Every first weekend in September, around 50k bike fans head to Leonberg just outside Stuttgart in South West Germany to the site of the famous Solitude race track – the venue for the German GP until the mid 1960s. For three days each year, this scenic forest setting becomes the centre of the Euro custom bike scene and an 1/8th mile cafe racer sprint track.
The event’s the Glemseck 101 International Café Racer Sprint. It’s Germany’s largest outdoor bike event and if you've never been, you don't know what you're missing.
The Solitude Race Circuit and surrounding area is steeped in both car and bike racing history. The former 14 mile circuit hosted motorcycle races from the early 1900s and in the early 60s, all the leading British bike racers of the day raced there - like Surtees, Duke, and Hailwood. Major races attracted crazily large crowds. A reputed half million spectators watched Geoff Duke win the German 500 GP on a Gilera four in the early 60s.
Named after Hotel Glemseck adjacent to the circuit’s start / finish line this setting, with its rich history of the Solitudering, gives the Glemseck 101 a strong “spirit” and racing identity which to this day, continues to play a major part in its growth and development.
Strolling up the hill from the Glemseck Hotel
First held in 2006, the Glemseck 101’s co-founder Jorge Litzenberger and his team have grown it steadily to the point where it’s now Europe’s premier café racer sprint. Partnered and supported by the City of Leonberg in co-operation with Hotel Glemseck and MO, the German motorcycle publication and media partner, the 101 has become a mecca for Europe’s finest bike builders and custom shops.
The Glemseck Magic
We’ve been 'Glemsecking' since 2013 and like all the other fans love its unique atmosphere. It’s laid back, friendly and relaxed. So, what makes it so special? Well for starters, the setting’s great surrounded by beautiful mature forests, entry’s free, and there’s plenty camping space. Then there’s the huge variety of stunning bikes and manufacturers stands to visit. Throw in non stop live entertainment, a busy trading area, a mile long paddock and an international “village” of custom “garages” and there’s really nothing not to like. Oh - and there’s two days of 1/8th mile sprint racing to dip in and out of – which we’ll come to later.
The weekend has become a huge meeting place for Euro bike heads to meet up with friends each year and share their common passion. It’s about having fun. Everyone seems to enjoy the visual melting pot of people and bike styles.
Individualism is celebrated and reflected in the sheer variety of custom bike styles on view. It’s also great to see so many people deriving such obvious enjoyment from looking and talking about them.
Porcupines welcome! BMW R100RS - plus some other "stuff."
It’s this passion for “all things motorcycling” that’s so palpably embedded in the Spirit of the 101 which makes it so special. It’s a mix of the bikes – and the people. It’s a great “people watch” event too with some real characters – plenty of “free renegade spirits” in evidence, normally with a more punky, mad max / rat build in tow. In addition to the huge range of custom bikes, many of the major manufacturers also have trade stands including Triumph, BMW, Moto Guzzi, Suzuki and Indian.
The Custom Scene
The variety of custom bikes on display is insane. Being one-off “built not bought” machines, these unique builds reflect the individualism that’s so important to their respective owners. The range of machines represent all genres of the Euro aesthetic: brat, streetfighter, café racer, bobber – with an occasional nod in the direction of “rat” / punk / “mad max” thrown in. At the lower end, there are custom machines built by keen amateurs and at the other polar extreme, nitrous oxide fuelled and supercharged pro sprint bikes built by some of Europe’s foremost bike builders.
Custom sprint bike - ready to roll
The display of some of the café racers ridden to the event from all over Europe is also tremendous: from British Thruxtons, Tritons, BSAs to magnificent Moto Guzzis, MVs and Laverdas. For “ton up” and café racer fans, it’s nirvana!
Norvin cafe - Vincent V-twin, Norton frame
The Glemseck 101 attracts the real “movers and shakers” of the Euro custom bike building market. Many have several bikes on display and some will have their own builds to enter the sprint races. The list of past attendees reads like a “who’s who” of the bike custom world - builders like FCR Original, Lucky Cat Garage, and Blitz Motorcycles (France), Radical Guzzi, Mellow Motorcycles, JvB Moto, Edelweiss Customs and Schlachtwerk, (Germany), Milano Café Racers (Italy), XTR Pepo, El Solitario, Ad Hoc Café Racers, and Valtoron (Spain) Wrenchmonkees (Denmark) and Young Guns Speed Shop, and VTR Customs (Switzerland). The list of top European builders just goes on.
Also at the heart of the weekend’s events is a two day series of 1/8th mile “shoot-out” sprints in front of the grandstand on the Solitude’s start / finish straight. Different classes of bikes compete against each other – from extreme rat mopeds (ratpeds?) to BM Boxer twins - in a knockout contest. It’s all held in good spirit and the order of the day is “old school:” hay bales separating the lanes and a jumping chequered flag woman to start each sprint.
Start lights not required when there's a jumpin' chequered flag starter
Over the years, the sprint has started to attract some big names from the World Superbike, 500 GP and “real road racing” world as guest riders. Past WSBK champions Carl Fogarty and Troy Corser have participated and GP legends Mick Doohan, Kevin Schwantz, Randy Mamola and Freddie Spencer have all strutted their stuff on the 1/8th mile. We’ve taken over Guy Martin and Conor Cummins from the road racing world on several occasions and BSB rider Taylor Mackenzie made a recent appearance. There’s been a good show from female racers as well – with Maria Costello, Nina Prince and Katya Poensgen all having competed.
Emulsion method tea drinker - ready to drop the clutch (aka Guy Martin)
The Glemseck’s also part of the four round “Sultans of Sprint” European sprint / drag race series for twin cylinder custom bikes. The other three rounds are held in France (Montlhery Café Racer Sprint), Italy (Monza Reunion) and Belgium (Spa Francorchamps). Individual venues can alter - Intermot, for example has also been on the Sultan's list of sprint circuits.
The Sultans - not of Oman but "of Sprint" - chillin' and bike gazin'
Entrants are from all over and the standard of bikes and the competition has become very high over recent years. In the “freak” class, points are awarded not only for performance/speed – but “personality, style and originality.” This provides some insight into why some of these machines can look pretty extreme! – as does the names of individual bikes themselves: “Nosferatu,” “Frankenstein,” and “Hercules." The freak bikes have to be four strokes up to 1600cc and many are supercharged, turbo charged or nitrous oxide injected for added “warp” power.
Mig 15 or sprint bike? Indian 1200 ridden by Randy Mamola
The factory class bikes are inevitably more conventional and the “personality” aka visual “madness factor,” does not apply. The class tends to be populated with various 1200s – Triumph Thruxtons and bobbers, BMW 1200s and Indian Scout 1200s.
The Sultans Sprint races is another reason why we’re so keen to get back over to the Glemseck. About two years ago we acquired our own sprint machine – the Mellow Motorcycles built 2017 Sultans winner – FRANKenstein. It’s a 1000cc nitrous oxide Ducati / Honda and we want to run it at the Glemseck, possibly some of the other sprints as well. Watch this space.
"Frankenstein" - 1000cc nitrous oxide Ducati, CB750 frame.
Organisers and fans have missed the annual Glemseck fix over the past two years but the 101 will be ready to roar back into action with additional nitrous oxide in September 2022. See you there.
📸. Jeroen De Plancke