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9th June 2014

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Rose of the Shires Run 2014

The Sunbeam MCC's annual run featured legions of vintage motorcycles built before 1931. Richard Jones photographed his favourites...

The small village of Stoke Bruerne, located midway between Northampton and Milton Keynes, is one of those places that could be reasonably described as picturesque. As well as the Grand Union canal running through, it has a museum dedicated to the inland waterways, two pubs, one restaurant and a lock where visitors can watch hapless and inexperienced narrow pilots attempting to negotiate the passage.

Rose of the Shires Run 2014

It was here that the Sunbeam MCC held its Rose of the Shires Run for pre-1931 motorcycles on a sunny Sunday in June and as it was only a short distance from Jones Towers I popped along. A few weeks previously I had attended the club's prestigious Pioneer Run in Brighton and I was curious to see what machines would be attending one of their smaller events. I was not disappointed.

Rose of the Shires Run 2014

The action started up at the village's overflow car park near the church - Stoke Bruerne has more yellow lines than you would have thought possible in such a small place - where the Sunbeam stalwarts were unloading and readying their machines. The first one I came across was this 1913 Campion which I had seen at Brighton and which the owner, Bob Ashwin, had brought over from the Vale of Evesham. The 500 JAP engine was rated at 4hp and the power is delivered to a Sturmey Archer 3-speed hub gearbox which Mr Ashwin was carefully lubricating prior to setting off.

Campions were built in Nottingham between 1901 and 1925 and started life with singles featuring a 2hp Minerva engine and a 3.75hp forecar with their own engine. There was a period of quiet contemplation (or inactivity) between 1907 and 1912 but the marque then re-appeared with JAP, Precision, Green and Villiers engines. Three-speed gearboxes came courtesy of Jardine and Sturmey Archer but in 1916 four speeds were available for twin cylinder models. The early 1920s saw a 770cc and then 976cc JAP v-twin engined models as well as the smaller singles, but by 1924 the range had shrunk and the following year it was all over for the Campion marque.

Rose of the Shires Run 2014

The grassy car park - or field would perhaps be a better description - provided an excellent backdrop for photographs and this one is an example. I am no expert but this looks exactly like one of the AJS 349 cc G6 ohv big-port models from the mid 1920's although, as always, I stand to be corrected. The works racing machines that preceded these production bikes took six of the first ten places in the 1921 Junior TT, which included a win for Eric Williams, as well as first place in the Senior for Howard Davies. The following year Tom Sheard won the Junior on another AJS and in 1923 a production TT replica was on sale for the paying customers, gaining its nickname from the exceptional size of the machine's exhaust port and the 2¼ inch diameter exhaust pipe.

Rose of the Shires Run 2014

I will be the first to admit that I don't have a clue what model of Levis this is but I'd guess it dates from the late 1920s, early 1930s. What attracted me was the blue and chrome tank - I appreciate that I bring a whole new meaning to the word 'superficial'.

Rose of the Shires Run 2014

Shoot me down in flames if I'm wrong but this looks like a BMW R42 to me. (I'm cheating because I photographed and wrote about it for the 2013 Founders' Day event when I raved about its art deco petrol tank). I won't go on again but come on - it is a great looking machine.

Rose of the Shires Run 2014

There were a fair number of Scotts on parade including this well-used combination which was awaiting removal from its trailer. In an attempt to identify it I had a look at CE 'Titch' Allen's Vintage Road Tests and there, in issue 1, was a machine that looked almost identical - a Flying Squirrel Tourer that came in 498cc form or, for an extra £5, 596cc. This was a cut-price model introduced in 1929 which cost £67 and although it was competing with a 500cc ohv Rudge at £46 it sold well.

The price reduction had been achieved by using more proprietary components, Webb forks instead of Scott telescopics and cheaper wheels. Nevertheless the purchaser got a three-speed gearbox, a chain-driven magneto, a Binks carburettor and Scott's signature crimson cylinder block and nickel-coated radiator. This example may date from 1929 as the following year the model had 'the addition of cast alloy shields to fill the ugly gap behind the crankcase' - Mr Allen's words, not mine.

Rose of the Shires Run 2014

The action then moved down to another car park which adjoined the canal, where Ian Young was gallantly signing in riders and providing a pre-run briefing for a route which was to take the machines through the leafy glades of Northamptonshire.

Rose of the Shires Run 2014

The owner of this very tasty New Hudson was one of the later arrivals from the church car park - apparently starting had been something of an issue. It would seem the machine is quite content to start when the weather was damp but show it some sunshine and it becomes rather temperamental. Adjustment of the Binks carburettor had resolved the situation and I wished him luck on the ride.

Rose of the Shires Run 2014

I had to include this Ivory Calthorpe as it looked such a dependable and sturdy work horse. This example may well date from 1929, the year the model was introduced, as it has a vertical cylinder whereas the following year they were inclined. Calthorpe's new model saw the magneto moved behind the 348cc ohv engine and they also revised the frame and cycle parts, added a saddle tank and finished the tank and mudguards in an off-white that presumably gave the model its name. The paint may have gone from this one's fuel tank but the mudguard and oil tank look off-white to me.

Rose of the Shires Run 2014

There were some more modern classics on parade, but not on the run, including this Norton Dominator whose red paint shone in a manner that almost required sunglasses to be able to see it without flinching.

Rose of the Shires Run 2014

And so, at the appointed hour, the intrepid riders set off into the dark green yonder for their run through the leafy lanes where I waited to take some action shots...

Rose of the Shires Run 2014

...and generally failed miserably although I did manage to capture the little Campion with a photo that was largely in focus.

Rose of the Shires Run 2014

After a fruitless, albeit very pleasant, ride around the sunlit roads trying to find the riders again I made my way back to Stoke Bruerne to see if any of them had returned. They had not but lying in the sunshine next to this superb Norton Commando were two relaxed motorcyclists enjoying the ambience. It turned out that the one who didn't own the Commando owned the pre-1931 BSA that was languishing in the restaurant car park after it had disgraced itself by clutch failure before the run had started. The two were waiting for a van to recover the recalcitrant BSA and so, fortuitously, presented me with an unexpected photo opportunity.

The Norton was being run-in after a two year restoration - which had started as a re-paint of the frame but grew as these things do - at Northampton V Twin. Although the firm specialises in Harley Davidson and Buells, hence the name, the owner works with them and they had undertaken the work. As well as painting the frame as originally intended, the top end had been re-built, a primary belt-drive conversion undertaken and many parts renewed. All in all, a large amount of money has been spent but I'm sure you will agree with me that it was well worth it - that red paintwork with the gold pinstripe was a joy to behold.


Classic Nortons on Now...
Rose of the Shires Run 2014

On the way back home for tiffin I popped into the Super Sausage café at Pottersbury (www.supersausagecafe.co.uk) which has become a popular venue for the biking fraternity in the area, both classic and modern. I struggled to identify this machine until the owner kindly translated 'YPAN' as being 'Ural' in Russian - there was a Ural owners meeting going on although this was the only Cyrillic scripted tank badge I saw.

Oh well - it's the Banbury Run next weekend so I'd better start improving my panning technique or there will be a lot of out-of-focus shots from Sunrising Hill.

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You'll find more of Richard's excellent images, from a wide range of classic motorcycling events, at www.flickr.com/photos/cerrig_photography/sets/


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