Barton Bike Night – Saturday 14th July

Nothing at all to do with cyclemotoring or LEJOG except in the sense that any sort of powered two-wheeler is welcome and it was the latest bike event I attended. It seemed a funny way to celebrate Bastille Day but according to reports 20000 bikes attended in the afternoon and evening last year (when, of course it wouldn’t have been on 14th July).

I went on Aardvark, an old man’s folly, the Moto Guzzi Nevada. From here, once you ride out of Doncaster, the route through North Lincolnshire is largely rural and, if you avoid the motorways, offers some interesting roads.

When I was planning the excursion I read Francis Pryor’s The Making of the British Landscape (2010) which said that 2263 deserted medieval villages had been recorded. Gainsthorpe, one such, is located just off the old Roman Ermine Street (A15) south-west of Barton on Humber and I decided to make that my first stop. To be honest, to the untrained eye the site of the village looks like a rather lumpy field.

It was apparently the first deserted village in Britain to be photographed from the air in the 1920s and I imagine an aerial view in a setting sun would reveal rather more than the brief stroll I undertook.

Barton Bike Night really does what it says on the tin, there are an awful lot of bikes in Barton, except that unofficially it starts after lunch. The townspeople are exceedingly welcoming. Crowds are sitting outside their houses waving as you ride in and the church halls are open offering tea, cakes and a place to leave helmet and riding gear at very reasonable prices. If you are looking to feel that badass outlaw vibe you probably need to go elsewhere. Any other sort of biker seemed to be made very welcome.

There were a smattering of the type of machine this blog is generally concerned with.

A very nicely presented Excelsior Consort:

An unusual Honda Stream (the little Yamaha in the background was in very good condition):

And this, whatever it is, which was attracting loads of interest and had bags of attitude:

The only thing about riding through an arable landscape in the evening sun is the amount of flying insects about. The Aardvark was covered in streaks, smears and unnameable winged remains by the time we got home. Fly paper might be a better name for it.

The time limit on the donation site (https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/raleighrudginit) is nearly up and I was very pleasantly surprised to be notified of a very generous donation from Pat and Paul, two regulars at the Sars Poteries gatherings.

The Rudge is still in pieces, albeit rather larger pieces and I think I now have all the evidence available to try and retain the registration number on the Royal Enfield Mini Motor I bought while on LEJOG. All things are moving slowly in the Great Heat.

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Martin Squires

Martin sat and did a pen and ink drawing of the Rudge at Stafford and it has appeared in Classic Bike in Martin’s regular column. It’s a lovely portrait of the old bike and a very nice write up and I’m touched.

The magazines devoted to old bikes, both professional and club fanzines, take a bit of a barrage of criticism at times but those that have given notice to the ride have all been very supportive of the Rudge’s LEJOG.

To be fair The Barnsley Chronicle too were more than kind about the excursion although as a fully paid-up slacker I was a little embarrassed by the headline. It’s not really dedication to do something you enjoy is it? Ah the fatal attraction of alliteration for the headline writer:

Nothing much else to report at the moment but the Rudge is coming back together slowly after its post-LEJOG refresh. More on this later.

NACC Coast to Coast 23rd – 24th June

We received a cash donation last week to Alzheimer’s Research UK taking the donation page total to just under £2200 – thanks very much Kenneth. https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/raleighrudginit

Latest small bike event was the NACC’s Coast to Coast from Crimdon Dene just north of Hartlepool on the North Sea to Whitehaven on the Irish Sea over two days, about 70 miles each day. Ian McGregor asked me at Randos Cyclos three weeks ago if I would help this year as the usual organiser, David Casper was unable to attend. It was four years since I had done the ride and more than twenty since I laid out the route so I was very happy to agree.

Ian arrived early at the start point and set up the signing on table and tea bar. Eventually 25 bikes and riders were enrolled and the 20th NACC Coast to Coast was underway.

The most common bike was the ‘Step-thru’ design with both Honda and Yamaha variants present in 50, 75, 80 and 90cc sizes. One of the Yamahas was an earlier two-stroke design which is less often seen.

There were also some more traditional NACC machines with a couple of 60s sports mopeds, a Beta and a Bianchi, two autocycles, a much modified James and a Francis Barnett Powerbike, various brands of moped including a couple of NSU Quicklies, a three speed Puch, a Zundapp and a Mobylette. There were also some more recent 50cc machines including a Yamaha FS1E (with a YB100 engine in it), a Honda SS50, a Yamaha trail 50 (ridden by Ali, one of only two women riders) and a Fantic.

Finally but certainly not least there were a group of more modern mopeds including a couple of the Yamaha shaft drive models, a Peugeot 104, a Honda Camino and a ‘Step-thru’ Honda LAC which looks like its geared siblings but is actually a true automatic moped.

Slightly confusingly the Japanese moped standing in front of the French one is wearing the onions. (And why has the French bicycle mounted onion seller become such a part of English popular consciousness? I can just remember my father trying to practise his night-school French with one more than half a century ago.) All the first three bike were French registered.

There were no cyclemotors this year. It is, particularly in bad weather, a hard run for a powered bicycle as I can attest from my own crossing on the Rudge in 2013.

The route goes through the old Durham coalfield villages into the more agricultural westrn part of the county and up over the moorland to Alston, the highest market town in England. This final section from Middleton in Teesdale has a wild beauty viewed from a steadily climbing road. The pub at High Force is one of the regular stops.

The second day climbs the Hartside Bank from East to West. We usually stop for a cup of tea at the Cafe but sadly it has burnt down. The view from the top is wonderful as the Lake Distict is laid out in front of you and to the North you can see the Solway Firth and the south Scottish coast.

After the run down to Penrith the route takes a northerly traverse of the Lake District via the Sun Inn at Bassenthwaite to Cockermouth and then south-west to its finish at Whitehaven. My favourite section on the second day is from the turning to Heskett Newmarket to the pub at Bassenthwaite with the Northern Lake District hills including Skidaw looming over your left shoulder as you climb Caldbeck Common. There was little ‘looming’ this year as the weather was superb both days.

There was very little mechanical trouble although the little grey Mobylette, on its eighth Coast to Coast, was off colour and the three-gear Puch valiantly struggled up the steeper inclines in its very low bottom gear.

And my ride? Well with 79cc and four gears I felt like I was cheating. On my first route-mapping ride in 1996, on a Honda XBR500 that I had at the time, I came back over the Hardknott and Wrynose Passes.

Isn’t time unkind?

In 2014 I did the same on my Honda 90 so I felt it was the Yamaha Townmate’s turn. No skill is required: you sit while it slowly winds its way up in first and then gingerly hold the brakes as it winds its way down. Hardknott is the steeper of the two and the little Yamaha did itself proud by climbing the straighter and less steep Wrynose mostly in second gear.

Arkwright’s Fowl and I did 411 miles in the three days – all credit to the bike not the rider.

Randos Cyclos at Sars Poteries, near Avesne sur Helpe, France

This was our latest bike related trip, the 27th Randos Cyclos in northern France. There are a band of NACC members who go every year and have been doing so for most of the event’s history. John Redding, the discoverer of the Sars Poteries gathering as far as British participants are concerned, has attended 26 times. The ride attracts entrants from France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Britain every year. There have also been riders from Switzerland and this year the organisers were pleased to welcome a rider from Germany, the first for some 15 years. It’s a very convivial event held in a very French way with an autojumble at the sign on, a meal in the Sal des Fêtes, a ride to a halfway point, a drink in a cafe and, after the return, dessert, a prize giving, speeches (translated for Anglophones) and the result of the raffle. The raffle is always for an old moped and the winner is expected to bring the bike back restored to a future Randos Cyclos. This year a bike won in 1993 returned for the first time so there may be something of a backlog. The atmosphere between the different nation represented is always very friendly and for the enthusiast there is a chance to see machines that are not present in the UK. The countryside around Avesne is bocage (basically meadows) with quite a number of woods. It’s fairly quiet and the riding is excellent for these small capacity machines. If you have never been and would like to try it an email to: randocyclo.sars@gmail.com will put you on their mailing list for next year. The run is on Sunday 2nd June 2019.

The signing on and autojumble. Over 100 machines participated in event.

‘Le Sauvage’ an unusual cyclemotor. We liked the engine guard with ‘visor’ like a medieval knight’s jousting helmet.

Ian McGregor’s Vap 4. One of the few true cyclemotors to complete the run in 2018.

Simplicity in miniature with all the bits in the right place (unlike so many cyclemotors) and no, I have no idea what it is.

The drinks break in a very French square.

Beautifully presented sports mopeds are a feature of the event.

Other news more related to LEJOG: The Rudge is still in bits while its cycleparts are serviced. The Sturmey Archer gear hub has been returned to Peter Williamson for his ministrations. (petermwilliamson@yahoo.co.uk). New tyres await fitting and its LEJOG accessories have been removed and its period fittings re-attached. I am going to check the engine over too.

The ‘new’ Royal Enfield Mini Motor bought during the trip is in the process of trying to recover its old registration number. This is not straight forward but help has been received from Worcestershire Archives, the Cycle Museum at Llandrindod Wells, the vendor and a local auction house. It may not be possible to prove the provenance to the satisfaction of the DVLA in which case an age related number will be issued. That would be a pity for a machine in such original condition.

The machine is an almost exact contemporary of the Rudge. The bicycle is from 1948 – 1949 and the engine was registered in October 1951. The difference being that this has been an item since the latter date while the April 1952 registered motor on the Rudge was fitted in 2011.

Another £40 has been received for Alzheimer’s Research UK since the last post. (https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/raleighrudginit) Visitor numbers to the blog had fallen as expected but suddenly rose again last week to the level of the week after LEJOG was finished. The mydonate site is open until 9th August so it seems worth keeping the blog ‘live’ with occasional posts of loosely relevant material until that time.

A lovely 1934 French-owned Morgan seen on the Baie de Somme en route to Biarritz

A rather less lovely Simpson SR50 demonstrating the East German state’s flair for flowing lines and swooping curves – nevertheless interesting, beautifully restored and exploring the Baie de Somme two-up!

Finally a BSA B31 engined custom bike. Not one for the purist but well executed and very suitable for exploring the Peak District where it was photographed outside the Old Smithie Cafe in Monyash.

Post script 2

When I was staying in Worcester (Day 6) after I’d had a chat with my landlady, written the blog, missed the food service in the pub and dined magnificently on olives, crisps and nuts, I was idly flipping through my phone when I realised that a bike for sale that I had been watching was actually located in the town. A message or two later and I had an appointment to view before I headed for Ironbridge.

There was, of course, a perfectly logical reason why I was interrupting an attempt to ride a Mini Motor powered bicycle to John o’ Groats in order to consider buying another bicycle with a pretty much identical Mini Motor attached.

When you reach the age I am at now it becomes obvious that things are not going to continue as they are forever. So in my garage loft there is a ‘step through’ frame (formerly referred to as a ‘ladies’ frame) which was awaiting rebuilding with a motor for the time when I can no longer mount a bicycle with a crossbar (notice how I cleverly avoided the phrase ‘leg-over’). However, although the fact that I had united the engine and bicycle on the Rudge gave me a freer hand in peparing for LEJOG, the idea of owning a machine that had actually been used as a cyclemotor at the time appealed. You are following this aren’t you? There is a test at the end.

The ‘logic’ bit resided in the fact that the bike advertised appeared from the photographs to be untouched since the 1950s but only a viewing could satisfactorily confirm that. Nigel’s Mum’s bungalow was in another area of beautiful South Worcestershire countryside. As soon as he showed me the bike I knew it fitted the criteria. Not only was the 1953 tax disc still on it but it was obvious nobody had cleaned it since. It had the authentic oily crud that only a Mini Motor can produce (and which has taken hours to scrape off the Rudge this week).

Anyway to try and draw this to some sort of conclusion – Dear reader, I bought it and collected it today.

There has been some discussion since I got back as for me this is a treasure: The authentic dirt from the year we were born, the tax disc issued when I was 3 days old, the ‘War Grade’ tyres… For Barbara this looks like expensive, time-consuming scrap.

There will always be Philistines amongst us, David, rise above it.

As far as the fundraising goes there have been a couple of generous donations. (https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/raleighrudginit)

I need to thank Jane Lea-Jones who not only got Barb the gig on Penistone FM but also contacted the Barnsley Chronicle who did us proud last Friday. I must thank Macky Chell and Jane Hobbs too. Having spent some time cleaning up the old awning we gave them at the end of last season and finding that it wouldn’t fit their van, they donated the whole of the proceeds of its sale to Alzheimer’s Research UK.

Postscript 1

It’s a week today since we returned from LEJOG.

We had a day off on the Monday and saw some of the sights around John o’ Groats: the Castle of Mey, holiday home of the Queen Mother (well, Barbara had driven all those miles so I swallowed hard and kept my peace) Dunnet Head, the most northerly point on the British mainland (and it felt like it) and Mary Anne’s cottage, a croft that was worked until 1990. A lady volunteer at the croft, hearing what we’d been doing, gave us a donation which was very nice of her.

We put in 200 miles on each of the first two days back. Our first night was at the Maragowan Caravan and Motorhome Club site near Killin at the eastern end of Loch Tay, a very beautiful area. Our second night was in the woods amongst the picturesque ruins of the old powder factory at the Kendal Caravan and Motorhome Club site. The wild garlic and bluebells were out in the sunshine shafts coming through the fresh green of the new leaves. We dropped off the spare wheel and cable that Peter Moore had leant me, thanks again Peter, and were back in Barnsley. It was finished.

When you have been away for a month there’s always plenty to do but, as I’d been warned, there is a slightly vacant feel to everything after the rather obsessive preparations which have dominated my life since October and the intensive activity of the ride itself.

The good news is we have reached our target of £2000 thanks to the generosity of Fiona and Dennis Clarke, Barbara’s cousin and her husband. Indeed, thanks to Lee Speight and Richard Nuttall, we have exceeded that amount. We started out hoping for £500 and have been able to raise that target three times thanks to everyone’s participation. Now LEJOG is finished I don’t intend to raise the target again but the donation page at: https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/raleighrudginit remains open for three months after the end of the event. So, if you have found your way here and feel like contributing to Alzheimer’s Research UK to fund the work they are doing to combat the condition, please be my guest.

It would be really good to see it go all the way to £2500.

LEJOG Day 20

After a warm day yesterday came the rain and the Scottish mist. My original route had been to carry on with the road to the Altnahara Caravan and Motorhome Club site (B873/B871) but seeing that Sustrans Route 1 (not Route 7 as I wrote yesterday) went the other way I did wonder about cutting back. One of those impulsive moments led me to opt for the B road unsupported as Barbara was definitely going by the more motorhome friendly A836. I was encouraged on my way by donations to ARUK from the wardens and other campers at the site. The road was wonderful, the weather less so. We followed the River Naver from the Loch to the sea.

The wet roads meant that I had to put a couple of turns on the engine engagement cable to try and get some traction and with that done the route was not too difficult. To ride to the sea felt quite special because once there John o’ Groats was just along the coast.

‘Just’ did not turn out to be the correct word. The coast here consists of sheltered bays interspersed with what must be high cliffs. The road went down and then with a sinking feeling up. The road out of Bettyhill (I should perhaps have guessed from the name) was hard, very hard. I was off pushing twice for extended periods. The high points were wild moorland, very sombre at this time of year.

I was off several more times before Strathy and wondering how today was going to go. However, after Reay the scenery changed, lower hills and greener, more pastoral landscape. The headwind, which had been a problem all day, was not abating despite the lower altitudes. I entered my last county.

Barbara was leap-frogging me along the road again and before Thurso she was waiting in a lay-by. The engine engagement lever was not easily pushing down on its clip and a little adjustment was necessary. We agreed to meet in Castletown.

The wind, still directly in my face and cold, continued to be the discouraging factor. Thurso, dour-looking but the first considerable town seen for some time came and went. The Rudge-Mini Motor combination was going well with some continuous light pedal assistance to counter the draft. The conflab at Castletown decided that we were going for it. The original plan had been to stop at the Dunnet Bay Caravan and Motorhome Club site and then to travel the last 12 miles tomorrow. It was 2.30pm, the Mini Motor was on song what was to stop us? Well the cold, the headwind and the threat of rain…

To be fair, it was not a difficult last section. The bike reached John o’ Groats pretty much as it started from Land’s End, under its own power but much, much dirtier. It was relatively level and the pedalling was more to counter the wind than the gradient. It is softer here that in some parts we had experienced but bleak. At Bridge of Forss there had been trees and you realised that unkowingly you had missed them since Strathnaver. They disappeared and did not come again. The Island of Stroma was hull down to the left in the Pentland Firth. Quite suddenly the sat-nav was displaying the little chequered flag that marks a finish. Not ‘a finish’ this time but ‘The Finish’. The countdown to John o’ Groats had been going on since Bettyhill. 55 miles, 37 miles, 20 miles (at Thurso) ‘1/4 mile’ it said at the left turn. I’ve read quite a lot of criticism of John o’ Groats in my planning stage. These are ends of the earth places and that it is their appeal and what they mean, lonely start and finish posts on the edge of oceans.

The old bicycle frame and the old engine had done well. They had carried me 1100 miles with intermittent pedal assistance and the occasional push. The replacement motor had remained in its box and the total repairs were: one new spark plug, one replacement spoke and a truly brilliant trueing of the wheel at Ironbridge by the tandem shop, one new inner tube, a couple of tightenings of the exhaust manifold, two adjustments of the chain tension and assorted tightening of various nuts and bolts.

Finally my thanks. Barbara has provided great support throughout both in the planning and execution of LEJOG. I expected that but I did not expect to receive such support and encouragement from our wider circle of family and friends. Thanks to all of you. My thanks too to friends and acquaintances in the motorcycle clubs to which I belong, the NACC, the BTSC and the VMCC. Thanks also to members of the EACC who have donated to ARUK. (https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/raleighrudginit)

I’d also like to thank the staff and owners at the various hotels and bed and breakfast establishments where I have stayed for their help and kindness. The Caravan and Motorhome Club have been our hosts on many of the stopovers and have always provided their expected standard of accommodation. I would also want to thanks all our colleagues in the Club’s staff who have provided encouragement and support and ditto to my former colleagues at Thomas Rotherham College. If you feel missed out in these thanks, don’t. All the support has been appreciated and has been a most important part of what has in total felt a wonderfully affirmative experience. Enjoy your own adventures.