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5th December 2006

Nostalgia Run
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What do 35 classic bikes from most of the major British manufacturers, the beautiful and varied Somerset countryside, and sweeping veils of rain have in common? Robert Lane explains...

The answer is the second Nostalgia Run organised by the Bath Classic Motorcycle Club. The BCMCC is an active club which organises classic scrambles, trials and road runs throughout the year. At least once a month, an organised run takes place following some very attractive routes through the countryside around Bath. The jaunts are augmented by several longer runs, often collecting money for charity, where rider and machine endurance are tested further. With many club members owning both classic (or in my case just old) and modern motorcycles, there is usually a mix of machinery attending runs. To ensure that the classics get at least one good airing a year, the Nostalgia run was established for bikes over 25 years old, so the Honda Pans and BMW tourers have to stay at home.

I must admit to having mixed feelings about organised motorcycle runs. The banter before, at lunch and after is always good, but the riding itself can be claustrophobic. Stuck in formation holding position, the whole freedom-of-the-road thing can be lost. The selection of the route is the key factor; it needs to be interesting and appropriate for the machinery being used. I was a member of a modern motorcycle group that all rode large, heavy, V-twined machines whose 'ride outs' were often very slow and down narrow lanes. On arrival at the destination both motorcycle and rider were hot and bothered. Fortunately Sarah Fogden, the organiser of the BCMCC road runs, is an excellent route planner. She selects routes that match the machines taking part, which makes the whole trip much more enjoyable.

225cc side-valve Royal Enfield

As riders assembled in the car park of the White Post in Chilcompton, it was interesting to see which manufacturers' products are favoured by the classic crowd. Unsurprisingly, Triumph twins were in the ascendance, followed by BSA's both twins and singles. However, there was a good smattering of other makes too; Nortons old and not so old, Ariel, Velocette, Greeves, Malagutti, Royal Enfield and Francis Barnet were all present -- as well as a couple of products from Japan that had squeezed into the 25 year limit.

Nice pair of girders...

The most striking machine came from Eastern Europe in the shape of a Russian horizontal twin with a miniaturised 2CV sidecar. Sitting astride the motorcycle part of the combination was a female mannequin who, it must be said, was not appropriately clothed for the inclement weather. Driving was done from inside the sidecar, leaving the impression that the ex-resident of a showroom window was in charge. While this is not the first time a dummy has been in control of a motorcycle it certainly caused a double take when first sighted.

Nice pair of... Is that engine from a Citroen?

The 80 mile run had been designed to be not too taxing, but passed through some beautiful countryside and villages. There is more to north Somerset than apple orchards and pseudo hippies sitting in a field passing round the merlot listening to Coldplay. The route skirted the impressive gorges of Cheddar and Wookey and then passed out onto the windswept flatlands of the levels, where drainage channels and roads fight for dominance and the villages huddle around the local pub for comfort. Up out of the levels and on to Glastonbury the countryside mellows into rolling fields and woods, with even a castle to pass at Nunney before returning home.

I don't like to return to the weather, being a believer that modern waterproof clothing can keep at bay most of what mother nature can throw at it, especially on a short run like this, but it was a good test of 'how waterproof is your motorcycle?' There were several breakdowns due to the egress of water, but most were cured, or at least staved off for a while.

Shaken, not soaked...

On returning to the car park at the end of the run it was interesting to see how effective different machines had been at keeping themselves clean. Those with well valanced mudguards were damp but fairly muck free. Alas, the short 'there for style but not for practicality' item that adorns the front end of my own BSA proved very effective in throwing mud and water all over the engine and spark plugs!

Muddied, not bloodied...

At the end of the day a good time was had by all. I can heartily recommend a ride around the lanes and villages of Somerset. Whether this is part of an organised group or a solo bimble the choice is yours.

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