Rex Hake – an appreciation

It would be right to describe the bikes created by the four cyclemotorist in the previous blog as ‘works of art’. However, in truth they are examples of design. Their forms follow the dictates of their function. The subject of this blog, Colin King, has, in my opinion created five genuine works of art because their form is first and foremost the product of an aesthetic impulse.

The bicycle (and later the motorcycle) has always been an object invested with a strong cultural significance. Its ‘meaning’ has changed radically over time but from its first invention as the ordinary or high bicycle it not only symbolised certain ideas itself but it was seen as characterising those who rode it. The early bicycles beginning in the 1860s presaged a coming era of personal mechanisation and were regarded with suspicion. Their riders were often seen as skilled but disdainful, daring and dangerous, much as the riders of powerful motorcycles were later viewed. With the invention of the safety bicycle in 1885 (a bike with two similarly sized wheels) the bicycle’s significance began to change. Its early popularity was as a passing fad for the wealthy but as they lost interest the bicycle became a symbol of freedom. It played a part in the emancipation of women and gave first the lower middle class and then the working class the chance to enjoy travel and recreations that had been the province of the upper classes. The naturalistic novels of H. G. Wells convey the modernity and excitement of the bicycle and it is the subject of ‘The Wheels of Chance’ (1895). Wells wrote: ‘Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.’ In my own lifetime the bicycle has sunk to symbolising the alienation of the eccentric, the indigent and the enthusiast only to be rescued by a group of Californians whose invention of the ‘mountain bike’ or ‘atb’ made the cycle once again challenging, modern and dynamic. The mania for personal fitness and the success of british racing cyclists has seen the ‘meaning’ of the bicycle evolve again. The use of ultra modern materials to cut the weight of a bicycle and its putative role in reducing emissions to alleviate the climate crisis have made it, once more, cutting-edge culturally.

Rex Hake No1 – The Special

For me, Colin’s vision of the ‘meaning’ of the bicycle is central to the aesthetic that informs the five Rex Hake Specials. I don’t know Colin personally so this judgement is made on the basis of my view of the bikes and Colin’s writing about them. That we might look in this direction as a means of understanding the creation of this ersatz ‘marque’ is reinforced by the fact that Colin has published a book of poems entitled ’41 Broken Spokes’ with the bicycle as the central image in each of poems.

The book is available for £9.99 from Colin King, 29 Wilcot Road, Pewsey, Wiltshire SN9 5EH or online for £9.99 paid with Paypal to

As far as I can understand it, for Colin the bicycle, and by implication the cyclemotor, symbolises a slower more tranquil way of life, warmer human relations, values more rooted in a shared feeling of place. It is imbued with a strong sense of the past, certainly pre-1960 but with echoes of the interwar period and even the Edwardian hey-day of the bicycle as freedom. He writes in the introduction to his book: ‘A firm believer in low tech heaven he suggests the bicycle, wheelbarrow and wellington boot as the triptych of humble design greats.’ The flavour of this heaven is savoured in an excerpt from the first poem in the collection, ‘Mr and Mrs’:

‘Two happy hearts on bicycles/ Up hill/ Down hill/ Flask and sandwiches in saddlebag/ Not just in sunshine/ Mr and Mrs dressed for the weather/ The cafe without door or window/ In damp, cape or style/ In rain under a tree/ In sunshine, lush grass felled tree or heather/ Mr and Mrs explored lanes, bridleways and towpaths/ Peered over hedgerows/ Rested bikes against trees/ Bathed feet in cool streams/ Watched England from hilltops…’

There is a nostalgia here which could be mistaken for the rhetoric of the dominant historical view shared by a particular demographic which emphasizes a national decline encompassing everything from moral standards to the quality of goods. The individualisation of this vision through the focus of the bicycle, however, creates a persona distinct from that dominant historical vision and it’s interesting to note that after what might be described as the yearning tone of this section of the poem and the inevitable: ‘Mr and Mrs both passed away’ the poem finishes ‘At the bottom of the garden in a dull green wooden shed/ Lean two rusty bicycles/ Quiet now/ Waiting.’ Is this more yearning for the owners who will never come? Or, given what Colin and his fellow enthuiasts create out of ‘rusty bicycles’ are they waiting in anticipation, even expectation, of their ressurection?

Rex Hake No2 – The Swallow

The name of Colin’s bikes originates in the suggestion of Andrew Pattle, that he translate ‘King’ into Latin and the French ‘Colin’ into English. Colin has written that he’s not sure about the translation from the French but my dictionary agrees with Andrew. It’s not unusual to put your name on a special but Colin’s use of the name Rex Hake and the fact that he has built five models creates a mystery around the identity of the persona of the builder. Are we to accept this as a straightforward psuedonym or are we asked to imagine that these emanate from a long forgotten factory?

The look of the Rex Hakes is deliberately anachronistic. The simple black enamel is redolent of the pre-war bicycle (at least in popular imagination) and the bicycle fittings have an antique feel, leather saddles with springs, leather or woven bags, bulb horns, fishtail exhausts and on the No1 Special, inverted levers. Adding to both a localism and the arts and crafts feel, Colin’s logo is hand-painted by ‘Brian the Banjo-playing signwriter from Woodcote’.

Rex Hake No3 – The Rocket

According to Colin’s write up in Buzzing (August 2011), he did not start out to make a series of specials. No 1 came about because he could not find further parts for a frame he had bought. Intriguingly the engine of the bike is a Rex – so is the frame ‘a Hake’? What he elsewhere describes as ‘the look’ was ‘influenced by a 1920s Big Bore AJS’. This one is driven by two chains, one for the engine and another for the pedals. He was advised by Mark Daniels to tune the engine a little by re-working the exhaust port, a modification he used on all three Rex-engined Hakes.

No2 also used a spare Rex engine. ‘This one’s look was to be influenced by machines seen on the Pioneer Run, the style would be of something from the first 20 years of motorcycles.’ Its handlebars are from a rotovator to give ‘the desired upright early motorcycle riding position’. It also has Webb suspension forks and on a practical note Colin rematrks that it is more comfortable to ride than No1. Unusually the bicycle chain and pedals have been omitted in favour of a push or paddle start (Buzzing October 2011).

Rex Hake No4 – The De Luxe

No3, which appears in the same edition of Buzzing is constructed around a Ducati Cucciolo engine found at an autojumble. Colin says he would have like to reproduce a Britax Hurricane racer using the engine but realised the hand beaten aluminium bodywork was beyond his means. He does not explain ‘the look’ of this particular edition but the bicycle frame is from the 1920s. The filigree chain guard is quite simply gorgeous in my view and also germane to what I am assuming Colin is attempting to achieve in constructing these bikes, the handle on the gear lever is ‘a piece of an ancient Yew tree felled by a storm in my parents’ Yorkshire garden 20 years earlier’. Once again turning pedals have been dispensed with. The Cucciolo is the most powerful of the 1950s cyclemotors and the name ‘The Rocket’ is probably an allusion to that. Is it fanciful to wonder whether there is also a nod to one of the first successful attempts at locomotion?

No4 (Buzzing April 2015) uses the frame from Colin’s father’s old Hercules, bought by him new in 1940. Colin writes that after one last sentimental journey to visit his grandparents’ grave it had been rested against a shrub in his garden ‘to be consumed by nature… just dissolving into the landscape’. However, Colin decided upon another special, featuring once again a surplus Rex engine, and the Hercules, minus some already dissolved parts, ‘is Haked’. Once again Colin’s design was intended to emulate: ‘a pioneer shape from the early 1900s’. The article ends with Colin’s wish to hear the tyres swish on the wet Wiltshire lanes (a noisy exhaust he says remains to be quietened to allow this) as his father once delighted in that sound in the Yorkshire Wolds.

No5, the final Hake begins with a 1930s Rudge Whitworth Aero Special All Weather Roadster. Colin initially refused an offer on the rusted remains but claims ‘those lovely valanced mudguards appeared in my sleep’. The engine in this case was an industrial Mini Motor, started by a rope pull and driving a flywheel on the pedal axle by a belt. The engine is hinged so as to move upwards to tighten the belt and act as a clutch. Once again pedals have been dispensed with and after the engine has been started with a pull the bike is paddled forward as the belt is tightened.

Rex Hake No5 – The Aero Special

For me the Rex Hakes present an attempt to present a wider aesthetic vision which attempts to convey a feeling for the past. Colin writes: ‘With these “specials” the most exciting bit is planning the look. If it looks good eventually it can be made to run good.’ There’s more to the Hakes, I think, than motorising old bikes. And if I’m right and they do attain the status of art objects, then what you read into them is as valid as any impression they make on me or indeed as any ‘meaning’ Colin intended.

So if I was offered to take any of the twelve bikes in these two blogs for a spin which would I choose? I am simply not mechanically talented enough to be sure I could fettle the Crowders’ creations if they faltered. I have always admired Derek’s Marflan but try and learn to ride a recumbent while being pushed along by a Mini Motor? Derek’s superb work on the three small roller drives is far too delicate to be entrusted to my ham-fistedness. Like John, I live near the Peak District so I think it would have to be one of his geared and lightened specials. But, if I lived on a leafy lane that led through several fields to a pub with a garden then I would take a Rex Hake model. I’d sit with my pint, face to the sun, and the cyclemotor would lean against an old stone wall at my back. I’d ask anyone who could spare the time what the ancient bike made them think of and when I’d exhausted the patience of the regulars I’d open my copy of ‘Three Men on the Bummel’ by Jerome K Jerome and imagine what it might have been like to pedal through Europe before the Great War spoiled everything.

A Triptych of Cyclemotorists

There are many talented mechanics and engineers amongst small bike enthusiasts. The standard of some restorations is very high and the complexity of the problems overcome is impressive. I am not among them. After 50 years of messing about with bikes I remain an enthusiastic but incompetent amateur. This perhaps sharpens my appreciation of their products but leaves me sometimes not fully understanding what has been done to repair damage or overcome faults in the original design or materials.

I’ve met all of those featured in this triptych, although not recently, but my choice is based on what I regard as a most innovative and creative use of their engineering skills.

Panel 1: The Crowders

Father and son, Phillip and Peter Crowder’s weapon of choice was the Phillips Cyclemaster.

The Cyclemaster is a design which replaces the rear wheel of a bicycle with an engine unit. It came in two sizes 25cc and 32cc. It was quite a sophisticated design, all chain drive, a clutch, disc valve induction and on the larger model a back pedal brake. It originated in the Netherlands and was perhaps more suited to that country’s topography than the inclines and descents of the west and north of the UK. It was the most popular British cyclemotor with 181,000 units produced against the approximately 75,000 of the Trojan Mini Motor which was the second most popular attachment. (Consult the ‘Stinkwheel Saga, Episode 1’ for further information.) Its complexity made it not the easiest motor to work on and full dismantling required a number of special tools. Its biggest drawback was that, while it had a clutch, it had no gearbox and it took over the position on the bicycle where the geared hub would traditionally have been.

Peter built a Cyclemaster of only 16cc. To make sense of that (?) you need to know that the Lohmann, mentioned in the previous blog post, the smallest capacity mass produced cyclemotor, was 18cc. Peter’s 16cc motor did indeed work successfully but had very little hill climbing ability. In pursuit of improvement he took the engine out of the wheel and mounted it using two clamps in the open frame in front of the saddle. This allowed him to mount a Rohloff 14 speed hub in the rear wheel which was driven through the chainwheel by the Cyclemaster engine. The article describing this appeared in the October 2009 edition of Buzzing: ‘C2C – the Short Way Back’.

Having sought to prove he could make an even smaller cyclemotor function, he went on to produce an over-bored, ported and stroked 43cc road burner. The Granadaland Section of the NACC were well-known for their tuned autocycles using the Villiers 2F engine. Sadly Derek Ashworth and Andy Speak are no longer with us but their machines and those of others in the group became the standard of power and reliability to beat. Peter hoped initially that his ‘Big-Boy’ geared Cyclemaster would challenge their pre-eminence but he quickly realised it was not to be. Although he had the gears, (the 1F is single geared with a clutch like an original Cyclemaster) the Villiers does possess a swept volume of 98cc… Nevertheless Peter had produced a practical vehicle which carried him over several hundred miles of hilly terrain.

His father Phillip, faced with the same limitations opted for a less radical but more complex solution. More power could be provided he reasoned if a two cylinder model were produced. Again, like Peter, he described in Buzzing his thinking and the details of the revised engine. (‘The 65cc Cyclemaster’, December 2010 and February 2011). Basically he added a full extra crankcase on the outside of the original engine so that the output sprocket was driven from each side. This he suggested avoided the strain that the crankshaft would have been under of he’d placed the sprocket at one end.

Peter’s Cyclemaster was neat and workmanlike but with its open chains it had a certain Heath Robinson air. Phillip’s Cyclemaster looked at first glance almost standard. At his time of writing it had successfully completed most of the Coast to Coast. Whether it went on to achieve the reliability of the geared Cyclemaster I do not know. Certainly Phillip was talking in terms of further even more exotic versions.

A further picture in a later edition recalls another of Peter’s experiments – the Cyclemaster replacing the front wheel of the tandem, giving cycling gears and an engine. A number of people have experimented with two separate cyclemotors on the bicycle, one driving each wheel. One suspects Peter is among them.

Peter and tandem second down on left, father Phillip bottom right, and two of the much emulated Granadaland autocycles bottom left

Panel 2: Derek Langdon

Derek was very helpful to me in offering guidance when I was first involved with Trojan Mini Motors. While my son and I were campaigning the Mini Motor powered Chip Shop Tandem, Derek and his daughter were often at the same events riding, if memory serves me right, a similar machine wth a Cyclemaster attachment. Derek is best known for his ‘Marflan’ Mini Motor powered recumbent which has featured before in these posts.

Derek is a motor engineer by trade, I believe, and the ‘Marflan’ well illustrates his strengths. It is innovative, neat and skillfully executed. He has gone on to create, or re-create a series of unusual machines.

The first of these involved the rebuilding and fitting to a cycle of a cyclemotor engine found at an autojumble. It was the original creator of the engine, Reg Bury’s own Mark 2 machine, a Tailwind first registered in 1949. With a friend, John Latta, on a similar machine, Reg Bury toured Scotland later that year.

The first four pictures show the two Tailwinds and their riders in 1949 (Rory Sinclair leant ‘Buzzing the original photographs).

In the October 2010 edition of ‘Buzzing’ Derek explained what he had done to get the engine working. The rebuild required some ingenuity and the creation of engine internals as well as the design and construction of a mounting system for the bicycle.

The Tailwind is described in ‘The Stinkwheel Saga, Episode 2’.

Derek’s next reported restoration was another rarity manufactured in very small numbers. Edgar T. Westbury designed the engine and an engineering company, Braid Bros, manufactured the ‘blanks’ from which a skilled amateur lathe turner and engineer could build up a finished cyclemotor, the Busy Bee. Once again this appears in The Stinkwheel Saga, Episode 2. Derek was asked to build up a box of bits, the engine, to a restored 1930s bicycle for the owner Robert Hirons. The engine was already machined and assembled but had been made to sit vertically on the bicycle rather than horizontally as shown in contemporary photographs. Derek had to modify the engine’s internals and fit a magneto that would spark at the correct point. He then, once again, had to design and build the mounting for the engine on the bike. The finished product like Derek’s other projects is extremely professional looking and functions as intended.

From ‘Buzzing’, February 2012

The third of these machines, the Worme, was an original creation. Derek obtained a 34cc JAP motor from a lawn mower. John Alfred Prestwich founded a company which manufactured internal combustion engines among other products. Based in Tottenham, London the marque has a certain prestige amongst old motorcycle enthusiasts as post-war they produced speedway and grasstrack racing engines. Derek jokes that this pedigree was what attracted him to the engine, a mower being the most obvious form of grasstrack machine. As befits its origins the engine is rather crude but Derek re-conditioned it and made himself a roller for it to drive the tyre. He then once again designed and constructed his own mounting system. Like the Crowders, Derek is very honest about the parts of the project that didn’t succeed and required further modification. In this case the main bearings proved insufficient for the job and had to be replaced with stronger items which required some lathe work on the crankcases. The back pedal rear brake also imploded in use and the rear wheel had to be rebuilt using a new hub. With their extra speed and weight, finding efficient cyclemotor brakes is almost as bigger problem as sourcing an efficient motor. By the end of the article Derek has completed a few club runs on the Worme, albeit rather slowly. Once again, as the pictures show, the quality and neatness of his work makes him a cyclemotorist sans pareil.

The story of the Worme appears in ‘Buzzing’ December 2015

Panel 3: John Hook.

It has been harder to find material on John Hook’s creations. John’s work is different from Derek and the Crowders, whose bikes are in part a conscious response to an engineering challenge. John’s bikes have been built with a specific purpose in mind. He lives near the Peak District and wanted to create cyclemotors or mopeds that would allow him to go riding in the National Park with options of engine or pedal power. To this end he wanted a multi-geared, well-braked, lightweight machine strong enough to withstand a battering from varied road surfaces. To do this he assembled parts from various sources and adapted them to the purpose. I believe there were at least three examples he built and there may well be more. The finished products were very attractive and well-finished.

In the only example I have been able to find (‘Buzzing’, June 2015) John had taken the frame of a 1960 Mobylette and cut and bushed it to give it monoshock rear suspension. The suspension unit came from a mountain bike. He had also fitted mountain bike front suspension. He replaced the original engine with a Sachs three-speed 50cc engine driving a moped style rear hub with internal brake. To this he grafted a cycle deraillieur gear system allowing him a full range of pedalling gears as well. The resulting machine would weigh little more than a steel framed mountain bike plus the engine but would, under engine power, climb the steepest of hills, the perfect macine for its purpose.

There was one other builder of special cyclemotors whose work I wanted to feature but his creations are a unique take on the genre and deserve a blog post to themselves.

Cyclemotoring in the time of Coronavirus

I’ve wanted to write something on the blog ever since returning from Spain but have found starting anything very difficult. In the face of the suffering of those who have caught the virus, the self-sacrifice of those who are treating them and of those who are keeping the country ticking over anything I might have to say about cyclemotoring is so unimportant as to be better left unsaid. However, for those like myself who are forced to stay at home, any interest distracts from the dissatisfactions and worries of the present situation.

In that spirit I have been looking up some of the creations of fellow cyclemotorists with a view to sharing them on the blog. My researches took me to back copies of the NACC’s Buzzing and I was very interested to read the coast-to-coast-east-to-west run undertaken by Peter Moore and Stuart Metcalfe in 2009 on Mini Motors. This reminded me that I hadn’t seen Peter’s bike for quite a while (he rode a different machine when I met him on LEJOG). I e-mailed him to ask, therefore, whether ‘Amos’ was still around and he sent me this excellent portrait which I thought would add distinction to this blog post:

As an aside, I did look up Amos to see if I could see any generic link with cyclemotoring – and drew a complete blank. Apparently Amos was an old testament prophet, active around 750 BC and the first Old Testament prophet to write down his prophecies. He made a number of significant contributions to Judaism (and later Christianity) including an emphasis on monotheism and the precedence of living a moral life over ceremonials and sacrifices. Anyone see any connection with the portrait of the lovely old cyclemotor above? No? Me neither. This is Gustave Doré’s engraving of the prophet which I must warn you will leave you none the wiser, lovely though it too is.

As anyone who’s read the blog of my LEJOG will realise I’m a great fan of the cyclemotor-in-a-landscape snap. The reasons being that there is no better way to experience the countryside than on a cyclemotor and each bike is a unique creation. The cycle to which the engine has been bolted will be different and the owner’s embellishments will also be unique. Amongst the magazines I was reasearching was this cover shot which is one of my all-time favourite cyclemotor-in-a-landscape portraits:

The road disappearing to the horizon on the right and the field of rapeseed flowers on the left are the perfect setting for the bike with its bright yellow oilskin attached with two leather strap to the saddle. I particularly like riding when the rapeseed is in flower. Although the scent is not particularly pleasant it is all pervasive as one scoots along the edges of the field. The blocks of bright colour add an almost abstract element to the view transforming familar landscapes into a modernist aesthetic. The Ducati Cucciolo belongs to Phillipa Wheeler and she took the excellent photograph.

In the magazines I was researching when I found the second part of Peter’s article was the story of a journey Phillipa undertook to relive a journey she had undertaken in 1960 travelling by cyclemotor from East Anglia to Wales. It had stuck in my mind because the bike failed and Phillipa ended up being recovered before, ever resourceful, having a van rented for her by the recovery company so she could drive herself and the bicycle back home. I suppose what appealed to me was a kind of meta-narrative element where the article about a trip transforms itself into a record of preparations for something that never actually happens. This digression linked, however, with some of the research I was actually doing.

Phillipa is a cyclemotorist’s cyclemotorist with a deep knowledge and practical experience of a number of marques. Perhaps the most esoteric of these is the Lohmann (whose existence is germain to the experiments undertaken by one of the enthusiats whose exploits I have been researching). For a number of years Phillipa campaigned a Lohmann at various events to the wonderment of fellow cyclemotorists.

Their admiration is easy to explain as the Lohmann is an 18cc compression ignition engine (ie diesel motor) with variable compression and a reputation for being notoriously difficult to get running successfully. Successful owners often mix their own fuel as pump diesel is too heavy to work successfully. I say ‘often’ but I think I have only ever seen Phillipa successfully operating such an engine. ‘The Stinkwheel Saga, Episode 2′ (on which, I think, Phillipa worked with Dave Beare) has further information but unless you have a copy, this tip will be useless as it is out of print. Unfortunately I don’t possess it and so cannot enlighten you any further. The relevance to my next blog, in gestation at the moment, is an understanding that the cyclemotorists’ minimum engine capacity is therefore 18cc – a tiny volume of space to provide the necessary force to give forward motion against rolling and air resistance for an adult human being and their bicycle. To put that in perspective, a 16 year old’s permitted moped has an engine nearly three times as large in capacity.

I’ll finish this rather tenuosly linked introduction to my researches with a piece of information that truly surprised me. Apparently the Trojan Mini Motor designer Vincent Piatti actually made quite serious money from this work. Interviewed by Andrew Nahum in the 1980s in his house in Ovington Gardens ‘just up the road from Harrods’ Piatti revealed that his royalties of 9 shillings per engine sold were the most he ever received for a design. “With this engine we started buying this house”. Most of the houses in Ovington Gardens, like most of the property in London, are now broken up into flats but one sold complete last November for £4,175,000. That’s some reward for a man who many of us who have ridden his invention have felt at moments of Mini Motor induced stress should have been publicly flogged.

In Castilla-La Mancha

Winter is always a quiet time for cyclemotoring so the link to the general subject of the blog is very tenuous and might be best summed up as ‘on two wheels’. We have recently been on our annual Wrinklies’ Winter Sojourn in the Sun in Spain and I want to speak up in favour of motorcycling in the Peninsula. Spain is the country with the second highest average height above sea level in Europe and often within a few miles of the Spanish coast there are excellent motorcycling routes in its hills. Many of the smaller roads climb using the contours of the hills to keep to a steady incline and are reasonably well maintained.

These photographs come from a ride in Montes de Toledo which is by no means as twisting or as vertiginous as some of the rides we have done further south in the hills immediately behind the costas. The Col de Rata behind Denia is a favourite of ours and the ride up to Guadalest behind Benidorm is also one we have enjoyed several times and there is a motorcycle museum on the more interesting of the roads with an excellent restaurant.

We tow an automatic scooter behind our motorhome on one of Armitages’ lateral trailers. Our two previous bikes, a Piaggio Hexagon with a Honda 250cc engine:

and a Yamaha Xmax 250cc:

both performed well in the role. The Xmax in particular had handling which was really excellent for this type of machine and the current 300cc version will, it is reported, do an honest ton. The type of trailer we use means the bike has to be pushed up on to a bed above the trailer’s wheels and the Yamaha weighed 180kgs. So, initially reluctantly, we have exchanged the Xmax for a 125cc Yamaha Nmax which weighs a less forbidding 123kgs. We are actually finding the lighter weight, smaller dimensions and lower seat height better for our purposes when travelling in the motorhome. The handling seems good and stable in cross winds (high winds are a feature of the Mediterranean coast in the winter). It is obviously not as powerful as its larger cousin but, for what we use it for, high speeds are not a requirement. It has a four valve head with variable valve timing which improves torque at take off, makes it reasonably powerful for a scooter of its capacity and allows it to achieve over 100 miles to a gallon.

We rode just over 90 miles on this trip. Our furthest point was here at the Puerto del Robledillo which is at a height of 1250m above sea level. The scooter allows us not only to enjoy the pleasures of the Spanish roads on two wheels but to visit sites we might not otherwise see. On this trip, the ruined castle at Cuerva:

The storks on the church:

and a circling group of 20 birds of prey further up the road which my phone and skills were insufficiently developed to catch. Our final point of call was a 1300 year old Visigoth church, Santa Maria de Melique, whose huge stone blocks and completeness (albeit with some judicious restoration) was the high point of the ride for me.

As in much of Europe these scooters have replaced the true moped for most riders in Spain. You do still see the occasional moped in regular use:

Rieju in Spain also continues to make ‘proper’ 50cc motorcycles for the youth market, mostly in motocross and enduro styles. These look the business but are a very long way from a bicycle with Trojan Mini Motor attachment.

‘when Old Winter puts his blank face to the glass’

The local area is not very cyclemotor friendly because of its hilly terrain so the Rudge Mini Motor only gets the occasional outing. I do like to ride all year round, however. My ‘Step-Thru’ Yamaha Townmate and, my friend of more than 30 years, Phil Nuttall’s Honda C90 get exercised around once a month. We meet to put the world to right in various cafes and bumble pleasurably around the Peak District at a maximum speed of approximately 45mph.

Not everyone has been observing our 45 mph speed limit, obviously…

Today was our first meeting of 2020 and the weather was kind, 8°C and cooling in a blustery wind but with the blessing, unusual in winter, of dry roads. We had arranged to meet at the Strines Inn on a wonderful old turnpike, Mortimer Road, constructed in 1777 on the edge of open moorland.

The Strines Inn has a niche in the hall of Step-Thru iconography as it appears in the 2002 film ‘Heartlands’ about a jilted husband pursuing his wife to Blackpool on a Honda Cub. Anyway the pub was closed today so we headed north to Holme Moss, one of the smaller local Pennine ‘Passes’, blasted today by an ice-fingered wind.

The high points in the Dark or northern Peak are sombre places in winter. The grey of the dead wayside grasses, the varying browns of lifeless bracken and the dead-headed deciduous branches and the dark green of the pines are lined out by Millstone Grit dry-stonewalls to sinister effect. The plunge down to cross the A638 and head over into Glossop produced a welcome lessening of the wind-chill factor. The Glossop Cafeteria serves amazingly generous platefuls at very low prices and always with a welcoming smile.

And we needed warming up. At this point Phil had clocked 58 miles, so we reckoned that, if we headed due south about another 25 miles, when we reached our respective homes we would have the obligatory 100 miles under our now straining belts.

Hayfield and Chapel-en-le-Frith led to Buxton where we picked up some fuel (about £3 for Phil and under £5 for me, a Step-Thru is a cheap date) and the A515 to Ashbourne. We turned off on to the ‘Via Gellia’ which eventually snaked down to Matlock Bath where we paused for a warming coffee at a very cheap price in a fish and chip shop with a pleasantly balmy restaurant. We are always on the lookout for a natter and usually meet someone to supply it, often although not exclusively, fellow disciples of the Step-Thru. Today a gentleman in a white Audi estate, a fellow Step-Thru owner, pulled over to share experiences and again at the chip shop we were engaged in conversation about the bikes.

We emerged from the warmth to start our third and final leg that took us up the A6 until we turned at Rowsley for the Chatsworth Estate, always an impressive ride-past.

We parted company at Baslow where Phil turned for Chesterfield and the south of Sheffield and I headed through Calver to skirt the western edge of Sheffield and head further north.

Phil’s 117 miles beat my total by 2 miles, a grand day out that momentarily blew away the cobwebs and dust of an enforced hibernation.

And the winner is: 👏

A little light reading matter 2

When planning my LEJOG I e-mailed Stuart Metcalfe whose account of his ride from Bilbao back to the UK had appeared in the NACC’s Buzzing magazine. Stuart had no trouble at all with his Trojan Mini Motor on the trip and I sought his advice about his riding technique and preparations. By chance this month’s Buzzing reproduces that article. I can only share it with non-members of the NACC by photographing it. If you do have an interest in cyclemotors, autocycles or mopeds it would be worth considering joining the organisation. An application form is available from:

Membrship is £15 annually in the UK, £17 for Europe and £20 for the rest of the world. For this you receive 6 printed magazines per annum and free entry to rides organised by them.

The pictures have not reproduced very well but the text is readable if you zoom in.