Update

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.

The Vintage Motorcycle Club’s Cyclemotor Section Annual General Meeting, 18th November

This will, I think, be the last event of my Gentleman’s Excursion from Land’s End to John o’ Groats. In September I received a letter from Alan Hummerstone, the long-serving Chairman of the Cyclemotor Section informing me that I was to be awarded the Lee Warner Trophy for a notable exploit on a cyclemotor.

Peter Lee Warner rode around the world on a Sinclair Godard Powerpak in 1953 – 4. He rode over 15000 miles on a butcher’s bicycle modified to carry a larger reservoir of petroil and two gallons of water. (There is a short newsreel of him setting off here: https://www.britishpathe.com/video/power-pak-cycle) He had wanted to visit Australia as he was thinking of emigrating and originally planned to ride there and back, going down the east side of the Mediterranean and coming back on a western route crossing North Africa to take a ferry into Spain. In the event he changed his mind and carried on by ship to the United States and crossed that west to east. In 1955 Peter Lee Warner did indeed emigrate and passed out of the annals of cyclemotoring. The idea of receiving a trophy remembering him for my own sedate efforts is humbling enough – he travelled 15 times further than I did and in very much more insecure circumstances!

A Powerpak at the road run today.

It becomes even worse when you read that he had a distinguished war record and a reputation as something of a daredevil. Unworthy as I am, it is nice to be recognised by one’s fellow sufferers and so I decided I would make the effort to attend.

The Rudge/Trojan Mini Motor has received a thorough clean up since its return in May and has been, as far as possible returned to a 1950s sort of look. The only problem was I’ve had to stick to my very efficient and inauthentic Hebe sidestand as the bicycle kept falling off a period Suresta, which singularly failed to live up to its name.

The engine was also stripped as the crankshaft seals were starting to weep (they weren’t the only ones in that Vale of Tears between Penzance and Thurso). As I expected, when I stripped it, apart perhaps from an occasional de-coke, the engine had stayed in one piece since it left the factory in Croydon in 1951. It was very gummed up with carbon and I replaced the seals, bearings and piston rings. When I finished it at the end of the summer I took it for a ride up my test hill. It passed easily and today was the first run since.

A Vincent Firefly roller-drive mounted on a BSA folding paratrooper’s bicycle

I was worried that it might, like the children, misbehave itself at this grown ups party after it had been so well-behaved all holiday. Things started well. In company with a few other of the roller drive bikes pictured here we set out in sunshine along the lanes around Ickford.

After less that four miles the Trojan would only run when the tickler on the carburettor was pressed. Too embarrassed to stop I kept messing as the others overtook me. As they disappeared into the distance, the miniature barks of their willing little engines tally-hoing off the sepia hedges, I accepted the inevitable and stopped for a repair. A gentleman accompanying the ride on a veteran BSA asked what was wrong and I said fuel starvation. “Ah,” he said, “a blocked jet”. This was not something that had happened in 1100 miles but as it’s a one screw job I decided to accept his tip. I blew through the jet, checked the spark plug for whiskering (there wasn’t any) and off we went.

You knew it was coming, the inevitable breakdown shot.

Two miles further on I decided I was sick of the roller slipping on the damp tyre (it had been dry on my test run). After a voluntary stop, a few turns on the adjustment of the engine engagement cable sorted that and we felt once again like man and machine in harmony. It was a very strange sensation on the day I did my test ride. As soon as I sat on the Rudge I felt almost like it was part of me. (For a full rationale of this see Flann OBrien’s The Third Policeman) Today was different. We have spent a month in the Moselle Valley with our pedelec bicycles and it was a while until I felt comfortable on the Mini Motor. Well perhaps comfortable is too strong a word. The roads, although quiet have the most atrocious surface and I was moved to think at one point what species of idiot would want to ride this from Cornwall to Caithness? The day was a typical late autumn one, warm in the bright sunshine and perishing when the east wind caught you in the shade. The route looped back on itself near the end so I had the dubious pleasure of seeing those I had started the ride with heading back as I continued away.

I’d tried to make one or two ‘improvements’ to the bike during the rebuild. The vibration of the engine is such that the numberplate bolted to the rear of the tank (which serves as the engine mounting) can and does crack.

I’d used the old numberplate that the Trojan had originally been given as a backing plate on LEJOG because it had a light mounting. The ride had wrecked it so I obtained a new old stock moped rear plate and stroke of genius, I thought, mounted it on two of those rubber bushes which were used for a Mini exhaust.

The vibration took one of the rubber bushes out first outing, no problem. Back to the drawing board or sugar paper and wax crayon in my case.

The AGM was in a restoration workshop with some very interesting cars and bikes about. It was good to say hallo to some familiar faces. The meeting was extremely calm and friendly for such conventions can be very tense and acrimonious. Not here, there was even a most welcome buffet.

The list of recipients on the back of the trophy includes quite a few people I know and at least two who offered me advice on LEJOG. Stuart Metcalfe (2011) had ridden his Mini Motor back from Spain and Andrew Roddham e-mailed me during the trip to offer his encouragement (and a donation to Alzheimer’s Research). He did his own LEJOG in 1983 (I assume from the list) on a Cyclemaster.

A Cyclemaster at today’s run.

So that’s it. Thanks to the VMCC Cyclemotor Section for a good day. The Rudge is back in the garage for the winter.

Disappointed

It’s about a year now since I began preparations for LEJOG but odd echoes occasionally drift on the wind. This one concerns the Royal Enfield bicycle with Mini Motor attached that I purchased on the morning I left Worcester.

My immediate thought on seeing the bike, that it was completely original, was more right that I could have known. Its only owner registered the bicycle KNP 240 in October 1951 when it became a motor vehicle and put it away sometime before the tax expired in December 1953. The tax disc was on the bike along with front and back numberplates. This owner passed away in 2017 and the auction sale which resulted included the bicycle. So it had lain unused in its early 50s road-dust for 64 years.

With the kind assistance of Nigel Prichard, the vendor, I was able to get a letter from the auction house that had sold the deceased’s effects to confirm that the same owner had registered the bike in 1951. Phill Wright of the National Autocycle and Cyclemotor club supported an application to retain the original registration, following an inspection by Phil Nuttall of the machine. Stowford Lawrence of the National Cycle Collection opined in writing that this was a very original example of a motorised bicycle.

I had hoped that presenting this evidence would persuade the DVLA to re-issue the original registration. No, they said, unless an old log book was present or the registring authority had recorded the frame or engine number at the time, the vehicle must be re-registered with an age-related number. I appealed. Surely, I said, the bike was registered to this individual in 1951 and sold as part of his effects in 2017 bearing the numberplate recorded by the Worcestershire County Council. It has to be the same bike. The evidence they said was ‘circumstantial’ if you haven’t got a document etc, etc.

With the state the world is in just now this is not an important matter. Nevertheless it is a small example of how bureaucracies are allowed to create rigid procedures which have the force of regulations which cannot admit exceptions. There are much more serious examples of this creating injustices as the recent scandal over the treatment of some members the Windrush generation demonstrated.

Nevertheless the fact that a vehicle remained in the same ownership for 66 years and lay unused for 64 years in its original condition should surely make it an unusual enough survivor to entitle it to retain the identity it demonstrably has a title to? Is it reasonable to expect that our owner who had left his machine untouched for 64 years would, in putting his affairs in order before stepping off into the chasm that confronts us all, have thought to himself, now where did I put that log book in May 1951?

Enough of this dyspeptic rant. There are more important things to complain about.

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.

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.