Moto gatherings are part of the biker’s life.A different type of moto meeting is the Elefantentreffen, which takes place each year in the last week of January or the first week of February. If you wonder what’s with the name…well…it goes way back, when it all started. Initially the gathering was held in 1956 and organized by Ernst Leverkus and it was only for the owners of the side-car motorbikes Zündapp KS 601, which were also known as the “green elephants”.
Brief History of the event
First event took place on the Solituderennen circuit near Stuttgart. Over the years the event move around a little bit and also the it’s organizers changed. Currently the meeting takes place in Bavaria, in the valley between Thurmansbang and Solla and it’s held by the German Federal Bikers Associations.
In 2015 a seies of rules have been imposed, called Zurück für die Zukunft, in order to have an authentic experience, closer to the roots of this event. The participants are not allowed to have elaborate tents with complex heating systems, it is forbidden to bring the bike on a trailer, they have to ride it to the event and all the camping equipment must be transported on the bike.
Amongst the participants there was also a romanian rider, Iulian Laslau, who we contacted to find out more about this event.
First of all let’s find out who is Iulian Laslau, how did he became a biker and what motorcycle he rides?
I was born in Bacău in 13.04.1973, near what is today the central square. After the 1977 earth-quake, when everyting became unliveable there, the communist forced us to move to a working class neighborhood. My father was a free spirit and always tried to live a free life, which back than was hard to understand and it was also a problem. At that moment we was at his 7th motorcycle, a “IJ”, after MZ,CZ,BMW and others. So we could say that I had this passion for motorcycles since I opened my eyes first.
I’ve always had an inclination for mechanics, especially for engines which were built at the local airplanes factory. I was lucky to meet some great teachers like Popa Stefan Caruntu Viorel and Petrica Ichim that helped me understand all there was back than related to mechanics and engines.
I currently live in Italy and I ride a Honda NC 750X, waiting for the end of February to get my hands on a new Honda Africa Twin. I am the official photographer of a non-profit organization called “Simply Bikers Road”, an organization open to any project that wants to help the less fortunate ones. In the last 7 years we managed to give a helping hand to the people affected by the earthquakes in Italy, each year we go to the Mantova Hospital and give gifts to the children there, we offer support to the association of blind people in Mantova and of course we make different moto gatherings and trips. Our organization is also known in Germany. He have several friends there, that help us when we need. We usually are helped in these endeavours by the CASTELLUCCHIO,MANTOVA comune, AVIS(blood donors) and the Civil Guard.
When I first found out about this meeting, the first question that popped in my mind was: Why? What makes some people to leave their cozy homes on two wheels in the middle of the winter?” So, how did you decide to go to this meeting ?
ELEFANTENTREFFEN was 3 years ago a real challenge. It started when I heard a friend saying that he wanted to go to this event, and each time, in 30 years, something got in his way. So I said to myself:” If he is waiting for 30years, why should I wait when I can do it now?” And I decided to go to Elefantentreffen, without thinking to serious about the preparations…
What preparations did you make for the trip, in terms of the bike and also camping equipment?
First time that I went to this event, I started to panic the closer the leaving date approched.In the last day before I left, I read the a forum page about this meeting called Engenieri del Elefantentreffen, where I found out that this trip was not a joke and I have to be well prepared. So the next day I bought some hand guard winter protection and made myself some special leg protection for the wind.
What matters beside the motorcycle, which has to be in mint condition, is the logistic equipment that you bring. Beside all the technical gear,the rain suit, the gore-tex clothes, make sure you take an old-fashion wool pullover to keep you warm. Also a very handy upgrade were the wheel chains that I also made myself.
I saw that you live about 650km from the meeting point. How was the trip till the Elefantentreffen?
The road is each year different. You can have good conditions or really really bad ones like it was this year and also 2 years ago. You have to be carefull and always keep in mind to be safe. You can easily slide, fall or crash the bike. In my case it was a 1400km round trip without any incidents.
Once you arrived, what was the atmosphere there? What is happening at Elefantentreffen for 3 days?
At Elefantentreffen you will probably see what you never thought you will see, what you have never thought it could exist. It something indescribable. All sorts of work-arounds and improvisations, that for example in Italy won’t be allowed, actually would be illegal.
This year, my third time at Elefantentreffen, after I went also to other winter bike meetings like WinterBike 2017 and AgnelloTreffen 2017( close to the french border, which is a very spectacular meeting also and has become very popular), I had the same feeling that I had when I went there for the first time. Each year you see something different. And you also get a very strong freedom feeling and brotherhood. It is extraordinary, it doesn’t matter how you are, how many money you have, what’s your job, where are you from, everybody is the same, it really is an expression of an united Europe.
Usually at this kind of events you meet very interesting persons. I guess Elefantetreffen is an even richer event in this matter and probably the attendants are passionate above average about bikes. What kind of people did you meet ?
In the first year, next to my tent came 2 guys from Switzerland, one french and one german. They asked me if that was my country’s flag.(I had the Romanian flag on the tent). He had such a great time and they told me they visited Romania and were delighted.After some romanian plum brandy we were getting along even better 🙂
This year I met two other romanians that also live in Italy. I was very proud to see other romanians around, we made some jokes saying that “Romanians are everywhere”.
Would you recommend this event to others and why ?
Because it’s a winter gathering of bikers all around Europe. There you will see a true free and united Europe. No body cares about your nationality, religion, social status or financial. The first question that you get is “what bike do you ride?”. It’s like you know everybody for a life-time.
It is a moto-gathering that every biker from the 6% group ( the ones that ride all year long, no matter what are the weather conditions) craves to go once in his life time. It’s a challenge to get there. This year for example, the austrians closed the Brenero highway for motorbikes. It’s not a trip for the sunday riders or the pub/bar bikers, you have to be tough.
Another thing that might be interested for the ones that intend to go to this meeting is the cost. What can you tell us about the expenses for this event?
The expenses are each year almost the same. You have to make an investment in the camping logistic, gas, highway tolls, road vignette in Austria. Other expense, beside the accomodation till you reach Solla (this depends where are you coming from), is the entry fee, which is 25eur and it includes a garbage bag to clean up the place before you leave, a booklet with the event history, a patch, and little plate with the year on it that can be attached to the badge (which is sold separately for 8eur). There are also some souvenir stores where you could buy different stuff.
You will also need to buy at least one straws bait(5eur) to put it under your tent.(the ground is frozen). And also you will need some fire wood(5eur).
The event is very well organized with medical staff and police being around. There are also some bars inside the event camp and WCs.
Since this was your third presence at the event, I believe you could tell us some worthy advice. What should people do, what should they avoid, in order to have a great experience at this event?
I advice you to buy the best known thermal clothes, don’t forget the rain suit. Don’t forget that is still winter and daytime is very short. It’s better to sleep at a hotel and start fresh in the morning than arrive late in the evening at the event. If you arrive on daytime, it’s easier to spot a good place to install the tent. I advice you also to make gas refill in Austria, it’s cheaper than Italy or Germany.
The tent, the sleeping bags and the mattress should be good quality. Many people come with tents from Decathlon, winter tents which are not indicated because you have to put an isolation wrap around it, that you have no ventilation…a good 4 season tent is more expensive but it’s recommended. I usually use a 4 season tent that can resist up to -21 C degrees. Also I advice you to buy those heating bags or patches, during the night it gets very very cold and those patches could help
Another conclusion that I reached, is that , after so many preparations, you have to stay at the event at least 2 days. It doesn’t worth it to go there for only one night.