7th May 2012 - Bank Holiday Monday! I should be out on my bike!
On one day in May, hundreds of classic motorcycles take to the road in the VMCC's Relay Rally. Rowena Hoseason reports...
The Vintage Motor Cycle Club has intimidatingly broad responsibilities: it welcomes vintage and classic motorcycle enthusiasts with bikes over 25 years old. So that means catering to members who could reasonably be aged anything from 30 to 80, riding bikes which could have been built, anywhere in the world, in 1897. Or 1987. Or choose any moment in between…A couple of years ago, this 1948 AJS Model 18 was a dismantled project and not much more than boxes of bits. Paul Jelbert of the Cornwall Section of the VMCC returned it to running order last year
The every-other-year Founders' Relay Rally is one of those events which can involve absolutely everyone, from all walks of life, riding any machine of suitable age. It starts on every member's doorstep, near as dammit, and there's no steep admission price to pay to join in. All VMCC members can join in - you get sent a list of checkpoints with the club's magazine a month beforehand. Plan your route, choose your riding partner, fettle your classic and go.A row of righteous red real classics: Rich Cawley's XS650, Steve Michell's CB900, Peter Green's CBX750 and, inevitably, the RC Commando
The 2012 Relay Rally featured 87 checkpoints across the UK mainland, all manned by volunteer VMCC members from local sections. There were half a dozen checkpoints in bonnie Scotland, four in Wales and more on the borders, and even a clump in Cornwall.Fellow AJS pilot Barry Stephens rode alongside Paul Jelbert (pictured at the top of the page), up to Bude from St Just in the south of the county. They left the Red Post Inn just after 10am, aiming to visit another half-dozen checkpoints during the day
A very warm welcome greeted me at our local checkpoint, at the old Red Post Coaching Inn which has converted itself into a cosy roadside café. The VMCC had taken over the garden, and were joined for the day by a selection of craft stalls. When I arrived two riders were already getting checkpoint stickers attached to their rally sheets, while section members organised cups of tea and coffee for anyone who wanted to stick around for a natter.Local Mick Payne started his day at the Bude checkpoint and then headed off aboard his 1970 BSA A50
The beauty of the Relay Rally is that it can be as long or as short as you like. You set your own route and decide your own distances; you travel with friends or on your own. You can stop at checkpoints to meet up with old acquaintances or you can scamper onwards at top speed, aiming to gather as many stickers on your sheet as possible in a single day's riding on an old bike. I have a suspicion that there may be awards for meritous performance… but, as is in the way in the west country, no one seemed too bothered about that. It's the sort of thing we'll get round to. Dreckly.Gordon Clatworthy (Triumph Tiger) and Ray Rowcliffe (Honda 550/4) both braved the border crossing from Devon to Cornwall. They couldn't help commenting how much better the road surfaces were in Kernow…
A dozen riders came and went while I supped a brew; all big grins and no mechanical mishaps. Even the XS650 started on the button, albeit under protest! The checkpoint crew reckoned they would see 40 or 50 bikes during the day; maybe more if it stayed fair. For some folk, who no longer ride or who don't have a classic on the road at the moment, this day provided an enjoyable opportunity to see some classics in action - so much more interesting than lined up on a static display.Ian Black enthused over his coffee about his 400/4. He loves the electric starter; isn't quite too happy with the stainless steel brake discs…
Perhaps the biggest benefit of the Relay Rally is that it encourages owners to ride their old bikes on the roads. The sudden appearance of so many classic motorcycles - being ridden carefully and courteously and by smiling, happy people -- can only raise the profile of the sport overall.A visitor from Dartmoor aboard a Dominator: Roger Mitchelmore wasn't hanging about
Congratulations all round, then; to the VMCC for organising this, to the section members for staffing it, and to the riders… for using their bikes for the purpose intended.Graham Bruce on his R100 was a man on a mission. Didn't stop too long at the checkpoint before setting off again. Wonder how far he travelled that day?
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