The heading of this blog is a quote by Dan Aykroyd and in my opinion it is spot on. Bike riders are the most laid back, easy going people I know but I could be just a little bit biased.
In March of last year I decided to make a visit England to spectate at the annual Pioneer Run for veteran motorcycles organised by the Sunbeam Motorcycle Club. This would be the 75th event if my calculations are correct. Now, most people who know me are aware that I have a great liking for motorbikes, what a number probably don’t know is that the period and bikes I love most is not the super models of today, as fabulous as they are but the pre-1940 period, especially the 1920’s and 1930’s.
Anyway, back to the Pioneer Run, a Veteran motorcycle is defined as one built before 1914 and it may come as a bit of surprise that there are more of them about than you would think. Let’s take 2006 as an example because I just happen to have the programme to hand: The Run included entrants not only from the UK but also France, Spain, Germany, Holland and the USA and there were three classes:-
Class 1 – Machines manufactured not later than 31 December 1904 there appeared 30, the oldest built in 1896.
Class 2 – Machines manufactured not later than 31 December 1909 32 bikes were entered
Class 3 – Machines manufactured between 1 January 1910 & 31 December 1914 a whopping 284 bikes took part
…these were produced by manufacturers such as – Leon Bollee, De Dion Bouton, Quadrant, Dreadnought, White & Poppe, Lincoln Elk as well the better known Royal Enfield (1903), Ariel (1904) and Triumph (1904).
So, having set the scene, you will have an idea of what I was hoping to see. The run always starts at Tattenham Corner by Epsom Race Course and finishes at Madeira Drive, Brighton and traditionally takes place in March and therein lies the fly in my ointment!
I arrived in England to some very gloomy, cold weather not to mention the snow…. SNOW!! Well, hope springs eternal as the saying goes so I kept my fingers crossed for the run. I was up early on Sunday morning and looked out the window, still plenty of snow about but nothing fresh had fallen overnight so armed with a flask of coffee I set off for Epsom.
I got there with no mishap (it’s bad enough remembering which side of the road to drive on these days never mind doing it in snow) only to be told that the run had been cancelled as there was more snow forecast. Although I was disappointed I understood the decision and it was the correct one in the circumstances. Apart from the ages of the bikes the safety aspect has to be considered. On many of the bikes the final drive (from engine to back wheel) is by leather belt and not chain and the weather plays havoc with the leather stretching. So it was back to my daughter’s house to drown my sorrows in coffee and Dandelion and Burdock (a rare treat as it is not always readily available at home and when it is her indoors usually gets to the bottle first).
During the next few days despite the weather I visited a couple of museums. The National Motorcycle Museum in Birmingham, next to the NEC. A fabulous place packed with both restored and original bikes and a full history that covers all aspects of the British motorcycle industry. If you have ever owned a bike (as long as it was British – not foreign stuff) you will almost certainly find an example of it here.
My second trip was to Sammy Miller’s museum in the New Forest. I never get tired of visiting this one and there is usually something new whenever I go. Bikes of all ages and from all countries from Brough Superiors to a Moto Guzzi GP V8 500cc racing bike – beautiful. Also something that stirs my heart is a room full of Nortons – heaven!
This year the Pioneer Run has been put back a month and will take place on Sunday 13 April 2014 so I will be there again, hoping to see it all – FLOODS permitting.
We started with a quote so let’s end with one in the words of Adam Carolla “My first car was a motorcycle” and I wish I still had one.