13th July 2011
Richard Jones had never been to the Banbury Run™ before. His first experience of the day was just about as good as it gets, and now he's at Sun Rising Hill to see the bikes underway...
Once the first starters set off just after 10am - they leave in groups of five - I raced off back to Tessie, pausing only for a brief Silk Cut, and set off for Sun Rising to ensure I was there before the first machines arrived. Once there a good spot near a bend was selected, the camera made ready and I waited for the first bikes to appear; and waited; and waited.
Another thing I learned about the Banbury Run™ which you won't find on the internet is that it takes at least two hours for the bikes to get from Gaydon to Sun Rising Hill; remember you read it here first. Although it wasn't raining there was no sign of the sun and there was a keen wind blowing around the nether regions of the Hill. After the first hour I began to wonder whether hypothermia was a possibility in June and wished the Silk Cuts could be supplemented by a hot coffee. Every time an engine was heard ears would prick up only to be disappointed by a modern bike or a local 'character' who was tearing up and down on a moto-cross machine that could be heard several counties away. Even the sight of a 1950's two-wheel something or other was a disappointment when we were expecting something at least 30 years older.
Finally the first machines appeared - coming down the hill! Some confusion here as they are supposed to go up to make life more interesting for riders and spectators alike. I can only assume that a wrong turn had been taken somewhere because when the main body of machines appeared they were all going in the traditional and more acceptable direction of up.
I hope you will get an idea from the photographs just how interesting it is to see these motorcycles being used as they were designed, built and intended to be. I still find it difficult to believe that they have not only survived for over 80 years (the bikes that is, not the riders although in some instances …..) but that they are still up to the challenge of negotiating this part of the course. It is a tribute to the dedication and enthusiasm of their owners that we can still be treated to this sort of spectacle in an age where internal combustion engines are being generally vilified. Long may it continue and rant now over.
In some ways motorcycles and their riders do not change with the years. For example it quickly became apparent that Scotts and their riders are the 1920's equivalent of the modern sports bikes and their pilots.
The Scotts, for the most part, tore up the hill with the more ambitious riders even leaning into the corners to get around them quicker. I was told later in the day that the Scott has to be ridden in this manner to get the best out of them - call me an old cynic but I suspect that these speed kings choose their mounts specifically for the purpose of some wild-eyed two-stroke excitement.
Other riders travelled up the hill with a determined look in their eyes, apparently using will power to ensure their machines made it to the top without letting them down or causing any undue embarrassment with the spectators.
Others showed a spectacular lack of concern - they clearly had no doubts that they would arrive at the top and couldn't understand what the fuss was all about:
Sidecar outfits seemed to see this as being a joyous part of the route with their passengers particularly keen to acknowledge the admiring throng (sic) of spectators. That being said some of the riders, although not the one below, seemed less concerned with smiling and more focused on making the grade (or gradient to be more accurate).
Exuberant facial hair did make an appearance.
Style was also a key characteristic of some riders - these two were my favourites and I am not apologising for adding a bit of artistic Photoshoppery to get a period ambience.
Sadly some didn't make it but their stoicism and persistence were to be admired.
Once the majority of the bikes had passed by I set off back to Gaydon to see the finish and followed one of the entrants for a short time. It was instructive to see what it was like to travel at their pace but I got the distinct impression the rider could have done without me sitting on his tail so I went past. Incidentally there are other vantage points to watch the Run, some of which are outside public houses where spectators in all sorts of period dress were to be seen. Guess where I will be going next year…
Anyway I finally got back to Gaydon and, fortified by a sausage bun - the bacon had all been consumed - a coffee and a Silk Cut, I took a few more photos. This one was of a machine in the Bonhams enclosure - any ideas what it is?
Tessie and I then set off home, weary but having had an excellent day. I can thoroughly recommend the Banbury Run™ irrespective of whether you are a vintage motorcycle enthusiast or not. It's about the people as well as the machines and the extraordinary effort they put into this event that draws entrants from far and wide. Long may it continue.
Coming soon: Richard reports upon the second of two top classic motorcycling events in one month…
For more information about the Banbury Run™ see www.banbury-run.co.uk
For more of Richard's photos, see his Flickr page: www.flickr.com/photos/...
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