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7th April 2008

The 2008 Pioneer Run
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If you own a vintage motorcycle then the Pioneer Run starts your riding year. Reg Eyre took his 1909 Triumph on an alternative way down south...

The Pioneer Run, organised by the Sunbeam Motor Cycle Club, is a season opener for many riders. For veteran machine riders, it is the next ride after the MoT, which tells us how well the machine is running. For many machines, it is their only run each year. For riders of more modern machinery, it is a good excuse to test the classic machinery and stop regularly at cafes and pubs on the ride to Brighton to praise the developments in engines, clutches, gearboxes, tyres, frames and brakes which make more modern machinery so easy to ride. Some riders of veterans also belong to classic bike clubs and stop at these known refreshment stops to chat and share the fun of watching old machinery rattling by.

Note the racey dropped handlebars... 1909 Triumph TT Roadster

My run last year was on a 1900 De Dion tricycle which required me to think about the width of the machine as well as working all the controls to maximise performance. This year was to be different! I decided to use my own 1909 Triumph TT Roadster which has only two wheels, solid engine and direct drive to the rear wheel with no pedals to aid starting or help the engine up hills. At least one has the option of diving between the traffic and the verge in emergencies which cannot be contemplated with a three wheeler…

'A sturdy beast, known for its reliability, good handling and adequate performance' 1909 Triumph TT Roadster

I was allocated an early number, (62), which means that most of the machines ahead of you are three-wheelers or fairly primitive two-wheelers which mostly proceed slowly and overtaking can be easy. The other advantage of starting at 8.25am is that most car drivers are still in bed.

The 1909 Triumph is a sturdy beast and known for its reliability, good handling and adequate performance. Mine has the drop dead gorgeous handlebars which help the feeling of performance for about an hour and then make you seek alternative positions for your hands to relieve pressure on parts of the anatomy not designed for the ‘racing crouch’.

More dropped handlebars, but this time with forward-set footpegs. ExcelsiorSport – The Excelsior take on the sporting theme but with the larger 600cc engine

Because there are no pedals, the rider has to think carefully about the ignition, throttle and choke levers and their relative positions to maximise performance. This is not such a big problem since one is immediately aware of slowing down as you start climbing a hill and, shifting the ignition lever to retard the timing, makes the engine sound healthier and forward progress is maintained. Similarly, cresting the top of the hill on this retarded setting soon feels like a constriction on performance and a move to advance the timing results in a pleasant surge forward.

JESmith – A 'control nightmare', ridden by Ken Lee

Brakes are not really a problem on this run since the throttle can be used for accelerating or decelerating out of impending incidents. Most drivers of modern cars are not aware that braking heavily in front of you after a maniacal overtaking manoeuvre, results in the rider having palpitations because the veteran-era braking system (the acceptable term for jamming a block into the driving belt rim), won’t stop the machine in time.

Fortunately, they also don’t know the width of their vehicles which allows for the dive between their car and the kerb to which their response is to veer out into the opposite lane so that you cannot scratch their paintwork.

The 2008 Pioneer Run route

There is a coffee stop provided for riders at Leonardslee but many of us ride straight past to avoid the traffic build-up/hold-ups in Brighton itself. Soon after this riders crest the hill before sighting the pylons near Pyecombe. This is where we join the three-lane A23 traffic zooming along at 70-plus speeds and we are doing our 25 to 30mph and informed by the route card to move into the middle of five lanes. No chance!

Veteran bits on

The Triumph is currently geared down so that progress through the Brighton one-way system was almost possible without having to constantly bump start at each traffic obstruction. The final run along Maderia Drive is the place where most riders want to punch the air after a successful run.

1897 De Dion - The oldest two-wheeler on show. I really want to ride this machine!

Arriving early means a parking place near to the exit for making the quick get-away when the weather breaks, a chance to see the other riders arriving, a good seat for eating the welcome fish and chip lunch, chatting with mates and exchanging stories about the run or bikes in general, and a look at the machines to be auctioned by Bonhams at Stafford.


The Sunbeam Motorcycle Club was founded in 1924 and organises several events throughout the year for vintage, veteran and classic motorcycles. See

Ready for the off...


Sunbeams (sort of) on


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