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9th May 2014

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The 2014 Pioneer Run

Richard Jones encountered nearly 400 century-old motorcycles which tackled the 40 mile course from London to Brighton this year. Here are his highlights...

The 2014 Pioneer Run

As you can see the Sunbeam Motor Cycle Club's 2014 75th Pioneer Run was held with blue skies and in glorious sunshine, a stark contrast to the previous year when the event was cancelled due to snow, frost and other unpleasantness on the weather front. There were nearly 400 entries in the 2014 programme and, as machines must be manufactured no later than 31st December 1914, then all the motorcycles, tricycles and forecars were at least 100 years old.

I think it's fair to say that nowhere else in the world could you see such a sight and there were entries from France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and the Czech Republic while Peter Young had brought his 1913 Veloce all the way from San Francisco to attend. The first machine left Tattenham Corner in Epsom at just after 8am to travel the 43 miles to Madeira Drive in Brighton, following roads through some of the busiest parts of the UK - an interesting experience on machines which would have rudimentary brakes at best and where junctions would have been a test of the riders' nerve.

The 2014 Pioneer Run

The first machine to arrive in Brighton was this 1904 3hp James H Smith ridden by Ken Lee of Upminster. These machines were manufactured by J Smith of Camberley in Surrey at the turn of the 20th century using German Fafnir engines in BSA cycle parts. This may have been one of the last examples as the company ceased trading in 1904/05.

The problem for me on this occasion is that I am like a child in a sweet factory: so many machines to photograph and I snap away like a thing possessed. You can also become very blasé - just another 1910 Triumph or Douglas passes the viewfinder but they are all tremendously interesting and need to be recorded. Nevertheless I will try to restrict myself here to the relatively less familiar machines, although please forgive my obsession with v-twins and primary colours.

The 2014 Pioneer Run

Speaking of which you will find a number of photos on my Flickr site of this 1913 995cc Flying Merkel which was brought to Brighton by Victor Norman of Cirencester; I had never seen one of these before so the camera went into overdrive. Joe Merkel began building motorcycles in Milwaukee about 1903, known as the Merkel Light, and was the first American manufacturer to provide a spring frame. In 1911 the company was taken over by Miami Cycle and Manufacturing Company of Middletown, Ohio when the trademark was changed to Flying Merkel. The bike was of advanced design based on 545cc singles and 980cc V-twins - in fact the 1913 models not only had two-speed gearboxes but also some even had electric starters.

The 2014 Pioneer Run

Similar colour scheme, different continent. I had photographed this machine in 1912 but had been unable to find out anything about it - luckily this year I met the owner of this 1912 Pivot with its 402cc engine. Although many of the components were obtained from Coventry the machines were actually manufactured in Australia and there are, apparently, only three known examples left of which this is one. If anyone out in RealClassicLand has any more information I'd be interested to hear.

The 2014 Pioneer Run

One problem with focusing on esoteric machinery is that it is difficult to find any detailed information which is annoying as Paul Valkenet, who had brought this motorcycle from the Netherlands, went to great pains to explain the pronunciation to me. It would appear that Lurquin-Coudert were manufactured in Paris between 1899 and 1914, M Coudert apparently being a well know bicycle racer. Although the company specialised in selling single cylinder and v-twin engines they also built complete motorcycles as well as tricars and cyclecars. This example dates from 1904 and has a 210cc single cylinder engine; judging by the number of levers on the tank it must be a challenge to ride.

The 2014 Pioneer Run

Heinz Kindler brought his 1910 3hp Wanderer all the way from Germany for the Run. Like so many others the marque started life in 1902 as an engine attached to a bicycle although Wanderer subsequently produced 250cc single and 500cc sidevalve V-twins. Capacity grew after the war then in 1928 a brand new machine arrived with a 498cc ohv single cylinder engine, three-speed unit gear box, shaft drive and a pressed-steel frame. Investment in this model may have contributed to Wanderer's collapse the following year but the design was sold to F Janacek who manufactured the machines in Prague as the JAnacek-WAnderer which was later abbreviated to the better-known Jawa brand.

The 2014 Pioneer Run

I have included this 1905 3.5hp Orion not for its eye-catching colour scheme but for the fact its owner, Petr Hulka, brought it all the way from the Czech Republic, where the marque was manufactured by Vilém Michl between 1902 and 1933, for the event. This is one of the early single cylinder machines that were produced but V-twin engined motorcycles were also built, including 90° inclined racing engines which gave Orion some sporting success.

The 2014 Pioneer Run

Now for some home-grown rarity, at least it's rare for me. Chas Dayton of Shoreditch produced a lightweight 1.5hp, 162cc two-stroke motorcycle with an Amac carburettor from 1913. The magneto was chain-driven and sat ahead of the engine, lubrication was petroil and the chain-driven two-speed gearbox transferred power to the rear wheel by means of a belt final-drive. Manufacture ceased temporarily in 1915 after a ladies model was introduced but the name re-appeared in 1920 when a 269cc Villiers engine was used; however Dayton finally disappeared in 1922. This example must have been an early model as it dates from 1914 and has the 162cc engine which apparently vibrated horribly until owner Robert Smith conducted a bottom-end rebuild and it's now a good 'un.

The 2014 Pioneer Run

Surprisingly, or not, this was designed by an electrical engineer, W Slinger of Settle in Yorkshire, and appeared in 1901 after six years of work by Mr Slinger who gave the machine his name. The frame and rear wheel are of a normal design but the front end comprises two in-line front wheels with a water-cooled 499cc de Dion engine sat between them, the cooling system designed by Mr Slinger. Transmission was by chain to a countershaft and then by a second chain to a small rear wheel. Moving forward apparently proves relatively easy but backward motion may be less so, akin to reversing a car with a trailer attached perhaps? Three wheels makes it a tricycle but they are in line so is it a solo - one to ponder over during those long winter evenings?

The 2014 Pioneer Run

Ivy - or 'The Ivy' as appears on the tank - first saw light of day at some point between 1907 and 1910 depending what reference book you use. All agree, however, that they were manufactured in Aston Cross, Birmingham, by SA Newman who started with models which featured a 3.5hp Precision engine, belt drive and sprung forks. These were later joined by other singles and a V-twin, of which I assume this 1912 650cc entrant in the Run is an example, and in 1914 a model with a two-stroke Peco engine of 225cc joined the range. The machines must have been swift as Mr Newman won the 1913 Junior TT riding his Ivy-Precision. The range was extended post war with two and four-stroke engines, the largest capacity produced being 349cc; Ivy went the way of so many other manufacturers in 1931.

The 2014 Pioneer Run

The smallest machine I photographed in Brighton was this 1914 JES which would have been built some five years after JE Smith of Gloucester first started manufacturing motorcycles. As can be seen the 116cc, four-stroke engine is set within a bicycle frame and powers the rear wheel by belt drive; there is also a front-mounted, gear-driven Fischer magneto. 1920 saw engine capacity raised to 142cc but using the same concept; thereafter various engine makes, types and capacities featured. JES acquired the Connaught marque in 1924 which was also the year the brand disappeared from the scene - presumably no coincidence.

The 2014 Pioneer Run

I had to include one machine from Coventry and this Arno came from Gosford Street in 1912 although the marque first saw the light of day six years earlier. Earlier models were fitted with Arno's own 3 or 3.5hp engines, Amac or B&B carburettor, sprung forks and detachable pedals. 1912 saw the addition of a 2.25hp lightweight and a TT version of the 3.5hp model, a machine with direct belt drive; Arno disappeared soon after in 1915. This example may be the TT version as it has the 500cc engine although the primary colours on the tank make it a winner for me.

The 2014 Pioneer Run

If there was such a thing, the Patination Award may have gone to this Motosacoche which dates from 1912 and has a 244cc engine. The machine is clearly restored mechanically as it completed the Run yet it carries it age with style and originality. The founders of Motosacoche, Armand and Henry Dufaux, started manufacturing in Switzerland in 1899 and made a name with their 241 and 290cc bicycle attachment engines. 1905 saw the introduction of a 215cc clip-on engine unit known as La Motosacoche - "the motor in a bag" - and the capacity grew to 250cc whilst a 750cc v-twin appeared later. The Dufaux brothers also set up a separate engine production brand under the name Motosacoche Acacias Geneva "MAG" brand and also made the first Swiss motorised flight in 1906. Motorcycle production continued until 1956 - 57.

The 2014 Pioneer Run "Vintage" bikes on Now...

I have included this 1898 250cc Peugeot tricycle, not only because it was the oldest machine I photographed but because the owner, Brian Wynn Jones, comes from Llangollen, home of a rather marvellous motor museum but also a short distance from my home town. Cymru am byth as we say. Peugeot began life in around the same time as this example was manufactured so this must be a very early example of the marque.

The 2014 Pioneer Run

This 1909 Phanomobile with its curious 8hp engine was manufactured by the German firm Phanomen from 1907 employing a V-twin engine of 880cc which was used until 1912. It was then upgraded to a four-cylinder, 1536cc engine and because it was economical it became very popular.

The 2014 Pioneer Run

Triumph was probably the predominant marque at the Run. The oldest I photographed is a 1907 500cc machine and built only five years after the marque was founded. I'm assuming that it features the 3hp engine that Triumph manufactured itself after 1905, replacing the earlier bought-in Minerva power plants.

The Pioneer Run® is a truly magnificent event and deserves our support to ensure it continues for many years to come. Make your way to Brighton in 2015 for a great motorcycling experience.

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Words and photos: Richard Jones

Details of the next Pioneer Run and other events organised by the Sunbeam MCC can be found at sunbeam-mcc.co.uk



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