Pioneer Run

Sunday 19th March 2000 - Sunbeam MCC


- Phil the Spill

I wasn't sure I would be able to do the run this year, my clutch cable having snapped a few days previously. I had fitted a new one, but was unsure about it lasting, because whatever had caused the original to snap hadn't been corrected and the new one could go just as easily. The Club had arranged two possible meeting places. The first was at the start of the Pioneer Run, Tattenham Corner of Epsom Racecourse, at 9am. I managed to get there just about on time, being lucky enough to follow a motorbike I saw travelling down Epsom high street. I had to park about a mile from the actual start point, due to the number of bikes parked along the roadside. This line of machinery was still growing as I trudged along the bank. Of course, nobody was allowed to park around the starting enclosure, otherwise the vintage bikes would have been blocked in. I didn't envy the competitors, as it was a grey and quite cold day, with the threat of rain. I wandered around for quite a while, seeing a lot of bikes on their way, but I didn't manage to find the others, (Dennis Trebble, Peter North and the Tedman brothers), so I decided to head for Brighton. The second meeting place was the entrance to the Palace Pier on Brighton sea front and I wondered if I would see any of them there.

To get to Brighton, I did the opposite of my usual route – usually I hop on the M25 round to the Reigate turn-off, then follow the bikes down to the end. This time I followed the bikes to Reigate then turned onto the M25, followed by the M23/A23 down to Brighton. Negotiating the one-way system was as annoying as usual, but the way to Madeira Drive is quite familiar now, and I parked up with the rest of the bikes, as I was a lot earlier than normal, there were only a couple of dozen bikes before me. Some of the veterans were already arriving. To get close enough to them for a decent photograph, you have to enter the paddock area, which is basically a roped-off part of the road, (through vehicles not allowed on the day). To get in, you have to buy a programme, which this year cost £3. I judged it just about OK this year, but if it goes up much I don't think I'll bother again. I rolled off a few shots and then made my way to the pier. I thought the meeting time was 11am and wasn't very surprised not to find anybody there, although I thought I saw Peter North driving his Transalp along the top road, heading toward the parking area, so I headed back to the bike. I didn't see him on the way there, so I headed back again to the pier, taking the chance to check out a few new arrivals. After waiting for a while by the gate I decided to check out the amusements and get some doughnuts, which I knew I could get just by the funfair, (having left the sandwiches I prepared especially for the day at home). While munching my way through these I found Dennis and his friend Dave, (who I had met at the Uxbridge Auto Show last year), Peter had just arrived, but had nipped along for some chips. Apparently the meeting time was 11:30, by which time I was over in the paddock, and they all thought I hadn't made it.

Apparently Dennis and Dave turned up at the start after I had left, but Peter didn't find the start and headed straight down to Brighton. Brian and John Tedman had arrived at the start when pretty much all the bikes had gone, mostly due to engine problems. They had gone home again to tend their machines and escape the bad weather they were sure they would encounter. In fact the weather in Brighton was warming up quite nicely as the sky was rapidly clearing.

From here on, as we had all met up and Peter has also written a report on the day, I will let him tell the rest of the story. I notice he fails to mention that, as we went to the paddock to get a close look at the bikes, the others tried to sneak through the gaps in the fence without paying! Unfortunately for them, they were spotted and had to fork over their £3s.

Phil Drackley - Phil the Spill

I woke up early, the sun just visible through a thin grey cloud. I started to prepare for my day. It was the day of the Epsom to Brighton Pioneer run. My plan was to see the vintage bikes set off from Epsom racecourse on the start of their annual journey to Brighton. After preparing a packed lunch and donning what I thought were enough layers of clothing for a cool morning, the trusty Transalp was wheeled out of the garage. Two minutes later I was joining the M25 at junction 17 heading for Epsom. There was little traffic and I settled down to a steady pace of around 65 mph. My hands were cold and numb after about 25 miles and I made a mental note to purchase heated mitts on my next trip to the bike shop.

I have been to Brighton and seen the bikes arrive many times, but I have never been to Epsom racecourse to see the start. This was also true, I later found out, of another motorcyclist who followed me from the M25, all round Epsom town and out towards the Downs. I eventually found the racecourse, but there was no sign of any vintage bikes. There were, however, hundreds of modern machines all over Epsom Downs, in the car parks and lining the sides of the road. I found somewhere to park and walked up and down looking at the modern bikes and trying to warm up. It was so cold that, like many others, I kept my crash helmet on. It was therefore by sheer fluke that John and Brian Tedman recognised me (and I them) in the huge crowd milling about viewing the bikes. They told me they had as much trouble finding the starting point as I had. They were intending to go on to Brighton, but unfortunately both of them were having problems with their bikes. The Honda 400 was visibly losing oil from the cylinder head and the Ducati was invisibly losing oil within.

The sun broke through the cloud, and the Downs were bathed in bright sunshine. It looked like the day might turn out warm after all. I said goodbye to Brian and John and set off for Brighton following the Pioneer run signs. This route to Brighton was very easy to follow, unfortunately it is also very slow. As I like to see the bikes arrive in Brighton, I turned off the marked route and sped along the M25, M23 and A23. Occasionally I spotted a vintage machine cross the motorway on a bridge above.

I stopped at a petrol station just outside Brighton to the fill the tank (£6 for 100 miles can't be bad). This Q8 petrol station sold fresh brewed coffee at 45 pence a cup so, after a hot drink and use of the facilities, I was ready to continue on into Brighton. The journey through Brighton to the sea front can often take some time, what with the one way system, the numerous traffic lights and the high volume of bike traffic. At one set of lights a vintage machine pulled up beside me, the engine stopped and the rider jumped off. When the lights turned green he ran with the bike, bump started it, and hopped on again. This was repeated at the next set of lights. I wondered if he had done this all the way from Epsom.

By the time I parked up it was a cool, bright sunny day. I made my way down to the paddock area, there were a few early arrivals already parked there. I walked up to the finish line and stood watching the arrivals and listening to the commentary. It was interesting to see the variety of vintage machines, singles, twins of every configuration, straight fours and even tricycles. A number of these were celebrating their 100th birthday, among them a 1900 De Dion Bouton tricycle. The machine that impressed me most was the 1913 eight horsepower Wilkinson Four. This beautiful bike has a straight four engine, a long wheelbase and immaculate dark green livery. The riding position is feet forward and very comfortable looking, similar to my Honda CN250.

At the finish line I was joined by Dennis and his friend Dave. We decided to have a break from the bikes and walk up the Palace Pier. The first part of the pier is an amusement arcade, all three of us managed to pass through without spending a penny, ironic really as that's what we went up the pier for! After admiring the spotlessly clean and beautifully tiled convenience (it should be nominated for the loo of the year award) we walked on to the end of the pier. This part of the pier has fairground rides and stalls, it also has the usual fast food outlets. Dennis and I couldn't resist a bag of chips. Looking west we saw the derelict West Pier, it is a very sorry sight. But the good news is there are plans for a full restoration using lottery money. In the sea was a brave soul snorkelling; Dave wondered what kind of bait you use to catch one of those.

It was about this time that we spotted Phil wandering up the pier. It transpired that we had all been to Epsom, yet none of us had seen any of the vintage bikes set off. We made our way back to the paddock, now full of wonderful vintage machinery. We admired them all, but one bike stood out from the crowd, a Flying Merkel, with its orange paint and white tyres it certainly would have been hard to miss. We left the paddock and found a sunny spot to sit and eat our sandwiches. It was turning out to be a warm afternoon, so we decided to ride along the seafront to Arundel. From there we followed the A29 and A24 towards Dorking. The good weather had encouraged many people to take to the roads, much of the traffic was two-wheeled and we found ourselves in a large convoy of bikes heading towards Box Hill. The last part of the journey was along the M25, Phil left us at the M4 exit and Dennis continued to the A412. I went up the M40 towards Eastcote.

The spring sunshine, the daffodils, the blossom on the trees and the good company made it a joy to be out riding. Hopefully this was the first of many trips with the bike club this year.

- Peter North