There are two basic theories about how an old motorcycle should look: ‘concours’ – stripped down, repainted, re-chromed, re-engineered and re-assembled to look as near possible exactly as it came out of the showroom in 19-blah or ‘with patina’ – mechanically sound and with any deterioration that would threaten its survival addressed but showing the ‘finger marks’ of the humans who have ridden it. In the latter camp the ‘period accessory’ is much admired – a part added by a former owner (or bought by the present owner and discretely bolted on) which leaves the machine looking as it might have done in 19-blah + n (where n is the notional number of years before the bike became hopelessly obsolescent and was relegated to the shed where it languished until it became ‘collectable’).
The cyclemotor, by its nature, is in the ‘with patina’ camp because the bolt on engine is a period accessory. The (very small) world of enthusiasts for this type of machine is made up of bikes that look as they might have done in say 1954 before increased prosperity and the purpose built moped swept these Heath Robinson contraptions from the highways.
William Heath Robinson died in 1944 before the Cyclemotor Boom but we can detect that, like Leonardo De Vinci, he foresaw the direction of future technological developments – the W Heath Robinson Museum, Pinner
The Rudge normally attempts the ‘with patina’ look but the intervening 64 years have increased the density and speed of road traffic to such an extent that further ‘cheating’ has been deemed necessary for LEJOG. A short proving trip mistakenly undertaken in the murk of a Barnsley tea-time in December re-inforced this view. The British may have an innate love of nostalgia and eccentricity but they have a very low threshold of tolerance for vehicular ‘otherness’. (Discuss with relevance to ‘the national character’ at your leisure.)
So starting at the front the tyres of the old fashioned 26 x 13/8 inches size are Schwalbe Marathon Plus. These are claimed (and have thus far proved themselves) to be puncture resistant. (I refuse to write ‘puncture-proof’, remember the ‘unsinkable’ Titanic?) The rusty wheel rims were replaced with stainless steel items. These are ‘period’ because they were available at the time, although not possibly in 1949 when there was a raw materials shortage following the Second World War and as a result of war production for the Korean Conflict.
The second real cheat is the front brake. Cyclemotors don’t stop very well. When I first motorised the bike in 2011 I discussed this with David Casper of the NACC and he suggested that ‘back in the day’ riders used to rig up a double front brake. A double cable block with adjusters from eBay (mega-cheating – no eBay in 1954) and a period accessory Sturmey Archer braked hub laced into the stainless rim tackled this.
The front panniers are Ortlieb waterproof items which is a partial cheat as the originals would have been canvas but authenticity would have involved risking soggy spare Y-fronts and socks – not good for concentration.
The handlebars are mostly period although re-wrapped in cork tape and with new rubber grips to replace the very hardened John Bull No 2s (that’s a precise description not a euphemism for constipation). The big cheat on the handlebars will be a bicycle Sat-nav that should prevent me having to stop at every corner to consult a map – once I have mastered how to programme the route into it. A lesser secondary cheat is the modern LED front lamp. The Rudge has a dynamo to power its original headlamp but as my friend Phil Nuttall pointed out, “if you get stuck the lights will go out”.
The bottom or pedal bracket was stripped and re-greased by Geared Up Cycles of Wombwell but that’s sensible maintenance not cheating. The addition of a water bottle cage also doesn’t count as that’s sensible maintenance for the rider.
The saddle is a Brooks B67 with springs. A minor cheat as the bike came with a B17 (no springs) but the extra weight of the engine dropping into potholes was very uncomfortable. A matching toolbag is a (ridiculously expensive) modern period accessory.
The rear caliper brake behind the saddle is a nuisance with a Mini Motor. It gets in the way of the engine and is too close to all the grit picked off the tyre by the roller and chucked in its direction. I’m trying some Kool Stop Continental salmon brake blocks which definitely look like they’re cheating as they’re pink.
The 4 speed Sturmey Archer rear hub is a long term period accessory/cheat. The Rudge originally had a dynamo in the front hub and 4 gears in the back. This later hub which has 4 gears and the dynamo was checked over by Peter M. Williamson of Cambridge for LEJOG and allows the front brake hub cheat.
Finally there’s nothing worse than having your lunch and spare undies smelling of petrol and two stroke oil so I have made a little rack for each side under the engine to carry these essentials. The amount of time it took me to make and then re-make these after I had to re-position the engine lifting hoop means this can’t really count as cheating. Oh and the side-stand is a modern one as the reproduction period accessory Indian made item looked likely to collapse once the bike was loaded up.
The first donations on my sponsorship page (https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/raleighrudginit) have come in even before I start. So a big thanks to Pam and Haydn, Rex Hake, Tin Snail and Graham and Christine Pointon. The page is telling me there’s only 39 days to the start. That’s scary.