Motorcycling Europe In 1953. The Way It Was.

Told by his son through a family album, this the story of an Englishman, Geoffrey Gander, and of his friends going on a motorcycling holiday around Europe, in France, Germany, Austria, Italy & Switzerland. At the time, it was probably quite an adventurous trip to take. Enjoy all pictures…

“We think of old bikes as being unreliable, but my father and his friends were keen riders and engineers and completed the trip without much more than a puncture. The bikes that took part in the trip were: GAU 856 Brough Superior SS100 with fuel in the loop sidecar, AHC 650 Triumph Thunderbird. He bought this one on 22nd July 1950 for £219 16 9 and by the day they set off in July 53 it had done 24,900 miles. KBY 571 Sunbeam. VMM 871 Sunbeam. AHC 963 Triumph.

When we cross from England to France now we have a ferry or the tunnel. For this trip they choose to fly the bikes from Lympne Airport in Kent, UK over to Le Touquet, France. They were all smartly dressed bikers and whilst helmets were not required, a jacket and tie certainly was. The bikes were swiftly loaded at the English end, it took a while for the French to unload the bikes.

So what do you do just a few minutes into France as an Englishman… of course you brew tea whilst you wait. My Father stands on the right of this picture, clearly dressed for a motorcycle ride! Customs at Le Touquet, France.

A stop in Northern France for a smoke.

Ken gets a puncture in St Quentin, France.

A stop at Bar le Duc, France for essential supplies…

And shortly after a roadside stop for a picnic and another stop for a coffee in Saverne, France.

Entering Germany at Kehl and about 600-700 miles into the trip. My father was 18 when War was declared and having listened to the radio broadcast with his mother, had a cup of tea and then rode his motorcycle down to the recruiting office and signed up for the RAF. I assume that his friends were in the war and wonder what their banter was as they crossed into Germany.

A stop by Lake Constance, Germany, and the weather is looking excellent. About 800-900 miles into the trip.

Into Bavaria although I am not sure where, with the Bavarian Alps in the background and naturally they have brewed some tea.

They continued on via Steingaden, Garmisch and Walchen and on towards Austria. Then, crossing the border (below) into Austria at Ursprung

And on past Kufstein and into Kitzbuhel where they seem to have stayed for a few days walking in the mountains.

Then on the road from Kitzbuhel to Brock. The picture above was taken on the way to Bruck and is my personal favorite

Getting closer to Bruck and the scenery and weather look fantastic

They had to stop and pay to enter the Grossglockner Pass. This was a very well visited tourist road with over 90,000 vehicles using it in 1952. It has a beautiful selection of bends that must have been wonderful on the bikes. Soon after a stop for tea is required. The Tunnel at the top of the Grossglockner Pass. The road peaks at 6,400ft.

At the top of the Franz Joseph Glacier

Re entering Germany on the way to Salzburg in Austria

They stopped for a while in Salzburg and then took the Inn Valley to Rattenburg where the picture above was taken. If you have ever wondered if Germans really did walk about in leather shorts …. They must be about 1300 miles into the trip now.

After Rattenburg they head for Innsbruck and after that Steinach in Austria and then onto the Brenner Pass. The Brenner Pass is one of the principal passes of the Alps and will take them from Austria into Italy. It peaks at 4,500 ft

After the joys of the Brenner Pass they continued on to the Giovo Pass into Italy. The Giovo is very small and twisty and splendid on a bike, except when they did it the road was just dirt and gravel with no safety barriers. The traffic jam has been caused as two coaches have become stuck.

And then on over other spectacular roads and into Switzerland at Mustair, above.

Then onto Zernez and onto St Moritz with around 1,600 miles completed.

After St Moritz they head past Chur and Frick as they start to head westward and home. Then through Zurich and leave Switzerland at Basel. Then, a stop at Basel Customs

After the lovely twisty roads of the previous week, they are back onto the arrow straight French roads and it seems a bit cooler by the riding gear. It must have been tempting to open the bikes up on this straight.

And on to Langres for a stop. I have ridden some of the roads between Troyes and Basel and they are excellent, fast sweeping undulating roads.

And back to Le Touquet with over 2,000 miles covered

And the final picture in this album they have entitled “England in 20 Minutes” My father kept detailed logs for all his bikes and I still have most of them.”

The End.

17 Responses to “Motorcycling Europe In 1953. The Way It Was.”

  1. 1 luSca custom design Nov 16th, 2011 at 9:16 am

    very cool pics!

  2. 2 keith cole Nov 16th, 2011 at 9:21 am

    if you publish a book of these photos and logs,i would be interested .i am sure i’m not the only one

  3. 3 Iron Horse Nov 16th, 2011 at 9:25 am

    Looked like a very cool adventure. Somehow though, I don’t think that a 3 pice suit is ever going to catch on as ‘proper’ motorcycle attire…at least not in this country. I’ll bet that the trench coats that they were wearing in a few of the pics were quite the sight to see too, billowing out as the rode. All in all though, looks like a trip I’d like to take someday.

  4. 4 Marc Frantz Nov 16th, 2011 at 9:47 am


    Thank-you for sharing these great photos with us all. Boy, the world sure
    has changed since then!

    I see your ‘motorcycling pedigree’ goes back very far, and that you’ve
    inherited your father’s ‘two wheeled’ genes.

    Keith Cole is correct, in that if you publish a book of these adventures,
    you will have a wide audience of appreciators who will buy it.

    I’m glad we have you on this side of the pond.

    God Bless America & Cyril Huze!

    Kind Regards,

  5. 5 alfy Nov 16th, 2011 at 10:20 am

    Yes thank you for sharing this album – it is a time machine. Even in B & W, the countryside looked more beautiful then than today. May be it is the more natural look (fewer signs, cleanliness of the countryside, etc). This is not the first time I feel that way when looking at old pictures. I can’t be nostalgia -I was not even born then.

  6. 6 cafesportyTC Nov 16th, 2011 at 11:19 am

    very cool, very cool. was born too late in my opinion! those Split window VW beetles are worth a fortune these days…. sheesh. the Brough Superior was the most stylish out of the bunch in my humble opinion!

  7. 7 Manhattan Choppers Nov 16th, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    How cool is his Dad in that suit having tea by the plane! Pour me a spot ol chum..Now where did I put me damn crumpets…

  8. 8 fuji Nov 16th, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    How nice, No attitudes.

    Started riding a year after this photo was taken.

    How times have changed . No billet and surplus flashy bolt on’s just you and the bike.

    These were not the good ole days today is. Being able to talk about it simultaneously.

    It was much more pleasant back then, simpler. JC Whitney catalogs. LOL

    Nice memories but I wouldn’t go back.

  9. 9 Matthew Olsen Nov 16th, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    Thanks for posting. What a great collection of photos

  10. 10 Sportster Mike Nov 17th, 2011 at 2:51 am

    Great pics and bikes
    I remember seeing the planes at Hurn Airport on the south coast of England – being the poshest and quickest way to get over the channel at that time.
    Did I see that Brough and sidecar at the bike night on Poole Quay this year?

  11. 11 Leif Nov 17th, 2011 at 6:12 am

    Tour Europe on a Brough sidecar? Where do I sign up? What a trip!

  12. 12 Fausto Nov 17th, 2011 at 6:33 am

    Great pics, cool bikes.

    I consider yesterday and the day before that as the “good ole days“!

  13. 13 BlueStrada Nov 17th, 2011 at 8:10 am

    What a fantastic Tour… It would be fun to retrace the route taken….. but maybe on bikes that are just a couple of years newer… Easily done on mid-70’s Bimmers, Nortons and Triumphs…

    Thanks for sharing…

  14. 14 Greg Davis Nov 17th, 2011 at 8:15 am

    sign me up

  15. 15 Joe Nov 21st, 2011 at 9:10 am

    Awesome story, Cyril!

  16. 16 Brett Nov 22nd, 2011 at 7:48 am

    Thanks for the beautiful images. Always top quality stories in your site.l

  17. 17 Derrick Nov 23rd, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    I have been examinating out a few of your stories and i can state pretty good stuff. I will definitely bookmark your blog.

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Cyril Huze