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5th December 2008

A Sidecar Celebration
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The Federation Of Sidecars Clubs celebrated their 50th Anniversary this year, so Roy and Chris Workman went along to inspect the outfit action...

Imagine a quiet country village pub with 250 to 300 visitors and around 100 motorcycle outfits covering the car park and the gardens; this was the scene at the Fed’s 50th Anniversary Founder’s Day Meeting.

The event was held at The Fox Public House in Burwell, Cambridgeshire. Luckily the sun shone all day. However the pub staff had pulled out the stops in case of bad weather, putting up two gazebos in the car park. The larger one had lots of trestles and seats, as this was close to the BBQ area; the other one was closer to the pub and would have been useful for riders signing in if the weather had been inclement. They had also arranged another bar in an outbuilding; this bar also did tea and coffee and became a useful place in which to cut the 50th anniversary cake later in the day.

The Fox at Burwell, near Newmarket; home to the 'Turn Your Backs on the Camera' club.

We arrived at just after midday and there were already several outfits parked up in the grounds, with more arriving at regular intervals.

The signing-in stand had a good selection of anniversary goods for sale, including key rings, mugs and badges. On signing in we were given a short history leaflet of the Federation of Sidecar Clubs, together with a 50th anniversary badge and a metal lapel badge.

Apparently Bob Parsons (Treasurer and long-time member) had done a talk about the Fed, and this had been broadcast on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire on Tuesday morning. This was followed up by John Proctor having a telephone conversation with the radio station on Saturday morning. These broadcasts lead to the landlords of The Fox getting quite a few phone calls from people wanting to know more about the meeting. Some of the locals came along and were seen taking photos on their mobile phones. The local newspaper, The Cambridge Evening News, came along and took photos and a video of the event.

Wonder what went in that hole in the dashboard? BSA with Watsonian Avon sidecar

There were all shapes and sizes and ages of outfits. There was a Norton twin and a BSA Golden Flash, both from the mid-50s. The BSA was hitched to a Watsonian Avon sidecar; the bike had plunger rear suspension and this reminded me of the time that a friend of mine, Les, bought a similar bike and a swinging arm Flash as well for £50; the plunger model ran well and, as Les told me with a smile, that the later model was for spares. However, he was a bit miffed when hardly anything was interchangeable between the machines! Les at one time had a Avon sidecar which was quite a sleek sporting sidecar of the day.

One of the Reverend Paul Sinclair’s motorcycle hearses turned up! This was the Triumph-powered one; this machine had a suitable number plate: W900 REV. The rider said that the outfit handled well; however I noticed that whilst running on modern rubber on the back wheel they had an Avon sidecar triple duty tyre on the front wheel. This tyre first came into being in 1953 and has therefore been around longer than the Association itself…

The Federation of Sidecar ClubsSophie, a member of the bar staff, had never been in a sidecar before. and Bob Parsons took her out for a ride. Before leaving she was shown how to do a regal wave - she was smiling as she left and she was still smiling half an hour later when she came back.

She later told Chris that she had felt like royalty riding around the local area where she knew everyone, and that she had greatly enjoyed the ride. Sophie was surprised when she learned that one of the outfits attending had a 2.3 litre engine!

I had an interesting chat with John Bye, who is now 88 years of age. He arrived in a sidecar from his house just down the road from the pub. John was present at the inaugural meeting all those years ago, and later in the day he was going to unveil the 50th anniversary plaque. His first motorcycle was a nearly-new Royal Enfield which he purchased for £12/10s (£12.50 to the youngsters!) with a little help from his mum. He later graduated to an ex-WD BSA model 20 machine with girder front forks.

He bought this bike in 1948 and rode it solo to Kings of Oxford, where he had a sidecar fitted. This machine took him as far as the Isle of Man and a gallop around the TT circuit. This outfit was subsequently transport for his wife and children, and they towed a trailer as well. As John became more prosperous he moved on to a Panther Model 100. As I had ridden a sidevalve model 20 and the OHV model 100 we had a interesting discussion on the differences in the characteristics of the engines.

John eventually moved on to his favourite bike - this was an Ariel Square Four, one of the earlier iron potter models. He later went on to own a Reliant Robin; however his wife was not too keen on it as it ‘only had one wheel at the front’. John and his Sidecar Club used to hold their social events at the pub, and their Tramps’ Suppers were very popular. John showed me a fine selection of photographs taken during his early motorcycle and sidecar years.

Suitable bikes on

The couple doing the cooking for the BBQ started about 2pm and were kept busy with a seemingly never-ending queue of customers. There was a choice of king-size burgers or jumbo sausages in rolls, and there was also a help-yourself buffet with rice, salad, potato salad, couscous and pasta on offer. The landlord kept coming out to replenish stocks as they got low. The pub had catered for 150 people and there was plenty for all-comers.

After the BBQ the celebration cake, made by Mary Parsons, was cut into slices and served with a glass of cava with orange juice. The cake was horseshoe shaped, with a couple of Fed Anniversary badges on it.

Cake not shown. This is a Triumph.

Mark Fowler (Chairman) made a speech about the Fed and wished it well for the next 50 years. He thanked Bob and Mary Parsons for all their hard work in organising the event, and other members of the Fed for their efforts too. He also thanked the pub staff for all their input as well. The glasses were then raised to toast the next 50 years.

One member, a bit of a comedian, suggested that there should be discounts on tickets purchased on the day for the Centenary celebration! A larger discount was later offered, and someone asked if they did not make it to the Centenary meeting would there be a refund…

The best part of a hundred outfits turn up during the course of the day. Some left early - others arrived later. Estimates of 250 to 300 people overall attending would seem to be about right.

Plaquenot shown. This is a Norton.

John Bye had the honour of unveiling the plaque inside the pub. This is sited underneath a group photo of the original participants 50 years ago, and a new photo of people attending the 50th celebrations will be placed underneath the plaque.

All in all it was a very nice day. The locals that we talked to were surprised at the size of the event. The whole thing was helped by the weather and a lot of help from some very enthusiastic people. Well done!


The Federation of Sidecar Clubs welcomes members from around the world who have an interest in motorcycle combinations from any era.


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