‘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’ https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heartlands_(film) 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 heather, the silhouettes of leafless 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: http://www.thebuzzingclub.net

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.

VMCC Cyclemotor Section – AGM and Run 17th November 2019

It was at this meeting last year that I was presented with the Peter Lee Warner Trophy. I felt the kindness shown put the onus on me to return it in person and so I left Yorkshire early with the Rudge strapped to the back of the motorhome. It dawned as I drove south, or rather the semi-darkness turned to semi-light as low cloud and drizzle hung over the motorway.

The Rudge has done very little this year. A testride to Geared Up Cycles in Wombwell was undertaken which seemed to go satisfactorily. However, when I cleaned up the bike the inlet stub on the carburettor had come loose and had broken the gasket. It is surprising how much can go wrong on one of these little motors and still leave it running.

As at last year’s event there were a number of interesting bikes.

The moped in the foreground is an Ambassador. The owner told me it was one of only fifty assembled and the only complete bike of its model on the road. It is a Finnish frame adapted to take a Villiers engine and built up and painted in the UK. The bike behind has a Ducati Cucciolo engine fitted, the first two-wheeled power plant made by Ducati, four-stroke, and very much the aristocrat of cyclemotor attachments.

This is a Teagle which you may want to Google as I don’t know much about them. It is one of the more unusual cyclemotors in the UK, although its engine position and drive method (by roller) is the same as the more numerous Power-Pak and Trojan Mini Motor. The frame was used to hold it and to start it with its wheel held aloft.

The third cyclemotor is an Itom, about which again I know very little. It drives the rear wheel by roller but the engine has a rather more sensible position underneath the bottom bracket. As a result of its engine position, the Rudge today was displaying some very ‘interesting’ head shaking when I loosened my grip on the handlebars. I think it may well have handled better when the two front panniers were fitted on the forks, counterbalancing the engine and damping the tendency to oscillation.

I failed to get a picture of all the interesting bikes. There were also two Velo Solexes and a Corgi. These are sought-after as they originated in a bike designed to be dropped by parachute, the Welbike. In fact the Corgi is a development of the Welbike and differs in a number of ways but the military connection has ensured that some have been adapted to look like Welbikes and all Corgis have a premium in the price. They were in civilian form an early scooter and perfectly roadworthy but it’s rare to see one ridden. The one at the run today was well sorted.

This one is copied from a Bonham’s catalogue.

Besides the bikes already listed there was at least a couple of Mobylettes, two NSU Quicklies, a Motom, a Moto Guzzi, a couple of James, a Honda C90 and probably several more, 15 – 20 bikes in total on the run, I would reckon, and it was perishing cold, 6°C according to the van’s dashboard. They’re a tough bunch in the Cyclemotor Section.

Road conditions were not exactly ideal for roller drives. The UK has experienced a very wet autumn, the fifth wettest on record according to one newspaper, and the roads were drying but certainly not dry. Part of the route had been flooded earlier in the week and was still full of large puddles and a number of areas of low-lying land were still under water.

Anyway the Rudge/Trojan combo behaved itself perfectly. Last year there were a couple of unvoluntary stops but this year it sailed around the 19 mile course, ‘faultlessly’ is putting it a bit strong, I think, as the whole concept is a cosmic joke practised on the unwary cyclist, but certainly without a brreakdown. I enjoyed it, although I was shivering with cold when I got back to Peacehaven Farm but I never ride the Rudge these days without thinking, “What on earth possessed you to go from Cornwall to Scotland on this?”


Just a little footnote to the story of the LEJOG Raleigh Rudge. To recap, the original owner of the Rudge was Bob Skinner, my uncle, brother-in-law to my Dad. Bob’s son Philip is, like me, a motorcycle enthusiast and, also like me, has been since he was a lad. This is slightly odd as, while both our Dads had bikes as transport at times in their lives, neither kept bikes once they could afford four wheeled transport.

Phil and I correspond regularly (mostly about bikes) but have never really ridden together. We think we once rode to Kingston-upon-Thames from Sunbury, where I lived, when Phil was sixteen and had a Suzuki Stinger, 125cc twin which was a bike with very impressive performance for a lightweight in 1970. I was riding some moped that I had bought for 10 shillings from the back garden of a house around the corner.

As Phil lives in South Africa opportunities to ride together are few but this month he flew into Venice to pick up his Moto Guzzi Stelvio and ride it up to visit friends and relatives in the UK. We were the most northerly point and I arranged to meet him at the Old Smithy cafe in Monyash, a regular stop for bikers in the Peaks. He rode about 1000 miles to be there and I went about 34 miles to meet him.

It is 50 years this week (4th September) since the film Easy Rider was released in the UK. The film had a huge influence on the biking community here with its counter-culture take on the motorcycle. I had been 16 that year and absorbed it like a sponge. A couple of year’s ago I realised that despite this in half a century of biking I had never owned a v-twin motorcycle like those ridden by Peter Fonda and Denis Hopper. I am not a fan of Harley-Davidson’s and it was Phil’s Moto Guzzi obsession (he thinks he has 14) that led me to the Nevada, which has the looks but is relatively small and light. So we met Moto Guzzi mounted.

After a brew and a bacon sandwich we rode back here up the excellent Strines Road and it was of course necessary for him to ride the Trojan-Rudge. He doesn’t remember his Dad owning the bicycle as he would have been only about 4 when Bob sold it to Rob.

The bike hasn’t been used since the VMCC Cyclemotor meeting last November but started up after a short pedal.

Phil is very much a larger bike enthusiast, he has a 1400cc Moto Guzzi Californian in the collection, but he does have a couple of tiddlers, two versions of the Moto Guzzi Cardellino which are ‘awaiting restoration’:

He also has a three-wheeled Moto Guzzi Ercolino agricultural vehicle based around the 200cc Galleto engine on which he has just completed an excellent restoration. These must have been relatively common in South Africa as he has discovered the remains of nine.

The 21st NACC Coast to Coast, 22nd – 23rd June 2019

I put up some pictures from this event last year. The ride which goes from Hartlepool on the east coast to Whitehaven on the west climbs on mild but continuous gradients over the Pennines so is mostly undertaken by mopeds and small motorcycles. This year, however, there were three cyclemotors:Kevin Mawhinny from Northern Ireland made a very impressive job of the run on his Trojan Mini Motor. Annoyingly he cruised up the only hill I failed to climb when I did the run on the Rudge in 2013.Perhaps even more impressive was the repeat crossing by Fred Richard’s Russian-engined Kroxa/Claude Butler cyclemotor. Fred and his nephew John Minto took turns to ride the machine and impressed themselves by finishing the second day’s 70 miles or so by 14.30 on the Sunday. This was nothing compared to how impressed the rest of us were as Fred has celebrated his 89th birthday this year.Ron Paterson was unable to join the run for the full two days but did the Sunday morning’s run from Alston to Bassenthwaite village on his fine-looking Cyclemaster. The bike goes as well as it looks and, being complimented on this, Ron modestly suggested a small hole that had appeared in the exhaust pipe made it sound like it meant business. In fact its performance owes much to Ron’s care in the rebuild and his over-boring of the cylinder to take a piston from a leaf-blower. The bike now sports 38ccs!Simon Paddock’s (I hope the surname is correct there) charming New Hudson autocycle sported a number of ‘period-ish’ accessories which gave it a suitably feeling of post-war austerity. It might be that the ingenious sprung saddle fitment and mobile phone case were not strictly 1950s but all was redeemed by what Simon assured us was a genuine ferret box, a poacher’s special then presumably?Ian Massie’s Blanche (a James Superlux) gives a rather different take on autocycle ownership. It is tuned to within an inch of its life (and presumably Ian’s if you look at the ‘modern’ front drum brake which has been fitted). Capable of over 50mph, which is way beyond its bicycle frame design, it made an impressive crossing despite losing a rear spoke on the way. It was a bit of a weekend for spokes. Henry Curry’s NSU Quickly retired early on with broken spokes and was replaced with a very nice 500cc Norton twin.Steve’s brother Ian brought along one of the two Italian Sports mopeds, a Testi Champion. The clutch unclutched on the Saturday so he finished the ride on a Ducati SL. Andy Fox’s Malanca Testa Rossa is a wonderfully handsome little beast and sounded great under power.The most number of any one model on the run was these four Puch MS 50s ridden by: Brian Ward, John Newham, Gary Emerson and Bob West. These and the later Maxi were imported to the UK in considerable numbers and have survived quite well. The proper scooter type gearbox with handlebar change makes them practical for the hills.Despite competition from Britain’s own Mobylette copy, the Raleigh RM series, Mobylette’s also sold well here in the 50s and 60s. Roger Watkinson’s original orange machine can be seen in the company of the Puchs. His father Keith’s bike was however more of a rarity over here because we never had the ‘Mob Chop’ moped custom scene that thrived in France. Both bikes went well and achieved faultless crossings. There were a lot of other interesting bikes of which I don’t have photographs, including an immaculate Honda SS50 and again unusually for the UK, a very handsome Zundapp. The various Japanese ‘Step Through’ motorcycles had a strong presence here as ride to work vehicles from the early 60s through to the late 1990s. They are always well represented on the event as although even most of the 50s of this type are not true mopeds they make very practical mounts for a long distance event.Craig Siddall’s Yamaha V80, in its original paintwork is quite an unusual survivor as it’s a two-stroke. Later Yamaha’s were four-stroke and the Honda Cub range was entirely four-stroke from its inception. Riding old and feeble bikes is rather a male preserve (Oh really? Why could that possibly be?) so it’s necessary to record that two female riders participated. Sharon Wikner made the journey on a Honda C90 and Margaret MacLachlan rode a Jawa 223. Obviously the bikes and the riders make the event and a thank you to all of them for attending and making the event a success. The biggest character, however, and the largest draw for those attending, remains the scenery.

The 28th Randos Cyclos at Sars Poteries

Nothing concerning the LEJOG venture has occurred since last November and my time since then has been devoted to a new project, restoring a Spanish Serveta scooter. This was the first cyclemotor event I have been to since the VMCC AGM. There was a strong connection to last year’s event because at that time I had pictured a Gritzner Brummi in this blog and said I had no idea what it was and Markus, the bike’s owner, got in touch. We arranged to meet at this year’s event.

Markus was the sole German attendee at last year’s Randos Cyclos and the same was sadly true of this year. To put that in perspective, there were 130 entrants and while the majority were French, Dutch or Belgian there were 26 British entrants.

Markus had the oldest bike there, a 1941 Victoria autocycle. The bike won a prize from the organisers in reognition of this.

The bike is almost completely in its original paintwork and was unused until the present day. The story is, and Markus will forgive me if I get some details wrong, the bike was bought during the war and immediately disassembled and put in a cellar to prevent it being requisitioned by the army. It stayed there until sometime around 1989 when the owner of the cycleshop and his widow died and the widow’s sister sold the components to an enthusiast. Markus was buying and selling old moped and bicycle parts at these times and the enthusiast, who also ran an engineering business, agreed to pass them and a Cyclemaster in a very unusual Dutch frame on for what was, at the time, their maximum valuation. The Victoria bits were in their original paint but the bike was incomplete with wheels, headlamp and a few other parts missing. Markus agreed the price and asked for the address where the parts had been obtained. The businessman was very cagey on this point but as a consolation prize gave Markus the address of a scrap merchant to whom the same vendor had sold a pile of old dynamos. Markus wasted no time in contacting the scrap merchant and agreeing to buy them. When he arrived there there was a mound of them and he carefully sorted through them to make sure he got everything that was salvageable. Near the bottom of the mound he came across an old business card from a cycle shop about 35kms from where he lived.

Using the information on the card he visited the street only to find the place shut up and unused. He asked about and found that the owner and his wife had died but that the cycle dealer’s sister in law was still alive. His informant gave him the address and Markus wasted no time in visiting it. The house appeared shut up and there was no answer and Markus wondered if he had arrived too late. It was only on a third visit that he managed to attract the occupant’s attention and gain admittance.

The elderly lady agreed to sell him any of the remaining stock that he wanted and took him to view the shop. He arranged to buy a large stock of handlebar grips and the woman, who must have been over 80 years old, dropped to her knees to clean each pair individually. Markus asked her to stop and explained that he wanted them just as they were but she insited on continuing. While she did so Markus spotted in a corner a pair of wheels and one or two other parts of the Victoria. Without explaining that he had the rest of the bike he enquired if these were for sale and the elderly lady agreed to make them part of the consignment.

There were still one or two components missing (the headlamp, for instance is from a similar type of machine) but Markus had now an almost complete and unused autocycle from 50 years before. Having stored it for many years himself he recently set about getting it running. A few parts were sub standard and unserviceable probably because of the conditions under which it was produced but the bike, now more 75 years old, starts and runs well. The fishtail type exhaust makes it sound very like an early Bantam. It was great to see such an original machine on the run.

There were many other interesting bikes, as always.

Even in the UK two Bown autocycles on a run would be unusual. Besides Neil and Dave’s bikes there were two other variants from other companies, John’s Francis Barnett and Josey’s ‘gillet jaune’ New Hudson. Both these also received a prize.

A dutch couple who both ride brought this very unusual DKW. The first type of DKW built apparently.

Mike’s unusual tandem was another Brit winner. It was ridden by Mike and his wife around part of the 50kms course.

Martin’s Phillips was another not often seen machine that brought a prize back to the UK.

There were too many other interesting machines for me to do justice to. I particularly liked this Dutch-registered bike which has the body styling of a late 50s car.

If you have an interest in this type of bike I would urge you to attend the next Randos Cyclos, the 29th, which takes place on Sunday 7th June 2020. Entry forms will be available next May from randocyclo.sars@gmail.com

Camping is available at nearby Felleries which is also booked with the event. Bed and breakfast accomodation can also be booked through the event organisers, the tourist office.