7th September 2007
In 2004 a team of Royal Enfield enthusiasts re-enacted a thousand mile reliability test which Enfield had undertaken back in 1964. Allan Hitchcock supplied the bike and rode the first leg...
The original ride was a publicity stunt devised by Royal Enfield to underline the fact that their Continental GT was Britain's fastest 250. A team of riders took a new 250 on a thousand mile trek from John O'Groats to Land's End in 22 hours and 20 minutes - and that included a couple of stops at race circuits along the way to get in some speed tests. The full story of the original ride is in the magazine (RC40; August 2007), but there wasn't space to include all the details of the re-enactment which took place 40 years later.
Allan Hitchcock supplied and prepared a Hitchcock's Bullet GT café racer for the trip. And then he rode the first leg; 'At 2.50am I was rudely awakened by Charlie banging on the van door. Charlie King was the man who helped make this happen, I gave him the idea and he sorted all the details.'
They were in Land's End, ready to start the bike ride. The van would follow so Allan could stay with the Bullet after his riding stint. 'I had to get myself to Silverstone to meet the original crew from 1964. This would include seeing John Moon-Eyes Cooper ride the circuit as he did 40 years ago. The van also came in handy to carry the odd screwdriver in case a minor running repair was needed along the way.
'At 4am I turned on the petrol, tickled the Amal carburetter, turned the key and slowly depressed the kick-start over compression. One kick -- and relief, when a healthy note leapt out of the megaphone silencer attached to the 612cc engine. It went straight into first gear and I pulled away so as not to disturb the nearby hotel. I had been looking forward to the quiet lanes leading to the A30, a nice combination of long sweeping bends and tight corners that required constant use of the reliable and positive five-speed gearbox.
'Unfortunately due to the mist this was limited to first and second with the occasional third and plenty of brakes. By the time I had reached the A30 I was well behind schedule. It was another 15 or 20 miles on the A30 before the mist had cleared and I could catch up my lost time. There was no one about which allowed good progress for the next 50 or so miles and I covered them in 30 minutes.
'After stopping for fuel at my halfway point, I left the A30 to follow the A- and B-roads through Okehampton, Crediton, Tiverton, Taunton, etc. Now this is what motorcycling is about: no traffic, good weather, open country roads, only slowing down for the occasional village. After making excellent time I slowed down the pace and rode steadily between Glastonbury and Bath. I felt flattered to see the first of many of Enfield supporters along the way just outside Wells.
'At 7.40am, 20 minutes ahead of schedule I arrived at Bath and was pleased to see Mick Duckworth waiting at the agreed meeting point. After a 15 minute fuel and changeover stop, Mick rode off like a man on a mission. We eventually caught up with Mick at Silverstone where we met up with four of the original riders from 1964, (David Dixon, Brian Crow, Pat Braithwaite and John Cooper).Moon Eyes Cooper being led out onto Silverstone circuit
'Unfortunately the Bullet was tied up here for an hour and three quarters, losing valuable time while we waited to get some track time. Eventually 'Moon Eyes' got to ride several laps round the Silverstone circuit on the Bullet, which was then given back to Mick who rode off to complete his mission to hand over to Sharon Allen at Penkridge.Sharon Allen who was secretary of the REOC at the time
Sharon took the A-roads to Oulton Park then handed over to Gordon May at Carlisle. I believe Gordon May enjoyed his ride as when he handed over to Tim Britton in Fort William, his first words were: "awesome! Simply awesome!" It seems that Loch Lomond offered a place to test out the big Bullet's top speed!
'I was pleased to hear the phone ring at 1.15am with Tim Britton telling me to hurry up as there was not a lot to do at John O'Groats at that time of day. The Bullet and all its riders had safely completed the journey in a time of 21 hours and 15 minutes.'A tribute to Brian Crow who started the original run at John O'Groats with his back wheel in the water
So that was 977 miles in just over 21 hours, including a long stop at Silverstone. The Bullet ran without any problems, returning 52mpg and using three-quarters of a pint of oil. So was Allan pleased with how his bike performed?
'I had intended to have a nice steady ride, seeing as the Bullet had nearly 1000 miles to do in 24 hours. I had put a lot at stake with this Bullet )which was equipped with our performance parts and café racer kit), to risk any reliability problems.
'However, as soon as I sat on the Bullet, feet on the rearsets, hands on the clip-ons, and felt the pull of the engine, I knew that my good intentions had gone out the window! From talking to the other riders I know they all had the same uncontrollable temptation. Charlie had given the riders some tight time schedules during the route planning, and I had further reduced these without letting on how tight they would be.
'I didn't expect any of the riders to meet these, but I am pleased to see they all rose to the challenge.'
Hitchcocks will build you a café racer (or any other sort of Bullet) if you fancy trying something similar yourself: www.hitchcocksmotorcycles.com
You can read about the original end-to-end Royal Enfield ride which took place on a 250 Continental GT, in issue 40 of RealClassic magazine
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