Saturday, April 1st, 2023

As I have said before, the “Season Opener” event for the Prague HOG traditionally takes place on the first Saturday in April. In a joint exercise between Prague HOG and the Harley-Davidson Club of Prague (HDCP), we ride what is a comparatively short distance of about thirty five kilometres between Prague and the spa town of Poděbrady which lies to the north-east.

In 2022, as I recorded on these pages, what I will call a “difference of opinion” between the Police chief of Nymburk (the chief town in the District) and the Directors of the two Harley groups over paying for the policing led to the event being prohibited. There was no parade as such and us HOG members made an “unofficial” trek there on the first Sunday in April. No crowds, no fair, no fuss – but at least we did it !

To say that the cancellation of the event in 2022 went down well in Poděbrady would be totally inaccurate. It is hard to verify, but there are rumoured to have been scores, if not hundreds, of complaints, letters to the press and so on. Suffice it to say that the powers that be, particularly the elected ones, decided to re-instate the event – and, more importantly, to fund the required policing.

It was on and, for what was the 25th time, the ride would take place !

Mother nature decided to play, at least partial, ball and, although it was not exactly warm, it was not desperately cold either as the two clubs gathered at the Výstaviště exhibition grounds in northern Prague. As always, we were all asked to keep this location a bit quiet, to prevent too many unaffiliated “hangers-on” getting an early chance to join the throng. I do not quite understand that myself as anyone who knew the date would only need to station themselves in the city and look out (or listen out !!) for passing Harleys – and then follow them ……

Lucie and I went there, greeted a few old friends we had not seen for a while and joined the line. There was quite a good turnout and an impressive (considering it was free) Police escort. I thought there was an unusual number of Police motorcyclists and there was – for reasons to be revealed later.

Off we went, quite an impressive showing in our two long lines. As is the practice, the Police led the way.

As usual, thanks to our “official” escort, we rode smoothly through the city without ever needing to stop.

We came to the countryside. The Spring was a little late in coming and the trees that line the road were a bit bare and grey. Although the fields were also a bit drabber than normal. It was still a pleasant ride.

This year we were directly behind one of our Prague HOG friends who is a very competent rider – so I did not have to worry about him doing something unexpected. He also had a nice big, bright, brake light, so I could at least tell when he was braking, unlike tiny rear light of the “veteran” I had followed in 2022. Once we got out on more rural roads, the crowds were back. Despite the chilliness of the morning and the fact it had now rained a bit, there were many hundreds of people all along the route waving and snapping away with their camera and ‘phones. In some places, tables had even been laid out and the onlookers were actively partying in the typical Czech way (drinking beer !)

For some reason, our passage seems to appeal to people of all ages and persuasions. There is one place, for instance where a group of military enthusiasts always greet us with salutes and their beautifully restored hardware.

As Lucie also pointed out, the onlookers also include people that wish they could still ride on the highway ……

……….. and those who cannot wait to exchange their tricycles for the “real” thing !

There were, as ever, a large number of riders from other marques waiting in the side roads to join the end of the line. Our trusty, orange clad marshals, the “vestáci” skilfully blocked them off until we had all gone past !

I love the fact that even a moped club regularly join in the festivities and, sure enough, right on the outskirts of Poděbrady itself, there they all were, waiting on a garage forecourt. I know this made me smile !

On the outskirts of Poděbrady, the column really slowed – which was quite unusual. I did not have to stop, but I did give it serious consideration a few times. Luckily our Softail is really easy to balance at low speed. I could not discern the reason, we were too far back, but eventually we sped up again and, soon after, entered the town. There were large crowds and a lot of tooting and waving. On this occasion, there was no chance to see the Labe river (which Google Maps ™ still insists is called the Elbe), as we crossed the bridge.

We rode through the town, manoeuvred into the colonnade and parked up.

As a slight departure from the norm, ONLY Harleys were allowed into the colonnade area. The others had to park elsewhere. It was still crowded with bikes that encompassed the endless variety of styles that you always get at a Harley event.

As usual there were stalls lining the colonnade. We did consider re-visiting the “robot cafe”, but were swayed by a stall selling spit-roasted ham, instead. DELICIOUS !

While we were eating, the reason for the numbers of police became clear. I have mentioned elsewhere that, in early 2023, the Czech Republic (sorry guys, I cannot call it Czechia) elected a new President. This was General Petr Pavel who, prior to his election was often seen at various Harley charity events on a BMW !!) but who also participated in a Prague Harley days parade on a Harley-Davidson. Our new “Prez” had, apparently, joined the parade at some point on his own bike and was now in the crowd shaking hands and posing for selfies. He did, in all honesty, have a couple of slightly nervous looking security guys close-by but he was surrounded by affection. Cynical old me had, I admit, thought his earlier appearances might be a bit of a PR stunt, despite how approachable he is. But he has the job now and nobody made him come out on a wet-morning ! More power to your throttle-hand, Mr President !

Also, I suppose, it was “In your face !, Nymburk police Chief !” This was approval for the event at the highest possible level.

Like she always does, Lucie bought some disgusting sweets from a stall. I sometimes think that is the only reason she actually comes. There was a bit of a party starting. Our Director, Kamil, made a short speech (of which I understood not a word !) and then one of our members, who has a band, began to pump out some rock.

Those of us, Lucie and I included, who mainly came just for the ride, began to wend our way through the crowd to ride home.

It always seems strange riding back. It seems a lot shorter journey and remembering that I have to, once again, obey things like traffic lights also seems odd. We made it without incident, or speeding ticket !

The key thing is, the riding season has started in earnest.

See the video here: