Boxing Day Run 2007
This Boxing Day is cold and dry. The run starts with about 30 motorcycles assembled in front of Agate House, the Leonard Cheshire Home in Ampthill. The staff offer us hot drinks, some of the residents watch, the collection box fills up, George hands out the route cards and various members of the public wander over to see what's happening. I take the camera and participate in the social part of the event.
As as aside, if you see something which interests you, photograph it while you can. Modern digital cameras can hold a large number of graphics and if you leave taking the photographs "until later" you may find that you and your subject are no longer in the same place. This is why there are no pictures of the interesting-looking plunger BSA twin although I did manage the "cow's udder" Norton silencer (see below).
The staff take some group photos and then we are off. George's route card presented me with only one problem - more of that later - but there were a few who I suspect may have been more challenged as they passed me several times without me passing them. The route itself had plenty of minor roads, some with what looked like grass starting to grow in the middle, and none of the boring lengths of main road which I find so tedious.
Bluegates Farm was the point at which I decided I knew better than the route card and I turned right one turning too soon - only to be recalled by George before I got more than 20 yards adrift.
Another fine feature of the route was the ford. With my old trials Ariel suitably shod and with the magneto embalmed in plasticene a biggish splash was inevitable. I was told that "you went through that a bit quick" for my efforts. What I should have done was unship the camera and wait. Those who went through a bit slower gave the water a chance to penetrate where it's not wanted and there could have been some interesting pictures of fellow VMCC members emerging from the waters, or not.
The finish is a new venue and seems most accomodating. My only concern is the shingle surface of the car-park. I felt happer with the Ariel leaning against a fence rather than wobbling on its rear stand. I was told that with together with the proceeds from the December clubnight raffle there was something like £400 was raised for Agate House.
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A general view. The sun was low over the building to the left. If I moved round one way I got the sun and the other my shadow and either way gave a not very suitable background. Cropping the tree and the grass foreground and pulling in on the Brough just enphasises that the background wasn't very suitable here either.
I like Ariels - this one a 1955 350 single; crooped to remove the rear of Rod's "That was a bit quick" later 350 Ariel it would look more professional. Why do so many people leave their crash (safety) helmets perched on the bike? As part of their basic training, new motorcyclists are told to put their gloves on the ground, palm up and put the helmet on the gloves.
Another picture of the Ariel, this time with the interesting BSA in the rear.
A nice detail of the afore-mentioned Norton "cow's udder" silencer.
Not so clever picture of the complete bike and more crash helmets. The adjacent bikes are too close to avoid having them in the shot and as for Santa's sledge . . .
A nice line-up of bikes at the finish. It would be better if it didn't contain half a rider on the left and three-quarters of an Enfield on the right.
Roger's very tidy BSA 350, surrounded by a clutter of other bikes. Because Roger's bike is so clearly defined I don't think the clutter is nearly so obtrusive as it is in the picture of the Norton. The helmet is on the seat of the Velocette behind.
Gravel surface with some old bikes in the background.
A very original-looking 250 BSA partly concealed by woodwork. I should have asked the owner to move it.
Riding the 2007 Pioneer Run
A few litres (pints, surely?) of unleaded in the petrol tank, some straight 40 in the oil compartment, and a teaspoonful of 3-in-1 in the hub clutch; degrease the engine and slop a bit of soapy water around the place and the Triumph is just about ready for the 69th (and my 4th) Pioneer Run. Or at least it would be if I could work out how to fit this new front brake cable through the long, curved handlebars! After two hours, much cussing and some minor blood-loss I resign myself to running with just the rear brake - it's the only one that really does anything anyway but it would have been nice to have it in reserve going down Reigate Hill.
Being well down the start list this year (312 out of 363) gave us (Roger King and me) a start time of 9.28am but by 9.15 they seem to be short on riders so we get briskly ushered to the start line. The flag goes down, revs rise, frames shake and primitive clutches squeal and shudder as the bikes strain to pull away from a standstill and escape the enveloping smoke screen that seems to have blocked out the daylight. A rather attractive young policewoman holds back the Epsom Downs Sunday morning traffic as I struggle to twist the various ignition timing, air and petrol levers into their rightful positions to settle into a nice steady pop, pop, pop out on the road. My whole body gives a massive sigh of relief - pulling away on a single speeder is a totally unnatural and unnerving experience but I've managed to do it without stalling in front of the appreciative crowd (those extra few drops of 3-in-1 in the clutch weren't wasted after all).
If you've never ridden a veteran single-speeder then try to imagine pulling away on a bike stuck in top gear with a semi-knackered clutch, giving about as much feel as an on-off light switch. Bear in mind that you're doing this with your right foot whilst your right hand is trying to convince the air and petrol levers to keep the engine from revving its 94-year nuts off but without stalling, and at the same time your left hand is attempting to edge the ignition timing ahead a smidgen. Oh, and I hope you remembered to give the engine a good shot of oil before you set off!
As for the poor sods with no clutch at all, I can only wonder in total amazement how they get going at all paddling away or using the rather risky run-and-jump method. Better men (and women) than me, that's all I can say!
Just a couple of miles into the run and we hit the traffic queue we'd been warned about for some roadworks. Roll back the air and petrol, retard the ignition a bit and head slowly down the outside of the line of cars - well, as slowly as the one gear will allow. One foot on the rear brake and the other trying to slip the clutch a bit - makes you realise why we were designed with four limbs (a couple more would help). A couple of bucket-loads of nervous energy expended and we finally make it to the traffic lights, through the roadworks and out onto the dual carriageway - phew! Time to relax a little - but don't forget to give the engine another shot of oil. Feeling smug as I sneak pass the various expired machines littering the pavements and verges (fingers tightly crossed in my gloves that I don't join them!). No Triumphs amongst them , of course (ahem).
Life is a lot sweeter once past Crawley and away from the A23 onto some quieter roads. This is really what it's all about - the motor purring away sweetly (OK, clattering like crazy), a lot less traffic but a veritable throng of happy souls lining the lay-bys and pub car-parks just to watch us go merrily by (oh, and to show off whatever they've brung along themselves - if only I had shares in Solvol Autosol). A welcome stop for coffee at the Leonardslee Garden Centre but, disaster, they've already run out of cake! Make a note - must get an earlier start time next year.
About six or seven miles from Brighton seafront our route leaves the relative solitude of the backroads and thrusts us into the melee of three lanes of slow-moving traffic (but still faster than us) all heading for the coast. The initial congestion eases a little for a while before the final four miles of roundabouts, queues and traffic-lights to take us right through the centre of Brighton towards the coast. Naughty, maybe, but sneaking down the edge of the bus lane past the seemingly endless queue of cars makes everything an awful lot easier for an old bike and a merely semi-competent rider. Finally, with both bike and rider starting to get stressed by the modern-day traffic conditions, unknown in the bike's heyday, the sight of Madeira Drive and the choppy sea bring welcome relief - the end is nigh. Hard work - but someone has to do it.
And I still haven't worked out how to fit that front brake cable!
Richard Mummery and the 1913 Wilkinson - majestic.
A lonely Douggie.
Barry Clarke and passenger in 1914 AC Sociable.
A 1913 Ariel - just because I like Ariels.
1897 De Dion Bouton 2 - with what looks like a Wall Auto-Wheel behind.
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