strong today and among other things, brings you the Messy in Moortown Rally every August.

So how did they get that strange name FOS Tours?   Well, it happened when a group of them were in the pub discussing going on a foreign trip on their scooters. Overhearing all this someone said, ‘you people are full of shit, you’ll never do that’, and so the name F.O.S. Tours came about.  We all thought it was kind of funny so got some clothing made and the rest as they say, is history.    Originally, ten guys rode their scooters to the Dutch Lions Scooter rally in 2010.  8 years on and FOS Tours is taking around 60 scooterists abroad each year. Because it’s been getting harder to find locations and accommodation to cater for this many people, 2018 was the last foreign tour, at least for a while.  Before I get to the story of that, I’d like to share some memories from the last 8 years.   

On that inaugural Dutch trip in 2008, one of the lads brought Gibbo a ‘cake’ back to the rally campsite from Amsterdam. Un-used to the sophistications of Dutch cake, or the need to nibble carefully, Gibbo wolfed the lot down and within half an hour was on his second and special ‘trip’ of the weekend.  I am not sure he has ever fully recovered.

“I know a lot of nice English people’s, just not you!” The voice of the Cologne campsite Kommandant’s wife on the 2010 German invasion.    We were woken at 5am by Fitzy, who knew we’d be all of Sunday getting back to Rotterdam and decided to get everyone’s arse into gear.  This was going well until Jake Parker, worried about whether his Lambretta would start, kicked the thing into life just after 5am, revved the nuts off it and woke the entire campsite.  We got a lecture that morning, the German lady ranted on and on about the noise.  A voice from the back of the car park muttered, “it’s nothing like as much noise as we made last time, we were here in 1944”, and with that we were all but escorted onto the motorway by the local police.

For me, Ypres in 2013 was the longest time it has ever taken me to ride 52 miles. 7 hours and 20 minutes.  The reasons are many and varied.  Here are just 3.  Jake Parker decided before we had even got going that we needed to go into Blankenberge, which is how we managed to lose over half the scooters in the first 30 minutes. That took over an hour to rectify.  Next, we pulled over waiting for some guys who had stopped to fill up. They rode right past us at a roundabout.  So, we waited. They never came back!   Next Eddie had a puncture, so we all stopped and waited. It took almost an hour to get his rusted-on revolver exhaust off, then we discovered his spare was flat too and had to flag down a passing motorist for a foot-pump.

The thing that sticks in my mind about the 2014 Lille trip, apart from arriving in Lille on gay Pride weekend, was what happened at the Belgian/ French border on the way to the hotel.  We had stopped to fill up and decided to split 60 scooters up to make getting into the city easier. The plan was for 20 to follow me, 20 to follow Paul Craven and the rest to follow Phil Caddy.  We had an impromptu meeting on the petrol station forecourt while Bob and I explained this to everyone.  They all stood quietly and listened.   Moments later, while Bob, Paul, Phil and I were discussing how to manage things, Jake struck up his scooter and like lemmings, off they all went following him, leaving the four people with the satnav’s and the route sat in the petrol station!  Priceless.

For our second trip to Ypres in 2016 we used motorways to cut down on journey time. There was only one petrol station on the motorway route to Ypres; easy to spot as across the road were two 300-foot-high wind turbines you could see from miles away.  We had arranged the fuel stop almost entirely for John Horwell as his standard  Lambretta tank  feeding a highly tuned engine gave him about 40 miles. To be fair, almost everyone stopped at the garage except John!  I stood and watched as he rode right past the petrol station following Mike Norvock’s auto.  I could see the pained look on his face as he looked across, realised he was soon going to run out fuel and there was nothing he could do about it!

Lier in Belgium, 2017 will be remembered because of the fun we had with the front door to the hostel. Everyone had a magnetic card to open the door after hours.  As people came back after a night on the piss, it was explained there was a problem with the door’s magnetic key reader, and they would have to jump as high as they could while waving the key-card.  One by one they were persuaded to do this while Bob sidled up to the correct key point at ground level and swiped each of them in!  It was a hoot watching as scooterist after scooterist went through this routine, just to get to bed.  For some, reading this will be the first they know of the trickery!

That brings us nicely on to Hilvarenbeek, Holland in 2018. The bond between the FOS, Goodbeer Scooter Club, and the Dutch Lions SC, is what led us back to Hilvarenbeek, that and the town is nice, the hotel is great, and the owner likes a good piss-up as much as we do! 

To beat our slow journey time from 2015, we opted for just one stop and half the journey on motorways.  We attempted to do several things the FOS is not known for; getting to our destination in short order, losing no one along the way and not getting lost; unlike in 2015 when some were still turning up at the hotel at 10pm on the Friday night!

Everyone not only made it to Hull, but this time, they all filled up before boarding the ferry. There were no scooters in bits outside the sportsman’s bar, though I did pass a slow moving ‘Rev’ on the way past the airport.  Turns out to have been a loose wire.   John Grey was late arriving in Hull as he couldn’t get his SX going and ended up bringing a gun to a knife-fight by arriving on his highly tuned Lambretta GP. 

Things began slowly in Rotterdam while we waited for John Grey to fix a puncture he had seemingly obtained while on the boat and John Nicholson’s Dragster had developed a water leak which was looked at. The plan was to stay off the motorways for the first 50 miles, riding south across the Dutch Islands via Stellendam, Oude-Tongue and Wilemstad, ending up at a BP garage on the A17, before joining the motorway to Breda and then heading East towards Tilburg and Hilvarenbeek.

 It was dry on Friday morning when we left Rotterdam, but we had almost hurricane force winds.  Riding a scooter in horrendous gusts of wind while nursing a hangover, must be akin to trying to land a space shuttle with one hand tied behind your back.  I struggled to keep the plastic pig upright and wondered how Robbo was getting on with his mirror be-decked Mod Vespa?

No ‘Benny Hill’ antics at the roundabout in Stellendam this time, no stopping every five minutes for fuel; and everyone made it the 50 miles to the fuel stop.  Motorways next.   Normally, one of two things happens when the FOS do this.  Either everyone moans you are going too slowly, or you are going too fast.  After years of practice and equally as many of abject failure, I decided on 47mph. It didn’t quite piss off the ‘you are going to fast ‘brigade and only a handful of the ‘you are going to slow’ camp bothered to say anything. I felt sorry for John grey though, 70 would have been more to his liking.

The Goodbeer SC outriders joined us on the motorway just outside Breda and took the lead for the run in to Hilvarenbeek.   We reached the hotel by 1pm. The party began almost immediately, many of the FOS hit the bar and stayed there all afternoon.  This of course meant they were mostly hammed by 4pm which only happened   because they are not used to arriving anywhere until after its gone dark and simply didn’t know how to cope!

Goodbeer Scooter Club had planned a ride out for the Saturday.   John Nicholson’s Dragster was pouring water out so that got taken back to the hotel.  Coxy ‘broke down’ on the way to the start of the ride-out, but it just turned out he had forgotten to turn his fuel tap on and Dobbo had decided to leave his Vespa at the hotel, so it didn’t get dirty. (Oh, sorry, because of an issue with the carb).  By the time the FOS, Goodbeer SC and our friends from the Dutch Lions left Hilvarenbeek centre, Dobbo was in the van, John had taken Wonky’s MP3 and shortly after the ride-out began, Rob Warner’s Vespa clutch packed up and he was side-lined.

After a ride through some outstanding Dutch countryside, we spent half an hour at a Gin Distillery at Spoordonkse Watermolen.    Next it was on to a Vespa Garage and museum in Biest-Houtakker, south of Tilburg, where we hoped they may help Rob with his clutch. As it turned out the small ‘D’ piece on the top of the clutch arm has broken in two and luckily for both him and the Vespa mechanics at the museum, Chris Sadler had the sense to bring one as a spare.  It was offered up and the PX repaired.   Several people tried to get into, and have their picture taken in a Vespa Ape sat out front; me I was just hoping they didn’t break that as well!

From the museum it was short ride to our final stop of the day at “In Den Bockenryder” at Esbeek, not too far from our base.  It was on these back roads that Paul Batchelor came off his Vespa while trying to avoid Coxy, who after exiting a corner, was unable to find his next gear, almost stopping dead in Paul’s path.  Luckily, Paul was OK, the scooter, not so much. The way in and out of the In Den Bockenryder is a sand road which was like rallying and meant twitchy bum time on two wheels. It also meant everything not only got covered in dust, but it all got sucked into people’s carburettors.  Like feeding time at the zoo, the FOS managed to grab something to eat and drink there before heading back to town for what was a brilliant Saturday night. The bars, restaurants, and pubs in Hilvarenbeek really do cater well for scooterists; some even ventured to sample the seedier delights of Tilburg.

Sunday morning dawned, as did a plan that would split the FOS up and test the patience of Bobretta and his growing team of van wankers.  England were playing in some game of football or something, and half the FOS wanted to forsake their friends and ride back to Rotterdam to watch the game before boarding the boat.  The rest wanted to go see some Dutch history and visit the Windmills of Kinderdijk north of Dordrecht.   Cartwheel was leading the charge to the Windmills and Craven steering the footballists towards a flat screen TV and probable disappointment in Hellevoetsluis. 

Before any of that, the Goodbeer SC had us heading to middle of Breda to visit the Vesperado’s Vespa Day.  John Nicholson’s water-cooled Dragster was already in the van and buried under bags and on the way to Breda, it was joined by Paul Batchelor’s Vespa that had holed its piston, possibly because of its dirt track rallying the previous day. The Vesperado’s been pleased to see so many of us and once we were all vespa’d out, The FOS set off towards Rotterdam.

I didn’t see this as I was leading the pack on the road, but as Perry and Jeroen of Goodbeer SC, (who had led us out of Breda and onto the motorway), peeled off to the right and waved goodbye, half the FOS stopped, wondering who to follow!  After this John Grey’s GP wouldn’t start so for the sake of expediency it went in the van. Not long after that Bob got a call to say Chris Sadler’s Tetley Tea Folk Vespa had lost all power and stopped at the side of the motorway.  With no room in the van now and precious little time, they managed to get it going and headed for the meeting point at Brielle; slowly!

Meanwhile, as I pulled in with 20 Fostorians to the car park at Kinderdijk, two of the Hull Drifters asked where they were going to watch the game! And at roughly the same time, about 60 kilometres away to the south-west, two other members of the FOS that had followed Craven were a tad disappointed there were no Windmills in Hellevoetsluis!   You really can’t make this stuff up, can you?

FOS Tours Culture Division turned up at Brielle at about 4pm to meet up with the van and a pile of broken scooters, which now included Dobbo’s Vespa, as it too had suffered terminal carb issues. We sat and had a quick beer while we figured out what time we needed to be at the port, where everyone was, did England win and so on.  Much of this time was taken up by Robbo moaning incessantly about us riding too fast, leaving him, the wind, and more about the wind.  Just as we were getting ready to leave Phil noticed Waggy was missing. He decided to go for a meal, which put a spanner in the works.  Once he’d eaten, we rode the last 6 miles to the Europort where we knew the footballists were now sat in the pub on the docks.

Then, as we tried to check in chaos ensued as the nice lady at border control wanted everyone to present themselves at the kiosk but only in the groups of 8 that they had been booked onto the boat in!  This took some sorting out as one or two of them were still missing, and by the time we had, John Greys Lambretta once again refused to start, meaning he had to push the thing up the steep curving ramp to the car deck.  Just as he was about to have a coronary, one of deck hands saw him and ran to help, but as he began pushing, he was for some reason, attacked by a seagull who no doubt had a nest close by. The GP was finally aboard the boat, as was the now wounded deck- hand with blood pouring from his head.

Try as we might to be professional, there is something that always happens to restore the balance to the FOS.  In this case we ended the last FOS Tours European trip with scooterists spread across Holland, football and culture getting mixed up, dis-array at the docks, being attacked by seagulls, and more breakdowns that you could shake a stick at.   Oh but wait a minute, we are not doing these trips again, so in the words of someone who once said something famous about football…..  “They think it’s all over…. It is now!”   And no, not FOS Tours, just the trips!


Colin Cartwheel 

04 07 2018