The British Invasion of Leakey, Texas.

By Daniel Peirce
4-29-12

Three British bike clubs combine to tame the Three Twisted Sisters.

Texas is notorious for its long, flat and mind-numbingly straight highways. But Texas is a big state and if you know where to find them there plenty of challenging roads to be ridden.

Any discussion about the best roads in Texas invariably includes talk of highways 335, 336 and 337. These highways, located west of San Antonio, are affectionately known as the Three Twisted Sisters. And they get their twisted personalities from having to climb the peaks and valleys of the Frio Canyon, deep in the Texas Hill Country.

Click on photo to enlarge.
Steve Ledbetter on his MKIII Commando                                      Richard Asprey on his Norton Atlas         
    

An annual Hill Country ride has been a popular tradition for members of the North Texas Norton Owners Association (NTNOA). Every year a dozen or so members met in Leakey, Texas for three days of testing their bikes and their riding skills on the Sisters. Leakey has become the de facto hub of the three highways even though a ride through the entire town only takes thirty seconds.

However, this year saw perhaps the birth of a new tradition. Months before the annual Hill Country ride, Richard Asprey, Social Chairman for the NTNOA, decided to share the love. He invited another British bike club out of the Houston area to join in the ride. The British Motorcycle Owners Association (BMOA) also had a tradition of riding the Hill Country. They were immediately open to the idea of a combined British bike ride and a date was set.

Shortly afterward Richard asked the Lone Star Vincent Owners Club (Lone Star VOC) if theyíd like to participate as well. With the Vincent group along with the two other larger clubs this would be a major gathering of British motorbikes in Texas. What once was a group of 10 to 20 participants now hosted over 100. As a private invitational event the ride wasnít promoted to the public. Only the owners of the several hotels in the area knew they were coming.

The Three Presidents
Left to right; Chris Parry, NTNOA President, Jack Updyke, BMOA President, Bev Bowen, Lone Star VOC President
Click on photo to enlarge.

The rideís dates were April 13 through 15. The NTNOA set up headquarters at the DíRose Inn and Cabins in Leakey. The DíRose Inn is unique because it only caters to folks with two wheeled vehicles. Donít go there with a car unless you have a bike on a trailer hitched to it. The DíRose has been cited by several Texas travel magazines as being the number one place for bikers in the state. However, youíll find the entire Frio Canyon area to be motorcycle friendly.

Click on photo to enlarge.  The D'Rose Inn & Cabins
    

The Lone Star Vincent folks also stayed in Leakey at the Rio Frio Pecan Farm on the Frio River. Their membership brought a dozen running Vincents to exercise for the weekend. The BMOA stationed their troops to the south in the town of Concan at Nealís Lodges. An Ariel Red Hunter, a New Imperial, some BSA and a Matchless were among the jewels that the BMOA showed off.

View from Neal's Lodges in Concan.

Friday was the first official ride day and the riders woke up to a foggy and drizzly morning. Being British, most of the bikes where used to such weather. But the idea of tackling technically challenging wet roads on old British iron was less than appealing to many of the riders. Luckily, by noon the sky started to clear and the bikes were off.

The ride is an unsanctioned and unstructured casual event. Locations and meet-up times are suggested, but everyone is free to go and do as they please. And they did. Newcomers were compelled to ride the loop of the Three Twisted Sisters so they could buy the ďI rode three twisted sisters,Ē tee shirt that the Frio Canyon Motorcycle Stop sells, while the veterans of the ride sought out new back-roads to explore.

At the end of Friday the entire combined group met in Concan so the BMOA could host a dinner of traditional Texas BBQ of brisket and ribs. Their dinner spot had a grand view overlooking the Frio River Canyon. It provided a view that showed just how wild and primitive the valley still is.

With more British weather the following Saturday morning the riders were once again waiting to see some blue sky. A noon ride to Vanderpool and the Lone Star Motorcycle Museum was in some doubt. But these guys came to ride and the heartier soles werenít going to let a little sogginess keep them from it. They were off with some pretty valuable machines taking to the road. Itís rare see a Vincent Black Shadow in the wild. Itís even more rare to see one riding the twisties in the rain.

As the weatherman predicted, around 1:00 the clouds parted and the rest of the day was warm and fair. That evening was the grand finally at the DíRose Inn as the NTNOA hosted another dinner for the clubs. This time the offering featured 1-2 lb prime beef Cowboy rib eyes. Add to that plenty of complimentary beverages and it was impossible to find a disappointed face in the crowd.

Click on photo to enlarge.

On any given weekend modern V-twins and sport bikes dominate the Leakey area. To visitors and residents alike the spectacle of so many vintage Brit-bikes roaring around among them was a head scratcher. Locals told the group that they were literally the talk of the town.

The T-shirt designed by Alton Gillespie for the event.

In the end, all were in agreement that although each club held their own rallies during the year, this combined private gathering was something special. Plenty of great British bikes, plenty to do, and plenty of like-minded folks to do it with. It looks like Richardís idea has become an instant tradition.

                                Click on photos to enlarge.                                              Mike Vance tuning his T140
    


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