July 8th 2016
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The Banbury Run, 2016
Classic motorcycling heaven; Richard Jones reports on the largest gathering of veteran and vintage machines in the world...
The statement above might sound like something Jeremy Clarkson would say, but instead it’s taken from the programme for the Banbury Run, the 68th iteration for the event which was first held in 1947.
Once again nearly 500 veteran and vintage machines, all manufactured prior to 1931, gathered at the British Motor Museum in Gaydon where they were started by the mayor of Banbury, Councillor Gordon Ross. The riders and drivers (as there were some three-wheelers in attendance) had a choice of three routes between about 30 and 60 miles in length with the two longer routes including a ride up the bends and ever increasing gradient of Sunrising Hill. There was also a further choice of a timed or untimed run. Unsurprisingly the latter attracted the faster machines – Ariels, Scotts, Sunbeams, Nortons and Velocettes being the ones that made photography challenging due to their speed. The weather was good – well at least it wasn’t raining for a change – and all was set fair for a great day.
RealClassic’s own Jacqueline Bickerstaff, aka PUB, had the honour of being Number 1 with her 1898 Leon Bollée tandem tricycle with its 4hp engine and three gears. Accompanied by ‘Fearless’ Ros Snelson, who had extinguished a fire in 2013 and walked up the hills in 2015, PUB asked ‘What brings 2016?’. I am sorry to have to report that I saw the machine at the side of the road only a short distance from the start; perhaps PUB will recount the trials, tribulations and, hopefully, eventual success of the day in her regular column in the magazine.
Duncan brought his 1914 750cc Bradbury all the way from Somerset to take part and, helpfully, left a note on the tank for hapless scribblers like me. The bike was made at the Wellington Works in Oldham by a marque that had started life in 1901. Duncan’s machine must have been one of the first of this type as the model was only introduced in 1914 with its 6hp v-twin engine, three-speed gearbox, all chain drive and a drum rear brake. Fancy – all that for only £75 although, to be fair, that translates to anywhere between £6,500 and £40,500 in todays’ money depending on what inflation measure you decide to use. Whatever the value then or now it certainly made its way up Sunrising in style.
Some describe it as patination, others as oily-rag but this is how Marcus’s 1914 Triumph Model C 550cc should look given that it is its first Banbury Run after having been in storage in Oxford and not out on the road since the 1950s. Just ask yourself how you would look if you had been kept in a garage for the last 60 odd years. Presumably the richly distributed lubrication had kept the rust at bay so it all makes eminent sense.
Latter day motorcyclists like me tend to equate James with small, two-stroke lightweights and it is refreshing to be reminded that they also produced highly attractive V-twins from 1913 to 1935. This 500cc Sports Twin was built in 1926 and, like the Bradbury, came with three-speed gearbox and all chain drive. Not only handsome and well-finished, the James was also clearly mechanically sound as it showed a clean set off heels as it topped Sunrising.
Just in case you think I am obsessed with V-twins or that all the machines at Banbury were of large capacity, have a look at Mark’s 200cc NSU which dates from 1930 and which was booked in for the untimed 60 mile ‘C’ run which included Sunrising Hill. Although it did require some assistance to reach the top of the hill it does prove that size isn’t everything.
Some riders see Sunrising as a challenge to be overcome as quickly as possible and with as much flair as feasible. Here we see Alison doing just that on her 1928 596cc Scott Flying Squirrel and, judging from her grin, she is enjoying the experience. I think that if Scott were still in business today their riders would be the same people who buy Honda Fireblades or Yamaha R1s – fast and furious.
Others take a more relaxed approach, demonstrated here by Michael riding a 1923 New Imperial Model 3 with its 293cc engine taking its time to reach the summit, allowing the rider to appreciate the experience.
Some machines go up the hill slowly but allow their riders no time for relaxation, as seen here. Terry was booked in for the ‘A’ route which avoided Sunrising but he had some navigational issues and found himself at the foot of the hill. Undaunted he set off up the gradient and, to be fair to the 1923 Cedos, the 250cc two-stroke engine almost made it to the top before Terry had to disembark and reach the summit with the assistance of one of the very helpful spectators.
Pillions are permitted – who knows when you may need a helping hand to provide assistance up some of the steeper hills? However Scott had no need of any such help as he powered up Sunrising on his 1926 500cc Rudge Special.
Of course you can always have your passenger by your side rather than behind you, particularly if you’ve entered a 1929 Morgan Family model with its 1000cc engine. Apparently the original advertising showed the model with five people on board; as present owner, Neil said, they must have been very small and very short.
Of course the Run also attracts celebrities and here is Sammy Miller MBE showing why he was a very capable road racer as well as a trials champion. The machine he is taking up Sunrising Hill at some pace comes from his museum and is a very beautiful, very stylish 1925 Grindley Peerless with a 999cc Barr & Stroud sleeve-valve engine.
Ivan Rhodes was also taking part, not on a Velocette but a 1927 AJS 348cc H6 Big Port which was acquired 56 years ago for £20 and ‘which was far too expensive’. It has apparently been ridden by everyone including Howard R Davies, Bruce Main-Smith, Olga Kevelos (the only woman to win two gold medals at the ISDT) and Titch Allen OBE as part of his Vintage Road Test Journals, in which there is a photo of a younger Mr Rhodes removing the AJS’ kickstart.
I’m going to finish with a non-entrant to the Run because I am curious as to what we saw and, equally importantly, heard coming up Sunrising. It appears to have BSA on the tank but the engine looks and sounds like an ear-drum breaking two-stroke, four cylinder. If anyone knows the machine or its owner please get in touch as I’d like to know more about it.
It only remains to thank the VMCC for staging such a unique event, those tireless marshals on Sunrising Hill who help the less lucky entrants to reach the top and, most of all, the riders of these marvellous machines that still have the power to not only excite us spectators but also get up Sunrising Hill (mostly).
For an extensive selection of Richard’s images from this and other classic motorcycle events, see www.flickr.com/photos/cerrig_photography/sets/
Details of the next Banbury Run can be found at www.banbury-run.co.uk
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